Nov. 28th, 2015

Originally published here in the Wisconsin State Journal, Nov. 28, 2015.

This time of year I am fortunate to live near a variety of family-owned businesses where I can purchase holiday treats for family and friends who have a sweet tooth like me. Among my longtime favorites in Oshkosh are Oaks and Hughes chocolates, as well as Caramel Crisp on Main.

But there’s another reason at Thanksgiving to think about small businesses, whether you’ve got a sweet tooth or not: Small Business Saturday.

Our country faces serious challenges, and the No. 1 solution that helps address all of them is economic growth. That solution relies on renewed faith, strength in families, strong communities, and work — and small businesses provide those ingredients. Supporting them this Saturday, rather than skipping from Black Friday to Cyber Monday, is a good way to make a difference this year.

You know these businesses, and it’s my hope that more of us than ever will continue to be faithful to them. They’re the one-of-a-kind spots on State Street in Madison, the quaint shops all over the North Woods, and the well-known storefronts on Main Street in your hometown. Shopping at small businesses means supporting local business people — the folks who spend their money in your community and who contribute to local causes. It also means supporting the people who fire up an important but undervalued jobs engine.

About one in five jobs in Wisconsin were created by a new business 5 years old or less, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, small businesses made up nearly 98 percent of all employers in Wisconsin.

I’ve had the opportunity to see many small businesses up close as I’ve traveled across our state — places like Rural Route 1 Popcorn in Montfort, Towne House Restaurant in Darlington, Door County Coffee and Ice Cream Shop near Carlsville, Fish Creek’s Not Licked and the famous Wilson’s Ice Cream in Ephraim.

Small Business Saturday is a reminder of the many industries that are fueled by small businesses. During Manufacturing Month in October, for example, I had the opportunity to tour 10 different manufacturing facilities. They varied in size, but they all had to start small. My experience starting a plastics manufacturing company in 1979 confirms to me the truth of what Vince Lombardi once said: “The only time success comes before work is in the dictionary.”

People who aspire to build things, create products and provide services we all value know the hard work involved in building a business that creates the well-paid jobs that everyone desires.

Ultimately, we need to make it easier to start a business and grow those that already exist. I’m focused on getting Washington out of the way so the Wisconsinites on Main Street can put more people to work.

In the meantime, I hope you’ll consider Small Business Saturday an opportunity to spread a little holiday cheer, support folks in your community, and add fuel to an important economic engine. Every little bit helps, whether it’s at a jewelry store, a sporting goods retailer — or a favorite chocolate shop.

With the holiday season upon us, please remember to support your local small businesses.


Sept. 11th, 2015

"Instead of accepting the West’s outstretched hand of friendship for the benefit of the Russian people, Putin took advantage of our good intentions to consolidate his hold on power."

Originally published here in The Ripon Forum, Sept. 11, 2015

In 2009, the Obama administration “reset” relations with Russia, an attempt at unilateral withdrawal and concession to curry favor and gain cooperation from Vladimir Putin’s regime.  Unfortunately, the reset has proved to be a miserable failure because Putin respects only strength and is adroit at perceiving weakness and fully exploiting it.

Two years after that reset and within a few months of becoming a U.S. senator, I saw this first-hand.  In April 2011, I traveled to Georgia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia with a congressional delegation led by Minority Whip Jon Kyl, a knowledgeable head of the Senate’s National Security Working Group.

Twenty years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the purpose of the trip was to gain insight into the challenges facing these nations that have been well described as a “belt of freedom and democracy” buffering the rest of Europe from Russia.

What we saw was summed up by what our delegation wrote: “The process of developing democracy and building a free-market economic system after 50 years of communist subjugation is hard enough. But having to deal with a large and menacing neighbor bent on sabotaging their efforts makes it all the more difficult.”

Following the breakup of the Soviet Union, the West reached out to include Russia in the promise of a Europe whole, free and at peace.  Billions of dollars from the West were invested in Russia, multinational organizations were expanded to include Russia, and military cooperation and disarmament treaties were agreed to — all in an effort to help make the world a safer place.

But instead of accepting the West’s outstretched hand of friendship for the benefit of the Russian people, Putin took advantage of our good intentions to consolidate his hold on power.   Instead of looking to that “belt of freedom and democracy” with an attitude of cooperation to achieve mutual prosperity, Putin viewed success in those nations as a threat to his control.  He correctly calculated that if the breakaway republics succeeded with freedom and democracy, the long-suffering Russian people would begin demanding the same, and his grip on power would be loosened.

