Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Marco Rubio Announces Run for President

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) announced his Presidential
campaign at Miami's Freedom Tower Monday, becoming
the fourth declared candidate in the race. Rubio called the
next election a "generational choice," a likely jab at
Hillary Clinton.
Credit: Legal Insurrection
Sen. Marco Rubio announced his campaign for the Republican nomination for the 2016 Presidential election Monday, becoming the third Republican and the fourth candidate overall to formally declare a candidacy. He joins fellow Republican Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul and former Democratic Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as a contender.

Rubio, a former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, ran for the Senate in 2010, and surprisingly began to out-poll then-Gov. Charlie Crist for the Republican nomination. This led Crist to become an independent and run against Rubio and Democrat Kendrick Meek in the general election. Rubio defeated Crist and Meek with a near-majority of the vote, with Crist managing to mainly split only the Democratic vote.

Rubio became a Republican partner in a predominately Democratic effort to pass an immigration bill in the Senate. The bill would have led to eventual citizenship for many immigrants who entered the United State illegally. While the bill passed the Senate, Republican House leadership refused to take up the bill. The move damaged the political standing of Rubio among Republicans, who eventually distanced himself from the effort. At the time, Rubio was considered a frontrunner for the nomination for President, but his polling leads evaporated soon after.

This time, Rubio hopes to retake his standing among Republicans, and keep it.

Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, has been a vocal critic of President Obama's Cuba policy, specifically the administration's move to normalize relations with the communist country. Joining fellow Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), a Cuban-American himself and currently under indictment for corruption, and most fellow Republicans, Rubio has pushed for the administration to abandon its plans to remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism (which the administration pledged to do Tuesday) and to reestablish trade ties with Cuba.

Rubio, making his announcement at Miami's iconic Freedom Tower, called for "a new American century" and said the 2016 election is a "generational choice." These comments are most likely aimed at Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, who has been involved in national politics since the early 1990s.

Rubio will also likely face off against his longtime political mentor, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who is almost certain to run for the nomination.

Rubio has been known for his mostly conservative positions, both on domestic policy and foreign policy. While Sen. Rand Paul polls the same or better than Rubio, Paul's foreign policy views are drastically different from Rubio, with Paul calling for less involvement in foreign affairs and Rubio advocating for a more muscular foreign policy, especially when dealing with Cuba and Iran.

While Rubio and Cruz have mostly similar views, Rubio polls better than Cruz for both the general election against Clinton, while both poll similarly for the GOP nomination, according to polling history from Real Clear Politics. A recent poll has Rubio trailing Clinton by 4 points and Cruz trailing by 9 for the general election.

Other possible GOP rivals besides the declared candidates and Jeb Bush are Chris Christie, Scott Walker, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Dr. Ben Carson, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former New York Gov. George Pataki, former HP CEO Carly Fiorina, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. Should he win the nomination, possible Democratic rivals besides Clinton include former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Hillary Clinton Announces Second Attempt at Presidency

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced her
campaign Sunday, a move long-awaited by political observers
Credit: Hillary for America
Former Secretary of State, Senator, and First Lady Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy for the Democratic nomination for the 2016 Presidential election Sunday, becoming the first major Democratic candidate to enter the race. Clinton's announcement has been expected for a long time, with talk of her entering the race beginning shortly after her loss in the 2008 Democratic Presidential primaries to now-President Barack Obama.

Clinton is a strong favorite to win the Democratic nomination. She faces possible rivals such as former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, former Virginia Senator Jim Webb, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). None of those candidates is likely to gain enough support to win the nomination, barring the possibility of a major upset.

Clinton, whose campaign will be located in Brooklyn in New York City, made her announcement in a Youtube video, unlike Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, Republican candidates who made live speeches for their announcements. After showing a montage of people in the video doing or planning different life events, Clinton says: “I’m doing something, too. I’m running for President.”

Clinton, who was First Lady when her husband Bill Clinton was President, was noted for her push for a universal health care plan, often called "Hillarycare." The plan eventually failed, but some of its elements were brought into the 2010 health care law, or "Obamacare."

