Tom McLaughlin

A former history teacher, Tom is a columnist who lives in Lovell, Maine. His column is published in Maine and New Hampshire newspapers and on numerous web sites. Email: tomthemick@gmail.com

Monday, January 25, 2016

Agreement Designed For Iran To Get Nuke -- Ted Cruz


Last Tuesday’s interview with Ted Cruz was the one I was waiting for. He’s the most conservative candidate in the race and I’ve leaned toward him from the beginning. But I got only one question. I asked him if he knew who the 12th Imam was, the Mahdi, the figure Iranian President Achmadinejad would invoke each time he spoke at the UN.
“I do,” he said right away.

Then I asked him if he knew the significance of Iranian belief in the Mahdi for American policy. Well, did he ever! I’d asked the question of at least five other presidential candidates and Senator Cruz’s answer was by far the broadest and deepest. He hit my question out of the park and the ensuing discussion took up much of the interview.
“It’s an important question because it helps understand the views of the Ayatollah Khomenei,” said Cruz. “The 12th Imam, the Mahdi, comes in an apocalyptic final battle where they believe he will usher in the victory of Islam worldwide. And it’s one of the reasons why a nuclear Iran is, I believe, the greatest national security threat facing the country. And, just a couple of weeks ago we had a moment that really drew it in sharp relief — the magnitude of the threat — which was North Korea allegedly testing a hydrogen bomb. We don’t have that confirmed but they appeared to be testing a hydrogen bomb… If you look at North Korea, and go back to the 1990s when the Clinton Administration relaxed sanctions against North Korea — led the entire world in relaxing sanctions — billions of dollars flowed into North Korea in exchange for a promise not to develop nuclear weapons. They turned around and took those billions of dollars and developed nuclear weapons.
“The lead negotiator for that North Korea deal under the Clinton Administration, was a woman named Wendy Sherman. When President Obama was elected, Obama and Hillary Clinton recruited Wendy Sherman to come back and be the lead negotiator in Iran. She’s literally the only person on the planet who screwed this up once…”
“And she got a second shot!” said Lloyd Jones, sports reporter for the Sun.
“…and she got a second shot,” Cruz echoed. “And she made the exact same mistake. She negotiated effectively the same deal — except in this case it’s a hundred and fifty billion dollars going to Iran for the same empty promises which nobody believes.”
Then he turned to me again and said: “But your question highlights why Iran is qualitatively more dangerous, which is — Kim Jong Il, Kim Jong Un were and are both radical and extreme  — both father and son are both megalomaniacal narcissists. Which means, hopefully some degree of rational deterrence is possible because they both agree if they ever use  a nuclear weapon, their regime would be over. The danger with Khomenei, and this goes to the apocalyptic, theocratic view of Khomenei and the mullahs, is that they glorify death and suicide. They welcome the apocalypse to bring the coming of the Mahdi.”
“And in my view,” Cruz continued, “the North Korean nuclear test is essentially a crystal ball foreshadowing where this country goes if Hillary is elected. That in three, four, five years, Iran, just like North Korea will be testing a nuclear weapon but, given the apocalyptic views, the religious death cult of the leadership, I think the odds are unacceptably high that instead of testing the weapon underground, they’ll test it in the skies of Tel Aviv, or New York, or Los Angeles.”
Mark Guerringue, Sun publisher, said: “Well you’re obviously against the agreement, but what about the agreement? The Iranians… I mean basically you believe the Atomic Agency — the International Atomic Energy Agency — the six countries: Russia, China, France, Germany, Britain, us, that we’ve got a program. You don’t believe it?”
“I do not believe it — at all,” said Cruz… While the deal was being negotiated, ambassadors would come by my office complaining about the enormous strong-arming and pressure that was coming from the Obama Administration to get on board. This was the Administration that drove our allies, did real damage by unraveling the international consensus on sanctions. But this agreement was designed on its face to facilitate Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon.”
“Why do I say that? Number one: we were initially promised anytime, anywhere inspections. That promise got quickly discarded. Under the terms of the agreement, the Iranians get effectively 24 days notice before any inspection. Now, if you’re designing an inspection regime — and I’ve used the analogy before — Imagine if the state of New Hampshire passed a law that said before you can execute any search warrant on a drug lord, you have to give them 24 days notice about the place to be searched. Now that’s an inspection regime that is guaranteed to insure you’ll never find anything. Even the dumbest drug lord on earth, with 24 days notice, would avoid anything being discovered — but even worse, under the terms of the agreement there are some locations that are completely off limits from inspections. And, there are other locations that the Iranians are instructed to inspect themselves!
“Anyone looking at this agreement knows, to a metaphysical certainty, Iran will use this agreement to acquire nuclear weapons. I would note — while this agreement was being negotiated — the State Department is sitting down with the Iranians — a senior Iranian general tweets: “The annihilation of Israel is not negotiable.”

