- Created on 04 October 2013
A damaged Capitol Hill police car is surrounded by crime scene tape after a car chase and shooting in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013. On Thursday, police shot and killed 34-year-old Miriam Carey, of Stamford, Conn., after a car chase that began when Carey tried to breach a barrier at the White House. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
(CNN) -- The images filled the screen. A black car hitting barricades at the White House and on Capitol Hill, marked police cars being rammed, and the popping sounds of shots fired. More images rolled in, of heavily armed United States Capitol Police officers and of tourists running with scared and confused expressions.
In the aftermath of the scene that unfolded Thursday, a Connecticut woman is dead and a 1-year-old girl is in protective custody. The natural question people are asking is: Was it necessary for the police to shoot?
Washington Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier said that, yes, officers of the Capitol Police and Secret Service acted within commonly accepted use-of-force policies and practices in reaction to an intentional series of violent acts.
But some have wondered whether police overreacted in this case. This is a question that comes up every time there is a shooting by police.
In fact, many studies have found that police use force less often than the public realizes. For example, a 12-month study by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics found that only 1.4% of people who had contact with the police had force used or threatened to be used against them.
I certainly concede that sometimes bad officers do bad things, and occasionally good officers do bad things accidentally. However, I also have found that most officers are honorable men and women making split-second decisions while trying to serve their communities.
So how should you judge the use of force by law enforcement officers?
Consider reasonableness: Police officers are trained to quickly assess possible threats. Force, particularly deadly force (with firearms, in this case), may be used if officers can explain their perception of the physical threats that put them and/or others at substantial risk of serious bodily injury or death. We can't Monday-morning quarterback the officers based on information that comes out later. We can only look at what a reasonable officer knew or should have known, and did or should have done, in a given situation.
Departmental policies and police training in the United States reflect the "objective reasonableness" principle put forth in the U.S. Supreme Court's 1989 Graham v. Connor decision, which applies a three-part test to assess the seriousness of the offense, the suspect threat, and the suspect's resistance or evasiveness.
And let's also consider facts, not emotional spin. Even though at first blush it appears to be a justified shooting, there should be no rush to final judgment in either direction before an examination of the facts in a fair and impartial investigation. As Lanier indicated in her press conference Thursday night, the Metropolitan Police will be investigating, with support from the Capitol Police and Secret Service.
In the wake of last month's Naval Yard shooting, and with the specter of other past violent acts -- such as the shooting of two heroic U.S. Capitol Police officers by a man who breached security in July 1998 -- law enforcement in Washington has been on heightened alert.
Cars can be used for delivering explosive devices. And let's not forget, as at least two injured federal officers experienced in this incident: The car itself is a 2,000-pound weapon that can cause serious injury or death when used as a battering ram.
Would a reasonable officer -- faced suddenly with a driver trying to ram barricades at high-profile targets like the White House, ramming police cars and injuring uniformed officers repeatedly -- perceive a serious offense, threat, or evasiveness?
Whether the driver was mentally ill was not a factor that the officers had the luxury of contemplating as they quickly assessed the threat and decided on a course of action.
Pending the final facts, it appears that all three prongs of the "objective reasonableness" standard were present.
- Created on 03 October 2013
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama (pictured far right) laid the blame for the government's partial shutdown at the feet of House Speaker John Boehner (pictured), escalating a government-shutdown confrontation that was leading headlong into a potentially more damaging clash over the nation's borrowing authority.
Speaking at a construction company in Washington's Maryland suburbs Thursday, Obama cast Boehner as a captive of a small band of conservative Republicans who want to extract concessions in exchange for passing a short term spending bill that would restart the partially shuttered government.
"The only thing preventing people from going back to work and basic research starting back up and farmers and small business owners getting their loans, the only thing that is preventing all that from happening right now, today, in the next five minutes is that Speaker John Boehner won't even let the bill get a yes or no vote because he doesn't want to anger the extremists in his party," Obama said.
The dispute over the shutdown deepened worries about a bigger problem rumbling ever closer — a mid-October deadline for increasing the government's borrowing limit before it runs out of money to pay creditors. The U.S. Treasury warned on Thursday that failure to raise that debt ceiling could spark a new recession even worse than the one Americans are still recovering from.
"The President remains hopeful that common sense will prevail," the White House said in a written statement after an unproductive meeting at the White House about the political standoff that has idled 800,000 federal workers and halted an array of services Americans expect from their government.
Boehner, R-Ohio, complained to reporters that Obama had used the meeting simply to declare anew that he won't negotiate over his health care law.
