The Cliffhanger, March 7

Ever since the language of the ???fiscal cliff??? was appropriated to describe the political battle over a tax increase, it???s become increasingly clear that every issue is a ???cliff??? now.  Here are today???s snapshots from the edge???

** North Korea offers solution to winter weather blues: Persistent cold weather and media-hyped blizzards getting you down?  Kim Jong-Un is here to help!  The North Koreans offered to heat things up Thursday by launching a pre-emptive nuclear strike against the United States.  The threat came from an “unidentified spokesman” of the Foreign Ministry.  It is not believed that the Norks actually have the technology to deliver a nuclear warhead to American soil yet, and the only thing they would be pre-empting is another few years of America frowning at them while feeding their starving population.  A vote on the latest round of sanctions against North Korea’s nuclear program is expected this morning.

** Rand Paul nukes the Senate: Paul’s epic drone-strike filibuster of John Brennan’s nomination to head the CIA ended up lasting 13 hours, wrapping up just after midnight.  Other senators, including Republicans Mike Lee of Utah and Marco Rubio of Florida, Ted Cruz of Texas, and even Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon, tagged in to the verbal cage match.  Support was also extended from the House, as Rep. Louie Gohmert delivered cough drops and chocolate to ease the stress upon Senator Paul’s vocal cords.  (Marco Rubio entered the fray by offering to bring some bottled water.  The often media-clunky GOP finally has some people who understand the fine art of “callback” humor!  And it also looks like they’ve learned a few things about forcing the media to pay attention to them.)

Massive support poured in from the public via Twitter – which is questionable as a metric of overall national opinion, but does tend to influence coverage in other media.  Senator Cruz volunteered for duty as Twitter herald, reading messages of encouragement from the #standwithrand stream to Standing Rand.

Everyone is deeply vexed by the remarkable inability of the Obama Administration to come right out and say, “No, we can’t send killer robots to terminate American citizens on U.S. soil without due process.”  Attorney General Eric Holder wouldn’t even take the question seriously, pretending to be a dimwit (well, everyone assumes he had tongue in cheek) who thought Senator Cruz was asking him if Barack Obama could kill people simply because they were “sitting in the cafe and having a cup of coffee.”)  What happens if one of these drones becomes self-aware, goes rogue, and gets its hands on some of the guns Holder still hasn’t recovered from his Mexican gun-running operation?  Coffee shops will have to install anti-aircraft guns before customers feel safe again.

Senator Wyden, who has been one of the most stalwart drone skeptics among the Democrat caucus, mused that robot rubouts might be okay, provided the target is first notified that his name has popped up on our Nobel Prize-winning President’s kill list.  What would that be like?  An automated phone message?  “Hello, this is your official notification that you have been targeted for elimination by drone strike.  Press 1 to continue in English.”

Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer declared Paul’s filibuster “a stroke of political genius” and “a moment that people will say has launched him as a national figure.”  And Jon Stewart delivered the stamp of pop-culture approval, applauding Paul’s effort to “draw attention to the issue of executive executions” by executing “the classical old-school filibuster.”  Stewart added, “I can’t say I agree with Rand Paul about everything, but as issues go, drone oversight is certainly one worth kicking up a fuss for.”  Sarah Connor couldn’t have said it better.  Good show, Senator Paul!

** Hey, did you know there were survivors of the Benghazi attack?  And for some reason, they’ve been kept entirely secret and isolated for the past five months, even though they are recovering at Walter Reed military hospital, conveniently located near the Congressmen who would very much like to speak with them.   “We want talk to the survivors – they won???t do that.  And then the president has the gall to go on television and say ???oh, we???re providing all the access?’  Baloney.  Bull-crap.  That is not happening,” fumed Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT).  According to Chaffetz, the Administration won’t even supply the names of the survivors to congressional committees, although Secretary of State John Kerry has reportedly visited with them.  As his illustrious predecessor famously remarked when dismissing efforts to penetrate the layers of obfuscation and denial surrounding Barack Obama’s deadly Benghazi debacle, “At this point, what difference does it make?”

** Arkansas passes most restrictive abortion law in the United States: And the legislature did it with enough votes to override a veto from Democrat Governor Mike Beebe.  Beebe thinks the bill, which bans abortions after 12 weeks of pregnancy if the fetus has a detectable heartbeat, “blatantly contradicts the United States Constitution, as interpreted by the Supreme Court.”  Hey, so does ObamaCare, but that managed to survive.  An abortion supporter critical of the bill declared, “I stand for the little girl who thinks her voice has been taken away from her, and I’m 60 and I’m older and I want to say to that little girl, ‘you do have a choice.'”  That sounds confusing coming from an opponent of the bill, until you realize that the “voiceless little girls” she’s talking about are the ones having the abortions, not the ones getting aborted.  Those little girls can go right on being voiceless, apparently.

** Star prosecution witness in Zimmerman trial caught lying under oath: You remember George Zimmerman, don’t you?  The world’s most famous “white Hispanic” is on trial for the shooting of Trayvon Martin, which Zimmerman claims was an act of self-defense.  Zimmerman was swiftly tried and found guilty of racism, murder, and owning a gun while having a name that sounds white by the media and civil rights activists, but his actual court case has been proceeding very differently.  Now it has been learned that Martin’s girlfriend, whose cell-phone communication with Martin during his encounter with Zimmerman made her the chief witness in the case, lied under oath about her whereabouts on the day of Martin’s funeral.  She had falsely claimed she couldn’t attend because she was in the hospital, but when Zimmerman’s defense team sought her medical records, it was discovered that there weren’t any.  She was previously caught lying about her age, having falsely claimed to be 16 when she was really 18 at the time of the shooting.

It is not clear why she tendered this false information – she didn’t want to give the impression that she simply couldn’t be bothered to attend Trayvon’s funeral? –  but it doesn’t help her credibility as a witness.  Zimmerman’s lawyers seem confident they can win a jury trial.  They’re sending mixed signals about whether they’ll try to invoke the “stand your ground” self-defense law to avoid a trial.  “We decided to focus on the idea that George wants to have a jury of his peers decide his case. And it’s gonna be, I think, a more accepted result for everyone who has to accept the result — that he gets an acquittal at trial, more so than an immunity hearing given by a judge,” explained defense attorney Mark O’Mara.

** The joy of sequester food: President Obama went to dinner with a number of “rank and file” Senate Republicans last night.  “The guest list included Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Bob Corker of Tennessee, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Dan Coats of Indiana, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Mike Johanns of Nebraska, John Hoeven of North Dakota and Saxby Chambliss of Georgia,” reports Fox News.  No, they didn’t pile into a fast-food joint and order from the dollar menu, as would be fitting for a confab on “austerity” in the most bankrupt nation the world has ever seen.  They ate at the posh Jefferson Hotel, and the President reportedly paid the bill personally.  Everyone is taking great pains to describe this dinner meeting as significant but not too significant.  An end run around the GOP leadership?  Nonsense, says the GOP leadership.  Obama caving as his sequestration theatrics blow up in his face?  Not at all, says the President’s vast and highly compensated political apparatus.

Obama is supposed to have lunch with House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan today, but don’t read too much into that, either.  Ryan, despite his youthful appearance, is an old-fashioned fuddy duddy who insists on writing actual “budgets” for the federal government, a practice the cutting-edge sophisticates of the Democrat Party regard as hopelessly antiquated.