Covering Washington politics. From our vantage point. One day a time.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Senator Tim Kaine discusses war powers during a Public Square forum

Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) spoke during a Richmond Times Dispatch Public Square forum on Tuesday of this week where he addressed several issues: specifically how, when, and where America's military power is called into action.

Kaine admitted he is not an expert on the subject, telling the crowd he "is a lay person" who happens to be "passionate" about the matter (since 2002) who wanted to address the law surrounding it, its history, the current problem , and "the fix".

Congress has the power to declare war, while a U.S. president must consult with Congress before deploying U.S. military into hostile territories.

"The issue", explains Kaine, "is the role of the president and Congress in doing what is the hardest thing, which is to initiate military action."

Recently, in September, President Obama signed two letters advising Congress with regard to beginning military 'discrete' military operations in both Syria and Iraq.

The Public Square session, the 52nd of its installments, concluded with an audience Q&A with the senator.  The event was moderated by Tom Silvestri, president and publisher of the Richmond Times Dispatch.

Thursday, October 23, 2014


Event Includes Evening Performance and Daytime Student Workshop
Honoring the Men and Women Who Serve the United States

As part of the “In Performance at the White House” series and the Joining Forces initiative, the President and First Lady will invite music legends, members of the U.S. military, military veterans, and their families to the White House on Thursday, November 6 for a celebration of the men and women who serve the United States.

The program on the South Lawn will have a live audience that will include hundreds of military service members, veterans, and their families. The event will feature performances by Mary J. Blige, Common, John Fogerty, Willie Nelson, Romeo Santos, as well as active duty military members Army SGT. Christiana R. Ball, Marine Corps Capt. Matt Smith and Capt. John Ed Auer, with Don Was as music director. The rock band Daughtry will also perform via satellite from a USO concert at Yokota Air Base in Japan. The President’s remarks will be pooled press and the entire event will be streamed live at starting at 7:25 PM ET. “A Salute to the Troops: In Performance at the White House” will be broadcast Friday, November 7 at 9:00 PM ET on PBS stations nationwide (check local listings), as part of the PBS Arts Fall Festival. 

In addition to the concert at the White House, there will be a live-viewing by active duty members of the military from the USO Warrior and Family Center at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Footage of their participation will be included in the concert event and the broadcast. The program will also be broadcast on November 11, Veterans Day, via the American Forces Network to American service men and women and civilians at U.S. Department of Defense locations around the world.

As with previous White House music events, the First Lady will host a special daytime workshop for students on November 6. The First Lady will welcome high school students from military communities in the greater Washington, Maryland, and Virginia area to take part in an interactive student workshop: “The Stars and Stripes Forever: A History of Music and the Military.” Robert Santelli, Executive Director of The GRAMMY Museum® in Los Angeles, will give participating students an overview of the origins of music’s place in military life and explore the impact of music in times of war. Featured performers from the evening event will share their experiences as well as answer student questions about the music and entertainment world.

The workshop, “The Stars and Stripes Forever: A History of Music and the Military,” will stream live on

“A Salute to the Troops: In Performance at the White House” will be the thirteenth “In Performance at the White House” program during President Barack Obama’s administration. From February 2009 to the most recent broadcast in April 2014, these latest “In Performance at the White House” events have honored the musical genius of Stevie Wonder, Sir Paul McCartney, Burt Bacharach, Hal David and Carole King; celebrated Hispanic musical heritage during Hispanic Heritage Month; marked Black History Month with events featuring the music of Motown, Memphis Soul, Women of Soul, the Blues, and from the Civil Rights Movement; explored the rich roots of Country music; and spotlighted Broadway and the unique spirit of the American musical. Video from past performances are available at

In 2011, Mrs. Obama and Dr. Jill Biden came together to launch Joining Forces, a nationwide initiative calling all Americans to rally around service members, veterans, and their families and support them through wellness, education, and employment opportunities. Joining Forces works hand in hand with the public and private sector to ensure that service members, veterans, and their families have the tools they need to succeed throughout their lives. More information about Joining Forces is available at

Friday, October 10, 2014

First Fashion Workshop Features Furstenberg, Others

Mrs. Obama hosted a host of Who's Who in fashion at the first-of-its-kind White House fashion workshop this week, celebrating the creative and artistic accomplishments of designers like Jason Wu (remember this famous dress?), Tracy Reese (who designed this famous dress for First Lady Obama), Diane von Furstenberg (referring to herself as "an old designer"), Anna Winthur, and others.