“No one is disagreeing there are radical elements in Iran,” said Sun Publisher Mark Guerringue.
“No-no-no-no,” said Cruz. “It’s not ‘radical elements.’ It’s the leadership. This is not a democratic world where you’re worried: ‘there’s this faction.’ This is an absolute dictatorship. The Ayatollah Khomenei — what he wants — he is the ‘Supreme Leader.’ So it’s not elements. It is the Iranian Revolution that has seized… It’s a theocratic, homicidal — in the middle of this agreement, while it was being negotiated, the Iranian navy set up a mock US Navy ship, did war exercises bombing it. That didn’t cause the Obama Administration to stop. In the middle of negotiating this agreement, the Ayatollah Khomenei, to the assembled masses, joined them in burning American flags and Israeli flags and chanting: ‘Death to America!’ Literally — we’re negotiating with someone who is chanting ‘Death to America!’ and burning our flag!”
And then last week, Iran seizes two Navy ships, does everything they can to humiliate ten sailors — brought them to their knees to humiliate them — and the Obama Administration not only thanks them, heaps praise upon them, and then is now releasing billions of dollars and Iran today is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism! This week we saw something that has never occurred in the history of… which is, the Obama Administration has become biggest financier of Radical Islamic terrorism. We know with absolute certainty that Khomenei is going to take those billions and give money to Hamas, to Hezbollah, to the Houthis, to radical Islamic terrorists. And they will use that money to murder Americans.”
The full Ted Cruz interview podcast

I could go on because I’ve only transcribed half of Cruz’s answer to my question. Suffice it to say that I have no more doubt about who I’m supporting for president in 2016.

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Monday, January 18, 2016

John Kasich, Establishment Republican


Near the end of the John Kasich interview at the Conway Daily Sun last Friday, I asked him what was a president’s single greatest responsibility. “To lead,” he said, “using the bully pulpit.” Then he said his wife told him that, as governor, he was the “father of Ohio” and he should act like it. That got a chuckle from everyone present. “You have to carry yourself a certain way.”
Okay. We were all young and stupid once

Most would argue the president’s single greatest responsibility is to protect the nation as commander-in-chief, and that’s the answer I was looking for. His “To lead” answer could, I suppose, be manifested by “support[ing] and defend[ing] the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” as federal officials must swear to do. 
Governor John Kasich seems like a nice guy, easy to talk to and easy to like. As a presidential candidate, however, I found him underwhelming — too nice, maybe. He lacked steel. His answers to most questions during hour-plus interview were vague, avoiding specifics. He couldn't be pinned down and I’m not sure if that was because he lacked sufficient knowledge of the issues or because he wanted to remain nebulous. I suspect the latter.
After participating in the South Carolina debate the night before, he arrived on a big purple tour bus with “Kasich” emblazoned on the side. When one of us zeroed in on something, he’d often say he couldn’t remember and call on one of the handlers named Chris who stood off behind me. Chris either didn’t answer, or if he did it was in such a low tone I couldn’t hear him. My digital voice recorder didn’t pick him up either.
My first question was about education, which had been brought up earlier. I told him I started teaching before there was a federal Department of Education and we got along just fine. He asked what I taught and I told him “US History, civics, and economics.” I said I retired early because there was so much paperwork and so many meetings required by federal regulations that I only spend half my time actually teaching, which is what I loved. I asked, would he cut the federal government by eliminating the US Department of Education? Well, he wouldn’t be pinned down. He said there had been votes on it in Congress but it never passed. Sun publisher Mark Guerringue pressed him saying, “So you would eliminate the Department of Education?”
Kasich paused, then said, “There would still be a framework there.” Then another long pause, after which he said, “I ain’t sayin’ any more than that. I am not gonna be Republican is gonna sit here and say ‘I’m going to eliminate the federal Department of Education.’ Sorry.”

“How about vouchers?” I said.
“But they’re not going to have any… The-the money’s gonna come here, okay?” Another pause. “I-I-I’m not gettin’ in… I’m not — I’m not goin’ there. I’m not goin’ to be… I’ve been through this once. I’m not havin’ people runnin’ around sayin’ ‘Oh they want to kill education!’ Ahh, vouchers and all that? I’m all for it. We voucher everything, ahh, vouchered in Ohio, ah, charter schools, but I want you to run the schools. If I’m president, I want you — I don’t want to run the schools…”

“And we could,” I said.

