Sen. Baker, Who Posed Famous Watergate Query, Dies

By CONNIE CASS Associated Press

Howard Baker's question sliced to the core of Watergate: "What did the president know and when did he know it?"
Repeated over and again in the senator's mild Tennessee drawl, those words guided Americans through the tangle of Watergate characters and charges playing daily on TV to focus squarely on Richard Nixon and his role in the cover-up.
Baker's famous question has been dusted off for potential White House scandals big and small ever since.
Baker, who later became Senate majority leader, chief of staff to President Ronald Reagan and one of the GOP's elder statesmen, died Thursday at his Tennessee home of complications from a stroke suffered days earlier, according to an email distributed at the law firm where Baker was senior counsel. He was 88.
Baker emerged as an unlikely star of the Watergate hearings in the summer of 1973.
When chosen as vice chairman — and therefore leading Republican — of the Senate special committee, he was a Nixon ally who thought the allegations couldn't possibly be true. Democrats feared he would serve as the White House's "mole" in the investigation of the break-in at Democratic headquarters and other crimes perpetrated in service to Nixon's re-election.
"I believed that it was a political ploy of the Democrats, that it would come to nothing," Baker told The Associated Press in 1992. "But a few weeks into that, it began to dawn on me that there was more to it than I thought, and more to it than I liked."
He said Watergate became "the greatest disillusionment" of his political career.
Baker's intense but restrained style of interrogating former White House aides played well on camera. A youthful-looking, side-burned 47-year-old, his brainy charm inspired a raft of love notes sent to his Senate office; a women's magazine proclaimed him "studly." He was mentioned frequently as presidential material.
By the time Nixon resigned in 1974, Baker was a household name with a reputation for fairness and smarts that stuck throughout a long political career.
Howard Henry Baker Jr. had a fine political pedigree — his father was a congressman from Huntsville, Tenn., and his father-in-law a prominent senator from Illinois. Over the years, his name would be knocked about for big Washington jobs including vice presidential candidate, Supreme Court justice and CIA director. But his focus remained on the Senate and, at times, the White House.
In 18 years as a moderate Republican senator, he was known for plain speaking and plain dealing. He had a talent for brokering compromise, leading some to dub him "the Great Conciliator."
"Senator Baker truly earned his nickname: the Great Conciliator. I know he will be remembered with fondness by members of both political parties," Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said on the Senate floor Thursday, announcing Baker's death to the chamber.
Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, who once worked as an assistant to Baker, called him "Tennessee's favorite son" and "an indispensable friend."
"He built our state's two-party political system and inspired three generations to try to build a better state and country," Alexander said in a news release Thursday.
Baker was minority leader when the Reagan landslide swept Republicans into control of the chamber in 1980 Reagan, and he became the first Republican majority leader in decades.
Putting aside his own reservations about Reagan's economic proposals, Baker played a key role in passage of legislation synonymous with the "Reagan Revolution" — major tax and spending cuts combined with a military buildup.
Baker considered his years as Senate majority leader, 1981 to 1985, the high point of his career. He called it "the second-best job in town, only second to the presidency."
He made a fleeting bid for that best job in 1980, and left the Senate with an eye to another presidential run in 1988. Instead, he ended up in the White House as Reagan's chief of staff.
Reagan needed him to put things in order after ousting chief of staff Donald Regan amid scandal over the administration's secret moves to trade arms for hostages in Iran and divert the profits to Nicaraguan rebels — another of history's what-did-the-president-know moments.
Baker recalled marshaling all his reasons for refusing the offer, but he couldn't turn down Reagan. "I guess I am a pushover for presidents," he said.
The Reagan White House weathered Iran-Contra. But Baker lost his last chance at the presidency.
"I have seen it up close and personal and I am convinced that I could do that job," he said. "But that boat never came to dock."
During much of the 1980s and '90s, Baker grappled with the illness of his wife, Joy, daughter of Everett Dirksen, a former GOP Senate leader. She died in 1993 after an 11-year battle with cancer. The couple had two children.
In 1996, Baker married Kansas Sen. Nancy Landon Kassebaum. It was the first time two people who had served in the Senate married.
President George H.W. Bush sent Baker to Moscow in 1991 to meet with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev before a summit; George W. Bush named him ambassador to Japan in 2001.
An accomplished amateur photographer, Baker carried a camera wherever he went. But he didn't take any photos during the Watergate hearings.
"I felt that it was beneath the dignity of the event," he said years later. "It turned out the event had no dignity and I should have taken pictures."
Associated Press writers Alan Fram and Donna Cassata in Washington and Erik Schelzig in Nashville, Tennessee, contributed to this report.

