Commentary Magazine


Topic: Patrick Leahy

Obama Drops the Ball in Egypt

It must be hard for President Obama to keep up with the cascade of crises that have erupted on the world stage, especially when there are more pressing issues such as a discussion with American Indian youth in North Dakota, a trip for which Obama could find no room on Air Force One for his national security advisor.

It seems like ancient history now, but before the current crisis in Iraq, and before the Russian invasion of Crimea, and before China began threatening its maritime neighbors from Japan to the Philippines to Vietnam, Egypt was at the eye of the storm. In the weeks and months after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s fall, al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamist groups established themselves in the Sinai Peninsula. During Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s abbreviated tenure, the Muslim Brotherhood turned a blind eye to the worsening security situation in the Sinai and, indeed, may even have encouraged it.

After the Egyptian people rose up against Morsi, an event followed in short succession by the Egyptian military’s putsch, Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi moved to restore security. He sought American assistance, but received only lackluster commitment. Finally, however, the Obama administration came around and approved the transfer of ten Apache helicopters to Cairo in order to assist the Egyptian fight against terrorism. Both Secretary of State John Kerry and CENTCOM commander Lloyd Austin have testified that the Apaches were a central part of Egypt’s fight against terror. Egyptians celebrated the administration’s decision to lift the ban on sending the Apaches to Egypt as a sign that, despite disputes regarding Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the democratic process, Washington was ready to re-engage with Cairo and move on.

Enter Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont): Upset with Morsi’s fate, Leahy put a hold on $650 million in security assistance to Egypt, although he has now approved $572 million. What he continues to put his foot down upon is the transfer of the Apaches, currently warehoused in Fort Hood. The longer the Apaches sit in Texas, the more potent the threat in the Sinai becomes. If there’s one lesson the administration and Congress should have learned, it is that allowing al-Qaeda affiliates to sink roots in any territory spreads instability.

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It must be hard for President Obama to keep up with the cascade of crises that have erupted on the world stage, especially when there are more pressing issues such as a discussion with American Indian youth in North Dakota, a trip for which Obama could find no room on Air Force One for his national security advisor.

It seems like ancient history now, but before the current crisis in Iraq, and before the Russian invasion of Crimea, and before China began threatening its maritime neighbors from Japan to the Philippines to Vietnam, Egypt was at the eye of the storm. In the weeks and months after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s fall, al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamist groups established themselves in the Sinai Peninsula. During Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s abbreviated tenure, the Muslim Brotherhood turned a blind eye to the worsening security situation in the Sinai and, indeed, may even have encouraged it.

After the Egyptian people rose up against Morsi, an event followed in short succession by the Egyptian military’s putsch, Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi moved to restore security. He sought American assistance, but received only lackluster commitment. Finally, however, the Obama administration came around and approved the transfer of ten Apache helicopters to Cairo in order to assist the Egyptian fight against terrorism. Both Secretary of State John Kerry and CENTCOM commander Lloyd Austin have testified that the Apaches were a central part of Egypt’s fight against terror. Egyptians celebrated the administration’s decision to lift the ban on sending the Apaches to Egypt as a sign that, despite disputes regarding Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood, and the democratic process, Washington was ready to re-engage with Cairo and move on.

Enter Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont): Upset with Morsi’s fate, Leahy put a hold on $650 million in security assistance to Egypt, although he has now approved $572 million. What he continues to put his foot down upon is the transfer of the Apaches, currently warehoused in Fort Hood. The longer the Apaches sit in Texas, the more potent the threat in the Sinai becomes. If there’s one lesson the administration and Congress should have learned, it is that allowing al-Qaeda affiliates to sink roots in any territory spreads instability.

It would be wrong for Obama to simply blame Leahy for the failure of the United States to uphold its commitments. The White House actually has various tools at its disposal to legally maneuver around Leahy’s hold. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

The Pentagon does have some budgetary discretion and flexibility, although it needs direction from the White House and Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Some more familiar with procedures on Capitol Hill than I am point out that the Apaches were procured and transfer funding was included in the FY 2009 funding package, and so OMB has some flexibility to reprogram that funding. If the question is merely funding for the transfer and Leahy won’t budge, perhaps it is worthwhile to see whether a third party could provide that resource: After all, many countries have a joint interest in denying safe-haven for al-Qaeda, even if the good senator from Vermont does not.

It does not seem, however, that Leahy is intractable. The administration has yet to actually fight Leahy. Given the chaos in Iraq and Syria, the necessity for Egypt to protect itself against terrorists based in the Sinai is clear. Unfortunately, once again, it seems the White House is letting the ball drop.

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Why is Leahy Blocking a Bill to Track Down Sex Offenders?

