U.S. now sees Iran as pursuing nuclear bomb – Los Angeles Times

Funny how Obama now sees that Iran is a threat and is persuing nuclear weapons… I wonder what would have happened had he been privy to this level of intel when the decision to take out Saddam was made… I bet he would have sang a different tune, but then again he was just a state senator in IL and did not have access to intel this level of intel when he spoke out against going into Iraq.

Reporting from Washington — Little more than a year after U.S. spy agencies concluded that Iran had halted work on a nuclear weapon, the Obama administration has made it clear that it believes there is no question that Tehran is seeking the bomb.

In his news conference this week, President Obama went so far as to describe Iran’s “development of a nuclear weapon” before correcting himself to refer to its “pursuit” of weapons capability.

Obama’s nominee to serve as CIA director, Leon E. Panetta, left little doubt about his view last week when he testified on Capitol Hill. “From all the information I’ve seen,” Panetta said, “I think there is no question that they are seeking that capability.” 

The language reflects the extent to which senior U.S. officials now discount a National Intelligence Estimate issued in November 2007 that was instrumental in derailing U.S. and European efforts to pressure Iran to shut down its nuclear program.

As the administration moves toward talks with Iran, Obama appears to be sending a signal that the United States will not be drawn into a debate over Iran’s intent.

“When you’re talking about negotiations in Iran, it is dangerous to appear weak or naive,” said Joseph Cirincione, a nuclear weapons expert and president of the Ploughshares Fund, an anti-proliferation organization based in Washington. 

Cirincione said the unequivocal language also worked to Obama’s political advantage. “It guards against criticism from the right that the administration is underestimating Iran,” he said.

Iran has long maintained that it aims to generate electricity, not build bombs, with nuclear power. But Western intelligence officials and nuclear experts increasingly view those claims as implausible.

U.S. officials said that although no new evidence had surfaced to undercut the findings of the 2007 estimate, there was growing consensus that it provided a misleading picture and that the country was poised to reach crucial bomb-making milestones this year.

Obama’s top intelligence official, Dennis C. Blair, the director of national intelligence, is expected to address mounting concerns over Iran’s nuclear program in testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee today.

When it was issued, the NIE stunned the international community. It declared that U.S. spy agencies judged “with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program.”

U.S. intelligence officials later said the conclusion was based on evidence that Iran had stopped secret efforts to design a nuclear warhead around the time of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Often overlooked in the NIE, officials said, was that Iran had not stopped its work on other crucial fronts, including missile design and uranium enrichment. Many experts contend that these are more difficult than building a bomb.

Iran’s advances on enrichment have become a growing source of alarm. Since 2004, the country has gone from operating a few dozen centrifuges — cylindrical machines used to enrich uranium — to nearly 6,000, weapons experts agree.

By November, Iran had produced an estimated 1,400 pounds of low-enriched uranium, not nearly enough to fuel a nuclear energy reactor, but perilously close to the quantity needed to make a bomb.

A report issued last month by the Institute for Science and International Security concluded that “Iran is moving steadily toward a breakout capability and is expected to reach that milestone during the first half of 2009.” That means it would have enough low-enriched uranium to be able to quickly convert it to weapons-grade material.

Tehran’s progress has come despite CIA efforts to sabotage shipments of centrifuge components on their way into Iran and entice the country’s nuclear scientists to leave.

Iran still faces considerable hurdles. The country touted its launch of a 60-pound satellite into orbit this month. Experts said Iran’s rockets would need to be able to carry more than 2,000 pounds to deliver a first-generation nuclear bomb.

And there are indications that the U.S. and Iran are interested in holding serious diplomatic discussions for the first time in three decades. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said this week that his nation was “ready to hold talks based on mutual respect,” and Obama indicated that his administration would look for opportunities “in the coming months.”

Hassan Qashqavi, spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, on Wednesday warned the U.S. not to wait for Iranian presidential elections this year, because ultimate authority rests with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

He also said Iran would be patient.

“Since a new administration came to power in the U.S., we do not want to burn the opportunity of President Obama and give him time to change the reality on the ground,” Qashqavi said.

But experts said Iran was now close enough to nuclear weapons capability that it may be less susceptible to international pressure.

“They’ve made more progress in the last five years than in the previous 10,” Cirincione said.

via U.S. now sees Iran as pursuing nuclear bomb – Los Angeles Times.