High court rebukes Obama on recess appointments


WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Thursday limited the president's power to fill high-level vacancies with temporary appointments, ruling in favor of Senate Republicans in their partisan clash with President Barack Obama.
The high court's first-ever case involving the Constitution's recess appointments clause ended in a unanimous decision holding that Obama's appointments to the National Labor Relations Board in 2012 without Senate confirmation were illegal. Obama invoked the Constitution's provision giving the president the power to make temporary appointments when the Senate is in recess.
Problem is, the court said, the Senate was not actually in a formal recess when Obama acted.
Obama had argued that the Senate was on an extended holiday break and that the brief sessions it held every three days — what lawmakers call "pro forma" — were a sham that was intended to prevent him from filling seats on the NLRB.
The justices rejected that argument Wednesday.
Justice Stephen Breyer said in his majority opinion that a congressional break has to last at least 10 days to be considered a recess under the Constitution.
Neither house of Congress can take more than a three-day break without the consent of the other.
The issue of recess appointments receded in importance after the Senate's Democratic majority changed the rules to make it harder for Republicans to block confirmation of most Obama appointees.
But the ruling's impact may be keenly felt by the White House next year if Republicans capture control of the Senate in the November election. The potential importance of the ruling lies in the Senate's ability to block the confirmation of judges and the leaders of independent agencies like the NLRB. A federal law gives the president the power to appoint acting heads of Cabinet-level departments to keep the government running.
Still, the outcome was the least significant loss possible for the administration. The justices, by a 5-4 vote, rejected a sweeping lower court ruling against the administration that would have made it virtually impossible for any future president to make recess appointments.
The lower court held that the only recess recognized by the Constitution is the once-a-year break between sessions of Congress. It also said that only vacancies that arise in that recess could be filled. So the high court has left open the possibility that a president, with a compliant Congress, could make recess appointments in the future.
Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for himself, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, said he would have upheld the lower court's reasoning. He said Thursday's decision means "the abolition of the Constitution's limits on the recess-appointment power."
A recess appointment can last no more than two years. Recess appointees who subsequently won Senate confirmation include Chief Justice Earl Warren and Justice William Brennan, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, two current NLRB members and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director Richard Cordray. Former UN Ambassador John Bolton is among recess appointees who left office because they could not win a Senate vote.
The case challenging the appointments was brought by Noel Canning, a soft drink bottling company in Yakima, Washington. The company claimed an NLRB decision against it was not valid because the board members were not properly appointed and that the board did not have enough members to do business without the improperly appointed officials.
Noel Canning prevailed in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, and two other appeals courts also had ruled against recess appointments.
Obama has made relatively few recess appointments, 32 in his four-plus years in office, according to the Congressional Research Service. President George W. Bush made 171 such appointments over two terms and President Bill Clinton filled 139 posts that way in his eight years in office, the research service said.
But Obama was the first president to try to make recess appointments when Congress explicitly said it was not in recess. The Constitution requires that the Senate and House must get the other's consent for a break lasting longer than three days. At the end of 2011, the Republican-controlled House would not give the Democratic-led Senate permission for a longer break.
The partisan roles were reversed during Bush's presidency, when Senate Democrats sought ways to prevent the president from making recess appointments.
In fact, the very basis on which the justices decided the case — that the Senate can use extremely brief sessions to avoid a formal recess — was a tactic devised by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada to frustrate Bush.

