My Column

George Clooney: A 21st-Century Statesman – Newsweek

In the age of Twitter-shortened attention spans, fame is an increasingly powerful weapon of diplomacy. John Avlon on how George Clooney is helping to bring change—and a hefty dose of hope—to Sudan.

George Clooney hates the paparazzi. But he also knows the power of a snapshot. So the Oscar winner just launched a privately funded satellite to broadcast pictures of troop movements throughout Sudan. He’s now back from a visit to the genocide-ridden country, which in January voted to split itself in two, making Southern Sudan the world’s 193rd nation. Clooney’s dogged activism in Africa has earned him the ear of the U.S. foreign-policy establishment. Twice, he’s visited President Obama in the Oval Office. In his next movie, The Ides of March , Clooney plays a flawed presidential candidate. Does he dream of becoming the real thing? “I didn’t live my life in the right way for politics, you know,” he tells Newsweek . “I f—ed too many chicks and did too many drugs, and that’s the truth.” Read More…

The Resilient City – from Empire City: New York Through the Centuries

The Resilient City
by John Avlon
From “Empire City: New York Through the Centuries”

Three hundred and forty-one New York City firefighters. Twenty-three New York City police officers. Thirty-seven Port Authority police officers. Three court officers. Two EMS workers. Thousands of innocent civilians. Numbers alone, of course, cannot do them justice.

A whole portrait of America was taken from us in an instant: individuals of every race, religion, and ethnicity; fathers and mothers, children and newlyweds, brothers, sisters and best friends. Amid our grief we now see that New York had been distracted by flash and wit and cash for too long. The heroic actions of those we lost reawakened us to the essential importance of personal courage. Overnight, and somewhat to our surprise, New York has been embraced as the nation’s symbol of resilience, the indomitable heart of America. Read More…

Exclusive: Congressional Ethics Probe Adds to Michele Bachmann’s Political Woes – The Daily Beast

The Hindenburg. The Titanic. Michele Bachmann.

Eighteen months ago, the Minnesota House member was considered an unlikely but undeniable Republican rising star, winning the Iowa straw poll that unofficially begins the primary season. Today, she is embroiled in a litany of legal proceedings related to her rolling disaster of a presidential campaign—including an Office of Congressional Ethics investigation into campaign improprieties that has not previously been reported.

The Daily Beast has learned that federal investigators are now interviewing former Bachmann campaign staffers nationwide about alleged intentional campaign-finance violations. The investigators are working on behalf of the Office of Congressional Ethics, which probes reported improprieties by House members and their staffs and then can refer cases to the House Ethics Committee. Read More…

The Economist Interview: Six questions for John Avlon – WSJ

IN TODAY’S polarised political environment John Avlon has carved out a useful niche, exposing extremists on both the left and right. He says these partisans are more dangerous than ever, in part because they obscure the growing power of independents. Mr Avlon is a columnist for the Daily Beast and a regular contributor on CNN. His most recent book is ” Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America”. This week we asked him some questions about those hyperpartisans and their effect on America’s political system.

Democracy in America: First off, what is a wingnut?

Mr Avlon: A wingnut is someone on the far-right wing or far-left wing of the political spectrum—the professional partisans, the unhinged activists and the paranoid conspiracy theorists. They’re the people who always try to divide rather than unite us. One tell-tale sign of a Wingnut: they always confuse partisanship with patriotism. Read More…

Jim Harrison Can Make You a Better Animal – The Daily Beast

Arguably America’s greatest living author—and certainly our earthiest—lives half the year in Livingston, Montana. It’s a town grounded in the early 20th-century West, with neon signs on brick buildings and mountains in the background, all crowned by a former train depot that was once the preferred entrance to Yellowstone National Park.

The town is a reminder of a time when authors were respected ambassadors of a mythic America, the dream readers who could shrink large distances with their dispatches, articulate outlaws who could drink and fight and fuck and still file on deadline, drawing a straight line from Jack London to Ernest Hemingway with a thousand wasted wannabees in between.

Jim Harrison steps out of that tradition, but with contempt for its pretensions. He is all appetite and no apologies. And so the author of Legends of the Fall and 30 other books, including The Farmer’s Daughter (newly released in paperback), is one of the most accessible of modern American writers whose work is filed under “literature.” He is not locked inside his head but connected to the land and heart and, especially, stomach. For all his freely admitted highs and lows, buoyed by lust and flashes of violence, he keeps the virtues of kindness and forgiveness close. His writing reminds us to try our best to be happy animals in an unsentimental world. Read More…

The Absurd Impeachment Feedback Loop – The Daily Beast

Impeachment is the final fantasy for obsessive hyper-partisans. But some Democrats are exploiting the craziness as a fundraising call to arms.

Silly season has started—and both parties are trying to fund-raise off the fringe.

One-third of Americans now say that President Obama should be impeached, according to a CNN/ORC poll. This carries about as much constitutional weight as previous free-floating anxieties about the president being secretly Muslim, communist or born in Kenya.

The partisan breakdown of the Impeach Obama crowd is roughly what you’d expect. Fifty-seven percent of Republicans say they support impeachment and 35 percent of independents, with a very-confused 13 percent of Democrats bringing up the caboose. Read More…

Border Kids Crisis—Impotent Congress – The Daily Beast

The alleged urgency of the problem is inspiring no action on Capitol Hill. But the failure to deal with the influx of Central American children isn’t inevitable—it’s driven by fear.

Cynicism passes for wisdom in Washington. And despite the urgent optics of the border kids crisis, our D.C. politicos would rather demagogue the issue than deal with it. Our porous borders are seen as a midterm election play-to-the-base appeal instead of a problem to be solved.

