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Webb Attacks Clinton With An Eye On Independent Campaign

By Ben Brody, Bloomberg News (TNS)

WASHINGTON ––When Jim Webb quit the Democratic presidential race on Oct. 20 with low poll numbers and a minimal debate presence, the former senator from Virginia left open the possibility he would return to run in in a different political guise. Now he appears to be edging closer to doing that.

On Saturday morning, Webb used Twitter and his Facebook page to attack Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton for her handling of Libya during her time as secretary of state.

Webb’s lengthy condemnation on Facebook said, among other things, that “Clinton should be called to account for her inept leadership that brought about the chaos in Libya.”

Webb’s campaign team has said that year-end would be a reasonable time to decide whether he would run as an independent.

Since dropping out of the race for the Democratic nomination, Webb has continued to maintain his website, which he has updated with posts about the possibilities of an independent run. On Twitter, he and his fans have been promoting a (hashtag)WebbNation hashtag.

A run by Webb, who often manages his own social media accounts and has used them recently to promote a petition in favor of his candidacy and to congratulate Bernie Sanders in his battles with the Democratic National Committee, could complicate the 2016 election.

While observers typically have analyzed the prospect of a third-party or independent run by Republican front-runner Donald Trump — or even one from Sanders — Webb could alter the dynamics of the race even with his smaller profile.

A recent CNN poll, for example, forecast tight races between Clinton and several Republican contenders in hypothetical match-ups for the general election. Webb’s campaign said it would concentrate on mobilizing voters in the ideological middle, along with people who have become dissatisfied with politics.

In a tight race, even a small base of support could make him a factor. Ralph Nader won only fractions of a percent of the vote in many states in the 2000 presidential election, yet that arguably helped tip the Electoral College vote to George W. Bush, denying Democratic Vice President Al Gore, the winner of the popular vote, the presidency.

Webb’s public statements have focused economic populism and breaking the monopoly of the two-party system.

Despite the apparent escalation of his interest in an independent candidacy and his aides’ previously stated interest in making Webb’s intentions known by the beginning of 2016, history suggests he could toy with voters for quite some time. Webb missed a self-imposed deadline for getting into the Democratic race and disregarded conventional wisdom on political timing when finally declared hours before the beginning of the July 4 holiday.

©2015 Bloomberg News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Screenshot via CNN

Bernie Sanders Gains On Hillary Clinton In Iowa, Quinnipiac Poll Says

By Ben Brody, Bloomberg News (TNS)

Hillary Clinton enjoys a 19-point lead among likely Democratic caucus-goers in the key state of Iowa over her nearest challenger, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, but that advantage has shrunk since May, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday.

The former secretary of state gets the support of 52 percent of her party’s likely caucus-goers in the state, which holds the nation’s first nominating contest, while Sanders, a Senate independent and self-described socialist seeking the Democratic nomination, pulls in support from 33 percent. In May, the split was 60 percent to 15 percent.

It is the first time Clinton has received less than 60 percent support in the poll, according to assistant poll director Peter A. Brown.

A Bloomberg Politics poll conducted June 19-22 found Clinton the first choice of 50 percent of likely Iowa Democratic caucus participants, with 24 percent favoring Sanders.

Vice President Joe Biden, who has not said he is running, received 7 percent. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley drew 3 percent, and undeclared former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb got support from 1 percent. Former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee received no support.

“Secretary Hillary Clinton should not be biting her fingernails over her situation in the Iowa caucus, but her lead is slipping,” said Brown in a news release. But Sanders, he said, “certainly can’t be ignored, especially with seven months until the actual voting.”

The most welcome news for Clinton may be the responses about her character, with 85 percent saying they had a favorable opinion of her and 83 percent saying they believe “Clinton cares about the needs and problem of people like” themselves — figures that have remained stable since the last poll.

The poll of 761 likely Iowa Democratic caucus participants was conducted June 20-29. The margin or error is plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.

