President Obama used his State of the Union bully pulpit to sell the recent deal world powers struck with Iran as a foreign policy breakthrough and a chance to avoid a future conflict, promised the end of this country’s longest war in Afghanistan, and urged Congress to close the Guantanamo Bay prison — again.
Even as Israel and some U.S. lawmakers criticize the interim deal with Iran as not being strict enough, Obama defended the agreement that rolled back parts of Tehran’s nuclear program “for the very first time in a decade.”
The president ramped up the pressure on members of Congress — including Democrats — who are seeking more sanctions against Iran as negotiations continue. Promising to veto those measures if they make it to his desk now, Obama said, “for the sake of our national security, we must give diplomacy a chance to succeed.” If that fails, all options, presumably including military action, are still on table. “I will be the first to call for more sanctions,” Obama said, “and stand ready to exercise all options to make sure Iran does not build a nuclear weapon.” This public promise may sway some of his critics.
Obama also touted his role as war-ender-in-chief. When he took office, nearly 180,000 Americans were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan; the war in Iraq is, of course, over, and with the formal end of combat operations in Afghanistan this year, “America’s longest war will finally be over.” Obama is considering leaving a small force of U.S. troops for narrow counter-terrorism and training missions — if such a deal can be reached with Afghanistan. Outgoing president Hamid Karzai has so far refused to sign the security agreement both countries already negotiated.
Obama stressed the need to close the Guantanamo Bay prison ““ a goal which has eluded him since the beginning of his presidency. “With the Afghan war ending, this needs to be the year Congress lifts the remaining restrictions on detainee transfers and we close the prison at Guantanamo Bay,” Obama said, “because we counter terrorism not just through intelligence and military action, but by remaining true to our Constitutional ideals, and setting an example for the rest of the world.” It actually could happen. The tide may be turning in his favor; the defense authorization bill Obama signed late last year relaxed restrictions on transferring detainees to the custody of foreign countries.
Obama didn’t talk much about Iraq, where the news that al-Qaida-linked militants took over cities hard won by U.S. troops during the long war broke the hearts of Marines who fought there. And he glossed over the status of the Syrian conflict, where the bloody civil war still rages and peace talks appear deadlocked. Obama did say the U.S. will “support the opposition that rejects the agenda of terrorist networks” and stressed the role of American diplomacy in convincing Syria to eliminate its stocks of chemical weapons— after the U.S. threatened to use military force.
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Before we get to the specifics of this exposé about escorts working the Iowa and New Hampshire primary crowds, let’s get three things out of the way: 1.) It’s from Cosmopolitan; 2.) most of the women quoted use fake (if colorful) names; and 3.) again, it’s from Cosmopolitan. That said, here’s what we learned:
- Business was booming: one escort who says she typically gets two inquiries a weekend got 15 requests in the pre-primary weekend.
- Their primary season clientele is a bit older than normal—”40s through mid-60s, compared with mostly twentysomething regulars” and “they’ve clearly done this before.”
- They seemed more nervous than other clients, because “the stakes are higher when you’re working for a possible future president” but “all practiced impeccable manners.”
- One escort “typically enjoy[s] the company of Democrats more, just because I feel like our views line up a lot more.”
No matter where you stand on mandating companies to include a backdoor in encryption technologies, it doesn’t make sense to allow that decision to be made on a state level. “The problem with state-level legislation of this nature is that it manages to be both wildly impractical and entirely unenforceable,” writes Brian Barrett at Wired. There is a solution to this problem. “California Congressman Ted Lieu has introduced the ‘Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016,’ which we’ll call ENCRYPT. It’s a short, straightforward bill with a simple aim: to preempt states from attempting to implement their own anti-encryption policies at a state level.”
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
The New Covenant. The Third Way. The Democratic Leadership Council style. Call it what you will, but whatever centrist triangulation Bill Clinton embraced in 1992, Hillary Clinton wants no part of it in 2016. Writing for Bloomberg, Sasha Issenberg and Margaret Talev explore how Hillary’s campaign has “diverged pointedly” from what made Bill so successful: “For Hillary to survive, Clintonism had to die.” Bill’s positions in 1992—from capital punishment to free trade—“represented a carefully calibrated diversion from the liberal orthodoxy of the previous decade.” But in New Hampshire, Hillary “worked to juggle nostalgia for past Clinton primary campaigns in the state with the fact that the Bill of 1992 or the Hillary of 2008 would likely be a marginal figure within today’s Democratic politics.”
At first, “it was pleasant” to see Trevor Noah “smiling away and deeply dimpling in the Stewart seat, the seat that had lately grown gray hairs,” writes The Atlantic‘s James Parker in assessing the new host of the once-indispensable Daily Show. But where Jon Stewart was a heavyweight, Noah is “a very able lightweight, [who] needs time too. But he won’t get any. As a culture, we’re not about to nurture this talent, to give it room to grow. Our patience was exhausted long ago, by some other guy. We’re going to pass judgment and move on. There’s a reason Simon Cowell is so rich. Impress us today or get thee hence. So it comes to this: It’s now or never, Trevor.”