Listen to members of Congress and most correspondents who cover them, and you just know that immigration reform is never going to happen this year. After all, the smart money says any controversial action is considered a loser in an election year. And forget the next sessions of Congress—the presidential election will have begun and nothing will get done, as President Bush learned in 2007, when the proto-Tea Party talk radio crowd tanked his bid for a bipartisan immigration reform. Read More…

Scaife v. Clinton and the Dangers of Demonization – The Daily Beast

Richard Mellon Scaife—paymaster of the ‘vast right-wing conspiracy’—died July 4. But he died counting Clinton a friend who had ‘served the American people most ably.’

On July 4th, Richard Mellon Scaife died. The Pittsburgh publishing magnate was considered a conservative hero and scourge of liberals, largely because of his role funding the infamous “Arkansas Project” that pumped up anti-Clinton anxieties and ultimately led to the president’s impeachment.

When Hillary Clinton spoke of “the vast right-wing conspiracy” targeting her family in the 1990s, in large part she was referring to the cottage industry of Clinton haters briefly bankrolled by Mr. Scaife. Read More…

Market Leninism vs. the West – The Daily Beast

So much for the end of history. Twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall gave rise to the idea that liberal capitalist democracy would carry the human race inexorably toward broad sunlit uplands, we are confronted with the ugly fact that culture outlasts politics.

The ideology of communism may have ended up on the ash heap of history like Nazism before it, but now “Market Leninism” is taking its place as a challenge to liberty in the 21st Century.

The fault lines reflect Cold War regions.

Russia and China and some of their old satellite states have traded Marx and Lenin for Market Leninism.

The militaristic one-party state endures – but the nomenklatura now attracts global capital, swilling champagne in jet set nightclubs instead of behind dacha walls.
Read More…

Tea Party Cannibalizes Cantor – The Daily Beast

The Republican majority leader fanned the flames of the Tea Party movement, hoping it would help him to take over from John Boehner. Last night he got burned.

Winston Churchill once said “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile—hoping it will eat him last.”

Last night, Eric Cantor was eaten by the Tea Party. Chomp. Chomp.

It is perhaps the most shocking loss in modern congressional elections—the powerful Republican leader losing his perch to an unknown member of his own party despite outspending his opponent by more than 25 to 1. Read More…

Hatriot Politics Created the Las Vegas Killers – The Daily Beast

Jerad and Amanda Miller, the Wingnuts whose killing spree left two policemen, a civilian, and themselves dead, were inspired by fright-wing radio hosts and militia movement groups.

The obsessively anti-government Hatriot movement moved from cultivating conspiracy theories to real killing on Sunday in Las Vegas.

The Wingnut Bonnie and Clyde duo, Jerad and Amanda Miller, stormed into CiCi’s Pizza and shot two metro cops, Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo, at close range while shouting “This is a revolution!” They flung the Tea Party’s favorite coiled snake Gadsden flag and a swastika on the still-warm corpses and then moved to a nearby Walmart to murder a shopper before turning the guns on themselves. Read More…

Hate—and Hitler—in the Heartland – The Daily Beast

The man accused of shooting three at Jewish centers in Kansas has a long résumé as a neo-Nazi and KKK grand wizard who once created a points system for murder.

The sole suspect in a shooting that left three dead at two Jewish community centers outside Kansas City on Sunday is a former Ku Klux Klan “grand dragon,” neo-Nazi, and ex-con named Frazier Glenn Miller.

The 73-year-old was caught by TV cameras yelling “Heil Hitler” from the back seat of a police car after he was apprehended in the parking lot of a local elementary school. Rabbi Herbert Mandl, chaplain for the Overland Park Police Department, said the gunman asked people whether they were Jewish before he opened fire. Two of the victims, named by grieving family members as Dr. William Lewis Corporon and his grandson Reat Griffin Underwood, 14, were not Jewish, however–they were members of the nearby United Methodist Church of the Resurrection. Read More…

Ode to the Bookstore

In September, the final Borders stores closed, adding to the funeral pyre of big-box stores content providers that went before them, like Tower Records or Virgin Megastores.

Some people believe it is only a matter of time until all bookstores go the way of the horse and buggy. But all is not lost—at least not yet.

After all, we vote with our wallets. And if you care about the unique character of your community, if you believe in rewarding the rugged independence of small businesses, then your local independent bookstore deserves your support, now more than ever. This is an admittedly counter-cultural effort—but that is part of its appeal and sense of purpose. Read More…

Obama has Given Up Seeking a Solution to America’s Financial Woes

Without a bang or a whimper, all hopes of striking a so-called “Grand Bargain” to put America’s public finances on a sustainable track died a quiet death this week.

And because cynicism passes for wisdom in Washington, the passing was little lamented. But its death is a loss to the cause of putting America’s house in order, and all-but-officially marks the moment the Obama administration gave up trying to bridge the political divide on this most fundamental issue.

The death notice itself was printed in the pages of the Obama budget, which quietly rescinded the offer of long-term healthcare and pensions reform by withdrawing the offer of what Capitol Hill policy-wonks call “Chain-weighted CPI” from their budget blueprint. Read More…

The Fines – NY Sun

We swore that we would never forget. And for those still counting, today marks four and a half years and three days since the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Yesterday will be remembered as a minor milestone in our city’s process of grieving and healing for another reason. It was the day that construction formally began at ground zero – as a dozen workers contracted by the Bovis Construction firm quietly showed up to work in the pit at 6 a.m. to prepare the site for the foundation of the memorial and museum.

