May 4th, 2014
03:06 PM ET
3 months ago

Political Chatter: Benghazi, Ukraine and deconstructing Obama’s veiled humor

At the annual White House Correspondents Dinner on Saturday night, President Barack Obama and news groups were roasted and toasted amidst a crowd full of Hollywood celebrities. On Sunday morning, journalists got back on topic, dissecting the latest deadly violence in Ukraine, the ongoing investigation into Benghazi and of course, presidential politics.

If you missed the Sunday political talk shows, we’ll get you up to speed on the latest events and opinion in Washington with this comprehensive round up of all things political:


Foreign policy: Republicans continue to beat up on the President over his foreign policy. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, said Obama isn’t doing enough to combat Russia’s heavy hand in Ukraine.

“It really is spinning out of control, and you know the sad fact is sanctions haven't worked,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union” after a recent trip to Ukraine.

Violence escalated in recent days in the Black Sea port city of Odessa, where a street battle between supporters and opponents of Russia ended in a deadly blaze that killed more than 40 people.

Ukraine releases protesters; PM visits Odessa

Amid continued defiance, Ukrainian official vows: 'We are not stopping'

While Obama said he would impose tougher sanctions on Russia that target the country’s economy if President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine or if he interfered with Ukrainian elections set to take place on May 25, Republicans think tougher sanctions should go into effect immediately, including Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-New Hampshire.

“The bottom line is if we wait until the elections, it will be too late at that point,” she said on “Fox News Sunday.”

The U.S. and Europe has imposed two rounds of sanctions directed at individuals in Putin’s inner circle. Financial punishment hasn’t been expanded because Europe relies on Russia’s energy exports and knows that industry-focused economic sanctions could harm its economy.

Despite that, Republicans want to see more done.

“Vladimir Putin is only going to respond to action, strength and resolve. He's not going to respond to words,” Johnson said.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that the President is “delusional about what’s going on in Ukraine.”

Rep. Eliot Engel, D-New York, defended the President’s actions in Ukraine, saying on “State of the Union” that sanctions have “affected” Putin’s behavior, noting that the Russian leader hasn’t yet deployed his military across the border.

The GOP senators on three talk shows mounted another pitch echoed by their party for weeks: Send small arms and “anti-tank weapons” to Ukraine, something Obama has not supported.

Engel cautioned against jumping ahead of European allies. “We’re going to have to work in conjunction with NATO because if we don't, then the NATO alliance is dead,” Engel said, countering Republican demands.

But Johnson insisted the United States do more. “It’s the type of weakness that has given Vladimir Putin certainly the signal that he can continue to do those things with impunity,” he said.

Obama’s leadership – or lack of - has been a Republican talking point throughout his presidency, pointing to Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Russia and now it emerged as an issue on the Sunday political shows regarding Nigeria.

In Nigeria, where more than 200 teenage girls have been abducted by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram last month for attending a Western school, Johnson said, “America has to lead. That’s what’s missing now.”

Demand for return of hundreds of abducted schoolgirls in Nigeria mounts

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, had an unsurprisingly similar sentiment: “I believe in American exceptionalism. I believe we have a leading role. I believe in peace through strength. Unfortunately, we have a president who is not believed around the world. He's lost the credibility. I think he had that credibility and had the military strength to back it up, there would be a lot more peace out there.”

Benghazi: A flurry of activity over Benghazi erupted this week with the release of an administration memo written after the deadly attacks that advises Susan Rice, then U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, to underscore that the violence was a result of a protest on a series of Sunday political show appearances.

The fight between the White House and congressional Republicans reached a new level as House Speaker John Boehner announced that he will create a special committee to investigate. But Rep. Adam Schiff, D-California, said that Democrats shouldn’t participate in the committee, which he called a “colossal waste of time.”

“I don't think it makes sense for us to give this select committee any more credibility than it deserves,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

While Schiff called the Republicans’ investigations political in nature, Ayotte said the White House’s explanation of what happened on September 11, 2012, just two months before the presidential election, was the thing that was political.

“The President had been saying al Qaeda was on the run. They were trying to push a narrative of strength in foreign policy. This did not fit their narrative,” she said.

And on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Chaffetz said he has evidence that further contradicts the White House’s story.

“I have a document in my hand, an internal State Department document that goes to Cheryl Mills, Hillary Clinton's chief of staff, this is on September 12th. The State Department had told the President of the Libyan Congress that it was Ansar al-Sharia, a terrorist organization that had committed these attacks,” he said.

But David Plouffe, former White House senior adviser, said on ABC’s “This Week” that Benghazi is an issue because “there’s a very loud delusional minority that is driving our politics.”