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Obama Doesn’t Get It

Rep. Aaron Schock talks about the stimulus, and urges a NO VOTE. Despite President Obama’s observations, workers at the Catepillar workers do not support the stimulus.

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Jake Tapper Kills Bambi

Gibbs should just quit…

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Glenn Beck on Obama’s ‘Change’: Socialism

Change You Can Believe In

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Washington Post Publishes Obama’s Fear Mongering Editorial

In another lame attempt to convince the people of the United States to blindly accept his $900+ billion stimulus, Obama publishes an editorial in the Washington Post. He says nothing new in this editorial, the only purpose of this is to spread the fear to as many readers as possible.

This administration is using fear to push forward it’s socialist agenda and political pork barrel.

America, contact you congressional representatives and demand they reject this eater of planets. Tell them to formulate a responsible package that will boost our economy not nationalize it.

Change You Can Believe In!

By now, it’s clear to everyone that we have inherited an economic crisis as deep and dire as any since the days of the Great Depression. Millions of jobs that Americans relied on just a year ago are gone; millions more of the nest eggs families worked so hard to build have vanished. People everywhere are worried about what tomorrow will bring.

What Americans expect from Washington is action that matches the urgency they feel in their daily lives — action that’s swift, bold and wise enough for us to climb out of this crisis.

Because each day we wait to begin the work of turning our economy around, more people lose their jobs, their savings and their homes. And if nothing is done, this recession might linger for years. Our economy will lose 5 million more jobs. Unemployment will approach double digits. Our nation will sink deeper into a crisis that, at some point, we may not be able to reverse.

That’s why I feel such a sense of urgency about the recovery plan before Congress. With it, we will create or save more than 3 million jobs over the next two years, provide immediate tax relief to 95 percent of American workers, ignite spending by businesses and consumers alike, and take steps to strengthen our country for years to come.

This plan is more than a prescription for short-term spending — it’s a strategy for America’s long-term growth and opportunity in areas such as renewable energy, health care and education. And it’s a strategy that will be implemented with unprecedented transparency and accountability, so Americans know where their tax dollars are going and how they are being spent.

In recent days, there have been misguided criticisms of this plan that echo the failed theories that helped lead us into this crisis — the notion that tax cuts alone will solve all our problems; that we can meet our enormous tests with half-steps and piecemeal measures; that we can ignore fundamental challenges such as energy independence and the high cost of health care and still expect our economy and our country to thrive.

I reject these theories, and so did the American people when they went to the polls in November and voted resoundingly for change. They know that we have tried it those ways for too long. And because we have, our health-care costs still rise faster than inflation. Our dependence on foreign oil still threatens our economy and our security. Our children still study in schools that put them at a disadvantage. We’ve seen the tragic consequences when our bridges crumble and our levees fail.

Every day, our economy gets sicker — and the time for a remedy that puts Americans back to work, jump-starts our economy and invests in lasting growth is now.

Now is the time to protect health insurance for the more than 8 million Americans at risk of losing their coverage and to computerize the health-care records of every American within five years, saving billions of dollars and countless lives in the process.

Now is the time to save billions by making 2 million homes and 75 percent of federal buildings more energy-efficient, and to double our capacity to generate alternative sources of energy within three years.

Now is the time to give our children every advantage they need to compete by upgrading 10,000 schools with state-of-the-art classrooms, libraries and labs; by training our teachers in math and science; and by bringing the dream of a college education within reach for millions of Americans.

And now is the time to create the jobs that remake America for the 21st century by rebuilding aging roads, bridges and levees; designing a smart electrical grid; and connecting every corner of the country to the information superhighway.

These are the actions Americans expect us to take without delay. They’re patient enough to know that our economic recovery will be measured in years, not months. But they have no patience for the same old partisan gridlock that stands in the way of action while our economy continues to slide.

So we have a choice to make. We can once again let Washington’s bad habits stand in the way of progress. Or we can pull together and say that in America, our destiny isn’t written for us but by us. We can place good ideas ahead of old ideological battles, and a sense of purpose above the same narrow partisanship. We can act boldly to turn crisis into opportunity and, together, write the next great chapter in our history and meet the test of our time.

via Barack Obama – The Action Americans Need – washingtonpost.com.

Washington Times – Daschle gave speech on tax cheats

Oh the irony… Prosecute Daschle to the extent of the law just as he advocated… Let him be one of the people…

Go to the source to hear the clip…

If Tom Daschle had his way, Tom Daschle would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for failing to pay his taxes.