“Yeah,” He said, “Well, I hope. I would hope you would. I’m not — I mean I’m tellin’ ya, these schools are tough to change…”

“Oh yeah,” I said. 
Then he went on about legislation in Ohio that allowed state takeover of under-functioning schools and other matters. I felt satisfied to pin him down on his support for vouchers which, if passed federally, would effectively kill the teachers’ unions — the Democrat Party’s biggest single funders — and free public schools from their stranglehold.

Another questioner brought up Iran and I followed saying: “…When the Iran deal passed, it looked like Republicans in the Senate pretty much gave it to [Obama] by saying we don’t need a two-thirds majority vote to approve this and passed a bill saying…”
Senators Menendez and Corker wrote bill that caved in on Iran

“I called for that,” Kasich interrupted. “I said there was a way, I thought, that you could avoid the filibuster… but for some reason the Republicans didn’t do it. I can’t answer that question…” Then he called on Chris again who didn’t have an answer either



“If it’s a treaty,” I said, “the Constitution requires a two-thirds vote by the Senate, but Republicans passed a bill which allowed it to happen with a simple majority.”
“No,” he said, “I think what happened was they couldn’t have a vote on it because the Democrats were filibustering…” He said it was wrong to have an agreement without Congress voting on it, but he avoided addressing the Senate’s constitutional responsibility to approve or disapprove a treaty. “They didn’t have enough votes to get a vote,” he said.

“With a two-thirds majority,” I repeated. “Advise and consent…”


“Yeah,” he conceded. “It’s the way I’ve always thought it should be done.”

“That’s what the Constitution says…” I said yet again.

“…But they would never get to the point where they could have a vote because of the filibuster.”

“So they basically gave in,” I said, “by allowing it to be called something other than a treaty that would require…”


“No,” he interrupted again, “They tried but they couldn’t get the votes. Now they could have used the mechanism to say, no, it’s gotta be a 51 vote that gets us to the next issue but they couldn’t get it done, and I don’t know why they didn’t change that. I can’t answer it.”


Well, I’ll answer it even if Kasich won’t. I believe he was intentionally giving Republicans an out by citing procedural smokescreens and Democrat filibusters that blurred the Senate’s constitutional responsibility. Majority Republicans were complicit in allowing President Obama to circumvent the Constitution by calling a treaty an “Executive Agreement.” Kasich’s fellow establishment Republicans avoided a confrontation with an out-of-control executive as they have on so many other issues in the past seven years — either because they haven’t got the stones, or because they simply lack principles.
podcast of interview

That’s why the Republican base is so sick of the party establishment. That’s why they’re supporting outsiders like Trump and Cruz, and not insiders like Ohio Governor John Kasich.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Carly vs Hillary