Outside the perimeter gates a dozen protesters had quietly stood vigil throughout the moonlit night beside the 10 & 10 Firehouse on Liberty Street. Led by the Reverend Bill Minson – former ICM talent agent turned Baptist minister – a collection of fallen firefighter family members milled by a makeshift memorial to their loved ones, passing coffee and comfort, urging passersby to sign their petition to stop the construction process next to a yellow sign which read, “No underground memorial. Don’t bury our memories.” Read More…

The Westboro Defectors Speak: Phelps Granddaughters Embrace Tolerance – The Daily Beast

On Thursday afternoon Megan and Grace Phelps-Roper visited the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. They’d been inside only a few minutes when they saw a photo of their family.

There, as part of the permanent exhibit, was an image of their grandmother and sister at the murder trial of Matthew Shepard’s killers, holding the signs for which the Westboro Baptist Church has become infamous: “God Hates Fags,” “AIDS Cures Gays,” and “Matt in Hell.”

This was once their way of life. Now 27, Megan had been taken to protests since age 5; her younger sister Grace had been attending since birth—all as part of the Kansas ministry founded by their grandfather. Read More…

Hating Kennedy – The Daily Beast

This week, America was fixated on the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. Grief nourishes myth and a new CNN poll registers JFK as our most admired ex-president from the past half century.

His brief 1,000 days in the Oval Office loom large in American memory because of his abrupt loss; a psychic wound that shaped a generation, symbolizing a collective loss of innocence.

Perhaps inevitably, we buy into the idea that President Kennedy was as beloved in life as he has been in death. Of course, this was not the case. Read More…

The Gonzo Life of Mayor McCrack – The Daily Beast

Gather round, children, and you will hear the strange true tale of Mayor McCrack.

Toronto’s Mayor Rob Ford seemed simply obese, unwise, and shady until earlier this week, when he confessed to smoking crack cocaine in what he casually described as “one of my drunken stupors.”

Ford seemed surprised when this outburst of honesty after months of denials did not result in a healing reset with the media. Instead, the admission opened international attention to the serial embarrassment lurking inside Toronto’s City Hall. Read More…

Christie’s Reelection Triumph Is a Revenge of the RINOs – The Daily Beast

Chris Christie’s landslide reelection in a state President Obama won by 17 points offers the GOP a memo on how to win in 2016, if it wants one.

Don’t just fixate on the top-line numbers. They obscure the real story. Look instead at Christie’s initial exit poll margins among women, independent voters, moderates, the middle class, Hispanics, and African-Americans. In those cross-tab stats, you see the outlines of a candidate who can dig the GOP out of the demographic trap it’s facing. Read More…

What GOP Can Learn from Cuccinelli’s Tanking Bid in Virginia – CNN

Virginia is a cautionary tale for conservatives this year. And those Republicans who always argue that their party wins when it moves further to the right are going to have a lot of explaining to do after Election Day.

Polls show that “teavangelist” Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is going down to a decisive defeat in the governor’s race against an exceptionally flawed Democratic candidate, Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chairman and Clinton fund-raiser.

The reason is simple: Cuccinelli is too extreme for swing voters in Virginia — and that neatly symbolizes the GOP’s problem as it looks to the congressional midterms of 2014 and the presidential campaign of 2016. Read More…

GOP Contenders Take Aim – CBS Early Show

John Avlon and Margaret Hoover discuss the GOP presidential canidates on the CBS Early Show. Discussions about Rick Perry, Paul Ryan, mobilizing the Republican base, and what options the Republicans have for the 2012 Elections.

John Avlon Hosts – OutFront – CNN

John Avlon talks about Republican’s efforts to repeal Heath Care and other political topics of the day as he hosts CNN’s Out Front on July 2, 2012.

Paralyzed by Polarization – The Daily Beast

After 12 days of stalemate, conversations – if not negotiations – have started.

But House Republicans remain deadlocked with the White House, its leadership constrained by their own far-Right-wing caucus, announcing to members in a closed-door session this morning that any deal would have to come from the Senate, where Mitch McConnell, the GOP minority leader, declared: “I’m willing to work with the government we have, not the one I wish we had.” This is a significant concession to reality.

Washington is engaged in a war of attrition – not just between Republicans and Democrats, but an increasingly vicious civil war within the GOP between the Tea Party and what remains of the responsible centre-Right. Read More…

Shutdown Crisis: We Need a Hostage Negotiator – The Daily Beast

With the government shutdown entering its second week and debt ceiling default less than two weeks away, polarization has turned poisonous and confusion reigns on Capitol Hill.

“It actually reminds me of a prison siege,” says Christopher Voss, a former FBI hostage negotiator, as he surveys the dysfunctional congressional deadlock. “The opposition isn’t particularly organized. The smart move is to pick among the leadership on the other side who is the most reasonable. Then you empower them by talking with them and granting some sort of small concession. And they suddenly gain a lot of influence on their side.”

Yes, it’s come to this: Washington’s shutdown stalemate looks like a hostage crisis to high-stakes negotiators. And in their eyes, the inmates are running the asylum. Read More…

The Suicidal Shutdown: Hyper-Partisan Fever Rules the Government – The Daily Beast

It was darkly appropriate that Congressman John Culberson (R-TX) rallied his conservative colleagues on Saturday to vote for a government shutdown by saying “Like 9/11, Let’s Roll!” Because this legislative plane is headed defiantly nose-down into the ground.

Decency, practicality, and perspective have deserted some of the folks working under the same Capitol Dome that the heroic passengers on Flight 93 saved from destruction. A decade ago, congressional conservatives might have been offended at the casual misuse of 9/11-imagery for hyper-partisan purposes. Today, nothing’s shocking in the obsessive opposition to President Obama and the healthcare law that began its life as a Republican alternative to Hillarycare in the 1990s. Any red meat rallying cry will do. Read More…

Weiner, Spitzer Out: Thank You New York –

Twelve years ago, New York City taught the nation about resilience in the face of a massive attack.