Towards the end of her husband's Presidency, she sought the New York Senate seat vacated by retiring Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan. After facing allegations of carpetbagging (moving from Arkansas to New York to run for the Senate), her campaign was aided by the dropping out of Rudy Giuliani from the race and missteps by her Republican opponent Rick Lazio. After winning the 2000 race and her reelection race in 2006, she announced her candidacy for the 2008 Presidential election. After being seen as the frontrunner for the nomination, her campaign was upended by the entry of Illinois Senator Barack Obama, who eventually won the nomination. She was selected as Secretary of State by Obama in 2009 and confirmed by a large majority in the Senate. Clinton left the position in 2013.

If Clinton wins the nomination, she will become the first female candidate of a major party, and will become the first female President if she is elected.

Clinton has faced criticism lately, including using a private email account to conduct official State Department business. Other criticisms include her handling of the leadup and aftermath of the Benghazi terrorist attack in 2012 and the Clinton Foundation's acceptance of foreign donations.

Clinton is also facing interparty criticism by progressive Democrats who criticize her connections to financial firms and her perceived "hawkishness" on foreign policy. This has led certain people, including Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist, to flirt with seeking the Presidency. While Sanders has very little chance of becoming President, even if he runs for the Democratic ticket, he and other possible Clinton challengers could move Clinton leftward during the primary process, which could open her up to more criticism by Republicans during the general election.

Clinton's possible Republican challengers include Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Rand Paul, Sen. Marco Rubio (expected to announce his candidacy Monday and will be the first Republican to do so after Clinton's announcement), former Gov. Jeb Bush, Gov. Chris Christie, Dr. Ben Carson, Gov. Scott Walker, former Gov. Mike Huckabee, and former Gov. George Pataki, among others.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Rand Paul Announces Presidential Campaign

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) announced his Presidential candidacy
in Louisville, KY Tuesday, making him the second major
candidate of major political party to announce his candidacy
for the 2016 Presidential election.
Credit: Legal Insurrection
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), the libertarian-minded senator first elected in 2010 amid the Tea Party-led Republican wave, announced his candidacy for the GOP nomination for the 2016 Presidential election Tuesday, just a week and a day after Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) announced his candidacy.

Paul, unlike Cruz who made a grand announcement in front of a large crowd at Liberty University in Virginia, made his announcement a more low-key event in Louisville, Kentucky. During his speech, Paul struck an anti-establishment tone, saying, "the Washington machine that gobbles up our freedoms and invades every nook and cranny of our lives must be stopped." He chastised his fellow Republicans, saying “Too often, when Republicans have won, we’ve squandered our victory by becoming part of the Washington machine. That’s not who I am.”

Paul, the son of longtime libertarian firebrand Ron Paul, studied at Baylor University and Duke School of Medicine to become an ophthalmologist. In 2010, he won the open Senate seat in Kentucky vacated by retiring Sen. Jim Bunning. Since taking office, Paul has been noted for his high-profile in the media and on the Senate floor. A regular on the Sunday morning talk shows, Paul has expressed willingness to break with his party on certain issues, especially on those relating to foreign policy. As most Republicans have called for a more "muscular" foreign policy when dealing with IS or al-Qaeda in different countries, Paul has been more cautious about supporting any foreign intervention. Paul also called for police "demilitarization" in wake of the Ferguson protests, long a concern of libertarians.

Paul was also noted for his 2013 filibuster on the Senate floor over the confirmation of CIA Director John Brennan. Paul cited concerns over the Obama administration's theoretical use of drone strikes on American soil for the reason for his talk, which lasted nearly 13 hours. The Obama administration, in response to the filibuster, said that they would not use drone strikes in the United States against US citizens.

While Paul has shown conservative and libertarian credibility, he has also shown a desire to expand the Republican electorate, reaching out to groups more inclined to support Democrats. One such effort was his 2013 speech at Howard University, a federally chartered historically black university.

