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Islamic State said on Saturday that a married couple who killed 14 people in California in an attack the FBI is investigating as an “act of terrorism” were followers of the militant group based in Syria and Iraq.
The group’s declaration, in an online radio broadcast comes three days after U.S.-born Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and his spouse, Tashfeen Malik, 29, a native of Pakistan, carried out the attack on a holiday party for civil servants in San Bernardino, about 60 miles (100 km) east of Los Angeles.
The two died hours later in a shootout with police.
U.S. government sources have said Malik and her husband may have been inspired by Islamic State, but there was no evidence the attack was directed by the militant group or that the organization even knew who they were. The party the couple attacked was for workers in the same local government agency that employed Farook.
If Wednesday’s mass shooting proves to have been the work of people inspired bys as investigators now suspect, it would mark the deadliest such attack in the United States since Sept. 11, 2001.”Two followers of Islamic State attacked several days ago a center in San Bernadino in California,” the group’s daily online radio broadcast al-Bayan said on Saturday.
The broadcast came a day after Facebook confirmed that comments praising Islamic State were posted around the time of the mass shooting to an account on the social media website established by Malik under an alias.
However, it was uncertain whether the comments were posted by Malik herself or someone with access to her page.
“I know it was in a general timeline where that post was made, and yes, there was a pledge of allegiance,” David Bowdich, assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Los Angeles office, told a news conference about a reported loyalty pledge posted on Facebook by Malik on the day of the attack.
A Facebook Inc spokesman said the profile in question was removed by the company on Thursday for violating its community standards barring promotion or praise for “acts of terror.” He declined to elaborate on the material.
CNN and other news media outlets reported the Facebook posts on Malik’s page included a pledge of allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
FBI officials said mounting signs of advanced preparations, the large cache of armaments amassed by the couple and evidence that they “attempted to destroy their digital fingerprints” helped tip the balance of the investigation.
“Based on the information and the facts as we know them, we are now investigating these horrific acts as an act of terrorism,” Bowdich told reporters.
He said the FBI hoped examination of data retrieved from two smashed cellphones and other electronic devices seized in the investigation would lead to a motive for the attack.
The couple had two assault-style rifles, two semi-automatic handguns, 6,100 rounds of ammunition and 12 pipe bombs in their home or with them when they were killed, officials said. And Bowdich said they may have been planning an additional attack.
Speaking to reporters separately in Washington on Friday, FBI Director James Comey said the investigation pointed to “radicalization of the killers and of potential inspiration by foreign terrorist organisations.”
Many mistakenly believe his first such speech, delivered on February 24, 2009, just over a month into his presidency, was a State of the Union address. It wasn’t. He spoke about conditions in the country that night, but above all else, his speech was intended not to be a general statement on the health of the country, but rather had a single purpose: to build confidence in his approach to slowing and reversing the recession.
“Tonight I want every American to know this,” he said, “We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.”
He next appeared before Congress on September 9th of that same year, to clarify the elements of the health-care reform plan he wanted. He tried to be conciliatory and reach out to Republicans and Democrats alike. But he was adamant about ending the debate on the issue and getting legislation enacted.
“The time for bickering is over,” he declared. “The time for games has passed. Now is the season for action.”
“Now is the time to deliver on health care, he said emphatically and repeated that sentence.”
That was the speech that will be remembered for a breach of protocol, when Rep. Joe Wilson, R-South Carolina, shouted “You lie” after Mr. Obama stated that his plan would not fund abortion nor provide coverage to illegal immigrants. Wilson was widely denounced, and he later apologized.
It was in that speech that the President also vowed that he would not sign a health care plan that adds so much as “a dime” to current or future deficits.
He delivered his first State of the Union address on January 27, 2010, a year and a week after taking office. It was only at the end of that 70-minute speech that he came to his main message:
“Let’s seize this moment to start anew,” he declared.
“We don’t quit,” he said of America. “I don’t quit,” he asserted for himself. He got to sign his health care bill into law less than two months later, on March 23, 2010.
Mr. Obama was invited to deliver his second State of the Union address on January 25, 2011. He used the speech to call for more U.S. innovation and competitiveness as a way to grow the economy, promote exports and create jobs. It was that night that many members of Congress arranged to sit next to members of the opposite political party, in a symbolic move toward bipartisanship. It didn’t last.