On Tuesday, New York again taught the nation that character counts.

There is, of course, no comparison between the horror of 9/11 and a mayoral primary in America’s largest city. But while the shadow of the twin towers still hangs over the hearts of many in New York, the persistence of daily life remains a quiet sign of defiance.

This year, city politics seemed determined to hit a new low rather than aspire to new heights. A series of scandal-scarred candidates sucked up the oxygen amid an otherwise forgettable field. And for a while, Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer seemed likely to win their respective races on the strength of name ID and notoriety. Read More…

American Way: Can Jim Messina Do for David Cameron What He Did for Barack Obama?

The incumbent was underwater. Low poll numbers and a still-sluggish economy, soaring campaign promises of hope and change that never quite materialised. The opposition attacked him; so did some of the ideological absolutists in his own camp.

That’s the situation Jim Messina inherited when he took the helm of President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign in 2011. And it applies to the thicket of problems he’s going to confront as the newly announced senior adviser to Prime Minister David Cameron’s 2015 re-election campaign.

On the surface it is an odd-couple pairing – the University of Montana Democrat and the Oxford-educated Conservative. But Mr Obama and Mr Cameron are both pioneering members of Generation X, indulging in modest relatable rebellion before reaching the highest elected office in their land. Both men campaigned as candidates of generational change, presenting themselves as post-partisan coalition builders and rapidly rising to prominence on the strength of their speeches. Neither man entered office with much executive experience and the old political aphorism that “you campaign in poetry but govern in prose” quickly hobbled sky-high expectations.
Read More…

Forty-Five Foiled Terror Plots Since 9/11 – The Daily Beast

As counterterrorism officials investigate a new ‘credible’ terror threat, records show there have been at least 45 jihadist terrorist-attack plots against Americans since 9/11—thwarted by intelligence work, policing, and citizen involvement. John Avlon reports.

As news of a new “credible” threat swept across the nation on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Americans were abruptly reminded that terrorism is always one bad day away from being issue No. 1.

In the latest case, one report said at least three people—one believed to be a U.S. citizen—entered the U.S. in August to plan a car-bomb attack against Washington, D.C., or New York. The suspected terrorists are thought to have come from Afghanistan or Pakistan, and at least two rental trucks are being sought nationwide. White House officials confirmed that President Obama had been briefed on the “specific” terrorism threat.

Too often, 10 years after the worst terrorist attacks in our nation’s history, we sometimes fall into a false sense of security as a degree of 9/11 amnesia takes hold; a desire to recast the attacks as a tragic isolated incident.

The facts tell a very different story. The record shows that there have been at least 45 jihadist terrorist attacks plotted against Americans since 9/11—each of them thwarted by a combination of intelligence work, policing and citizen participation.

And these are just the plotted attacks that we know about through public documentation—the real number of credible plots is no doubt much higher. No truly authoritative list exists because of the preponderance of classified information, although organizations such as the Heritage Foundation have published detailed lists in the past. An additional problem in coming up with a comprehensive list lies in consistently defining the parameters of thwarted attacks. The plots also are of varying degrees of seriousness, from some that were days from causing mass bloodshed to others that were twisted ambitions caught well before fruition.

The list published below comes as close as I could, using public sources and past lists—and it was reviewed by both government and academic organizations that track terrorist attacks.

Since 9/11, there have been devastating terror attacks in cities like London and Madrid. But America has so far batted 1,000 against the constant stream of civilian-targeted terror threats, though trends show the types of plots are changing to an increase of military targets (think the deadly shooting spree at Fort Hood by Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hassan) and Americans’ training overseas for the purpose of terrorism.

Professor Erik Dahl of the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., and the START program at the University of Maryland has compiled the most detailed list of attempted terrorists attacks to date, spanning a period of 25 years, in his paper “The Plots That Failed: Intelligence Lessons Learned From Unsuccessful Terrorist Attacks Against the United States,” recently published in the academic journal Studies in Conflict and Terrorism.

“Everyone in American national security is amazed that we haven’t had another 9/11 within America since 9/11. A lot of credit has to go to both the Bush and now the Obama administrations for keeping the country a lot safer than anybody expected. That’s the good news,” Dahl tells me. “But the bad news is that we do see this continuing, steady drumbeat of smaller-scale plots and attempted terrorist attacks. So the threat is definitely not gone.”

And what does Dahl believe has most accounted for the extraordinary Homeland Security record of success to date? “When it comes to domestic attacks and securing the homeland, what works is really good, old-fashioned policing—law enforcement, tips from the public, police informants—and not so much spies overseas or satellites run by three-letter government agencies.”

Interestingly, while compiling his list, Dahl found that “about 75 percent of the plots are associated with radical Islamists and about 25 percent are from right-wing domestic, anti-government militia movements.” But for the purposes of marking the 9/11 anniversary, this list focuses solely on the Islamist terrorist plots against Americans at home or on military bases outside war zones overseas.

An additional point of consideration is the cooperation that Muslim Americans have given to police that has helped stop many terrorist plots to date. “Local law enforcement and FBI officials have very good relations with the mainstream Muslim communities in various parts of America,” attests Dahl.

In the absence of another major terrorist attack on U.S. soil, it can be too easy to ignore the heroic efforts that have saved countless American lives over the past decade we have been at war.

It can also be easy to ignore the trends that have emerged, even after the welcome death of Osama bin Laden and the Obama administration’s successful escalation against al Qaeda. “We’re seeing more of an effort to attack U.S. military targets within the U.S., such as the Fort Hood shooting,” Dahl says. “These domestic lone-wolf attacks are not likely to be able to cause the amount of damage that a carefully planned and executed international plot, such as an al Qaeda plot, can do. But they can kill a lot of people.”

