Fresh Pickings From The Political Grapevine

Foot In Mouth: The Senate's top Democrat is taking ridicule tonight after being burned by his own racial politics. Majority Leader Harry Reid expressed outrage over last week's Hobby Lobby ruling by the Supreme Court allowing religious exceptions for the Obamacare contraception mandate.

"The one thing that we are going to do during this work period is to ensure that women's lives are not determined by virtue of five white men. This Hobby Hobby decision is outrageous."

Of course the problem is five white men did not write the decision. The majority included Justice Clarence Thomas, who is in fact African-American.

Former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain tweets --@THEHermanCain: Harry Reid's Koch addiction is making him see white people... Harry: Clarence Thomas is black!

Baking Limits: Federal government nutrition guidelines could cost big money for local schools and extra curricular activities that rely on food sale fundraisers. In Tennessee state officials are limiting such events to just 30 days per school year in order to comply with the federal law's vague reference to infrequent. The Tennessean reports even state education leaders are frustrated.

"If somebody wants to object to federal intrusion in what's going on in schools I think this would be an ideal place to target."

Another official mocked the rules allowing healthy food sales--"If I thought I could generate revenue selling carrot sticks, I could tear it up."

Not All Press Is Good Press: Finally, If you are on the run from the law you probably should not agree to have your picture published in the newspaper. Jacob Close posed for a photo to accompany his opinion on the Washington Redskins name controversy in a Pennsylvania newspaper feature. Police saw the picture and arrested him for an outstanding warrant for jumping bail. His opinion on football team? Keep the Redskins name, but change the mascot to a potato. 

Center Seat: Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) on Border Crisis

Daniel's 4th Birthday

Here are a few photos from Daniel's 4th birthday celebration on July 7th--

Reagan Foundation

Immigrant Children: Where do we go from here?

The Obama Administration continues to deal with the influx of thousands of Central American children who have recently entered the U.S. illegally. 

Under political pressure from both sides of the aisle on their handling of the issue, Valerie Jarrett sent a letter last night to Texas Governor Rick Perry inviting him to a previously unannounced meeting with faith leaders on immigration while the President is in Dallas on Wednesday. Jarrett also said President Obama would welcome a meeting with Perry during his trip to Texas this week. 

In addition, the White House announced today that they are asking Congress for $3.7 billion in emergency supplemental aid to deal with border crisis.

Meanwhile, the administration has decided to house over 3,000 unaccompanied immigrant children at U.S. military bases, and the Pentagon is saying it is nearly maxed out.  On Monday, it agreed to house an additional 600 children at Joint-Base Lewis McChord.

Ventura Naval Station in California can hold 575 children and is currently caring for 450. Fort Sill Army Post in Oklahoma can hold as many as 1,200 children--and they have almost reached the limit.

Some members of Congress have be granted access to Lackland Air Force Base, which is also capable of housing up to 1,200 children. 

HHS is providing the children staying at the barracks with medical care and on-site supervision.  But, it's not a role the Pentagon wants to keep.  The DOD says it will cap the number of days it can hold the children at 120.

What do you think we should do with these immigrant children? Let us know here on the blog or via Twitter @bretbaier or Facebook.com/bretbaiersr and we will have more on this tonight with Shannon Bream and Ed Henry on Special Report.

 

RIP Louis Zamperini: A True American Hero

Louis "Louie" Zamperini was a remarkable man who accomplished more in his lifetime than most people ever dream of.

Zamperini was born in Olean, New York on January 26, 1917.  The son of Italian immigrants, Louie and his family spoke very little English. They moved to California when he was just two years old and a young Louie was often the target of bullies.

Louie's older brother introduced him to the school track team where he went on to set world records, earn a scholarship to the University of Southern California, and eventually qualified for the U.S. Olympic team. At 19 he was the youngest American qualifier in the 5,000 meter race and went on to finish 8th at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany.