Photo: Senate Democrats via Flickr

Fiorina: Cybersecurity ‘Has To Be A Central Part Of Any Homeland Security Strategy’

By Ben Brody, Bloomberg News (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Despite a Republican presidential field that (mostly) says the U.S. needs to get more aggressive on national security, the candidates have been muted on recent revelations that China has pilfered a massive cache of personal information on millions of U.S. government employees.

But cybersecurity should be a “huge” part of the general security conversation, and now is the right time to talk about it, according to Carly Fiorina, who is among those seeking the Republican nomination.

The former Hewlett-Packard CEO, who has had firsthand experience with cybersecurity issues, sent out a statement in reaction to the hack at the government’s Office of Personnel Management, which could have exposed data from up to 14 million current and former government employees, including 127-page applications for security clearances. Bloomberg invited her to expand.

“This has to be a central part of any homeland security strategy,” Fiorina said in the interview. “The Chinese have had a long-term effort to hack into our databases and systems, which suggests that we should have been on guard for a very long time.

“I’m outraged about this,” she added. “It is yet another example of the complete breakdown of government competence.”

Speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, U.S. officials investigating the intrusions at OPM and a number of government contractors have confirmed that the hacks have been traced to the Chinese intelligence service.

As a Republican presidential hopeful, Fiorina has political reasons to cast doubts on the competence of President Barack Obama’s Democratic administration. Her background as a technology executive also makes talking about cybersecurity an opportunity for her to distinguish herself in the crowded field.

Her experience, however, is indisputable. She served on civilian advisory boards for the CIA and National Security Agency. She was also instrumental in securing a literal truckload of servers for the NSA in the weeks after 9/11, according to the National Review.

So what would be her first concrete policy suggestion for preventing another hack? Centralize the government’s cybersecurity operation and put it in the Department of Defense or the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

“You have to have a consolidated command that has the accountability, the responsibility, for protecting the security of all government systems and databases,” she said. “You can’t have this piecemealed throughout government.”

On this, she seems to agree with the president, who directed the government to centralize cybersecurity efforts after a 2009 report found that “the federal government is not organized to address this growing problem effectively now or in the future” and that “responsibilities for cybersecurity are distributed across a wide array of federal departments and agencies, many with overlapping authorities, and none with sufficient decision authority. … ”

The effort is far from complete, though. Even the deployment of hack detection and prevention is still ongoing and a patchwork of agencies, from the NSA and the Department of Homeland Security to the FBI are taking responsibility for the security of government computers.

Fiorina also spoke about streamlining government bureaucracy.

“You have to have exceedingly competent people who are there because of their particular expertise, not simply there because they’ve been in government long enough to get there,” she said. “Not everybody has the skills to do this work.”

In addition to a centralizing cybersecurity, Fiorina said the government should work with the private sector to detect and repel attacks, although Congress has hampered this by declining to pass legislation that would protect companies that report breaches to the government from legal action.

“Everything in our nation now is dependent in very real ways in network-centric technologies,” she said. “While that gives us great capability, it also gives us great vulnerability.”

(c)2015 Bloomberg News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

South Carolina Politicians Defend Compromise Over Confederate Flag

By Ben Brody, Bloomberg News (TNS)

As officials across South Carolina decried the massacre of nine people in a historic black church as a hate crime, some of the state’s politicians defended a delicate status quo over flying the Confederate flag in the state capital.

U.S. Representative Mark Sanford, a Charleston Republican and former governor, said re-examining a 2000 compromise that allows the Confederate flag to fly not on the state house in Columbia but on a nearby memorial could be divisive.

“That’s opening up Pandora’s box,” Sanford said Friday on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “With any political compromise, you do not have perfection. Both sides end up a little bit unhappy.”

Calls to take down the flag, which is widely seen as a symbol of white supremacy and racism, arose again after the shooting. The suspect, Dylann Roof, drove a car with the flag on his license plate and wore symbols of white supremacy on his clothing.