At least according to the old Tom Daschle, who gave an impassioned speech on the Senate floor about the scourge of tax scofflaws.

“Make no mistake, tax cheaters cheat us all, and the IRS should enforce our laws to the letter,” the former Senate Majority Leader said in 1998 during a debate on a bill reforming the Internal Revenue Service.

The blogosphere went wild after Mr. Daschle’s Tuesday withdrawal from his nomination to be Secretary of the Health and Human Services Department. Discovered in the blitz was a campaign ad from 1986, when the former South Dakota Democrat was running for election. Click here to see the ad.

Then-Rep. Daschle is shown driving a beat-up, old 1971 Pontiac in Washington as a narrator talks of his humble needs. “Among Washington’s BMWs and limos, is this: Since 1971, the old Pontiac has served its owner well. Sure it’s rusted, and it burns a little oil,” the narrator says. “But after 15 years and 238,000 miles, Tom Daschle still drives his old car to work every day. Maybe he’s sentimental — or just cheap. Whatever the case, isn’t it too bad the rest of Washington doesn’t understand that a penny saved . . . is a penny earned.”

Mr. Daschle was the third high-profile nominee by President Obama to bow out, after belatedly paying nearly $140,000 in penalties and interest for a chauffeured limousine provided by a wealthy Democratic donor. He said he assumed he was getting a free ride and simply didn’t know that the limo should have been considered “imputed income.” On Tuesday, performance officer nominee Nancy Killefer also dropped out because she, too, had tax problems. Mr. Obama initially had tapped Bill Richardson to be Commerce secretary, but the New Mexico governor withdrew amid a grand jury investigation into a state contract awarded to his political donors.

Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner slipped through Senate hearings before Mr. Obama took the oath of office, despite having failed to pay $34,000.

Mr. Daschle, who emerged ashen-faced from a Senate hearing room Monday night after a closed-door grilling by Finance Committee members about the unpaid taxes, was said to still hold popularity among his former colleagues. But some vowed to question him hard over the scandal, and others still held old grudges.

Some senators remember 2001, when Mr. Daschle, then the Senate Democratic leader, helped torpedo President Bush’s choice to head the Labor Department, Linda Chavez. The Hispanic woman admitted housing an illegal immigrant and giving her money, which was more than Mr. Daschle could bear. “The labor secretary ought to set the example,” he said.

Mr. Obama was reportedly furious over the continuing stream of nominees who failed to pay their taxes. In a series of mea culpas on TV, he said he had “screwed up” and “messed up.” “This is a self-induced injury that I’m angry about, and we’re going to make sure we get it fixed,” Mr. Obama said. “We can’t afford glitches, because right now, what I should be spending time talking to you about is how we’re going to put 3 [million] to 4 million people back to work.”

via Washington Times – Daschle gave speech on tax cheats .

Daschle Crawls Under The Bus With Killefer

And Gibbs ends by saying there is nothing wrong with the vetting process… These choices are being made knowing the problems these people have, it would only be a problem if these problems were discovered outside of the vetting process only… The problem is the choice of who is being looked at to start with…

As of yesterday Obama was 110% behind Daschle… Today Nancy Killefer got exposed and dropped out… Now Daschle the same day… Obama’s trial and error management is just that… Now that the public is pissed, Daschle is forced to drop out too, the politcal ash is starting to settle…

Too bad Republicans and the people did not put that much pressure on the Timothy Geithner nomination…

Change You Can Believe In! 

CNN) — Former Sen. Tom Daschle has withdrawn his nomination to head the Department of Health and Human Services, according to a statement Tuesday from the White House.

Former Sen. Tom Daschle apologized for making mistakes on his tax records.

Daschle had been fighting to save his nomination as HHS secretary following controversy over his tax records and questions over his work in a field that some consider lobbying.

In a statement announcing his withdrawal, Daschle said it was an honor to be chosen to lead the reform of America’s health care system.

“But if 30 years of exposure to the challenges inherent in our system has taught me anything, it has taught me that this work will require a leader who can operate with the full faith of Congress and the American people, and without distraction,” he said.

“Right now, I am not that leader, and will not be a distraction. The focus of Congress should be on the urgent business of moving the president’s economic agenda forward, including affordable health care for every American.”

The Obama administration had stood by his side, and fellow Democrats lined up behind him, but Daschle’s problems, coupled with other nominees’ issues, gave critics ammunition to question President Obama’s call for a “new era of responsibility.”