In 1941, Zamperini enlisted in the Army and was deployed to the Pacific as a bombardier. In 1943, Zamperini's plane was damaged in combat and the crew was assigned another B-24 plane.

During a search mission for lost aircraft and crewmen, Zamperini's plane crashed due to 'mechanical difficulties.' Three men survived the crash-- Zamperini among them--and they were forced to subsist on rainwater, raw fish and birds.

After thirty-three days at sea Sgt. Francis McNamara died--fourteen days later Zamperini and pilot/Lt. Russell "Phil" Phillips reached land and were captured by the Japanese Navy. The Army declared the men missing, and a year later they were listed as being killed in action. 

Zamperini was taken to a POW camp where he was beaten and held in captivity until the war ended. He returned home to a hero's welcome in 1945. 

Post-war, Zamperini married Cynthia Applewhite, who died in 2001. He became a born-again Christian and was close with Rev. Bill Graham, who helped him go on to become a motivational speaker. Zamperini believed in forgiveness, and later visited with many of the prison guards he met during his time as a POW to tell them he had forgiven them.

Zamperini's incredible story inspired best-selling author Laura Hillenbrand (author of Seabiscuit: An American Legend) to write about it in her book, Unbroken.

Actress Angelina Jolie produced and directed a movie based on Hillenbrand's book that is scheduled to be released on Christmas Day in 2014 by Universal Pictures. An unlikely friendship between the award winning actress and the American hero quickly developed and Zamperini said he knew Jolie would tell his story "in the right way." 

"It is a loss impossible to describe," Jolie said in a statement about Zamperini's death. "We will miss him terribly."

RIP Louis Zamperini--a true American hero, and a man who never let life break him.

Pictured: Bret Baier, Brit Hume, Louis "Louie" Zamperini, and James Rosen at Fox News--

President Obama Proposes $500 Million To Aid Syrian Rebels

The White House sent Congress a $500 million request Thursday for a Pentagon-run program that would significantly expand previous covert efforts to arm rebels fighting both the Sunni extremists and forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

If approved by lawmakers, the program would in effect open a second front in the fight against militants spilling over Syria's border and threatening to overwhelm neighboring Iraq.

President Obama has long been reluctant to arm the Syrian opposition, in part because of concerns that weapons may fall into extremist hands. But administration officials say the U.S. has grown increasingly confident in recent months about its ability to distinguish the moderate rebels from the more extremist elements that include the al-Qaida-inspired Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which has stormed into Iraq and captured much of the northern part of the country.

Jennifer Griffin has more tonight on Special Report

Former Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker Dies at 88

By Chad Pergram-Capitol Hill

Former Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker (R-TN) has died. He was 88 years old.

First elected to the Senate in 1966, Baker emerged as one of the most central figures in Republican Party politics after a remarkably fast rise.

By the end of his first term in the Senate, President Richard Nixon courted Baker for a seat on the Supreme Court. But when Baker took too long to decide whether he wanted it, Nixon offered the position to William Rehnquist instead. 

Rehnquist later became Chief Justice of the United States.

In 1973, Baker gained national prominence – and found himself working against his former ally – when he served as the vice chairman of the Senate Watergate Committee. During the panel’s proceedings, Baker famously asked: “What did the president know, and when did he know it?” 

Political insiders considered the Tennessee Republican to be a frontrunner to become President Gerald Ford’s running mate in 1976. But Ford ultimately offered the vice presidential candidacy to Sen. Bob Dole (R-KS) instead. The decision surprised many political observers.

A year later, Baker became the Senate Minority Leader. As the chief negotiator on behalf of the Senate Republicans, he played a key role in the passage of the Panama Canal Treaty, which gradually transferred control of the canal to Panama. 

After vice presidential speculation during the 1976 election, Baker ran in the 1980 Republican presidential primary. However, he ultimately dropped out due to poor performances in the early primary states. 

But with Ronald Reagan’s rise to the White House that year, Baker became the Senate Majority Leader after Republicans made historic gains in Congress, scoring control of the chamber in 1980.