Benghazi - government cover-up or right-wing conspiracy theory?

Graham, who thinks the Obama administration is lying and called Benghazi “a smoking gun,” also thinks the White House was covering up any possible bad news to protect the President’s re-election efforts. But he noted, “Anybody who plays politics with Benghazi will get burned.” That includes the Republican Party.

Obama’s humor at #WHCD: At the annual White House Correspondent’s Dinner, you know, the dinner that gives out awards to serious, well-deserved journalists (i.e. CNN’s Brianna Keilar)? The annual event with journalists taking as many selfies as they can with Hollywood’s famous? Yeah, that event.

Obama gets last laugh at Washington's annual correspondents' dinner

Well, Obama told a few jokes about himself, the media and healthcare.gov. But he also joked about Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, including: “Let's face it, Fox, you'll miss me when I'm gone. It will be harder to convince the American people that Hillary was born in Kenya.”

NBC’s “Meet the Press” deconstructed the meaning behind his Clinton/Biden jokes. Anita Dunn, Obama’s former communications director, said a Clinton Democratic nomination “is as close to a fait accompli as anything that could exist” in the Democratic Party.

New York Times Magazine Correspondent Mark Leibovich, author of "This Town," criticized the dinner and related parties on "This Week," asking, "what are we celebrating exactly?"

Perry for President? Texas Gov. Rick Perry did not say if he would run for president in 2016, but in a telling remark, he said, “American is a place that believes in second chances.”

The governor’s last bid for president in 2012 crashed and burned after a series of mistakes, including not remembering his own positions.

After the Oklahoma execution last week when a three-drug cocktail took more than 45 minutes for the inmate to die, Perry called the execution "botched" but defended Texas’ active death penalty policy as “appropriate,” saying Texas uses only “one drug” during executions.

He also expressed his opposition to the minimum wage rejected by Senate Republicans last week, saying Texas focuses “on the maximum wage rather than the minimum wage.”

Fallout from LA Clippers story: Race was a central topic of the roundtable portions of the Sunday talk shows. The conversations were interesting and best viewed in their entirety:

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said that Clippers owner Donald Sterling doesn’t realize the seriousness of his remarks. “I don’t think he gets that,” Garcetti said. Sterling has been in hot water ever since racist remarks made on audio recordings were leaked.

Additionally, he thinks there might be a legal battle over the Clippers as Sterling wants to continue to own the team. After speaking with Sterling, Garcetti said that he might encourage a boycott of the Clippers if Sterling tries to keep the team.

“I would certainly keep that arrow in my quiver,” he said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

NBA to name new CEO for the Clippers; team wins in playoffs

Sell the Clippers to the people

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said Sterling should “embrace the sanctions and spend the rest of his life proving he was not a racist.”

Kicker: Nancy Pelosi tweets a picture of her tattoo:

soundoff (52 Responses)
  1. Chris-E...al

    @Barbara you are doing great dems just cant stand the truth it makes them blush . More post here on wmd . Cant you dems just amit that Bush stop the attacks down to almost nothing for a change ?

    May 5, 2014 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  2. rs

    The GOP has made such a muddle of Benghazi that most on the Right can no longer even explain what they think happened, much less why the e-mail that their FOX News minions keep touting is utterly meaningless. But that's the point I guess- that their unthinking folks are simply remembering a "controversy" and a "cover-up" despite the complete lack of any evidence or an understanding of the issue at all..

    Yes, that IS the Right, fantasyland style beliefs, so nicely embodied in lies, deceit, and anti-government language. Reality, is just so different. Just like their faux "fiscal conservatism". The GOP has bled tax dollars since Reagan, and do so now with their cut-taxes-and-spend mentality and corporate socialism.

    The GOP could do us all a favor by explaining why they want to be in charge of a government they hate so much.
    It would be nice if they sorted out just what it is that bothers them about Benghazi- mostly because they cannot stay on point- and it certainly isn't the four deaths when so many more State Dept. employees died (15x) under similar and worse conditions under Mr. Bush- when these "ditto heads" said nothing.

    Finally, the GOP needs to explain their support of anti- government, violent militia-types. I mean it's clear that in embracing Mr. Bundy, they re-raised the tinpot gun nuts of Ruby Ridge, Waco, and the Oklahoma City bombers- now as some sort of Right-wing heroes. Really? Terrorists as heroes?

    The GOP is very, very sick.

    I'll stick with the "community organizer" (the one with the doctorate in Constitutional law, 13 years experience teaching at the U of Chicago) and the Democrats over the train wreck that is the GOP.

    May 5, 2014 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
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