Endangered Bird Forces Duxbury To Cancel 4th Of July Celebration « CBS Boston

Endangered Bird Forces Duxbury To Cancel 4th Of July Celebration « CBS Boston

Mysterious Lights In The Sky Spotted Above OC, Camp Pendleton « CBS Los Angeles

Mysterious Lights In The Sky Spotted Above OC, Camp Pendleton « CBS Los Angeles

World's largest active volcano shows signs of life in Hawaii

Mauna Loa, the world's largest active volcano, has rumbled back to life in Hawaii over the past 13 months with more seismic activity than at any time since its last eruption, scientists say, while calling it too soon to predict another blast.
The volcano, which last erupted in 1975 and 1984, has been rattled since March 2013 by earthquakes of the same type and in the same location as the temblors that preceded those explosions, said Wes Thelen, a seismologist for the US Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.
"The earthquakes we are seeing at Mauna Loa lead us to believe that some of the same things that happened before the 1975 and 1984 eruptions are happening right now," Thelen told Reuters. "We don't see this kind of activity outside of pre-eruptive earthquake sequences," he said.
The USGS posted a photo of Mauna Loa on Instagram on Wednesday with the caption: "After a 30-year repose, this sleeping giant may be stirring slowly to life."
Thelen said the earthquakes so far had not been regular or sustained enough to lead the observatory to forecast an eruption or raise the color-coded volcano warning system. But seismologists were keeping a close eye on the volcano.
Mauna Loa, which covers half of the island of Hawaii, is a popular destination for hikers despite being one of Earth's most active volcanoes. "We're not closing down the summit or doing anything drastic," he said. "This is of interest because it may be the very first sign that something's up deep underneath the volcano, but we'll wait until either the earthquakes get larger or we see more inflation in the volcano to raise the color code."
Mauna Loa's last eruption in 1984 sent hot magma flowing toward several populated areas, close enough to the city of Hilo that residents could see it glowing on hillsides.
Thelen said Mauna Loa, which has erupted 33 times since 1843, had been unusually quiet since 1984, although it inflated between 2002 and 2005, which seismologists interpreted as magma filling the magma chamber.
"Volcanos are very irregular beasts but certainly the historical eruptive history at Mauna Loa is much more active than what we've seen in the last 30 years," he said. "There aren't a lot of cases in the historical record where we've seen Mauna Loa have such a long gap between eruptions."
(Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Gallup: Public Confidence in TV News at All-Time Low

By Michael W. Chapman

(CNSNews.com) – Public confidence in television news is at an all-time low, according to a survey released today by Gallup.
Only 18 percent of the Americans surveyed expressed either a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in that news medium.
Gallup has been asking the following question annually since 1993: “Now I am going to read you a list of institutions in American society. Please tell me how much confidence you, yourself, have in each one--a great deal, quite a lot, some or very little?”  (See Gallup Confidence Survey.pdf) One of the institutions listed is "television news."
In the latest survey, conducted June 5-8, only 10 percent said they had “a great deal” of confidence in T.V. news, and 8 percent said they had “quite a lot” of confidence.
television news
The previous low was in 2012, when a combined 21 percent said they had a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in television news. In 2013, it was 23 percent.
In 1993, the first year Gallup asked Americans about their confidence in T.V. news, 46 percent said they had a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in it. It's never been that high again.
In the 22 years Gallup has asked the question, the 18 percent who told the polling company this year that they had a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in T.V. news was the lowest yet recorded.
Gallup interviewed a random sample of 1,027 adults in all 50 states and the District of Columbia for the survey. The poll's has a margin of error of +/- 4 percentage points.

Honduran President: Kids Come to the U.S. Because of ‘Misinformation’

by Ted Hesson
The unprecedented rise in Honduran children fleeing to the U.S. is due to misinformation about American immigration laws and drug violence, the president of Honduras told Fusion on Friday.
“They might think they can gain legal status through this,” said President Juan Orlando Hernandez. “But on the other hand, this is a kind of displacement, because of the cartel wars and the Maras [gangs] in Central America.”
Speaking after an event at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C., Hernandez implored the American government to do more to combat drug trafficking in Honduras, saying that “for us, it’s an issue of life and death.”
The number of young migrants crossing into the U.S. illegally has risen exponentially in recent years. In particular, more children are crossing without a parent or guardian.
President Obama has called the influx of children an “urgent humanitarian situation” and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has been tasked with coordinating federal efforts to house and care for minors in federal custody.
Still, the administration has stressed that children who enter the country illegally will be subject to immigration law and, potentially, deportation.
Mark Greenberg, the acting assistant secretary of the Department of Health and Human Resources (HHS), which eventually takes custody of children apprehended at the border, explained the process at a press briefing on Thursday.
“Our duty is to get the child to a sponsor,” he said. “While they are with the sponsor, they are still fully subject to removal proceedings. And the sponsors have an obligation to cooperate with getting children to the proceedings, to cooperate in the removal process and to report to DHS and to the Justice Department if there’s a change in address.”
The administration has been unclear about what happens when undocumented parents living in the U.S. attempt to claim children who have been apprehended by federal authorities.
Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said Thursday that HHS is, “required under the law to act pursuant to the best interest of the child.”
Lawmakers in Washington have argued in recent weeks over what’s causing the surge in child migration. Republicans say the deferred action program, which allows young undocumented immigrants to live and work in the U.S., is tempting more people to cross illegally. Democrats say it’s crushing poverty and violence in Latin America.
Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, for his part, recognized both factors. He pleaded for U.S. authorities to recognize the plight of migrants.
“I’ve asked the United States government to treat this matter with the utmost care from the humanitarian perspective,” he said. “They are kids in search of their parents and they have the complete right to be with their parents.”
PHOTO: ted