Instead of accepting the West’s outstretched hand of friendship for the benefit of the Russian people, Putin took advantage of our good intentions to consolidate his hold on power.

His undermining of these fledgling democracies has been longstanding, persistent and highly effective.  The legacy of corruption within public institutions is difficult to overcome in the best of situations.  Putin does everything he can to maintain and exacerbate that corruption.  His use of propaganda is pervasive, and the West has done little to respond.  His propaganda’s lies are outrageous, but without effective rebuttal, they have become the accepted reality.

Two years after that trip in 2011, I joined the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, serving as ranking member and, now, chairman of its European Subcommittee.  I have taken multiple trips to Ukraine and other Eastern European countries.  I have seen how the pressure that Putin has been applying in Eastern Europe has increased significantly, as evidenced by his most recent military aggressions.

Putin invaded Georgia in late 2008 as the West was distracted by the financial system meltdown and a U.S. presidential election.   In 2011, I stood at the new “border” of South Ossetia, just 33 miles north of Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi, looking through binoculars at the Russian guard post.  It was a bizarre and sobering experience to witness concrete evidence of a post-Cold War Russian invasion.

Quick and resolute reaction by the Bush administration and our European allies during the Georgia invasion halted Putin’s advance, but he has not withdrawn.  Similar to the “frozen conflict” in the Russian backed Transnistria region of Moldova, Putin consolidated his gains and then patiently waited for his next opportunity to seize for Russia what the Soviet Union once controlled.

Unfolding events in Ukraine and the Middle East combined to present that opportunity.  The brave protesters of the Maidan succeeded in overthrowing Putin’s puppet in Ukraine, a result Putin was loath to accept — and one that he didn’t.  With the new Ukrainian government struggling to overcome decades of corruption and failed communist policies, with its military purposely hollowed out by Putin’s puppet, and with the West distracted by the deteriorating conditions in the Middle East, especially in Syria, Putin made his move on Crimea.

With an overwhelming military presence already located at Russian naval bases, the takeover of Crimea was met with virtually no resistance, prompting Putin to set his sights on a larger target, Eastern Ukraine.   In testimony before our committee, experts described Putin’s actions as an invasion consisting of 15,000 Russian troops on Ukrainian territory.  President Obama should utilize the authority passed unanimously by Congress to supply lethal defensive weaponry to the courageous Ukrainians fighting for their territorial integrity and freedom.

As Putin advances, the Obama administration continues to talk about offering Putin “off ramps.” To prevent even greater destabilization in Europe, the West must realize that Putin isn’t looking for “off ramps.” He’s only biding his time and looking for the next “on ramp.”

May 29th, 2015 

“It would also give America an informed choice in the 2016 election between Obamacare and an affordable replacement.”

Originally published here in USA Today, May 27, 2015

Americans went to the polls in November 2012 unaware that President Obama's assurance, "If you like your health care plan, you can keep it," would be crowned "Lie of the Year" by PolitiFact. A year later, millions of Americans lost health care plans they liked and could afford while also losing access to doctors they knew and trusted.

It is difficult to hold a rational political argument based on predictions. Besides, former governor Mitt Romney, author of "Romneycare" in Massachusetts, was particularly ill-suited to make the case against Obamacare. As a result, repeal and replacement of Obamacare was not the central issue of 2012.

Now that Obamacare has been implemented and Americans can judge both the good and the bad in it, it should be a central issue in the 2016 elections. The upcoming decision in the King v. Burwell case at the Supreme Court could force that political debate.

Because Obamacare was sloppily written and unlawfully implemented, millions of Americans using federal exchanges could lose their taxpayer-funded subsidies. A bill I have authored would protect patients — and give America an informed choice in the 2016 election between Obamacare and an affordable replacement.

The Preserving Freedom and Choice in Health Care Act would allow Americans to keep their current health care plans, including Obamacare, and their taxpayer subsidies through August 2017. It would restore to Americans some of the freedom Obamacare denies them.

My bill repeals the individual mandate, ending penalties on Americans exercising their right not to purchase insurance. It repeals the employer mandate, allowing employees to work full-time instead of being forced into part-time work.

Finally, it eliminates mandated coverages that have driven up the cost of health care and forced millions to lose health care plans they liked and could afford.