Paul has not escaped controversy. His comments on vaccines unnerved some when he said there have been "many tragic cases of walking, talking, normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines." Paul later tried to walk back his comments by tweeting a picture of himself receiving a vaccination and putting out a statement reading, "I did not say vaccines caused disorders, just that they were temporally related – I did not allege causation. I support vaccines, I receive them myself and I had all of my children vaccinated. In fact today, I received the booster shot for the vaccines I got when I went to Guatemala last year.”

Cruz, Paul's only announced opponent so far, said on Facebook, "I am glad to welcome my friend Rand Paul into the 2016 GOP primary. Rand is a good friend, and we have worked side by side on many issues. I respect his talent, his passion, and the work he has done for Kentuckians and Americans in the U.S. Senate. His entry into the race will no doubt raise the bar of competition, help make us all stronger, and ultimately ensure that the GOP nominee is equipped to beat Hillary Clinton and to take back the White House for Republicans in 2016."

Paul's victory in the GOP primary will hinge on his own performance and that of Cruz and other likely Republican hopefuls, such as Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Chris Christie, Dr. Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio. Rubio is expected to announce his candidacy on April 13.

Should Paul win the nomination, he will face the Democratic nominee in November, who will likely be former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, should she choose to run.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Obama Begins Pitch on Iran Deal

Obama faces skepticism about the effectiveness of a deal
with Iran to limit the nation's nuclear program, both from
Republicans and members of his own party.
Credit: Time
Just days after the "framework" for a deal with Iran and Western nations over Iran's nuclear program was announced, President Barack Obama has begun his quest to sell the newly-minted Iran deal to the American public, and he faces a tough road ahead of him.

In an interview with Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, Obama said that the Iran deal was a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see whether or not we can at least take the nuclear issue off the table." Obama also said in his weekly radio address that "international inspectors will have unprecedented access to Iran's nuclear program because Iran will face more inspections than any other country in the world, If Iran cheats, the world will know it."

Critics of the deal see it as permitting Iran to continue its nuclear enrichment program with little consequences. The Washington Post editorial board wrote, "The 'key parameters” for an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program released Thursday fall well short of the goals originally set by the Obama administration. None of Iran’s nuclear facilities — including the Fordow center buried under a mountain — will be closed. Not one of the country’s 19,000 centrifuges will be dismantled." Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said on Fox News Sunday that he is close to rounding up the 67 votes needed to overrule an executive decision on Iran by Congress.

Proponents of the deal see it as a way to avoid war with Iran. The New York Times editorial board, which often supports the President's policies and decisions, called the deal "promising," and wrote, "It would roll back Iran’s nuclear program sufficiently so that Iran could not quickly produce a nuclear weapon, and ensure that, if Iran cheated, the world would have at least one year to take preventive action, including reimposing sanctions. In return, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations would lift sanctions crippling Iran’s economy, though the timing of such a move is yet another uncertainty."

While congressional Republicans have been the most strident opponents of the Iran deal, some Democrats, including likely-to-be next Senate Democratic Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have vowed to seek congressional review of the deal, a move the Obama administration opposes. Schumer's decision on whether or not to follow through on the move may be a bellwether for future actions by Democrats not inclined to support such a deal.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also criticized the deal, saying on CNN's State of the Union, "This deal will both threaten us and threaten our neighbors." Netanyahu also said on NBC's Meet the Press, "I'm not trying to kill any deal; I'm trying to kill a bad deal."

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Terrorist Attack in Kenya Kills At Least 148

Kenya's military responded to the al-Shabaab attack
on April 2
al-Shabaab, the Somalian terrorist group affiliated with al-Qaeda, launched an attack on Garissa University College in Garissa, Kenya, Thursday, killing at least 148 people and injuring at least 79 more. Of the deaths, 142 were students, three were policewomen, and three were soldiers.

Reports suggest that the gunmen began shooting indiscriminately at the beginning of the attack before taking hostages. Those professing to be to Muslim were let go, while the terrorist shot Christian captives.

Two suspects were apprehended at the scene, while three more were caught trying to sneak into Somalia.

This is the second large scale al-Shabaan attack in Kenya in recent years, the first being the Westgate Mall terrorist attack, which killed 67. The attack was claimed to be a response for Kenya's support of the transitional government in Somalia.