In between his second and third State of the Union speeches, President Obama returned to address Congress again on September 8, 2011, to further discuss ways to grow the economy and create jobs. His plan included a call for tax cuts and incentives, subsidies for infrastructure construction, and funding for teacher and first responder jobs.
Five months later, his third State of the Union was a reprise. He used that speech to unveil a blueprint for “An America Built to Last ” It, too, called for economic enhancement through growth of manufacturing, the energy sector, worker skills and American values.
He delivered his fourth State of the Union on February 12, 2013. It was on that day that North Korea conducted a nuclear test explosion. The president issued a statement at 1:50 a.m. denouncing the North Korean action as “highly provocative and a threat to U.S. national security.” His speech that night was a laundry list of proposals including immigration, gun control and a call to raise the national minimum wage to $9.00 an hour.
His most recent appearance before a joint session was January 28, 2014, his fifth State of the Union address. He said it could be “a breakthrough year for America.”
“After five years of grit and determined effort, the United States is better positioned for the 21st century than any other nation on Earth.”
But he said not much would be accomplished unless the “rancorous” arguments over the proper size and function of government were brought to an end. They were not.
So now, President Obama prepares to deliver his sixth State of the Union. For the first time, he faces a Congress in which both chambers have Republican majorities.
He has been previewing his proposals since the start of the year all designed to show he intends to press his agenda, despite a Congress in the control of the opposition.
He wants his speech to keep him relevant and engaged and avoid the appellation every president comes to detest in their final years: “lame duck.”
Mitt Romney, after revealing to donors just days ago he’s considering a third presidential bid, has aggressively cranked up his outreach to political allies, leaving Republican operatives with the impression that he, indeed, is likely to join the 2016 horse race.
Calls from Romney went to several other boldface names in Republican politics, including Ryan; former House Speaker Newt Gingrich; New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte and the state’s former governor, John Sununu; Meg Whitman, chief executive at Hewlett-Packard Co.; Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz; two former senators, Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Jim Talent of Missouri; and David Kochel, Romney’s senior Iowa strategist in both of his previous campaigns.
One long-time adviser who has spoken to Romney in the last few days said, “It is “very likely” the 2012 Republican presidential nominee will announce a 2016 campaign for president in the next three to four weeks.
Fred Malek, the self-made billionaire who serves as finance chairman for the Republican Governors Association, said Tuesday he believes both Romney and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush will seek the GOP nomination next year.
“They’ve taken this forward a lot faster and a lot further than I would have imagined,” Malek said in an interview “And I don’t think they would have done that unless they have a serious intent on moving ahead.”
Others close to Romney who for months denied interest in another White House campaign are pushing back on the notion that a 2016 bid is inevitable.
“I would not say he is reassembling his  staff. He is giving it a lot of thought and a lot of effort,” a senior Romney aide said. “He is talking to a lot of people. This is Mitt Romney’s decision.”
But the developments show Romney actively checking the pulse of the party and inching ever-closer to a decision one he’ll likely have to make soon.
After revealing to donors last week that he was weighing a bid, Romney has been busy phoning GOP leaders as well as former supporters from his unsuccessful 2012 bid. This includes calls to advisers and insiders in New Hampshire, which holds the first-in-the-nation primary.
Veteran New Hampshire GOP operative Tom Rath, an adviser to Romney’s presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2012, said he spoke to Romney by phone recently and “he’s taking a hard look at it.”
He added, “He’s leaning towards making another [presidential] run.”
Rath said he committed himself to Romney should the winner of the 2012 New Hampshire GOP primary make a third run.
“He’s asking his people to hold in place until he makes a decision, which those of us who worked for him before are willing to do,” Rath said. “It was a nice call, and we agreed that we’d be speaking again soon.”
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., also confirmed Tuesday that Romney has reached out to her. “He is very enthusiastic,” she said.
In his phone calls, Romney is emphasizing to them that his wife Ann and their five sons are “fully on board” with another campaign; and that if he runs, he will do things “very differently.”
Romney is said to believe that with the exception of Bush, the other members of the Republican field do not have the experience, fundraising ability or institutional footing to build a truly national operation, as he has done twice; and that he is better positioned to defeat likely Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton than Bush would be.
But as the longtime adviser cautioned, “The egg timer is on,” with “the sub-primary” already in full swing and major financial donors receiving calls “every hour” from Romney’s potential GOP rivals.
Another Romney aide said that the former Massachusetts governor has a short window to make a decision on a presidential bid at most, a month.
Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee has invited Romney to speak at its winter meeting near San Diego this week. Bush, who will be in California this week for fundraising events, was also invited to the RNC event but has no plans currently to attend the meeting.
Elsewhere. Romney’s 2012 running mate Rep. Paul Ryan decided to end speculation about his own entry into the race.
“After giving it a lot of thought, I’ve decided not to run for president,” Ryan said in a statement. “Our work at the House Ways and Means Committee over the next few years will be crucial to moving America forward, and my job as Chairman deserves undivided attention.”
The Republican and Democratic potential presidential candidates are beginning to focus on 2016, evaluating their chances and building on the contacts they’ve accumulated over the last few years. Some have been at it for some time, some are still thinking about running. While many candidates are being discussed or having their supporters see about getting them discussed, this long list will shorten in the months ahead.
Some have already let it be known that they won’t be running. Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman, widely reported as considering running, announced last week that he would not be a candidate in 2016. While perhaps still pondering a race, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan has begun talking about how he intends to focus on what he can do as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and his desire to spend more rather than less time in his home state.
The Democrats have, or think they have, a potential winner in Hillary Rodham Clinton. She leads all other potential contenders, but when the leading competitor is Vice President Joe Biden, the candidate every Republican would like to run against, that’s not surprising. We’re told by her supporters in the media that she’s a slam dunk for the nomination and, of course, would win handily against any Republican. Maybe, but we were told the same thing in 2007 before she was blown away by an obscure Illinois senator as voters discovered that she wasn’t a very good candidate. Now she’s eight years older, served an undistinguished stint at State, and may not be quite as ready for the presidency as those proclaiming themselves ready for her assume.
If Mrs. Clinton proves once again to have a political glass jaw, her party has a problem. VP Joe Biden doesn’t pass the giggle test; New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo may be too busy dodging subpoenas; and Maryland’s Gov. Martin O’Malley went down in flames by proxy on Nov. 4 as he tried to build support for his successor and create a populist legacy. That leaves Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a modern day George McGovern in a skirt and without a war record, who appeals narrowly to leftist firebrands within her party, but has yet to establish any reach, or maybe Vermont’s Bernie Sanders who seems to actually believe that the Birkenstocked crowd that elects him in Vermont is representative of the broader American electorate.
If they were race horses, most of them would be left at the gate or turn up lame on the first turn. To paraphrase former Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld on countries and their armies, parties go to war with the candidates they have rather than those they might wish to have.
The Republicans seem better off. They have at least a half dozen credible contenders and more who are hoping lightning will strike if those who look like heavyweights today stumble early. Republicans have governors like New Jersey’s Chris Christie, Ohio’s John Kasich, Wisconsin’s Scott Walker and Indiana’s Mike Pence, along with former governors like Texas’ Rick Perry and Florida’s Jeb Bush, Arkansas’ Mike Huckabee and even 2012 nominee Mitt Romney and long shots like former Maryland Gov. Bob Erlich and Virginia’s Jim Gilmore being talked about or laying the groundwork for what each hopes will be a serious campaign.
That’s a lot of potential candidates, but there are also senators like Texas’ Ted Cruz, Kentucky’s Rand Paul and Florida’s Marco Rubio who may well run along with former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and the aforementioned Paul Ryan.
Then there are “civilians” like U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, Dr. Ben Carson and former California Senate candidate and Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina to name three. All in all, that’s quite a cadre of pols and before it’s over there may be more.
Today’s polls mean little because they reflect name identification and because normal people aren’t yet thinking seriously about who they will support when the time comes. So today’s polls would suggest that the “front runners” are Mrs. Clinton and either Jeb Bush or Mitt Romney.
These are the best known of the bunch and will no doubt attract a lot of big money early if they actually run, although the idea that Mr. Romney has the stomach for a rerun of 2012 seems far-fetched. Many believe that if the American people discover their choices are once again between a Clinton and a Bush, millions of voters may tune out or slit their wrists.
Pundits like to talk about the future as if historical trends will hold true, but we are living in a new age politically, culturally and technologically and the old rules may prove as useful as the polls taken before this fall’s elections in predicting what’s going to happen as the 2016 cycle begins.
Midterm elections are about the past; presidential races are about the future. One suspects that both of these wannabes fear that try as they might it may prove difficult if not impossible for the Bushes and Clintons to persuade a skeptical public that the future is what their candidacies are about.