IRS claims it has LOST two years' worth of emails from embattled former official Lois Lerner as tea party targeting scandal heats up again


The Internal Revenue Service has lost two years worth of emails to and from embattled former tax official Lois Lerner, the agency told congressional investigators on Friday.

The IRS promised on May 8 to turn over all her emails but now blames a computer crash for huge tranches of missing documents.

Lerner is under investigation for allegedly orchestrating a years-long program that targeted tea party groups and other conservative organizations for unusually intrusive scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status beginning in the year before the 2010 congressional midterm elections.

The House Ways and Means Committee, one of two bodies probing the case, said Friday that the IRS says that for the period of January 2009 through April 2011, the only Lerner emails it can find are those that were sent to or from other IRS employees.

Emails whose sender or recipient was outside the government, or inside other agencies, have mysteriously disappeared.

Those include the White House, the Justice and Treasury Departments, the Federal Elections Commission and Democratic congressional offices.

Ways and Means Committee chairman Dave Camp, a Michigan Republican, said Friday that 'the fact that I am just learning about this, over a year into the investigation, is completely unacceptable.'

'He also said the claim 'calls into question the credibility of the IRS’s response to congressional inquiries.'

Camp pointed a finger at IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, who pledged in a March 26 hearing to produce every document the agency had which might be related to the scandal.

'It appears now that was an empty promise,' Camp said, complaining that without emails between Lerner and government officials outside the IRS, 'we are conveniently left to believe that Lois Lerner acted alone.'

Republicans in Congress have charged that Obama administration officials were part of a conspiracy to hamstring tea party groups in 2010 and beyond, since denying or delaying their tax-exemption applications prevented them from raising money during the years when their influence was at its highest.

Obama and Putin filmed having 'informal conversation' moments after President publicly ignored Russian leader at D-Day memorial


President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly ignored each other today as they stood just feet apart during a for state leaders' commemorating the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

World figures met in France in the midst of a current geopolitical crisis, with Putin standing alongside leaders, including Obama, who are against his aggressive moves into Ukraine.

All eyes were on Putin and Obama as they refused to acknowledge each other at the group photograph before keeping their distance as they headed to lunch at the Chateau de Benouville.

But as speculation mounted over whether or not they would talk, the White House confirmed that the pair did indeed speak 'for 10 to 15 minutes' once they went inside for the luncheon.
'President Obama and President Putin did speak with each other on the margins of the leaders lunch,' his assistant Ben Rhodes said. 'It was an informal conversation - not a formal bilateral meeting.'

video of the interaction, captured by the French government, shows the men initially smiling with each other before the conversation apparently turns more serious.

On Friday afternoon, a White House official released a readout of the 15-minute conversation, saying Obama warned Putin that 'de-escalation' of sanctions against Russia 'depends upon Russia recognizing President-elect Poroshenko as the legitimate leader of Ukraine, ceasing support for separatists in eastern Ukraine, and stopping the provision of arms and materiel across the border'.

Obama, the readout continued, 'noted President-elect Poroshenko's commitment to pursue reforms to ensure that the rights and interests of all Ukrainians are respected, and urged Russia to work immediately with the government in Kiev to reduce tensions.'

'President Obama made clear that a failure to take these steps would only deepen Russia's isolation.'

Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the leaders had exchanged views about the situation in Ukraine and the crisis in the east, where Ukrainian forces have been fighting with pro-Russian insurgents.

'Putin and Obama spoke for the need to end violence and fighting as quickly as possible,' he said.

'Obama and Putin were at times close enough to touch but did not speak with or acknowledge each other'

Pool report from the Chateau de Benouville 

The leaders had been placed just seats from each other - with only Queen Elizabeth II, French President Francois Hollande and Queen Margrethe of Denmark separating them.