We now know that Osama bin Laden had long hoped for a 10th anniversary attack; and the threat of a lone wolf attack may be at the heart of this latest credible threat officials are investigating. But America’s first line of defense will be especially vigilant on this anniversary of the day when Islamist terrorists declared war on the U.S.

Looking to the future, Dahl sees a need to remain focused on the threats we face, while working to achieve the right balance “between reporting on things, the ‘see something-say something’ approach on the one hand, and respecting civil liberties and the rights of individuals to go about their daily lives. We still haven’t figured out just where that balance is in America.” But in our democratic republic’s response to 9/11 and subsequent civic debates we come ever closer to finding the right balance.

After the attacks of 9/11, we swore that we would never forget.  And so, among the memorials on this 10th anniversary that honors the victims and heroes we lost, it is also appropriate to remind ourselves of the need to remain vigilant.  We honor the dead from that day by resolving to do all we can to stop future 9/11s.

First responders have a saying: “Hope for the best; prepare for the worst.”  The civic resilience of the United States in the wake of the attacks of 9/11 is a testament to the power that free people have to overcome the forces of fear. We have been both lucky and good, and—as this rogues’ gallery of foiled terrorist plots reminds us—we all owe the broader counterterrorism community our thanks. America is the land of the free because we are the home of the brave.

1. Richard Reid
December 2001

Shoe bomber.

2. ‘Library Tower’ Plot
February 2002

Plot to attempt a second 9/11-style aerial attack to topple the tallest building in Los Angeles.

3. José Padilla
May 2002

Accused of meeting with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a dirty bomb plot. Sentenced to 17 years in 2008.

4. Earnest James Ujaama
July 2002

Seattle-based terror cell plotted to support the Taliban.

5. U.S. Forces in Germany
September 2002

A man and a woman of Turkish heritage—the man born in Germany—are arrested for plotting to blow up U.S. Army headquarters in Germany.

6. Lackawanna Cell
September 2002

Six Yemeni-Americans are accused of conspiring to help al Qaeda and plead guilty.

7. Oregon Taliban plot
October 2002

Seven Oregonians arrested in plot to join the Taliban and wage war against the United States.

8. Al Qaeda Gas Attack Plot on NYC Subways
Spring 2003

Reported by Ron Suskind in The One Percent Doctrine.

9. Iyman Farris
May 2003

Plot to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge.

10. Virginia Jihad Network
June 2003

Virginia group trained for apparent urban warfare missions, including training in Afghanistan.

11. Nuradin M. Abdi
November 2003

Plotted to bomb a Columbus, Ohio, shopping mall.

12. Dhiren Barot
August 2004

Plotted to bomb locations in New York, Newark, and Washington.

13. James Elshafay and Shahawar Matin Siraj
August 2004

Plotted to bomb train station near Madison Square Garden in bid to disrupt the Republican National Convention.

14. Levar Haley Washington, Gregory Vernon Patterson, Hammad Riaz Samana, and Kevin James
August 2005

Arrested for conspiring to attack National Guard facilities and synagogues around Los Angeles.

15. Mohammad Zaki Amawi, Marwan Othman El-Hindi, and Zand Wassim Mazlou
February 2006

Convicted in 2008 (PDF) of conspiring to commit terrorism against Americans overseas.

16. Syed Haris Ahmed and Ehsanul Islam Sadequee
April 2006

Gathered surveillance and met with other terrorists about targets in Washington, D.C.

17. Narseal Batiste, Patrick Abraham, Stanley Grant Phanor, Naudimar Herrera, Burson Augustin, Lyglenson Lemorin, and Rotschild Augustine
June 2006

Plotted to blow up Sears Tower.

18. Assem Hammoud
July 2006

Plotted to attack PATH trains between New York and New Jersey.

19. Jetliner bombing plot
August 2006

Twenty-four suspects arrested for plotting to blow up 10 U.S. jetliners with liquid explosives. This plot led to the regulation of liquids on planes.

20. Houston Taliban
November 2006

Kobie Diallo Williams and four other men are charged with conspiring to support the Taliban after training in Texas.

21. Derrick Shareef
December 2006

Planned to set off grenades at a shopping mall near Chicago.

22. Fort Dix Plot
May 2007

The “Fort Dix Six” plotted to attack Fort Dix in New Jersey.

23. JFK Airport
June 2007

Four men plotted to blow up fuel tanks and pipelines at JFK Airport in New York.

24. Ramstein Air Base, Germany
September 2007

German converts to Islam, plotting under the cover of the Islamic Jihad Union, are found to have explosives and plan to target one of the largest U.S. air bases in Europe.

25. Columbus, Ohio
June 2008

Christopher Paul aka Abdul Malek, aka Paul Kenyatta Laws

Pleaded guilty to conspiring with others to blow up targets in the U.S. and Europe.

26. NYC Subway Bombing
Sept. 14, 2009

Najibullah Zazi and three other men are caught days before they detonate explosives in the New York City subway.

27. Long Island Rail Road Threat
November 2008

American Bryant Neal Vinas gives al Qaeda leaders information to attack the LIRR.

28. Springfield, Illinois Courthouse Bomb Plot
Sept. 24, 2009

Michael Finton

Arrested in plot to detonate a vehicle bomb outside a courthouse and kill federal employees.

29. Dallas Tower Plot
Sept. 24, 2009

Hosam Maher Husein Smadi

A Jordanian man is arrested in connection with a plot to bomb at a skyscraper in Dallas.