House Republicans, pushed by a core of Tea Party conservatives, are insisting that Obama accept changes to the health care law he pushed through Congress three years ago as part of the price for reopening all of government. Obama refuses to consider any deal linking the health care law to routine legislation needed to extend government funding or to raise the nation's debt limit.
"We're probably through negotiating with ourselves," Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said on MSNBC.
Republicans who initially sought to defund the health care law in exchange for funding the rest of government have gradually scaled back their demands but say they need some sort of offer from Obama.
Expressing frustration after the White House meeting, Boehner said: "All we're asking for here is a discussion and fairness for the American people under Obamacare."
The White House said Obama would be happy to talk about health care — but only after Congress moves to reopen the government "and stop the harm this shutdown is causing to the economy and families across the country."
If the shutdown dispute persists, it could become entangled with the even more consequential battle over the debt limit. The Obama administration has said Congress must renew the government's authority to borrow money by Oct. 17th or risk a first-ever federal default, which many economists say would dangerously jangle the world economy.
Treasury's report Thursday said defaulting on the nation's debts could cause the nation's credit markets to freeze, the value of the dollar to plummet, and U.S. interest rates to skyrocket.
The shutdown stalemate is already rattling investors. Stock markets in the United States and overseas faded Wednesday, and Europe's top central banker, Mario Draghi, called the shutdown "a risk if protracted." Leading financial executives met with Obama, and one Goldman Sachs CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, said politicians should not use a potential default "as a cudgel."
Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill said the House could easily defuse the worsening situation.
"Get us through this six weeks and then let's sit down and figure out how we pay our debts and bring down federal spending," McCaskill of Missouri, said on MSNBC.
Republicans planned to continue pursuing their latest strategy: muscling bills through the House that would restart some popular programs.
Votes were on tap for restoring funds for veterans and paying members of the National Guard and Reserves. On Wednesday, the chamber voted to finance the national parks and biomedical research and let the District of Columbia's municipal government spend federally controlled dollars.
Democrats demanded that the entire government be reopened, and the White House and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., made clear that the GOP's narrower bills have no chance of survival. They said the strategy showed that Republicans were buckling under public pressure, with Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y., saying groups like veterans were being "used as a pawn in this cynical political game."
Republicans countered that Democrats were being inflexible and were to blame for the continued closure of programs the GOP was trying to reopen. A favorite target was Reid, who has made clear that the Senate will be a graveyard for the Republican effort.
"The Senate's refusal to work with the House is an all-time low," Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla., said.
Reid told reporters that Obama and Democrats are "locked in tight" on not diluting the health care law.
In an interview afterward, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., scoffed at the President's stance.
"He can't get his way exactly the way he wants it because he doesn't control the entire government," McConnell said on CNBC's "The Kudlow Report."
Democrats continued lambasting Boehner and freshman Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, the tea party hero, who has helped sell fellow conservatives in both chambers on keeping the government shuttered until Obama retreats on his coveted health care law.
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and other House conservatives said they met with Cruz and other Senate conservatives Wednesday to update each other on what was happening.
"We think we just have to keep talking about our message, which is real simple: 'Treat people fairly,'" Jordan said.
Republican leaders and many rank-and-file GOP lawmakers, especially in the Senate, had been reluctant to link demands for curbing the health care law to legislation keeping government open, concerned that voters would blame Republicans for any shutdown.
But Wednesday, Republicans solidly opposed an unsuccessful Democratic move to force the House to vote on a Senate-passed bill keeping government open until Nov. 15 without any strings on the health care law.
"Now that we've jumped off the cliff, lit ourselves on fire, we've entered the valley of death," said Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., who has criticized the conservatives' strategy. "So now we've got to keep running and we have to hold together."
The House has approved legislation keeping the entire government funded through Dec. 15. It also would impose a one-year delay in the health care law's requirement that individuals buy health insurance, which would threaten to cripple the program, and block federal subsidies for health coverage bought by lawmakers and their staff.
As the politicians battled, mail continued to be delivered, air traffic controllers remained at work, and payments were being made to recipients of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and unemployment benefits.
Taxes were still due, but lines at IRS call centers went unanswered.
Halted were most routine food inspections by the Food and Drug Administration and some loan approvals for many low- and- middle-income borrowers were thrust into low gear by the Housing and Urban Development Department. National parks were closed.
Workers were furloughed based on how essential their jobs were to the nation: Only 3 percent of NASA employees were kept on, while 86 percent at the Homeland Security Department were working.
- Created on 02 October 2013
CNN host Don Lemon lays blame for the government shutdown squarely on the GOP.
The government shut down at midnight on Tuesday after Congress failed to reach a spending agreement.