First Lady Michelle Obama, wearing a dress designed by Natalya Koval, shows off her flawless physique.
Amid their accomplishments, the fashion icons were also on hand to share their stories of hard work and perseverance, the makings of the fashion industry, and to give a few pieces of good advice to up and coming fashionistas.

"Be serious", said Furstenberg.  "Be serious about what you want to do, and then you can have fun and be frivolous" she said.

The fashion workshop, part of the first lady's Reach Higher initiative, was one in a series designed by the administration to reach out to young people, to help them realize their potential, and believe that anything is possible.

"Don't let anyone tell you that you can't do something", advised the first lady.

Past workshops have included music, film, and others.

At the conclusion of the event the first lady encouraged the student designers to make sure they get the contacts of the designers they're interested in.
The fashion industry is a multi-billion dollar industry that employs millions of people around the globe - from designers, models to merchandisers, stylists to seamstresses.

"If I were you, you all, students sitting in here, I would be either writing somebody in this room, I’d be getting a card", she advised. 

Designers and fashion's famous were among those attending the first WH fashion workshop. Among them Diane Von Furstenberg, Prabal Gurung, Jenna Lyons, Tracy Reese, Lilliana Vasquez, Jason Wu and Edward Wilkerson
"I would get my personal notes together right now, because my letter would be addressed to whoever. I was one of the students that was at the White House panel, I attended this workshop, we sat in the lunch, I mentioned something that they heard or a quote...this is an opportunity.  This is a door."


Was Gwyneth Paltrow Hitting on President Obama?

President Obama spoke at a DNC fundraiser at the home of Gwyneth Paltrow last evening.  During her introduction of the president she expressed her 'affinity' for him saying, " “you’re so handsome that I can’t speak properly."
  Mesmerized  by the president's presence Paltrow lauded, "I'm your biggest fan."

Also during her introduction she applauded the president on passing legislation for equal pay for equal work for women, which she said was "very important" to her "as a working mother."

Tickets to the fundraiser, held in the back yard of Paltrow's Brentwood home, cost  from $1,000 to $15,000 per person, according to reports.

The president made reference to the upcoming mid-term election, encouraging voters to get out and vote, and also referenced scrutinized events like Ebola and ISIS.

The president continues to state that the Ebola virus, that has killed more than 3,000 people in Liberia, is not a threat to the United States, even as travel to and from the area continue.  

President Obama has sent U.S. troops to the region recently to potentially help build hospitals for those stricken by the disease.   

The U.S. has seen his first Ebola fatality with the death of Thomas Eric Duncan, a man who had traveled to the U.S. from Liberia.  Others who have come to the U.S. for treatment, questionably, survived their episodes with the virus.

Said President Obama, "“I hope that in these midterms you feel a sense of urgency about this—and I’m talking to you, Democrats.” 

Also seen at the fundraiser were actor Julia Roberts and Bradley Whitford (The West Wing).

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Ron Kessler Drops A Dime (Again) on Secret Service. Says Corruption Abounds.

Author of The First Family Detail: Secret Service Agents Reveal the Hidden Lives of the Presidents, Ron Kessler went on CSPAN's Washington Journal today to discuss the lapse, and lack of, security at the White House -- calling it a "corrupt" and "mismanaged" culture.

As news of yet another security breach at the White House, potentially putting the lives of the the President of the United States and the First Family in jeopardy is revealed, Kessler says that "an assassination could happen pretty easily."

Earlier this summer, Secret Service (SS) came under fire for being too lax when a broken window was found by a staff member, that later revealed the White House had been shot at several times by one Oscar Ortega  -- (see also Michelle Obama furious over Ortega event).  