Unlike the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, this transitional piece of legislation would live up to its name, reverse many of the negative unintended consequences of Obamacare, and pave the way for full replacement in 2017.

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., is the author of a leading alternative to Obamacare.

May 22, 2015 

“The best response we’ve heard comes from Mr. Johnson and has broad support among Senate Republicans.”

Originally published here in the Wall Street Journal.

How to prevent a legal victory from becoming a political defeat.

We often ask Congressional Republicans how they prefer the Supreme Court to rule in the ObamaCare subsidies case—as a matter of politics, putting aside the law. The smarter ones usually demur, because they know the risks are real, the damage is potentially large, and many of their colleagues are complacent even at this late hour.

With a ruling in King v. Burwell approaching in June, there are troubling signs that Republicans in Congress are headed for another friendly-fire massacre that ends in a victory for President Obama. To borrow the novel idea of Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, this time Republicans would be smarter to try to win the inevitable debate with a unified and politically defensible strategy.

If the High Court upholds the plain text of the Affordable Care Act and vacates the insurance subsidies in the 37 states that did not establish their own exchanges, the White House will try to turn the disruption to its advantage. Some 7.7 million people are now part of the entitlement in those states, and their largely Republican Governors will come under intense industry and constituent pressure to restore the subsidies by joining ObamaCare.

In private, the Governors are petrified that dysfunction in Congress will force them into a lose-lose trench. If they set up a state exchange, they’ll be pilloried by their GOP base. If they don’t, they’ll be blamed for cutting people off medical care.

Yet a view has taken hold among some conservatives in Congress that the danger from King is overblown. The conceit is that the GOP can blame the White House for any disruption, and the public will agree. So do nothing for now and wait two years for a Republican President, who will repeal ObamaCare, sign a replacement and usher in a glorious future.

This do-nothing caucus points to an estimate by Brittany La Coutureand Doug Holtz-Eakin of the American Action Forum that if Congress fails to act the labor market would add as many as 237,000 jobs and 1.3 million people would join the workforce. The reason is that ObamaCare’s employer mandates and other regulations that harm the incentive to work are conditioned on the subsidies. If the subsidies are withdrawn, so are these economic cement shoes.

That may be true over time, but the immediate and persistent headlines through Election Day in 2016 will be about people who have lost or can’t afford their insurance. GOP Governors need a better argument to survive than claiming that things will get better in 2017. And all Republicans need a better response than blaming Mr. Obama and telling Americans to suck it up.

House and Senate working groups are trying to reach a consensus about a GOP contingency plan, and a particular point of contention is whether to extend the subsidies in some form for some period of time. This week Budget Chairman Tom Price came out publicly in the negative, the highest-profile Republican so far.

Mr. Price is a thoughtful health-care leader among Republicans and his office says he’ll support a transitional safety net for those currently receiving subsidies. But without cash, it’s not much of a safety net and doesn’t address the immediate problem. Some money is needed to offset the ObamaCare rules and mandates that drive up the cost of coverage. Many people of modest means simply can’t afford ObamaCare’s overinflated policies without subsidies, and insurance contracts don’t change overnight.

The best response we’ve heard comes from Mr. Johnson and has broad support among Senate Republicans. In the event the Court overturns the subsidies, Mr. Johnson proposes a straight extension of the subsidies through August 2017 for anyone enrolled as of this summer. That insulates people who through no fault of their own would suddenly be victimized by ObamaCare.

In return, he’d restore to states the freedom to deregulate ObamaCare’s central planning diktats and offer more policy choices to consumers. Over time, the subsidies would be less necessary as markets healed.

Mr. Johnson’s plan will disappoint those on the right who think any concession to political reality is ObamaCare Lite™, but he is acknowledging that the law can’t be repealed immediately. For the time being, his plan would move policy in the right direction on the continuum to markets from government. The 2017 deadline guarantees a health-care debate during the presidential campaign and would lend the winner a mandate.

President Obama may refuse to sign any subsidies-for-deregulation deal, and he and Hillary Clinton may think they can win by refusing to compromise. But in that case the Johnson plan gives Republicans an answer that is easy to sell and understand, and liberals would then need to explain why they’re willing to deny health insurance simply because they want more political control over insurance.

Sometimes it takes a crisis to reach a consensus, and perhaps Republicans will unite when the time comes. But their track record is less than reassuring, and better to plan ahead than count on panicky improvisation. It would be a tragedy if a legal victory turned into a political defeat and perhaps even a rout in 2016 because Republicans couldn’t settle on a clear, simple political strategy.


