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Libya Rebels Star in White House P.R. Push


White HouseShowcases Rebel Leader Ahead of Libya War Deadline

"We are facing a real crisis. We are running out of money."

Libyan rebel leader Mahmoud Jebril speaking at the Brookings Institution, a liberal think tank in Washington.

 

President Obama has one week before the 60-days provided for executive discretion on military activity by the War Powers Act expires and the administration is making a push to show progress.

NATO air strikes in Libya seem increasingly targeted at Col. Muammar al Qaddafi in a bid to bring some resolution to the long and increasingly nasty tribal conflict that had devastated the North African nation.

If Qaddafi is dead, the chances for some kind of a U.N./African Union negotiated ceasefire increases. The rebel tribes and Islamists fighting against Qaddafi's forces will be hard to corral into a deal as long as their hated oppressor is alive.

Mahmoud Jebril, the leader of the rebel group that styles itself the Transitional National Council, has been in Washington this week asking for money, increased U.S. military involvement and, most importantly, U.S. recognition of the group.

Though the rebels still suffer deep divisions over their leadership and purpose and seem to lack popular support outside of their tribal homeland in the east, Jebril makes a good face for the group in the U.S. He is American educated and was formerly a professor of planning at the University of Pittsburgh.

The rebels have also been savvy about playing the political game in the U.S. They have used some of the funds provided them by foreign governments (including the U.S.) to hire Democratic lobbyists in Washington for more money, this time not limited to "non-lethal" aid. By hiring veterans of the Clinton administration to press their case, the rebels are presumably looking to further cement their support from the former president's wife, one of the strongest proponents of U.S. entry into the war.

The groundwork will pay off today when Jebril is welcomed into the White House for a meeting with National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, the greatest recognition shown so far to the ragtag group.

While hawks like Sen. John McCain have dismissed the relevance of the War Powers Act, the administration and its allies in the Senate aren't looking to test that theory. A measure authorizing the war would be helpful and having the rebels make their case to the more sympathetic 

Democrats in Congress might prevent a fusion of conservative and liberal opponents to the war.
If the liberals can be convinced that Libyan rebels are modern-day Jeffersons (or at least Guevaras) then they will be less likely to join the conservatives who believe Obama has overstepped his presidential authority by joining the war.

It would help Obama immensely to have Qaddafi dead and ongoing concerns about the rebels muted. Perhaps having seen the benefits of killing Osama bin laden Obama feels more at ease about missions to snuff the Libyan strongman.



McConnell Starts Turning the Screws on Obama for Debt Deal

"What we agreed to is tentative. It's a little bit like saying 'Look, I'll agree to drive you to work every day on condition that you pay for the gas.'"

-- Vice President Joe Biden baffling reporters after a meeting with Republican debt ceiling negotiators.

 

Quick - What did President Obama get out of the deal to extend current tax rates for high-income earners by two years?

The answer is a 13-month extension of extended unemployment benefits, and not much else. There were some uncontroversial tax code modifications that had bipartisan support and the passage of missile treaty with Russia that was eventually bound for passage anyway. But when it came down to it what Obama got -- $57 billion in welfare payments - was less than what he gave -- $82 billion in tax revenue and the anger of many of his base supporters.

Despite a White House push that the president had gotten the upper hand in the deal, at a distance it becomes more and more clear that Obama, facing a divided Democratic Senate caucus and escalating anxiety over a looming rate increase for all brackets in the 49 percent of American households that pay income tax.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was subject to a flurry of Beltway stories about whether he gave away too much and whether he was still relevant in the age of Tea Party politics, etc. But five months later, McConnell's deal looks pretty good. He got Obama to sacrifice one of his central campaign promises in exchange for the extension of a welfare program that few Republicans were eager to be seen blocking amid the worst long-term unemployment problem the nation has ever seen.

The same scenario is shaping up again in the looming battle over Obama's request to increase the already-exhausted federal debt limit from its current $14.3 trillion level.

House Republicans have thrown up their hands and said that there is no path to a Republican-backed debt ceiling increase. The votes are simply not there for any kind of a deal that would stand a chance in the Democratically controlled Senate or survive Obama's veto pen.

But on Thursday, McConnell started sketching out what kinds of things he would need in order to help deliver the minimum seven Republican votes needed to pass a Democratic plan in the Senate. If House Democrats stayed on board, that would mean Speaker John Boehner would only have to deliver about 15 percent of his caucus to get a deal done.

McConnell forbade any tax increases and suggested that the 10 weeks remaining before an impasse would begin to force a government shutdown would not provide enough time to take up a tax-code simplification that has received bipartisan support in recent months.

The Kentuckian hinted at both short-term cuts and the possibility of long-term spending caps. Many in the Democratic caucus are open to the idea of some kind of future constraints on spending as part of a deal, and that could be McConnell's best tool for sliding moderate Democrats toward a tougher standard than the White House would want.