The pair had not previously met about the crisis, although they have spoken multiple times by phone.

During the photo, Obama and Putin went to great pains not to speak to each other.
'Obama and Putin were at times close enough to touch but did not speak with or acknowledge each other in the pool's presence,' the White House pool reporter noted.

As Putin hovered nearby, the president 'made a point of jovially greeting other leaders, kissing Merkel on both cheeks, but he and Putin seemed to go out of their way not to encounter each other'.

The men were also pictured walking within feet of each other as they headed to the chateau - with Obama accompanying the Queen just a few steps behind.

Obama 'could have tapped him on the shoulder if he wanted to but instead focused his attention elsewhere as if not noticing who was there', the pool reporter noted.

Obama told reporters on Thursday that if he and Putin did speak, he would tell him that he has a new path to engage with Ukraine through President-elect Petro Poroshenko, who takes office Saturday.

'If he does not, if he continues a strategy of undermining the sovereignty of Ukraine, then we have no choice but to respond' with more sanctions, Obama said.

Putin and Poroshenko were pictured meeting at the event in France on Friday - their first meeting since Poroshenko was elected last month.

They were pictured speaking briefly with Germany's Angela Merkel following the leaders' photograph.

Reporters couldn't hear any of the animated minute-long conversation. No plans have been announced for a formal meeting between the men.

Obama said on Thursday that he hoped the Russian leader would be 'moving in a new direction' on Ukraine since he didn't immediately denounce Poroshenko's election - 'but I think we have to see what he does and not what he says'.

French officials reportedly went to elaborate lengths to keep Obama and Putin apart in Paris, at Washington's request, before the D-Day events.

On Thursday, French President Francois Hollande held separate dinners with the U.S. and Russian leaders in an attempt to unlock Europe's worst security crisis since the Cold War.
'This is an important occasion to express gratitude and fraternity, but it is also major international event which should serve the interests of peace,' Hollande told a news conference after a summit of G7 leaders in Brussels - a meeting to which Putin was pointedly not invited.

Texas will lead fight for freedom, Cruz tells GOP convention

By Kevin Diaz
FORT WORTH – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz told an ecstatic crowd at the Texas Republican Convention that their freedom is being threatened by a lawless president who has shown weakness abroad and overstepped his boundaries at home.
The first-term Texas senator, an oft-mentioned potential White House contender, offered up a full-throated indictment of President Obama and the Democrats in Congress, prompting sustained cheers and calls of "Run, Ted!"
"Today liberty is under assault like never before," Cruz thundered as he paced the large, open stage. "And again today Texans will stand up and lead the fight for freedom."
The line could serve as a reference to Cruz and fellow Texas native Rand Paul, the Kentucky senator who will follow him on the stage later in the day as a possible rival for conservatives' affection in the run-up to the battle for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016.
In a speech studded with historical references, from the Alamo to D-Day, Cruz gamely included Paul in a pantheon of Texas heroes ranging from Dwight D. Eisenhower and Gov. Rick Perry. "Texans have always led the way in the fight for freedom," he said.
"He's got potential," said Sherman delegate Ira Moore, speaking with intentional understatement.
Many in the crowd also took Cruz's convention speech as a precursor to his own political ambitions.
Cruz generally stuck to familiar themes and lines he has used in speeches in the early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire. He highlighted how Texas remains a place for jobs and growth, and a stronghold of opposition to the Obama agenda on health care, the economy and foreign policy.
He called for the repeal of "every blessed word of Obamacare," an audit of the Federal Reserve and the abolition of the Internal Revenue Service, all core tea party causes.
"There's a whole lot of mischief going on in Washington right now," he said. "We need to defend the Bill of Rights" and in an apparent reference to the Second Amendment debate over gun control, he added, "all of the Bill of Rights."
He also invoked President Ronald Reagan's iconic call to tear down the Cold War era Berlin Wall.
"Every generation must stand and defend liberty," he said, inviting delegates to send the word "growth" to a campaign text number to help build a "grass-roots army" of potential supporters.
He criticized Obama for failing to speak out about victims of oppression abroad, defended Israel, and took aim at Common Core educational standards that are unpopular on both ends of the political spectrum.
"We already have a common core," he said, "It's called the Constitution of the United States."
Cruz was introduced by his wife Heidi, who defended him against his critics in Washington and invoked his softer side as a family man. "He's not a wacko bird," she said, "He is simply 'Daddy' to our two little girls."