The media narrative for the past month has been that the GOP is waging a “war on women.” But one story that’s fallen through the cracks is the legislation proposed by Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions last spring to crack down on fugitive sex offenders. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the bill in January, and Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy is now reportedly blocking it from full Senate consideration. Big Government reports:

The Act was designed to grant the U.S. Marshals administrative subpoena power so that they could better investigate sex offenders who had not registered as required by law. The FBI already had similar authority for health care and child crime cases; the Secret Service already had similar authority for cases involving threats to officials. …

In January, the bill was reintroduced and passed through the Judiciary Committee. And now, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has put a hold on it, blocking it from full Senate consideration.

There’s no good excuse for such a hold. Administrative subpoena power is necessary because it is faster moving than traditional subpoena power; it is frequently used in emergency situations. And there is no greater emergency than tracking down sex offenders, who have the highest recidivism rate of any criminal subgroup.

You have to wonder what Leahy’s reasons are for holding up the bill, which is non-controversial, and would presumably have bipartisan support. Sex offenders have a high recidivism rate, and there should be universal interest in aiding efforts to track down convicted predators who are trying to dodge registration laws.

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The media narrative for the past month has been that the GOP is waging a “war on women.” But one story that’s fallen through the cracks is the legislation proposed by Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions last spring to crack down on fugitive sex offenders. The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the bill in January, and Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy is now reportedly blocking it from full Senate consideration. Big Government reports:

The Act was designed to grant the U.S. Marshals administrative subpoena power so that they could better investigate sex offenders who had not registered as required by law. The FBI already had similar authority for health care and child crime cases; the Secret Service already had similar authority for cases involving threats to officials. …

In January, the bill was reintroduced and passed through the Judiciary Committee. And now, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has put a hold on it, blocking it from full Senate consideration.

There’s no good excuse for such a hold. Administrative subpoena power is necessary because it is faster moving than traditional subpoena power; it is frequently used in emergency situations. And there is no greater emergency than tracking down sex offenders, who have the highest recidivism rate of any criminal subgroup.

You have to wonder what Leahy’s reasons are for holding up the bill, which is non-controversial, and would presumably have bipartisan support. Sex offenders have a high recidivism rate, and there should be universal interest in aiding efforts to track down convicted predators who are trying to dodge registration laws.

Democrats have recently been attacking the GOP for opposing new provisions in the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. The law typically has bipartisan support, but this year Democrats have made additions that would create loopholes for illegal immigrants and other measures that Republicans believe are unnecessary or irrelevant to the law’s purpose.

But the bill proposed by Sessions has crucial practical implications when it comes to preventing and prosecuting violence against women and children. This isn’t just a symbolic proposal, like some of the “poison pill” provisions Democrats added to the Violence Against Women Act reauthorization can be characterized as. Big Government writes:

Back in 2006, when considering the predecessor law to the Finding Fugitive Sex Offenders Act, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) pointed to the tragedy of Dylan and Shasta Groene, who were abducted by Joseph Duncan, an unregistered sex offender; he killed Dylan, as well as the kids’ mother, stepfather, and teenage brother. “Joseph Duncan was essentially lost by three states,” Cantwell explained. “He moved from State to State to avoid capture. No one knew where he was nor even how to look for him.

Its cases like that which make Leahy’s hold on the bill seem incomprehensible. If there were any bills relevant to women, you would think this would be at the top of the list. Of course, it would also be difficult to claim the GOP is indifferent to anti-women violence if this bill was introduced on the Senate floor.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

In case you thought Obama’s anti-Israel bent has gone unnoticed, Elliott Abrams reminds us: “My judgment is that most American Jews at this point think the Obama administration is simply unsympathetic to Israel, the president is unsympathetic to Israel. This has been a kind of sentiment in the community over the past year, though nobody wants to say much about it in public, partly because most Jews are Democrats. … The administration chose to make this a crisis. And the moment you see that is the use of the word condemn. We use condemn in diplomatic parlance almost exclusively for acts of murder and terror. We do not use it for acts of city planning.”

In case you thought the Orthodox Union didn’t have a sense of humor: “[W]e have to wonder — when we all are at Passover Seder Monday, and loudly declare: ‘NEXT YEAR IN JERUSALEM,’ will we all be subject to censure by the Administration? By the EU? By the UN? And what will they say at The White House seder? ‘Next year in a yet-to-be-negotiated part of Jerusalem?’ We think we should all say ‘next year in Jerusalem’ with a little more intent and oomph this year … and listen for the echoes.” Indeed.