The bipartisan working group led by Vice President Joe Biden is said to have been looking at the relatives costs and benefits of different plans - setting the stakes so that the final negotiations with McConnell and Obama can proceed.


PakistanBombing Further Unsettles Alliance with U.S.

"This was the first revenge for Osama's martyrdom. Wait for bigger attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan."

-- Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan speaking to Agence France-Presse.

 

With the rate of Islamists bombing already on the rise in Pakistan, radical Muslim groups are stepping up their terror campaign in response to the U.S. raid that killed an underwear-clad Usama bin Laden in a squalid, polygamous compound there.

The current American strategy in the troubled region is to shift from a large-scale occupation of Afghanistan to a smaller, lethal force that operates in both Afghanistan and Pakistan to kill insurgents.

But Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation of 170 million Muslims, is seething over the bin Laden raid and the ongoing U.S. covert war being waged by the CIA throughout the country.

The government is trying to hold on to lavish U.S. aid and military support while simultaneously deepening its relationship with China. The deal in the region is that the U.S. is on India's team and China is on Pakistan's team in the 60-year-old religious war that has simmered and occasionally boiled between the former British colonies. No one has much been on Afghanistan's team since the country has so little to be desired other than its absence from world affairs.

Pakistan's two functional civil entities - its military and intelligence service - have also kept a good relationship with Islamist groups since terror campaigns and the threat of them have been an effective tool in the country's ongoing conflict with India.

While the stepped-up terror campaign will surely reduce some of the popular support for the Islamists, it seems unlikely that the Taliban could ever be as hated as America (friend of Israel and India) there. The public response, and pressure on the tottering Zardari government, will most likely be to further curb U.S. activities in the country.

Afghanistan is of relatively little moment to U.S. interest as long as it does not become a safe space for terrorists, bur Pakistan has the possibility to plunge the region and the world into chaos.

With Islamism ascendant there and national pride deeply wounded over the very visible U.S. activity in the country, the terror campaign bodes ill for President Obama's Pakification plan.


 

Mrs. Daniels Outfoxes Media Hounds

"I just want to know now, where do we go and get a beer after work?"

-- Indiana First Lady Cheri Daniels talking to dump truck drivers in an introductory video highlighting her practice of spending a day on the job in various professions.

The national press corps went out to Indianapolis to see if Indiana First Lady Cheri Daniels would wither in the spotlight as she made her first political speech.

But Mrs. Daniels outfoxed them. She didn't give a political speech, she made a political appearance during which she poked fun at herself and talked about the fun she has had in seven years of pig whispering, watermelon seed spitting, senior center visiting, truck driving, cow milking and talking to women about heart disease and literacy. She came to the stage to the strains of Frankie Valli ("Sheeeeery, baby…") and then kept the crowd laughing.

With her husband expected to soon announce his intentions on a much-anticipated presidential run, the media has been awash with stories about Mrs. Daniels - particularly their divorce and remarriage in the mid 1990s.

The received wisdom in Washington was that she was the one keeping Daniels from running because she didn't want to have to answer questions about the split that saw her leave her husband, then in a private-sector stint at drug maker Eli Lilly, with their four daughters and head to California for a brief marriage to an old flame.

While Mrs. Daniels has been an active first lady with her "chores" program and initiatives on literacy and heart health, she has not been an active political spouse. Indianans have not seen her regularly traveling alongside her husband to give well-timed gazes of adoration or, as other political spouses do, act as a de facto campaign manager.

Her willingness to be the guest of honor at the Indiana state Republican Party's spring dinner was her first known political event, and if it is a foretaste of what's to come, she will be a strong asset for her husband.

While he tends to veer toward the bookish and hyper-intellectual end of the spectrum, she plays as a down-home lady with small-town roots and a plainspoken, funny delivery.

And in our reality show age, their story of love lost and rediscovered might actually be a help. While many female voters might blanche at the idea of a woman leaving behind four teenage daughters, the story at least adds a frisson of interest to a candidacy.

CBS reports that former first lady Laura Bush called Mrs. Daniels to encourage her to bless her husband's run and the list of potential endorsers for her husband continues to grow.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is said to have been singing Daniels' praises on a recent visit to Washington and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has expressed a strong willingness to back a potential Daniels campaign.

Real Clear Politics even reports that Daniels engaged in some vice presidential speculation Thursday night in a meeting with student supporters, saying he might consider Condi Rice as a potential running mate.



And Now, A Word From Charles

"The attack on him is over Romneycare. When you do a chart comparing Romneycare and Obamacare, there are a lot of similarities. That is a problem that Romney has had trouble getting around. I'm not sure he answered it. I'm not sure that looking at his new plan will undo the liability."

-- Charles Krauthammer on "Special Report with Bret Baier" discussing a health policy speech by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as digital politics editor based in Washington, D.C.  Additionally, he authors the daily "Fox News First” political news note and hosts “Power Play,” a feature video series, on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on the network, including "The Kelly File," "Special Report with Bret Baier," and "Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace.”  He also provides expert political analysis for Fox News coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.