Originally published in The Wall Street Journal, April 13, 2015

Early this summer the Supreme Court will render a decision on King v. Burwell, the case challenging the IRS workaround that allows ObamaCare subsidies to be paid through federal exchanges. Many on the right believe that if the justices rule against the administration, it would be the final stake in the heart of ObamaCare. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Millions of Americans would lose their federal subsidies and therefore be unable to pay for expensive ObamaCare coverage. In that case we can expect President Obama to declare immediately a crisis that can only be fixed by more government. As Rahm Emanuel, the president’s former chief of staff, once said, you never want a serious crisis to go to waste.

If the court rules against him, President Obama’s response will be diabolically simple and highly effective. He will ask Congress to pass a one-sentence bill allowing the subsidies to flow through federal exchanges. At the same time he will offer governors a contract to convert their federal exchanges into state exchanges with a simple stroke of a pen.

He will also mobilize his massive national political operation. It is easy to imagine the advertising campaign that will promote his simple solutions and viciously attack any opposition. Heart-wrenching examples of Americans who have benefited from ObamaCare—and there are millions who have, through taxpayer subsidies—will flood every TV channel.

The mainstream news media will ignore or contest the stories of those millions who lost their coverage because of ObamaCare and who now find health insurance very unaffordable. Without an effective response from Republicans, there is little doubt that the crisis would allow President Obama to permanently cement ObamaCare in place.

The first goal of a Republican strategic response must be to prevent President Obama’s cynical use of the coming crisis from working. If Republicans wait, we will have no chance of countering Mr. Obama’s response. We must be ready to come swiftly to the aid of those who will be victimized once again by ObamaCare if the court rules against the administration. Republicans must come together now, agree on a legislative solution, and take that solution to the American public immediately.

Second, our legislation must give America another “bite at the apple”—one last chance to repeal ObamaCare and replace it with patient-centered, market-based health-care reforms. We must set up the 2016 presidential election as a contest between health-care decisions made by Washington politicians and bureaucrats and reforms that put patients back in charge.

A number of Republicans in Congress have been diligently working together to develop a response and craft a solution, but they have not yet rallied around a single plan to offer as legislation. My own view is that the complexity of ObamaCare has done damage to America, so we should strive for simplicity. We must acknowledge the reality that subsidies cannot be ended immediately—neither practically nor politically—and a reasonable transition period is required. ObamaCare made the health-insurance market an expensive and uncertain mess. Our solution should make insurance more affordable and produce greater certainty.

Building upon these principles, and with time running out, I am introducing a simple plan that I hope can gain consensus. It combines a bill originally co-sponsored by 43 Republican senators in 2013, the “If You Like Your Health Care Plan, You Can Keep It Act,” with the elimination of some of the most harmful components of ObamaCare.

Unlike ObamaCare, it would enact a true grandfather clause. Americans could keep their current health-care plans, and the taxpayer subsidies available through ObamaCare would continue until August 2017. New enrollments in ObamaCare would be allowed, but only current enrollees would qualify for subsidies—the expansion of ObamaCare subsidies would end.

In exchange for this concession, which temporarily fixes the mess created by the sloppily written and unlawfully enforced ObamaCare, the American people should be allowed to reclaim some of the freedom ObamaCare denies them.

This bill repeals the individual mandate, ending the IRS’s enforcement of penalties—that is, taxes—imposed on law-abiding Americans who exercise their right not to purchase health insurance. It repeals the employer mandate, ending the forced shifting of millions of Americans to part-time work.

Finally, it eliminates the mandated coverages that have driven up the cost of health insurance and forced millions of Americans to lose plans that they liked and could afford.

Unlike the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, this legislation would live up to its name: “Preserving Freedom and Choice in Healthcare.” It would reverse many of the negative unintended consequences of ObamaCare and pave the way for its full replacement in 2017.

This is a plan Republicans should get behind now. If we wait until the ruling in King v. Burwell is handed down, it might be too late.

Mr. Johnson is a Republican senator from Wisconsin.

Originally printed in The Hill, March 9. 2015.

In such uncertain times, Americans are justifiably seeking safety and security. That extends to their lives in cyberspace, where threats are poorly understood and growing.