In case you thought only Jews were fed up with Obama’s Jerusalem gambit, Quin Hillyer: “If the Jewish state can’t allow free people to build housing in Jerusalem, then the Irish state may as well not let Irish build in Dublin. And if the American administration tries to tell the Jewish state that it is wrong to merely advance by one mid-range step along a multi-step process towards permitting those buildings, then the Jewish PM has every right to tell the American administration the same thing Dick Cheney told the execrable Patrick Leahy.”

In case you had any doubt, Nick Gillespie shows why ObamaCare isn’t going to cut the deficit.

In case you thought health-care costs would go down, Verizon is already warning its employees to look out for the increase coming their way.

In case you doubted there was a fix for ObamaCare in sight in 2010: “A potential Republican majority may not be able to repeal healthcare reform, but they’d probably refuse to fund it, Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said today. … ‘It’s going to take appropriated funds to actually come through the process to fund the hiring of new employees to create these new bureaucracies,’ Boehner said. ‘I can’t imagine that a Republican Congress is going to give this president the money to begin this process.’”

In case you thought Obama won the battle for public opinion on health care: “A CBS News poll released Wednesday finds that nearly two in three Americans want Republicans in Congress to continue to challenge parts of the health care reform bill.”

In case you thought emptying Guantanamo was going to make us safer: “A former Guantanamo detainee transferred from the detention facility to Afghanistan on Dec. 19, 2009, has already returned to the Taliban’s ranks. … Despite the fact that Hafiz was implicated in the murder of an [International Red Cross] worker, and alleged to have substantial ties to senior Taliban officials, he was transferred to Afghanistan. Shortly thereafter, Hafiz rejoined the Taliban.”

In case you imagined the Obami anti-terror policies were inspiring confidence: “Confidence that America is winning the war on terror is down slightly this month, and belief that the United States is safer today than it was before 9/11 has hit its lowest level ever. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 35% of voters think America is safer now than it was before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.”

In case you thought Obama’s anti-Israel bent has gone unnoticed, Elliott Abrams reminds us: “My judgment is that most American Jews at this point think the Obama administration is simply unsympathetic to Israel, the president is unsympathetic to Israel. This has been a kind of sentiment in the community over the past year, though nobody wants to say much about it in public, partly because most Jews are Democrats. … The administration chose to make this a crisis. And the moment you see that is the use of the word condemn. We use condemn in diplomatic parlance almost exclusively for acts of murder and terror. We do not use it for acts of city planning.”

In case you thought the Orthodox Union didn’t have a sense of humor: “[W]e have to wonder — when we all are at Passover Seder Monday, and loudly declare: ‘NEXT YEAR IN JERUSALEM,’ will we all be subject to censure by the Administration? By the EU? By the UN? And what will they say at The White House seder? ‘Next year in a yet-to-be-negotiated part of Jerusalem?’ We think we should all say ‘next year in Jerusalem’ with a little more intent and oomph this year … and listen for the echoes.” Indeed.

In case you thought only Jews were fed up with Obama’s Jerusalem gambit, Quin Hillyer: “If the Jewish state can’t allow free people to build housing in Jerusalem, then the Irish state may as well not let Irish build in Dublin. And if the American administration tries to tell the Jewish state that it is wrong to merely advance by one mid-range step along a multi-step process towards permitting those buildings, then the Jewish PM has every right to tell the American administration the same thing Dick Cheney told the execrable Patrick Leahy.”

In case you had any doubt, Nick Gillespie shows why ObamaCare isn’t going to cut the deficit.

In case you thought health-care costs would go down, Verizon is already warning its employees to look out for the increase coming their way.

In case you doubted there was a fix for ObamaCare in sight in 2010: “A potential Republican majority may not be able to repeal healthcare reform, but they’d probably refuse to fund it, Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said today. … ‘It’s going to take appropriated funds to actually come through the process to fund the hiring of new employees to create these new bureaucracies,’ Boehner said. ‘I can’t imagine that a Republican Congress is going to give this president the money to begin this process.’”

In case you thought Obama won the battle for public opinion on health care: “A CBS News poll released Wednesday finds that nearly two in three Americans want Republicans in Congress to continue to challenge parts of the health care reform bill.”

In case you thought emptying Guantanamo was going to make us safer: “A former Guantanamo detainee transferred from the detention facility to Afghanistan on Dec. 19, 2009, has already returned to the Taliban’s ranks. … Despite the fact that Hafiz was implicated in the murder of an [International Red Cross] worker, and alleged to have substantial ties to senior Taliban officials, he was transferred to Afghanistan. Shortly thereafter, Hafiz rejoined the Taliban.”

In case you imagined the Obami anti-terror policies were inspiring confidence: “Confidence that America is winning the war on terror is down slightly this month, and belief that the United States is safer today than it was before 9/11 has hit its lowest level ever. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 35% of voters think America is safer now than it was before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.”

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