Officials in Columbia lowered the U.S. flag and state flag over the capital Thursday, but the memorial’s Confederate flag remained at the top of its staff.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who is running for president, said it might be time to “revisit” the compromise, but said the state should “move forward in a balanced way” and insisted the response to the shooting should focus only on Roof.

“We’re not going to give this guy an excuse about a book he might have read, or a movie he watched or a song he listened to, or a symbol out anywhere,” Graham said Friday on CNN. “It’s him. It’s not the book, it’s not the movie, it’s not the flag.”

A spokesman for Republican Gov. Nikki Haley told ABC News that “the governor does not have legal authority to alter the flag” in the memorial and that doing so would require an act of the legislature.

The Washington Post reported that, in 2011, a Haley spokesman had called the compromise “a sensitive subject in a way that South Carolina as a whole could accept” and said she didn’t plan to address it.

Sanford and others said that many wanted to take down the flag, which supporters say symbolizes states rights.

“But I if was to talk to other folks, you know, they’d say, ‘Wait a minute my great-great-grandfather died in the battle of Bull Run, and for me, it’s a symbol of either states rights or of the loss that was felt within our family,'” he said. “It’s a very, very complex issue within our state.”

(Elizabeth Wasserman contributed reporting.)

(c)2015 Bloomberg News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Jason Eppnink via Flickr

Americans Vastly Overestimate Size Of LGBT Population, Poll Finds

By Ben Brody Bloomberg News, (TNS)

Same-sex marriage is one of the fastest-moving social issues in U.S. history, having become legal in state after state as Americans cheer it in ever-growing numbers. But one thing is slightly off-kilter: Americans seem to have absolutely no idea just how many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are out there.

In fact, they think that 23 percent of Americans, or almost 1 in 4, are LGBT, a Gallup survey released Thursday revealed. That’s way off: The polling organization most recently found that less than 4 percent self-identify that way.

A third of people surveyed believed that LGBT made up more than 25 percent of the population. Just 9 percent of those in the survey correctly stated that they thought the group made up less than 5 percent of the population.

It’s unclear why people think the LGBT population is six times larger than it actually is.

“Part of the explanation for the inaccurate estimates of the gay and lesbian population rests with Americans’ general unfamiliarity with numbers and demography,” Gallup ventured, noting that people also overestimate the size of the African-American and Hispanic populations in the U.S., although usually only by a factor of two.

“The overestimation (of the size of the LGBT population) may also reflect prominent media portrayals of gay characters on television and in movies, even as far back as 2002, and perhaps the high visibility of activists who have pushed gay causes, particularly legalizing same-sex marriage.”

Several gay, lesbian, bisexual, and even transgender characters have become prominent in recent years on TV shows such as “Modern Family,” “Scandal,” “Degrassi” and “Glee,” as well as in movies including “Brokeback Mountain” and the Academy Award-winning biopic “The Imitation Game.”

Those who oppose same-sex marriage give slightly lower — but still way-too-high — estimates of the LGBT population than those who support it do, but the difference between the two groups’ estimates was within the margin of error of 4 percentage points.

In a separate Gallup poll released Tuesday, the organization found a “record high” 60 percent of Americans favoring the legalization of same-sex marriage.

Photo: Jesse Tyler Ferguson plays Mitchell Pritchett, one-half of the gay couple on the ABC hit comedy “Modern Family.” (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images for Yahoo News/Wikipedia)

The Iraq Invasion: What We Knew Then

By Ben Brody, Bloomberg News (TNS)

WASHINGTON — On May 10, Fox News released part of an interview that it had landed with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush on its website. In the clip, anchor Megyn Kelly asked Bush whether, “knowing what we know now,” he would have authorized the invasion his brother launched in 2003.

“I would have,” the likely presidential candidate responded, adding, “And so would have almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence that they got.”