30. Quantico, VA
Sept. 24, 2009

Daniel Patrick Boyd

A group of men are charged in plot to attack the Marine Corps base in Quantico.

31. Boston
October 2009

Tarek Mehanna and Ahmad Abousamra

Two men are arrested on wide-ranging charges, including conspiracy to kill U.S. politicians, spanning the past decade.

32. Northern Virginia
December 2009

Five men from northern Virginia are arrested in Pakistan and charged with supporting al Qaeda. Were reported missing by their families.

33. Detroit Airspace
Christmas Day Bomber, 2009

A man tries to detonate an explosive on a flight over Detroit. Also known as the underwear bomber.

34. Chicago
March 2010

Raja Lahrasib Khan

Man is arrested for funneling money (PDF) to terrorist organizations.

35. Times Square, New York City
May 1, 2010

Faisal Shahzad

Failed attempt to detonate a vehicle bomb in Times Square.

36. King Salmon, Alaska
July/August, 2010

Paul G. Rockwood, Jr. and Nadia Piroska Maria Rockwood

A husband and wife compile a list of 20 targets to murder, including military and media figures, arrested as they were set to move into the operational phase.

37. Wrigley Field, Chicago
Sept. 20, 2010

A man is arrested after planting a fake bomb outside Wrigley Field.

38. Air-Cargo Bomb Yemen to Chicago
October 2010

Twin packages of explosives were shipped from Yemen to synagogues in Chicago.

39. Washington, D.C.
October 2010

Farooque Ahmed

Ahmed is arrested in connection with a plot to blow up the D.C. Metro.

40. Portland, Oregon
Nov. 26, 2010

Mohamed Osman Mohamud

A Christmas-tree lighting is targeted by a 19-year-old Somali man, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, busted in an FBI sting operation.

41. Catonsville, Md.
Dec. 8, 2010

Antonio Martinez

Man arrested for plotting to blow up a U.S. Army recruiting center.

42. Lubbock, Texas/National
Feb. 23, 2011

Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari

Man arrested in bomb plot against military and political targets, including former President George W. Bush, in New York, Colorado, and California.

43. New York City
May 11, 2011

Ahmed Ferhani and Mohamed Mamdouh

Two men arrested in plot to attack a Manhattan synagogue.

44. Seattle, Wash.
June 22, 2011 (arrest date)

Abu Khalid Abdul-Latif, aka Joseph Anthony Davis, and Walli Mujahidh

Two men are arrested in a plot to attack a military recruiting station in Seattle.

45. Fort Hood, Texas
July 27, 2011 (arrest date)

Pfc. Naser Jason Abdo

A former army private is arrested in a plot to copycat attack at Fort Hood.

Why ‘The Newsroom’ matters –

Aaron Sorkin’s HBO show “The Newsroom” represents the reality of working in television news about as accurately as “The West Wing” captured working in politics — which is to say, not at all.

But both dramas did something more worthwhile: They expressed the idealism that should animate these careers. And in this time of creative destruction throughout the news industry, it’s more important than ever before. That’s why “The Newsroom” matters.

When “The West Wing” debuted in 1999, the political arena was suffering from a well-deserved dose of post-Monica cynicism. The smart kids were all making piles of money on Wall Street by surfing the tech bubble, and with the 2000 election looming between Bush and Gore, the status quo of peace and prosperity seemed boring. Read More…

Don’t Call Obama Racist – The Daily Beast

Race remains a fundamental fault line in American life. That’s why the Trayvon Martin murder trial drew wall­ to ­wall coverage on cable news and why the jury’s decision to acquit George Zimmerman drew outraged cries.

And on Friday afternoon, a day before planned nationwide protests, President Obama weighed into the fray with a remarkable, unscripted 17­-minute address from the White House briefing room.

But by trying to use the bully pulpit to turn this national paroxysm into what he might call a “teachable moment,” President Obama reignited conservative criticisms that he is an advocate for identity politics rather than for national unity. Read More…

George H.W. Bush, Our Preppiest Ex-President, Honored at White House – The Daily Beast

It’s been a quarter-century since George H.W. Bush was elected president, but the wheels of history are finally turning his way. In a triumph of civility and character over hyperbolic hyper-partisanship, Bush 41 was honored Monday by President Obama at the White House for the success of his Point of Light award for civic volunteerism.

We begin to see clearly in the rearview mirror of history, and George H.W. Bush has lived long enough to be appreciated as the Lone Star Yankee, perhaps the last unapologetically centrist Republican to enter the White House, winning California on the way to an electoral landslide. Read More…

Lindsey Graham Wasn’t Afraid to Fight for Immigration Reform – The Daily Beast

Profiles in courage are rare in our politics these days, but the Senate’s passage of comprehensive immigration reform is bright example of how Washington does not need to be a place where good ideas go to die.

Credit goes to the “Courageous 14” Republican senators who joined with the Democratic majority to make this legislation pass by a towering bipartisan margin of 68 to 32. Building squarely on the tireless efforts of the Gang of Eight—led by Marco Rubio, Chuck Schumer, Robert Menendez, and John McCain—the bill’s passage was a timely reminder that common ground is the only practical problem-solving space on Capitol Hill. That matters if you believe Congress should be more than an ideological debating society.

But the first among equals in the profile in courage sweepstakes is Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Of all the Gang of Eight senators, he was the most unvarnished in his advocacy and he has the most to lose. Read More…

Father Ostracized for Paternity Leave – OutFront – CNN

John Avlon and Margaret Hoover discuss the ‘double standard’ of paternity leave.