"I am so mad this morning," Lemon said Tuesday on Tom Joyner's radio show. "As I've been watching lawmakers over the last few weeks debate the issues that led to the shutdown--you know what that is, health care--I felt helpless and I felt betrayed to say the least... One, because of the false narrative that both sides caused this shutdown. That's not true. It was caused by Republicans, mainly Tea Party Republicans."
He lamented the intricacies and unfairness of the country's health care system, and said the best way to avoid it altogether was to live a healthful lifestyle.
"Today, I am making a pledge to myself and to you, and I hope you join me, to do whatever is in your control, big or small, to make your health, your life better," Lemon said. His 30-day pledge includes eating better, getting a check-up, exercising and cutting out soda and juice as well as alcohol.
- Created on 30 September 2013
(CNN) -- As Washington hurtles toward a government shutdown, the go-to move for the uninformed is to blame both sides equally. Just say, "A pox on both their houses," and you can get through any neighborhood barbecue or TV talk show.
But what if you really want to know what's happening? There are three metrics you should track if you want to know who will come out ahead in a government shutdown:
Which side is more united?
One of President Clinton's laws of politics is: "Democrats want to fall in love, Republicans just want to fall in line." Which is what makes the GOP fratricide so interesting.
Savaging your colleagues, undermining your leaders, backbiting and backstabbing -- these are usually Democratic specialties. But not now. Credit the strong leadership of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid with keeping a remarkably diverse Democratic Congress together. When you can keep a strong conservative like Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia on the same page with the powerfully progressive Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, you are definitely winning.
Meanwhile, the GOP, whose members range from conservative to ultraconservative, is at war with itself and its leaders. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas led the fight on the Senate floor to block consideration of the funding bill. But after a pointless 21-hour talkathon, the majority of his GOP colleagues rejected Cruz's strategy. Senate Republicans split badly and bitterly; 25 voted against Cruz while just 19 voted with him.
In the House, it is chaos. The Neanderthals are fighting the Cro-Magnons and the Homo erectus tough guys are fighting the australopithecines.
Which side is more mainstream?
A majority of voters don't like the Affordable Care Act -- although that's a bit misleading, because a percentage of them dislike it because they think it doesn't go far enough.
I like it -- in fact, I love it -- but that's not the point of this column. Obamacare clocks in at just 29% support in a recent CNBC poll. So you'd think that the Republicans' position of repealing the ACA would be more mainstream. But you'd be wrong.
That same CNBC poll shows that Americans oppose defunding Obamacare, with only a little more than one-third of voters saying they want it defunded. They want to mend it, not end it.
What's worse for the Republicans, when the question shifts to whether you support shutting down the government and/or defaulting on U.S. debt in order to kill Obamacare, the GOP position loses by a crushing 59 to 19 percentage points. When you're down to just 19% of your countrymen and -women supporting your crusade, it's time (as we say in Texas) to pee on the fire and call the dogs: The hunt's over.
That is, no doubt, why the House Republicans have retreated to their new position: delaying Obamacare for a year rather than outright defunding it. But health care delayed is health care denied, and it's a bit of a reach to demand a one-year delay in the president's top domestic priority in exchange for funding the government for 10 weeks.
Which side is more reasonable?
It is hard to seem reasonable when you are pursuing a strategy that even conservative Republicans like Sen. Richard Burr called "the dumbest idea I've ever heard of." Keep in mind this is from a man who represents North Carolina, where the Republicans proposed a law barring federal courts from interpreting the Constitution, and allowing the North Carolina Legislature to declare a state religion. (Which might have passed had they chosen the right religion for the Tarheel State: college basketball.)
And yet there is hope for the GOP here. Every time the president says "I will not negotiate on the debt ceiling" -- a phrase he utters even more often than "Just pass me the ball, Joe, I'm open!" -- he risks looking unreasonable.
As a matter of substance, I strongly agree with his position. But as a matter of rhetoric and positioning, he would be better served to state his position this way: "I will gladly listen to any idea to improve the Affordable Care Act, or reduce the deficit, or any other ideas my Republican friends might have. But first we have to avoid default. That means paying the bills that Congress has already incurred. Once we've done that we can negotiate on anything."
Same substantive position: Negotiations on policy come only after the nation avoids default. But this formulation emphasizes the president's willingness to be flexible on improving the ACA and other Obama priorities.
Of course, nothing is certain in life. But if I were a betting man, I'd bet on President Obama and the Democrats in this fight. As long as Republicans appear more divided, more extreme and more unreasonable, they are going to lose. And then they will look weak as well.