Bush then spent the week shifting his answer on the unpopular war, eventually reversing himself on May 14 and saying that he “would not have gone into Iraq.”

Before the interview even aired on TV, commentators had rehashed many of the tragic lessons the U.S. had learned in Iraq. But many, though not all, of those commentators missed something key: It’s not clear that the invasion was supported by what we knew beforehand.

Between 2004 and 2008, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a series of reports on the war. Based on tens of thousands of pages of documents, several reports detail what the intelligence community and senior Bush administration officials knew prior to their decision to invade Iraq.

The first report, released in July 2004, concluded that “(m)ost of the major key judgments in the Intelligence Community’s October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate,” which summarized what was believed about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, “either overstated, or were not supported by, the underlying intelligence reporting.”

The report blamed these failures mostly on the intelligence community, which sought sources who confirmed pre-existing views and then communicated conclusions to policymakers with far more surety than the evidence warranted.

A second report, however, suggested that the administration could not entirely claim to have been misled by faulty intelligence. That report, from June 2008, found that President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and others used information from the intelligence community in public statements about Iraq but routinely glossed over uncertainties, some of which were significant.

In one of the many statements important in building the case for war, Bush said in his 2002 State of the Union, for instance, that “evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications, and statements by people now in custody reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al-Qaida.”

The report found, though, that administration officials’ statements about the link had no basis in analysts’ conclusions, while officials’ repeated insinuations that Iraq would give terrorists WMDs to attack the U.S. actually “were contradicted by the available intelligence.”

The report also addressed the administration’s rosy predictions about postwar Iraq. George W. Bush said in a speech in Cincinnati in October 2002, for instance, that toppling Saddam Hussein would mean “Iraq’s people will be able to share in the progress and prosperity of our time,” while Cheney famously told Meet the Press in March 2003 that the U.S. would “be greeted as liberators.”

Instead, the committee report found that, before the war, the intelligence community actually believed that “(e)stablishing a stable democratic government in postwar Iraq would be a long, difficult and probably turbulent challenge” and that “Iraq was a deeply divided society that likely would engage in violent conflict unless an occupying power prevented it.”

Another committee report added that al-Qaida, which had not benefited from any institutional relationship in before the war, “probably would see an opportunity to accelerate its operation tempo and increase terrorist attacks during and after a US-Iraq war.”

The media often reported the administration’s talking points unchallenged, but the idea that Iraq would be harder to liberate than the president suggested did make it into the public sphere. An Atlantic feature from November 2002 called “The Fifty-First State?” that was written by James Fallows contended that stabilizing Iraq would require an intensive commitment that could last decades and render Iraqis “part of” the U.S.

On May 19 of this year, Fallows weighed in on the Jeb Bush flap, pointing out senior George W. Bush aides started looking seriously at invading Iraq just days after 9/11 and expressing the contention that the administration overstated and misstated evidence because of this resolve.

“The ‘knowing what we know’ question presumes that the Bush administration and the U.S. public … were (unfortunately) pushed toward a decision to invade, because the best-available information at the time indicated that there was an imminent WMD threat,” Fallows wrote. “That view is entirely false.”

Photo: Jeb Bush spoke to Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly about his stance regarding the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Credit: Screenshot via Fox News

Bernie-nomics: How Senator Sanders Wants To Handle The Economy

By Ben Brody, Bloomberg News (TNS)

Does Bernie Sanders have a proposed economic platform for his presidential campaign? Sanders economic platform ishis presidential campaign.

The Vermont senator, a self-described socialist and political independent who announced Wednesday that he’ll seek the Democratic nomination for president, is making economic inequality the central focus of his political agenda. “I’m not running against Hillary Clinton,” he told reporters earlier this week. “I’m running for a declining middle class.” Another top priority: campaign finance reform, which Sanders sees central to his campaign against the corporate elite. No one explains Sanders’ economic theories more emphatically than he does, so here they are in his own words:

ON THE WEALTH GAP
This has been one of Sanders’s core themes in recent years — the one many of his other policies are aimed at fixing. “In the last two years, according to Forbes, the 14 wealthiest people in this country…saw $157 billion increase in their wealth,” he told Bloomberg April 15. “That is more wealth than is owned by the bottom 40 percent of the American people. I mean, I don’t know how you describe that other than obscene and extremely dangerous.”