The president said Tuesday he accepts Daschle’s decision “with sadness and regret.”

Tom made a mistake, which he has openly acknowledged. He has not excused it, nor do I. But that mistake, and this decision, cannot diminish the many contributions Tom has made to this country, from his years in the military to his decades of public service. Now we must move forward, with our plan to lift this economy and put people back to work,” Obama said in a statement.

Daschle’s resignation came hours after Nancy Killefer’s withdrawal as Obama’s chief performance officer, a new post in the administration.

Officials said privately the reason for Killefer’s withdrawal was unspecified tax issues. The much-touted post was designed to scrub the federal budget.

Daschle, the former Senate majority leader, apologized Monday for failing to pay his taxes in full. He said earlier he was “deeply embarrassed” for a series of errors that included failing to report $15,000 in charitable donations, unreported car service and more than $80,000 in unreported income from consulting.

Daschle recently filed amended tax returns and paid more than $140,000 in back taxes and interest for 2005-2007.

A New York Times editorial on Tuesday called for Daschle to withdraw.

The paper’s editorial board particularly took issue with Daschle saying he identified the unpaid taxes in June but did not pay them until his nomination for the top post at the Department of Health and Human Services.

The editorial also criticized Daschle for generating a sizable income from health-related industries while working in the private sector.

“Mr. Daschle is another in a long line of politicians who move cozily between government and industry. We don’t know that his industry ties would influence his judgments on health issues, but they could potentially throw a cloud over health care reform,” the editorial said.

Shortly after news of the tax quandary broke, a number of Democratic senators released statements expressing their support for Daschle, including Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts, Charles Schumer of New York, Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts. In their opinions, Daschle identified the problem and corrected it.

Daschle’s supporters said that given his record of three decades of public service, he was still the right man for the job.

“One cannot underestimate how widely admired Tom Daschle is in Washington for his integrity, for his public service. And many, many Democrats look to him as one of the favorite people. He’s got a lot of support in this White House, starting with the president,” said David Gergen, a senior political analyst for CNN.

Obama and Daschle have a longstanding relationship. Daschle endorsed Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination in February 2007 — nearly 11 months before the first contest. Daschle was also considered to be a contender for Obama’s No. 2 spot.

Daschle also has a history with members of Congress. He represented South Dakota in the House of Representatives for four terms, and he served in the Senate for three terms. He was the Senate majority leader from June 2001 to January 2003, and was the minority leader before losing his re-election bid in 2004.

Daschle’s work in his post-Senate years was also a point of contention on his path to confirmation.

After leaving the Senate, Daschle went on to serve as a special public policy adviser at the law firm Alston & Bird.

According to the firm’s Web site, Daschle advised clients on “issues related to financial services, health care, energy, telecommunications and taxes.”

His work, for which he reportedly made millions, seemed to contradict Obama’s strict rules on lobbyists working in his administration.

Promising “a new era of openness in our country,” Obama signed executive orders relating to ethics guidelines for staff members as one of his first acts in office.

“If you are a lobbyist entering my administration, you will not be able to work on matters you lobbied on, or in the agencies you lobbied during the previous two years,” the president said.

The administration had defended its choice of Daschle, pointing out that he was not technically a lobbyist.

“If you’re not registered to lobby, you can’t be a lobbyist,” said White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, according to Time.com. Time.com: When is a lobbyist not a lobbyist?

Daschle and Kellifer were not the first of Obama’s nominees to come under scrutiny.

Before Tim Geithner was confirmed as treasury secretary, he was questioned over concerns involving his personal taxes and the immigration status of a former housekeeper.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson also withdrew his nomination to be commerce secretary, citing the distraction of a federal investigation into ties to a company that has done business with his state.

Given Obama’s pledge for “unprecedented transparency, rigorous oversight and clear accountability,” some said the controversy surrounding Obama’s appointments are calling into question the president’s vetting process.

“Mr. President, your picks to help run the federal government don’t have to be perfect, but is it too much to ask that they pay like everyone else, to keep that same government functioning? And more importantly, that they don’t wait until everyone, including you, is watching?” CNN’s Campbell Brown wrote in a commentary.Read the commentary

Asked if the president is embarrassed by the slew of appointment problems, Gibbs was quick to negate that idea.

“No, I don’t think that — that we believe there’s any problem in the vetting,” Gibbs said Monday.

via Daschle withdraws as HHS nominee – CNN.com.