Talk about contrasts. I interviewed both women currently running for president the same day: Carly Fiorina by telephone in the morning and Hillary Clinton face-to-face in the afternoon of December 29th. Carly is conservative and Hillary is a leftist. Carly spent her career in the private sector, becoming the first and only female CEO of a Fortune 50 company. Hillary has spent her career in government. Carly is a leader. Hillary is a manager. Carly has a positive favorability rating. Hillary’s is negative. I’d love to watch them debate one on one.
They both appeared on the same “Meet the Press” broadcast in September, though at different times, and I asked Carly: “Chuck Todd interviewed Hillary Clinton first and he seemed to be almost worshipful as he did so. Then you came on and he got the daggers out. The tone was drastically different [because you’re a pro-life woman]. If you should surge in the polls, do you see mainstream media as a possible obstacle to your nomination and election?”
“Well, the mainstream media is an obstacle to any conservative nomination,” she responded. “The mainstream media is hopelessly biased. This is not a news flash, and Chuck Todd was hostile, in part, because he knows, as Hillary Clinton knows, as the mainstream media knows — that I am Hillary Clinton’s worst nightmare…”
“I would agree with that.”
“…I am her worst nightmare because she won’t be able to talk about the things she wants to talk about. She wants to talk about the ‘War on Women.’ She wants to talk about the historic nature of her candidacy. She wants to talk about anything but her track record and her accountability, and I will force her to talk about those things. So, the fact that the mainstream media is not on my side is not a news flash. The question is: who is going to be our nominee? Who is tough enough to stand up against that and throw every punch back in their face? And I think I’ve demonstrated I have the capacity to do that, and if we get another nominee that can’t and Hillary Clinton is gonna win.”
“I think about what happened to Sarah Palin early on when she was surging in the polls,” I said. “She became almost demonic to the mainstream media, so you’re expecting that I would assume — a similar kind of assault on you.”
“Of course, of course. Will they try it? Yes. Will it work with me? No.”
As one of the outsider candidates for the Republican nomination and I asked her about Republican leadership in the Congress. She said, “I’m disappointed in the leadership of the House and the Senate. I made no bones about that. [I’m] disappointed they passed the Omnibus Spending Bill. Increases our debt. Increases our spending levels and there are a couple of good things buried in there, but basically the Democrats got what they wanted, so yeah I’m very disappointed. Frankly all of my energy right now, and I think where most of our energy needs to be for the time being is electing a nominee who can beat Hillary Clinton. Because it’s pretty clear that without leadership in the White House, we’re not going to get leadership that can change things for the better in the House and the Senate. Tom, you’ve probably heard me say before, there’s a big difference between management and leadership. The political class of both parties are managers.
They operate within the system. Well, operating within the system isn’t working for the American people anymore. It’s why I’m running for president. It’s why I’ve rolled out a blueprint to take back our country. Because until you challenge this system at its core — by for example radically simplifying the tax code — and changing the way government budgets our money, until we change this system at its core, — which is going to take an outsider with executive experience — we’re going keep getting deals we don’t like. Government is going to keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger as it has for forty years under Republicans and Democrats alike. You can’t keep doing the same things and expect a different answer.”
“The UK recently declared the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization,” I said. “Do you think the United States should also?”
“Well, it’s clear they are. Declaring someone a terrorist organization doesn’t necessarily mean anything with this administration. Yes, I think it might be helpful, but what I think would be more helpful is if this administration actually had a strategy to defeat ISIS. If Hillary Clinton actually had a strategy to defeat ISIS. She doesn’t. If Donald Trump actually had a strategy to defeat ISIS, he doesn’t. We need to defeat ISIS. Let’s just start with that, because they are the most clear and present danger… This administration, without a doubt, has been, umm, a kind way to say it would be say ‘overly politically correct.’
An accurate way to say it would be ‘delusional.’ They have been denying the nature of the threat. They have been willful in terms of ignoring facts. It is delusional to go to Paris a couple of weeks after a terrorist attack and talk about global warming. And it is ignoring of the facts to continue to say: ‘Our strategy is working,’ and ‘ISIS is contained,’ the day of a terrorist attack in the United States.”
Podcast of my Fiorina interview

I’d love to watch Carly debate Hillary this fall, but first she has to win an uphill fight for the Republican nomination.

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Saturday, January 02, 2016

Interview with Hillary Clinton about Benghazi




“Somebody’s lying,” I said to Hillary Clinton. “Who is it?”

“Well, it’s not me,” she answered. “That’s all I can tell you.”
Tom Eastman, Mark Guerringue, Hillary Clinton

This was last Wednesday when Hillary’s huge entourage returned to The Conway Daily Sun’s office for another interview. She’d been there in 2007 during her first presidential campaign but I was still teaching then and I missed it. This time I really wanted to be there, so I drove twenty-five miles in a snowstorm, hoping she wouldn’t cancel. She didn’t.
Few journalists are able to pin her down because she controls who gets to ask her questions as well as what those questions will be. I don’t think she was expecting any tough ones at the Sun interview. Sun publisher Mark Guerringue’s opening comments included a reference to the Benghazi attack and her conflicting claims about what caused it. She referred to several congressional investigations, saying: “If people don’t want to accept the facts, there’s nothing I can do about that… and for people to use [Stevens’] death, Seans’s death, and the death of the two CIA contractor’s for political purposes really dishonors them and… their whole purpose is to somehow derail me. And I understand it’s nothing but politics to them but it’s not just politics to me.”

I inserted myself at this point, saying: “I have a specific question about that if I could interject.”

“Sure,” said Mark.
Turning to Hillary, I said, “You mentioned the families of the Benghazi victims and the discrepancy Mark brought up about your email — or conversation maybe — with your daughter…”

“Um-hmm,” said Hillary.

“…about it being an al Qaida-like group, Ansar al Sharia. Then you told an Egyptian diplomat in a phone conversation that it was a planned attack and not a protest. Umm, but then, when the bodies were brought back, you spoke to the family members and you told them, they say that you told them, this was a spontaneous demonstration. And then George Stephanopolous asked on This Week: “Did you tell them it was about the film?”
Hillary on This Week

“Um-hmm,” she said.