Lisa Murkowski’s Declaration of Independence – The Daily Beast

Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski became the third Republican U.S. Senator to support same-sex marriage on Wednesday, just days before the Supreme Court is set to decide on its constitutionality. But what’s really significant about Murkowski’s decision is the argument she made in an op-ed, rooted squarely in family values.

In explaining her evolution on the issue, Murkowski told the story of an Alaskan military couple who visited her on Capitol Hill for lunch with their four foster children. The kicker was that the couple was two women.

As Murkowsi explained: “After their years of sleepless nights, after-school pickups, and birthday cakes, if one of them gets sick or injured and needs critical care, the other would not be allowed to visit them in the emergency room—and the children could possibly be taken away from the healthy partner. They do not get considered for household health-care benefit coverage like spouses nationwide. This first-class Alaskan family still lives a second-class existence.” Read More…

‘Sopranos’ a Violent Fantasy for Middle-Aged Guys –

Why do we love gangsters — at least the ones on TV and in the movies?

The sudden death of actor James Gandolfini at age 51 has brought a round of instant nostalgia for the HBO show he led at the turn of the millennium, “The Sopranos.” It helped define the time for people living it, stretching between the excesses of the Clinton years and the grim patriotic grit of the post-9/11 period.

There was very little admirable about the character of Tony Soprano — most of us don’t murder on our lunch break — and yet he became a kind of elevated everyman. Read More…

Michael Hastings, R.I.P. – The Daily Beast

There will be a lot of these heartsick tributes to Michael Hastings, who died on Tuesday in Los Angeles at the unforgivably young age of 33.

He was one of the great journalists of our generation, possessing spark and insight and righteous indignation. But he was also funny and kind and irreverent. He took his work seriously but never himself.

He was fearless, for better and for worse, and that has become a kind of instant cliché about his character in the wake of his passing, passed along the Twitterverse he helped popularize. Hemingway once said that all writers must possess “built-in, shock-proof bullshit detector” and Michael seemed born with one of those. He hated bullies and lies and puffed-up pretense. He was never afraid to call bullshit, even when the target in question was a boss or a general running a war he was covering. Read More…

The Military-Industrial Complex Is Real, and It’s Bigger Than Ever – The Daily Beast

In January 1961, President Dwight D. Eisenhower famously warned about the growth of the “military-industrial complex” in his farewell address.

Ed Snowden, late of Booz Allen Hamilton, is just one small expression of its rise. The rest is evident throughout the Gilded Age of the metro Washington area, a boom time of corporate cronyism in the wake of 9/11 that has led to fat contracts amid the outsourcing of national security, complete with the proliferation of top security clearances to private contractors like Snowden. Read More…

NSA Spying Shows Obama’s Machine Out of Control – The Daily Beast

With news that Verizon was required to hand over supposedly private domestic phone records to the government as part of a national security dragnet, the second-term curse just got much more real for the Obama administration.

To date, however, the Obama second-term scandals do not seem carelessly self-inflicted from the top like those of the past, from Watergate to Iran-Contra to Monica or even the botched response to Hurricane Katrina.

But that doesn’t mean they aren’t deeply destructive to President Obama’s legacy. Read More…

Michele Bachmann Is Done: Her Hostage Tape to Reality – The Daily Beast

Our long national nightmare is over.

Well, that’s overstating it. But the congresswoman who represented the worst of modern American politics more than she ever tried to represent her Minnesota constituents has announced that she will not run for reelection.

Michele Bachmann is done. Read More…

Memo to the GOP: It’s Time to Listen to Your Elders – The Daily Beast

Sometimes retirees are out of touch. But sometimes they’re freer to tell the truth. And that’s what happened when GOP mandarins Bob Dole and John Warner fired off warning flares about the rightward drift of the Republican Party.

Former presidential nominee Dole captured most of the attention when he told Fox News’ Chris Wallace that the Republican National Committee should hang “a sign on the national committee doors that says ‘closed for repairs until New Year’s Day next year’ and spend that time going over ideas and positive agendas.”

That’s tough stuff coming from a 90-year-old. But wait, there’s more. Dole frankly admitted that today’s Republican Party probably would not have room for him and even for Saint Ronald Reagan. Read More…

How Did ‘Patriot’ Become a Dirty Word? –

On Memorial Day, we honor those patriots who gave “the last full measure of devotion” — in Abraham Lincoln’s words — and died defending our freedom and union.

But this Memorial Day is partly clouded by the resurgence of partisan scandal in Washington. At the IRS, employees filtered through the exploding number of tax exemption applications by politically associated organizations by being on the lookout for groups that had the name “Tea Party” and “Patriot” in their name. This was improper, illegal, unethical and outrageous.

But hold on — when did the word “patriot” become a partisan pejorative? How did such a bipartisan positive word get identified as a sign of hyperpartisan politics?

It’s actually an interesting story. Read More…

CNN Podcast: Big Three – Relief in Oklahoma?

Will New Yorkers elect a punch line as Mayor? Anthony Weiner’s entry into the New York City race for mayor was one of the issues we discussed with comedian Jim Gaffigan, our guest this week on the CNN weekly podcast “The Big Three,” co-hosted by CNN’s Margaret Hoover, John Avlon and Dean Obeidallah.

Listen to the Podcast here:

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Stuck Far From Home, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett Asks for Prayers – The Daily Beast

When the mile-wide twister came down just outside his town, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett was watching the devastation on television, just like the rest of America.

The three-term mayor was stuck at an economic-development conference in Las Vegas—the last place that any chief executive wants to be caught when disaster visits his city.