Somewhere in hell, bin Laden is smiling

by Pat Buchanan

Bowe Bergdahl was “an American prisoner of war captured on the battlefield” who “served the United States with distinction and honor,” asserted Susan Rice, the president’s national security adviser.
Rice was speaking to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos the morning after Barack Obama’s Rose Garden celebration of Bergdahl’s release.
When she spoke last Sunday, could Rice have been ignorant of the widespread reports that Bergdahl had deserted?
Before last Sunday, her credibility was already in tatters.
Five days after Ambassador Chris Stevens and three Americans were killed in Benghazi, Rice went on five Sunday shows to describe the terrorist attack as a spontaneous riot ignited by an anti-Muslim video.
Not only has her credibility now suffered a second near-lethal blow, her competence as a presidential adviser is open to question.
How could she let the president strut into the Rose Garden to celebrate the release of a soldier whose reported desertion triggered a province-wide search that may have cost the lives of half a dozen American soldiers?
As The Hill reported, a Pentagon investigation in 2010 concluded Bergdahl had walked out on his unit and left a note in his tent saying he was disillusioned with the Army and no longer supported the war.
Was Rice ignorant of this? Did she think it not relevant, when she approved the president’s hosting of Bergdahl’s parents in the Rose Garden?
Is Rice not responsible for the humiliation President Obama has endured all week and the fiasco that diverted national and international attention from his trip to Warsaw, Brussels and Normandy?
Forty-eight hours after Obama celebrated Bergdahl’s release, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs was promising an investigation of the soldier on the charge of desertion and related allegations he may have defected and collaborated.
If Gen. Martin Dempsey was aware an investigation into charges so serious that they carry the death penalty was ahead for Bergdahl, did he not flag the White House before the president went before the nation to celebrate Bergdahl’s return?
Rear Adm. John F. Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, defends the decision by saying the U.S. military does not leave its soldiers behind:
“When you’re in the Navy, and you go overboard, it doesn’t matter if you were pushed, fell or jumped. … We’re going to turn the ship around and pick you up.”
That is America’s tradition, and a proud and honorable one. And no one opposed the effort to bring Bergdahl home.
But if a man jumps overboard, to desert, and half a dozen sailors perish in stormy seas trying to rescue him, the Navy does not welcome the AWOL seaman back aboard with bands playing, all hands on deck and the captain hosting a celebration.
The man is put in the brig to face charges on return to port.
That is the military ethos Gen. Dempsey rightly praises.
But if Barack Obama, Susan Rice and the White House thought that swapping five senior Taliban commanders for Bergdahl would be cheered, it only testifies to how far removed they are from the band-of-brothers culture of the American military.
Consider the damage this debacle has been done.
Our Afghan allies believe that, to retrieve one of our own, we dealt behind their backs with the enemy, at their expense.
Are they not right?
In return for one U.S. soldier, we traded five hardened Taliban commanders and killers. Their release has proven both a moral and military victory for our enemies, and a moral defeat for our friends.
When we are gone from Afghanistan, the Kabul government we leave behind will have to deal with the consequences of what we did.
Second, the trade of the Taliban Five for Bergdahl has ignited a firestorm in the United States, polarized the American people further, proven a political fiasco for the president and caused a diplomatic nightmare during his trip to Europe to shore up our NATO allies.
Today, circulating around Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Middle East, is a Taliban video of the prisoner exchange, where the Islamist fighters are handing over a pale and nervous American to our troops, and warning him never to return again or face death.
Then the video shows the American helicopter flying away.
To those of us of a certain age, that helicopter calls to mind another helicopter, 40 years ago, lifting off the roof of the American embassy in Saigon, leaving behind the first war America lost and the Vietnamese people whose freedom we had gone to war to preserve and protect.
More than a decade ago, George W. Bush, full of hubris and egged on by his neocon counselors, decided to go beyond eradicating al-Qaida in Afghanistan to remaking that country, and then Iraq, in our image.
So, to make the Middle East safe for democracy, we plunged in.
And as we see the future unfolding in Afghanistan and Iraq, and reflect on the costs of our intervention – 7,000 dead, 40,000 wounded warriors, $2 trillion lost – was it all worth it?
Somewhere in hell, Osama bin Laden is smiling.

Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2014/06/somewhere-in-hell-bin-laden-is-smiling/#L7gleFHSsB8VFmTf.99