Our job in Washington is to work together to develop common-sense policies to enhance the economic and national security of America. As chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, I made that my committee’s mission. Security needs from national and border security to securing the homeland within our borders are all-important priorities for my committee.

Cyberattacks, in particular, remain one of the leading threats. Two years ago, then-head of the U.S. Cyber Command Gen. Keith Alexander described cyber thefts from private and public organizations as “the greatest transfer of wealth in human history.” That remains true, and the threat is growing and evolving, 

Today, nation-state actors and criminal organizations engage in cyberattacks with unprecedented frequency and sophistication. As FBI director James Comey said, “There are two kinds of big companies in the United States. There are those who’ve been hacked by the Chinese, and those who don’t know they’ve been hacked by the Chinese.” Cyberattacks cost U.S. businesses approximately $100 billion annually, and some — such as attacks on the industrial control systems that operate our critical infrastructure — can put Americans’ lives at risk.

Recent attacks such as those on the Department of Defense, the Office of Personnel Management, Anthem, Sony Pictures, Target, Home Depot and JP Morgan Chase have raised awareness of the cyber threats we face. Americans are demanding real cybersecurity, and Congress has an important role to play in facilitating, not dictating, this security.

One important way Congress can help is by enabling information sharing within the private sector and through the government. Companies must be able to share indicators of compromise and vulnerabilities to improve coordination of our nation’s defense against cyberattacks as quickly as possible.

To induce the private sector to share appropriate information, Congress must provide sufficient liability protections. If businesses face civil or criminal penalties for sharing cyber threat indicators, they will be reluctant to share.

We also must ensure that the government will not use information a company shares as a means to regulate the company.  The fear of backdoor regulations will also prevent widespread sharing. We need to hear from the general counsels for businesses of all sizes: Will proposals Congress develops provide your company with the needed assurances to share information?

Not only will facilitating information sharing help us prevent cyberattacks in the future, but also it will help us reach the bad actors who truly put Americans’ privacy at risk. I believe we can find common ground by balancing the need to share information and the need to protect people’s privacy. The worst thing we could do for Americans’ privacy is not taking action on cybersecurity at all.

Securing consumer data and notifying consumers upon a data breach is another important step. Notification allows consumers to take action to secure their data and defend themselves against fraud. But this, too, requires a balance.

Today 47 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have enacted laws requiring notification of security breaches involving personal information. Since many businesses operate across state lines, they are forced to navigate through this patchwork of state laws before notifying consumers.

Because each law is different, consumers in different states have different rights when a data breach occurs. This creates confusion and uncertainty for both small and midsize businesses and for consumers.

Congress must craft a national data breach notification bill. This bill must achieve a sufficient level of pre-emption so that we achieve one national standard rather than gaining a 52nd standard.

It is also important that a national standard does not impose such stringent deadlines that it would require companies to distribute inaccurate information or alert intruders that they are under investigation.

This need not mean watering down state laws. Consumers who face financial harm upon a breach should be notified without unreasonable delay.

I am hopeful we can work together to protect the privacy of Americans, the financial information of consumers, the assets of private businesses and our critical infrastructure. What we do will not be a panacea, but it will be a critical first step.

During the week of July 4, as we celebrated our country's independence from the rule of kings and renewed our commitment to the rule of law, President Barack Obama explained his own unique conception of the separation of powers: If Congress wants to prevent unlawful administrative action, it should either pass a bill he likes ... or, "sue me."

Well, I tried to sue him and discovered why the president was confident he could offer such an arrogant challenge to a supposedly co-equal branch of government.

My lawsuit challenges a rule by the president's Office of Personnel Management that pretends the federal government is a small employer and allows members of Congress and their staffs to continue receiving tax-free employer contributions toward their health care. Congress specifically voted that such contributions would be unavailable so that members and staff would be in the same boat as their constituents when it came to Obamacare.

On July 14, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin dismissed my case on the legal technicality of "standing." As a result, the president has not had to defend his actions, at least not yet.

You would have thought this litigation would be unnecessary. When Congress passed Obamacare, the president got the law he wanted. According to his recent statement, there should have been no need for unilateral executive actions regarding health care.

Yet, to date, the president has made more than 20 unilateral changes to Obamacare to fix his unworkable law. The law says that the employer mandate shall apply Jan. 1, 2014; the president says 2015. The law says 50 employees; the president says 100. The law provides subsidies for an "exchange established by the state"; the president says established by the federal government, too. And on it goes.