“We’re in a search-and-rescue mode right now,” Mayor Cornett told The Daily Beast while waiting to board the first flight back home. “Right now, you’re just trying to go through and account for people, trying to find out who’s missing and then try to figure out where they might be.” Read More…

American Way: Don’t Impose Watergate on the Scandals Facing Obama – They Stand on Their Own – The Telegraph

Somewhere Richard Nixon is smiling. Four decades after Watergate and two decades after his death, we still can’t stop talking about the dark anti-hero of American politics. His five-o’clock shadowy visage remains too convenient a metaphor for lazy critics looking to lacerate a president from the opposing party.

The latest non-Watergate to be labelled its second coming is actually a combination of three separate scandals afflicting the Barack Obama administration.

The collective weight of this scandalabra threatens to derail the president’s ambitious legislative agenda, dragging him to premature lame duck status. But it doesn’t represent outright criminality emanating from the Oval Office or promise to provoke a constitutional crisis, however fervently Obama’s critics might wish it. Read More…

CNN Podcast: Big Three – Obama’s Worst Week

This week on The Big Three, we take a look at what might have been Obama’s worst week ever – as a negative trifecta of scandals threaten to overwhelm his administration and derail his ambitious legislative agenda. We get a reality check with special guest, Representative Keith Ellison. And no talk about the biggest stories of the week would be complete without a conversation about Angelina Jolie’s decision to have a proactive double mastectomy and the message it sends to millions.

Listen to the Podcast here:

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Hispanic Outreach Director Explains Why He Said ‘Adios’ to the GOP – The Daily Beast

Conservatives should consider this a warning sign. The Republican National Committee’s former Hispanic outreach director for Florida has left the GOP and registered as a Democrat, citing a “culture of intolerance.”

Pablo Pantoja is a decorated Iraq war vet who began his brief career with the GOP by volunteering for John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign and serving as field director for Marco Rubio’s triumphant 2010 senate campaign. He says he was originally drawn to the GOP “because of my business-minded mentality. Fiscal issues are important for all families—Hispanics and non-Hispanics.”

But a recent anti-immigration report from the right-wing think tank Heritage Foundation sent the Puerto Rican–born Pantoja heading for bluer pastures this week. Not only did the paper tally the cost of immigration form at an absurdly high $6.3 trillion, but its author, Jason Richwine, was found to have written an overtly racist dissertation in 2009 that labeled American immigrants as having lower IQs than those of white natives.

Read More…

With Benghazi Video, Karl Rove Kicks Off 2016 With Hillary Clinton Hit – The Daily Beast

Less than five months after Barack Obama began his second term, the 2016 presidential campaign kicked off this weekend with a Benghazi-themed attack ad that takes direct aim at Hillary Clinton.

The 90-second web ad, called “Benghazi”, was issued by the Karl Rove–founded American Crossroads, which spent more than $21 million in the last election cycle. It is the freshest evidence that hyperpartisan super-PAC slush funds are now a core part of the permanent campaign.

This American Crossroads ad matters because of its unsubtle purpose: a preemptive strike against a potential Clinton presidential campaign in 2016. Remember that through 2008, Clinton was widely considered the most polarizing figure in American politics. The days of Hillary as Republicans’ favorite member of the Obama cabinet are over. This dynamic was unlikely to the point of absurdity—a case of political amnesia brought on by a combination of her voting record in the Senate and the ’08 campaign-era conviction that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Read More…

IRS Wrong To Target ‘Patriots’–But Also To Let Non-Profits Play Politics – The Daily Beast

Forget slow-news Friday. The IRS admission today that it singled out for scrutiny political action committees with the words “Tea Party” and “Patriot” in their names rocketed around the Internet, fueling conservatives’ feeling of persecution.

The actions were apparently taken in isolation by workers at a local Cincinnati, Ohio, branch and announced with a public apology by Lois Lerner, head of the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt groups.

This imposition of political impulses into IRS inquiries is completely out of line —and given the Nixon administration’s record of using audits for political purposes, the feeling of persecution has some roots in reality. But the inevitable rhetorical rush to the ramparts—that this was part of a concerted effort by the Obama administration to investigate its political enemies—is not rooted in fact, to date. Beyond the fact that the White House and the IRS now keep each other at arm’s length because of past abuses, the larger slumber scandal at the IRS is actually a reluctance to aggressively investigate the systemic abuse of tax-exempt status by nonprofit groups in the wake of the Citizens United decision. Read More…

Mark Sanford Is the Comeback Kid, Winning SC Congressional Seat – The Daily Beast

The redemption tour is over and Congress has a new Comeback Kid.

Scandal-laden former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford won back his old congressional seat on Tuesday night, defeating Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch by a 54 percent to 45 percent margin in a high-turnout special election.

The victory shocked the national press corps, who had been predicting a Colbert-Busch victory—with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, for example, declaring “this is not serious” after a PPP poll found Sanford 9 points behind the Democratic nominee two weeks from Election Day. Read More…

The High Cost of Rush: Talker Bleeds Millions From His Carriers as Toxic Talk Slumps, Cumulus Seems Set to Part Ways With Rush Limbaugh – The Daily Beast

“We’ve had a tough go of it this last year,” Cumulus CEO Lew Dickey said Tuesday morning. “The facts are indisputable regarding the impact certain things have had on ad dollars.”

Dickey told analysts on the earnings call that his radio empire’s revenue was down $5.6 million in the first quarter of 2013 on top of a boatload of debt. Why? Parse the weasel words (“the impact of certain things”) and you’ll see that Dickey is blaming one man for the precipitous decline of right-wing talk radio’s profitability: Rush Limbaugh.

El Rushbo is still a giant in the industry, but the impact of slamming Sandra Fluke on his radio show one year ago persists—with some $2.4 million in losses attributed by Dickey to declines in the “syndicated-talk segment.” Read More…