The upsets last November demonstrated one thing hidden behind the name calling and negative attempts of candidates of both parties to paint their opponents as Satan’s representatives on earth: candidates who focused on real solutions to real problems did better than those who played by the old rules. That, above all, was a sign that voters have had enough. They know the country is facing some real challenges and are looking for leaders who will face them rather than spend their time blaming them on others.
Only a fool would predict at this stage who will prove up to that challenge, but one thing we can predict right now: The race for the presidency in 2016 is going to be one heckuva spectacle.
Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu lost her Senate runoff race Saturday night, felled by the red tide that’s swept the South and ties to an unpopular President that she couldn’t shake. Landrieu’s Republican opponent Rep. Bill Cassidy won easily meaning Republicans have picked up nine Senate seats this election cycle and will have control of 54 seats in the chamber next year.
Once seen as Democrats’ strongest incumbent, Landrieu ended up such a long-shot in her runoff with Cassidy that the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee cut its investment in the state, a move that Landrieu decried as leaving “a soldier on the field.”
In her concession speech, Landrieu touted her own “record of courage, honesty and integrity and delivering for the state when it mattered the most.”
The senator also said she didn’t regret her vote for Obamacare, which the GOP used to attack her and every other vulnerable Democratic senator this cycle.
“This is something to be proud of, and I’m glad we fought for it,” she said, touting some of the benefits of the law.
“Shake it Off,” Taylor Swift’s pop anthem to moving past defeat and ignoring critics, played as Landrieu hugged the staff and family members gathered on the stage.
And tears could be seen throughout the crowd as the event wound down on Saturday night.
An energetic Cassidy, meanwhile, opened his victory speech with a surprised, “whoa!” He told his supporters his win was the “exclamation point” on the declaration that “we want our country to go in a conservative direction,” which was made with the GOP’s resounding wins on Nov. 4.
He was introduced at his victory party by GOP Sen. David Vitter, who endorsed the congressman and has been active in the race for him. And Cassidy was joined on stage by his onetime GOP foe in the race, retired Air Force colonel Rob Maness, who ran as a conservative alternative to him during the first round of voting but endorsed him in the runoff.
Landrieu ran hard through the very end, insisting even Saturday morning, outside the school where she cast her ballot, that there was still a shot.
Landrieu’s campaign pitch centered around her clout in the Senate, and what she can do for the state in Washington. But that argument lost much of its potency on Nov. 4, when Democrats lost the Senate and Landrieu could no longer tout a committee chairmanship.
And Landrieu was never able to effectively localize the race and distance herself from the president, while Republicans tied her to him at every opportunity.
Indeed, even Landrieu’s supporters seemed to know it was over before Election Night.
Cassidy ran a largely error-free, if exceptionally safe, campaign. He held infrequent campaign stops during the runoff and stayed entirely out of the state for the final week of the runoff, returning only for a Monday debate and two rallies Friday.
The Republican National Committee had around 300 staffers in the state and used the runoff period as a testing ground for field and data methods. Republicans wanted, they said, to put an “exclamation mark” on their wins on Nov. 4.
Republicans matched their party’s post-World War II record for most House seats held Saturday night by retaining two Louisiana constituencies also in runoff votes.
The GOP holds 246 seats, compared to 188 for Democrats, with one race, in Arizona’s 2nd District, still outstanding. The 246 seats match the total the GOP had in 1947-49 when Harry S. Truman occupied the White House.
In the midterm election rout, House Republicans prevailed on Democratic turf, netting 12 seats and winning in New York, Illinois, Maine, New Hampshire and Iowa. Republican challengers knocked out long-term Democratic incumbents in Georgia and West Virginia, seats that the GOP now could hold for generations as the party maintains its stranglehold on the South.
The GOP had entered the Nov. 4 midterm elections with a 234-201 edge. Democrats had held out hope of minimizing their losses despite Obama’s low popularity and historic losses for the party occupying the White House. Democrats did manage to win three Republican-held seats in California, Florida and Nebraska, but Republicans had far greater success around the country.
Obama suffered an ignominious distinction. His party lost 63 seats in 2010 and then 12 more this year, and he is now the two-term president with the most midterm defeats, edging past Truman’s 74.
There’s still an automatic recount in a Democratic-held district in the Tucson, Arizona-area. Rep. Ron Barber trails Republican challenger Martha McSally by fewer than 200 voters.
If McSally wins, Republicans would have 247 seats, the largest majority since 1929-31 when the GOP controlled 270 seats in President Herbert Hoover’s administration.