“And you said, ‘No.’ Now, somebody’s lying…”

“Well first let me say,” she interjected, but I pressed on.

“…Who is it?”

“Well, not me. That’s all I can tell you,” she continued. “But, you know, people were incredibly emotionally distraught. Let, let’s give everybody a little bit of breathing room here and recognize that, [pause] There — I mean I-I’m trying to remember what is in the public record and what isn’t. Let’s just say that some of the families didn’t even know that their sons were working for the CIA and were in Benghazi. This was a huge emotional blow, and I’m very sympathetic to that. I can only tell you what the facts were. That period when I talked to the Egyptian Prime Minister was in that bubble when we thought there was a terrorist group taking credit for it, and that’s what we said. And when they withdrew, and when the intelligence community, led by the CIA, basically said we don’t know yet. Because remember, the CIA and the intel community was guiding us about what they thought happened and we had to rely on that. We didn’t have any independent information or verification. All this material was coming in. The CIA was sorting it out.”
There were several places here where I wanted to interrupt her, but I restrained myself and let her go on.

She went on, saying, “And if you look at the reports that were done, ah, by the minority on the Benghazi Committee, because it’s a much more reliable source than the Republican majority. They go through, chapter and verse, timing, about what happened, when, and the bottom line is what happened is that people were doing the best they could dealing with information that was changing, and the CIA wrote and approved the talking points that were used, ahh, and it was also true that from Egypt, to Tunisia, to Pakistan, the video was the primary spark that was sending people into protesting against our facilities. All of this was happening simultaneously. It wasn’t either/or as much as people want to get to the bottom of it. It was an amalgam of information and action.”

“I’m sure those people were distraught,” I said.

“Yes,” she said.

“Three different people — Tyrone Woods’ father said — about you — that you said, ‘We’re going to have those people arrested who were responsible for the death of your son.’ Sean Smith’s mother reported, ‘She [Hillary] said that it was because of the video.’ And then Glenn Doherty’s sister said that, “You chose to, in that moment, to basically perpetuate what you knew was untrue.’ So, all three of them say you told them that.”
“Well,” she said.

I ignored her and continued, “And you say you didn’t tell them that.”

“I can only tell you what I know happened,” she said. “I can’t, I can’t speak to them. I can tell you what Chris Steven’s family believes. I can tell you what Sean Smith’s wife believes. I can tell you what other family members believe, because yes,”

“But you didn’t tell them that,” I said.
“I did not tell them that, but, I can’t recite for you everything that was in a conversation where people were sobbing, where people were distraught, where groups of us — the president, the vice president — we were all making the rounds, talking to people, listening to people, and I was in a very difficult position because I had not yet said that two of the four people dead were CIA. Because we were under, ah, very strict directions, from the CIA, not to reveal that yet. So this was — this was — again, part of the fog of war. And, you know, I regret that anybody [pause] has a [pause], you know, an attitude or feeling that I do not [pause] think [pause] is accurate, but I’m not going to do anything other than express my sympathy for them because, I think they deserve it. They were, people who lost their children. They have every right to believe whatever they want to believe, but the facts don’t bear it out.”
Being part of a team I dropped it there, not because I wanted to — especially when she said, “the CIA wrote and approved the talking points that were used.” — but because I could not dominate the interview with about twenty others present who also wanted to question her.
Carly Fiorina

Coincidentally, that very morning I did a telephone interview with Carly Fiorina, the other woman running for president, and told her about the pending Clinton interview. I said if you could ask Hillary one question, what would it be? Without hesitation, Carly said: “Why did you lie? Why did you lie to American people the morning after the Benghazi attack?” I told her that’s exactly the question I chose. Carly’s interview deserves its own column, which is coming up next.
For three years, I’ve been angry that Hillary Clinton, President Obama, Susan Rice, and others, claimed it was a spontaneous demonstration over a video that killed four Americans at Benghazi and not a radical Muslim terrorist attack. I wrote about it several times including here and here. They knew different, and they said what they knew was not true. That’s lying — but I never heard any journalist or member of Congress ever use that word to Hillary’s face — and that’s what I was determined to do when I had the chance.
I did, and the Sun’s account of the interview, containing an accurate but abbreviated mention of my exchange with Hillary, was linked by The Drudge Report. From there it was picked up by dozens of media outlets. My intent here is to give readers a complete and accurate account our five-minute exchange.
Podcast of interview

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