ON CAMPAIGN FINANCE
Sanders has also focused reining in the influence of money in politics, saying that the U.S. is headed towards becoming an “oligarchy.”

“Billionaire families are now able to spend hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars to purchase the candidates of their choice,” he told the Brookings Institution in February. “The billionaire class now owns the economy, and they are working day and night to make certain that they own the United States government.” He has proposed a constitutional amendment limiting corporate donations. He told Bloomberg there’s a question of whether he “can raise enough money to run a credible campaign,” which might involve sums like Clinton’s $100 million. “Most of my money comes from small, individual contributors. I get some money — PAC money from unions and environmental groups and senior groups — but mostly individuals averaging, I think, $45 apiece.”

Sanders, who came to Congress in 1991, has raised a little more than six million dollars in the course of his career, with his greatest support coming from retirees and labor unions, according to data compiled by the Sunlight Foundation. By contrast, Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican elected to the Senate in 2012 and already mulling a presidential bid, has raised more than $13 million, and declared GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio, elected to the Senate from Florida in 2010, has raised more than $17 million.

ON THE MINIMUM WAGE
“I think we should raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour over a period of years, not tomorrow,” he told Bloomberg. That would almost double the current level. In a video posted to his YouTube account, Sanders calls the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour “a starvation wage.”

“What we want to do is create a situation where if somebody is working 40 hours a week, that person, that family, is not living in poverty,” Sanders adds.

ON TAX HAVENS
“We’re losing $100 billion every single year because corporations are stashing their money, their profits, in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda and other tax havens,” Sanders told MSNBC in December. “I’m going to bring forward — and have brought forward — legislation to end that absurd practice.”

ON CORPORATE TAX BREAKS
“The wealthiest family in America, the family that is worth $100 billion, does that family really need government assistance in the operation of their business?” he asked Salon.com in November 2013, referring to the Walton family, which owns Wal-Mart. “I think the answer is obviously no.”

ON “TOO BIG TO FAIL”
“The greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior of major Wall Street firms plunged this country into the worst financial crisis since the 1930s,” Sanders wrote in his Agenda for America, a set of 12 economic policies he released in December. “They are too powerful to be reformed. They must be broken up.”

ON SOCIAL SECURITY
Sanders wants to shore up Social Security’s finances by lifting the cap on the amount of earnings subject to taxes for the retirement fund. Currently, only the first $118,500 of individuals’ earnings are subject to the tax, giving an end-of-the-year paycheck bonus to those in higher-income brackets. “America doesn’t have a problem with ‘greedy geezers,’ to quote one Social Security adversary,” he wrote Wednesday in an op-ed in the Des Moines Register. “It has a ‘Robin Hood in Reverse’ problem, a problem with policies that take from working families and give to the rich.”

ON HEALTH CARE
“I happen to believe that the United States should not be the only major country on Earth that does not guarantee health care to all people through a national health care program,” he said in the MSNBC interview. “I support a single-payer national health care program.”

ON TACKLING CLIMATE CHANGE
“Millions of homes and buildings need to be weatherized, our transportation system needs to be energy efficient, and we need to greatly accelerate the progress we are already seeing in wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, and other forms of sustainable energy,” he wrote in his 12-point agenda. “Transforming our energy system will not only protect the environment, it will create good paying jobs.”

ON ORGANIZED LABOR
“We need legislation which makes it clear that when a majority of workers sign cards in support of a union, they can form a union,” he wrote in his agenda. “We’ve got to rebuild the union movement,” he told Bloomberg.