Baker decided not to run for reelection in 1984 to return to practicing law in Tennessee. President Reagan awardedBaker  the Presidential Medal of Freedom to mark his 18 years of accomplishments in the Senate. The medal is the nation’s highest civilian honor,.

Three years later, Reagan tapped Baker to become his Chief of Staff in the waning time of his second term. Many viewed the move as an attempt to mend relations with the Senate, which returned to Democratic control in 1986.

In 2001, President George W. Bush appointed Baker as the U.S. Ambassador to Japan. After completing his term in 2005, Baker returned to Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, the law firm his grandfather founded.Baker served as senior counsel after formerly practicing there with his father early in his career. 

Baker also co-founded the Bipartisan Policy Center in 2007 with Dole and former Senate Majority Leaders Tom Daschle (D-SD) and George Mitchell (D-ME). 

Baker first entered politics in 1950 by managing his father’s successful campaign for the House of Representatives. Working on Capitol Hill also led him to his first wife, Joy Dirksen, who was the daughter of the legendary Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen (R-IL). 

After 42 years of marriage, Baker lost Joy Dirksen to cancer in 1993. Baker later remarried in 1996 to Sen. Nancy Kassebaum (R-KS). 

ISIS: What's Next?

A picture is emerging of consistent and persistent warnings by the intelligence community about ISIS and a failure to heed or act on the warnings with congressional sources telling Fox air strikes a month ago when ISIS was still in camps on the Syrian border were a missed opportunity. 

Sunni extremists took over a border crossing between Iraq and Syria over the weekend leaving ISIS's threat closing in on the country. Yesterday, Syria reportedly responded with air strikes, killing 50+people. 

After a classified briefing late Tuesday, Senators described ISIS as a direct threat to the US, warning that Jordan is likely next as well as the Balad air base, Iraq's largest and former HQ for US forces. For now, the United States is taking a less aggressive approach, but pressure continues to mount against a growing regional threat

Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Iraq earlier in the week to meet with leaders and encourage a more inclusive government. Today he is in Brussels to attend a NATO meeting of foreign ministers to discuss the situation in Iraq. Kerry has presently ruled out US air strikes--

James Rosen is traveling with Secretary Kerry and will have more for us tonight on Special Report. 

Special Report Grapevine: Yogurt and Yoga..same thing, right?

Get It In Writing: Apparently the Environmental Protection Agency is not too concerned with killing trees. Since 2009 the Obama EPA has issued 2,839 new regulations or about 1.5  a day. That works out to be about 25,000 pages worth of rules and regulations. For the sake of comparison that is about 19-times as many pages as the Gutenberg Bible. The EPA regulations contain around 15-million words which is 23-times what the Bible holds  and dwarfs the 4,543 words contained in the US Constitution.

Do As I Say, Not As I Do: Speaking of the environment, A Greenpeace executive is under fire for not practicing what the group preaches. The Guardian writes the group's director of international programs commutes on a 250 mile flight to get to work  several times a month. Greenpeace says it does not want to outlaw flying, but does want limits because "The growth in aviation is ruining our chances of stopping dangerous climate change."

One Greenpeace volunteer told the Telegraph that he finds the flights  almost unbelievable.

Namaste:  DC councilman Marion Barry has taken a strong stance against a tax on yogurt in the District and even took a swipe at a fellow councilman for proposing it. The problem? Such a tax does not exist. Barry was asked about the yoga tax not yogurt. The Yoga tax is a nearly 6% levy  on all fitness memberships and it passed the council today with Barry's support.

Unorganized Crime: Finally, a Minnesota burglar could not have made it much easier for the police. They say Nicholas Wig broke into a house and made off with credit cards, cash, and a watch, but not before he took the time to log on to Facebook using the computer in the house he broke into and forgot to log off. Local reports say the homeowner worked with the police to catch Wig who could face up to 10 years in prison.

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