The courts finally have considered the merits of that last unilateral change, and the president has not fared well. On July 15, in Halbig vs. Burwell, the U.S. District Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., struck down this interpretation, and while the Fourth Circuit Appeals Court in Richmond, Va., went the other way, even its ruling admitted the administration was on shaky legal footing.

The president's overreach is not confined to Obamacare. George Washington Law School professor Jonathan Turley has testified that "President Barack Obama has crossed the constitutional line between discretionary enforcement and defiance of federal law."

The president's administrative agencies have targeted ordinary Americans through Internal Revenue Service reviews of conservative groups, enacted the president's cap-and-trade policies through Environmental Protection Agency regulations and instituted ambush election rules for unionization through the National Labor Relations Board.

Earlier this summer, the Supreme Court unanimously struck down the president's unlawful recess appointments, marking the 13th time this administration's policies have been unanimously rejected by the court. And we are just beginning to see how the president's June 2012 memorandum on "Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals" has given unaccompanied children from Central America an incentive to embark on horrific journeys to the United States, believing that once they get here they will be permitted to stay.

The Office of Personnel Management rule is not the most egregious example of this administration's lawlessness, but it is one in which the president's unilateral actions were specifically directed at members of Congress, and thus it is one I believe I have standing to challenge. After all, it affected my health insurance, required me to take action to designate my staff and provided special treatment that drove a wedge between me and my constituents. It denied me — as a member of Congress and employer of staff — the legal status that Congress thought essential for each of its members and those who work for them.

If a member of Congress does not have standing in this case, who does? And if no one has standing to force the administration to faithfully execute the law, how can the rule of law be maintained?

Even in his order dismissing my lawsuit, District Court Judge William Griesbach recognized the importance of this case: "The violation alleged is not a mere technicality. It strikes at one of the most important safeguards against tyranny that the framers erected — the separation of powers. As James Madison explained ... 'The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands ... may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.'"

When I joined the Senate in January 2011, I raised my right hand, placed my left hand on the Bible and swore a solemn oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. Defending the constitutional domain of the branch of government in which I serve is an obligation of that oath.

If his standing analysis is reversed, Judge Griesbach recognized that my case will challenge the president's executive actions head on. It continues to be a landmark opportunity to address the "constitutional tipping point" we find ourselves in today. To honor my solemn oath of office, I feel compelled to exhaust every legal recourse. I will file my appeal on Monday.

Ron Johnson, a Republican, is Wisconsin's senior U.S. senator.

Originally printed in Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 6, 2014

Fifteen months ago, I asked then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton why she hadn't simply picked up the phone and talked to the Benghazi survivors to find out what had actually happened. Instead of being straightforward, she deflected this uncomfortable question with a now-infamous question of her own: "What difference, at this point, does it make?"

The answer to that question and the motive behind this administration's lies and coverup are finally becoming quite clear. The belated release of a Sept. 14, 2012, talking points email from deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes proves that senior White House officials were fully engaged in directing the coverup and perpetuating the lies.

According to the Rhodes email, the goal of the administration's Benghazi spin was "to underscore that these protests are rooted in an Internet video, and not a broader failure of policy." This was in spite of the fact that within hours of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack, the administration knew — or certainly should have known — there was no protest.
Originally printed in The Washington Post, April 25, 2014

We recently visited Norway, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Moldova. In each country, our allies want a stronger immediate response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its ongoing subversion of Ukraine. They also believe, as we do, that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s latest acts of aggression require an enduring strategic response from the United States, Europe and NATO. It should be clear to all that Putin’s Russia has taken a dark turn. There is no resetting this relationship. We cannot return to business as usual.

Western countries had high hopes for our relationships with Russia after the Cold War and acted on that basis. We provided billions of dollars to help Russia’s transition from communism. We created new mechanisms for consultation. We expanded trade. NATO committed not to deploy significant military capabilities onto the territory of new alliance allies, even as it expanded. In short, the West sought to include Russia in the promise of a Europe whole, free and at peace — a vision we still believe would benefit all participants.
Originally printed in Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, February 21st, 2014

Based on how much we spend, every child in America should be getting a world-class education, which would include connecting our classrooms to digital opportunities. To get there, the federal government doesn't need to spend more money — the Federal Communications Commission already runs a program called E-Rate that distributes over $2 billion to schools and libraries to purchase communications services each year.

What we do need is real reform in Washington and an end to the waste, fraud and abuse inherent in the current program.