ON TRADE AGREEMENTS
Sanders is adamantly opposed to trade deals that he says entice employers to leave the United States. “I happen to believe that our current trade policies — NAFTA, CAFTA, permanent normal trade relations with China — are a disaster which have lost us millions of jobs in this country as companies shut down here and go aboard to low-wage countries,” he said in the MSNBC interview. “I want to change fundamentally our trade policies so that companies reinvest in America, not in China.”

ON THE TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP
“The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a disastrous trade agreement designed to protect the interests of the largest multi-national corporations at the expense of workers, consumers, the environment, and the foundations of American democracy,” he wrote in a statement opposing the pending agreement. “It is part of a global race to the bottom to boost the profits of large corporations and Wall Street by outsourcing jobs; undercutting worker rights; dismantling labor, environmental, health, food safety, and financial laws; and allowing corporations to challenge our laws in international tribunals rather than our own court system.”

ON COLLEGE TUITION
“Higher education should be a right,” he said, according to the Huffington Post. “Not for everybody, people who have the ability, people who have the desire, because that makes our country stronger.” In February, Sanders called for the federal government to give states $18 billion a year to decrease tuition 55 percent, according to Inside Higher Ed, and he wants student loan borrowers to be able to refinance at lower interest rates. At Howard University this week, he said he wants to make all public colleges and universities free.

ON ESTATE TAXES
Sanders would abolish taxes on estates worth less than $3.5 million, then impose a rate of 40 percent up to $10 million, and 50 percent for estates worth between $10 million and $50 million. Estates worth more than that would be taxed at a 55 percent rate under a President Sanders. “A progressive estate tax on multi-millionaires and billionaires is the fairest way to reduce wealth inequality, lower our $17 trillion national debt and raise the resources we need for investments in infrastructure, education, and other neglected national priorities,” he wrote in the Huffington Post in November.

ON INFRASTRUCTURE INVESTMENT
“The fastest way to create the millions of jobs we desperately need is by rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure — our roads, bridges, water systems, rail, et cetera,” he said in the December MSNBC interview. “If we invested one trillion dollars over a period of years, we could create 13 million jobs.”

ON WORKER COOPERATIVES
“Instead of giving huge tax breaks to corporations which ship our jobs to China and other low-wage countries, we need to provide assistance to workers who want to purchase their own businesses by establishing worker-owned cooperatives,” he wrote in his agenda. “Study after study shows that when workers have an ownership stake in the businesses they work for, productivity goes up, absenteeism goes down, and employees are much more satisfied with their jobs.”

Photo: 350.org via Flickr

What Would The 2016 Republican Hopefuls Do With An Iran Deal?

By Ben Brody, Bloomberg News (TNS)

WASHINGTON — On Wednesday, Scott Walker became the latest potential Republican presidential candidate to say he would reject a nuclear deal between the U.S. and Iran if it’s not approved by Congress. Speaking on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, the Wisconsin governor said he would “absolutely” reverse course on a deal on “day one” of his presidency, even if it were signed by President Barack Obama.

The ongoing negotiations have been a rallying point for 2016 contenders; the four Republican senators who are thinking about a presidential campaign — Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio — all signed Senator Tom Cotton’s (R-AR) letter to Iran’s leaders warning that the next president could reject a deal. Here’s what the contenders have said:

TED CRUZ
The Texas senator, the only major Republican to have declared a run, told a New Hampshire audience on March 16 that they should press all the candidates on whether they’d “be willing to repudiate” an Iran deal that didn’t have congressional approval. “Any candidate, in my view, who will not say ‘yes’ to that is not fit to serve as commander-in-chief of this country,” Cruz said, according to CNN. He said that if the United Nations Security Council lifted sanctions on Iran, it “dramatically increases the likelihood that a new president in 2017 will face no other choice but launching military strikes against Iran to stop them from acquiring nuclear weapons.”