The latest security lapse came when it was revealed that a knife-wielding Omar J. Gonzalez jumped the White House fence, in broad day light, bolted up the front lawn, into the front doors and into the East Room before he was even subdued.

How did this happen?   When we visit the White House as media members we see armed, military-styled men carrying Rambo-like weaponry walking the perimeter, hiding behind trees, sitting in SUVs, giving the notion that all is, well, "secure".  So, how could Secret Service not see a guy jump a fence and make a run for the White House?

Is anyone viewing/monitoring the White House cameras?  ARE there White House cameras around the ENTIRE perimeter of the building?  Does anyone think there should be?  Have you ever heard of anyone rushing the gates of the residence of any other world leader, without consequences to the perpetrator, or those in charge of security detail?

The head of Secret Service, Julia Pierson, testified (nonchalantly, we'd like to point out) on Capitol Hill this week saying the usual things folks say when they are in hot water while sitting in front of the firing squad that is the MOC (members of Congress), saying, "We take full responsibility", we are "looking further into this."  Her passive responsiveness leads a firestorm from those who think heads should roll within the hierarchy of the Secret Service; from the boots on the ground personnel, to the top person in charge.  As it should be.

Remember when poor, defenseless, DesirĂ©e Rodgers was relieved of her duties as White House Social Secretary when it was revealed that somehow the very questionable Michaele and Tareq Salahi couple entered into the White House and attended a state dinner, took pictures with the Vice President, and sat very close to the First Couple, without even being on the guest list?  People thought that episode was a major breach of security.  Then, shortly after we heard reports that SS was drunk on the job while the president visited Cartagena, Columbia in 2012.

Is race a factor?

When callers into talk shows mention their theory on whether the questionable security measures would happen had the president not been African American, or what if the perpetrators been African American, people scoff at the notion.

Said Kessler, "Look, I wish we could just take the color of a person's skin and race out of this", he says.

Yet one has to ask why wasn't Gonzalez taken down by SS when he was oh, so close, to home?   Capital Hill police certainly didn't have to think much about shooting and killing Miriam Carey, the women who drove through barriers around Capitol Hill.

And surely, one can point out that even regular cops shoot, and kill, unarmed Black men for seemingly driving, walking, and just being Black; yet the Secret Service, tasked with protecting the leader of the free world, and his family, failed to shoot a lunatic charging the White House?

Said Kessler, "He could have been armed with explosives. He could have been carrying weapons of mass destruction."   Adding,"Obama's life is at risk."

We'd like to point out that both men who recently made attempts at the White House are Latino.   Latinos are fearful of the current policy on immigration.  Could this be a factor, then, Mr. Kessler?

Still even more amazing, perhaps, is that with the maelstom surrounding protecting the Commander-In-Chief, the CIC says he has "full confidence" in the United States Secret Service, as was discussed by White House Press Secretary, Josh Earnest, in his daily briefing here, and especially here.

"Let me also say that providing security at the White House is complicated business", said Earnest.

Indeed it is.  Indeed it is.  But keeping the president safe, should never be.

**Update**  Secret Service Director Julia Pierson has resigned;  resignation accepted by Homeland Security's Jeh Johnson. Joe Clancy possible replacement.

Comment from the White House praises Pierson's 25 year career with Secret Service, but accepted that it's time for her to go.

From Press Secretary Josh Earnest: "Director Pierson offered her resignation today because she believed that it was in the best interest of the agency to which she has dedicated her career", said Earnest during today's press briefing.  "The Secretary agreed with that assessment.  The President did, as well."

When asked why the president accepted her resignation after praising her, the answer was an obvious one.

"Over the last several days we've seen recent and accumulating reports raising questions about the performance of the agency, and the President concluded that new leadership of that agency was required."


Now, we just need Joe Clancy, the new replacement for Pierson, to right the ship, get the Secret Service personnel to behave in the manner in which they are sworn, which includes protecting the president - at all cost.


See also -
Clancy lauded as "solid professional" - Washington Post
Who is Joe Clancy? -  IBT reports