LINDSEY GRAHAM
The South Carolina senator, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee’s subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, wouldn’t wait to be elected president. He has said he would “absolutely” use his position to cut funding to the United Nations if it lifted sanctions on Iran. “Twenty-two percent of the funding for the United Nations comes from the American taxpayer and I’m in charge of that account,” Graham said March 20. “I’m not going to allow the United Nations to be used as a way to get around the United States Congress for a deal that affects the very existence of Israel and our own national security.”

MARCO RUBIO
The Florida senator has repeatedly said he would revoke a deal, and he reiterated it on Hewitt’s show Tuesday, a day before Walker spoke. “Yes,” Rubio said when Hewitt asked if he “would revoke that deal.” “It’s not an enforceable deal,” Rubio said. “It won’t survive this president.”

RAND PAUL
On January 25, the Kentucky senator asked Cruz and Rubio if they were “ready to send ground troops into Iran” or bomb the country. He said he was “a big fan of trying to exert and trying the diplomatic option as long as we can” and that votes for sanctions in the middle of negotiations could ruin them. He then signed on to the March eighth Cotton letter, which the White House said undermined the negotiations. Paul later explained his signature, telling a New Hampshire crowd on March 20 in New Hampshire that he did so because he wants “the president also to negotiate from a position of strength. I want him to be able to go to the Iranians and say, ‘Congress is going to have to vote on this, because Congress put these sanctions in place. To remove them, Congress will have to vote on it, so you will have to give up more.’ ”

BOBBY JINDAL
The Louisiana governor endorsed the Cotton letter on March tenth. “Make no mistake — any Iran deal that President Obama makes is not binding on a future president,” he said in a statement at the time.

RICK PERRY
“If President Obama signs an agreement that the Congress cannot support, our next president should not be bound by it,” the former Texas governor said in a March fifth video.

MIKE HUCKABEE
Speaking to Newsmax TV on March 19, the former Arkansas governor said a widely reported deal provision that would allow Iran to maintain 6,000 centrifuges “is the equivalent of saying, ‘All right, we got a pyromaniac in our neighborhood. We’re not going to let him have a 50-gallon drum of fuel and a cigarette lighter, but we are going to let him have a 10-gallon gas can and a book of matches. That way we’ll just hold him back and he can’t burn as much down.’ Would anyone in his or her right mind allow that? Of course, we wouldn’t. This is the true essence of insanity.” He did not weigh in on what he would do with the deal if it were signed.

JEB BUSH
In an essay published Wednesday in the National Review, the former Florida governor called the deal “a potentially risky agreement that may well allow Iran to intimidate the entire Middle East, menace Israel, and, most of all, threaten America,” but he did not say what he would do if Obama signed it.

RICK SANTORUM
“I am grateful that the U.S. Senate is exercising their constitutional prerogative to stop this reckless diplomacy by the Obama-Kerry-Clinton foreign policy team,” the former Pennsylvania senator said on March tenth.

JOHN KASICH
The Ohio governor said the deal should get congressional approval in a visit to New Hampshire this week, according to the Columbus Dispatch. He also attended the March third address to Congress by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who urged the U.S. to reject a deal.

CARLY FIORINA
“Republicans need to continue to work toward a bipartisan, veto proof majority of senators who will demand their rightful and constitutional place in the negotiation approval process,” the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard told the Huffington Post on March tenth.

Photo: U.S. Emabassy in Vienna via Flickr

The Best And Worst Moments From GQ’s Ben Carson Profile

By Ben Brody, Bloomberg News (TNS)

WASHINGTON — Is he ready for prime time?

In its April issue, GQ magazine features a profile on prospective presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson, the retired head of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins and the first African-American to run a division there. Though Carson has never held elected office, his unapologetic conservatism and up-from-poverty story have excited much of the base, and GQ’s piece, which shadows Carson on a trip to Israel, watching the State of the Union, and reflecting on his media reputation as he gears up for a likely presidential run, captures both the positive and negative aspects of his potential candidacy.

Some of the most buzz-generating moments:

  • Carson didn’t know what the Knesset does

“What is the role of the Knesset?” Carson asked his Israeli guide of the country’s one-chamber legislature. The occasion was a Christmastime trip in 2014, his first to the nation that almost all presidential hopefuls visit. The guide explained its working and Israel’s political parties. “It sounds complex,” Carson said. “Why don’t they just adopt the system we have?”

  • He doubled down on Nazi comparisons, at a Holocaust museum

Last year, Carson drew criticism for suggesting that liberals could turn American into Nazi Germany, and stating that the U.S. was “very much like Nazi Germany” because people were afraid to say what they believed, according to CNN. Sitting at the cafeteria of Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem, during the Israel trip, Carson was asked if the visit prompted him to reconsider the comparison. “Not at all,” he said. “It makes it even stronger.”

  • He doesn’t think being treasury secretary involves much policy

The secretary of state Carson most admires is Condoleezza Rice, while, as for defense secretaries, he likes Robert Gates. When asked to name his favorite secretary of the treasury, he paused.

“Andrea Mitchell’s husband,” he eventually offered. I reminded him that Mitchell’s husband, also known as Alan Greenspan, had actually been chairman of the Federal Reserve. “I don’t know that there’s anybody that really stands out to me as an outstanding treasury secretary. I mean, that’s a pretty hard place to be outstanding,” he finally said. “Secretaries of the treasury, for the most part, are not big policy people.”

  • He became Republican (again) so he could run

In his youth, he was a “radical” Democrat but became a Republican during Ronald Reagan’s presidency. He then left the party and became a conservative-minded independent during the Bill Clinton impeachment because he felt that congressional Republicans who had had their own dalliances were being hypocritical. He only re-registered with the party in 2014. “If I weren’t thinking about running for office, I would remain an independent,” he said.

  • His fundraising apparatus is ambitious and successful

The Draft Carson Super PAC has raised more than $13 million last year. Carson also brought in $6 million for the American Legacy PAC, which tapped him to fundraise for its Obamacare repeal program. Because Carson has worked with a long list of causes, his likely campaign manager, Terry Giles, predicts his mailing list could have more than 2 million names on it. “If I can get $100 from 1.5 million people,” Giles said, “I’ll have $150 million for the first four primaries, and we’ll be extremely competitive.” (Jeb Bush, who is considered the Republican fundraising front-runner, hopes to raise $100 million.)

  • He referred to President Barack Obama as a “psychopath”

Carson watched 2015’s State of the Union address at the Washington home of an adviser, who said the president looked “elegant” in his white shirt and sky blue tie. “Like most psychopaths,” Carson responded. “That’s why they’re successful. That’s the way they look. They all look great.” When the adviser, Armstrong Williams, said the president had to “convince people to believe him” the same way Carson would, the doctor said the difference was that Obama was lying. “He’s trying to sell what he thinks is not true!” Carson said. “He’s sitting there saying, ‘These Americans are so stupid I can tell them anything.'” Williams warned Carson off that kind of rhetoric in his post-speech appearances.

  • He doesn’t understand the reaction to some of his comments on homosexuality and Obamacare

Speaking about same-sex marriage in 2013, he also said gays and other groups like “people who believe in bestiality” couldn’t change the definition of the institution, according to ABC News. Later that year, Carson said he thought the Affordable Care Act was “the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery,” according to The Washington Post. “And it is in a way, it is slavery in a way because it is making all of us subservient to the government, and it was never about health care. It was about control.” In the profile, he waved off the strong condemnations these and other comments sparked. “We’ve reached a point where if you say the word ‘slavery’ or you say the word ‘bestiality,’ it’s like you’ve sprayed a fly with Raid — people start spinning, and they just can’t function anymore,” he said.

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr