Quick Takes

* As a reminder, in the current issue of the Washington Monthly, Alicia Mundy has written an astonishing piece of journalism demonstrating that the allegations leading to the 2014 VA “scandal” were baseless. Last week, editor-in-chief Paul Glastris responded to a letter sent to the VA Commission on Care from Rep. Jeff Miller – who chairs the House Veteran’s Affairs Committee – challenging the claims in Mundy’s article and accusing Phillip Longman (a member of the Commission) of spreading “blatantly false propaganda”. Today, Suzanne Gordon at The Prospect picked up the story from there.

Veterans advocates say that Miller’s tirade was the first time any of them could remember a congressman attacking a commission member.

Retired Army captain Steve Robertson, a former Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee staff director, told The American Prospect that, in his 30 years working on veterans issues, he couldn’t “recall a member of Congress ever instructing members of a commission or advisory group to ignore one of their members.” Robertson said, “Miller is way out of line.” Another representative of a major veterans service organization who did not wish to be identified, called Miller’s letter an attempt to “intimidate an independent commission and politicize their recommendations.”

One week later, Miller appeared before the commission and continued his critique of the agency. In his hour-long comments, Miller had nothing good to say about the VHA. He ignored the findings of an independent assessment commissioned by Congress that found that the VHA delivers care that is often superior to the private sector.

* Following the attacks in Brussels, here is what the frontrunner in the Republican presidential primary had to say:

Asked during a Tuesday morning Fox and Friends appearance about how he’d respond to the attacks as president, Trump said he’d “close up our borders… until we figure out what’s going on.”…

“Frankly, the waterboarding, if it was up to me, and if we changed the laws or had the laws, waterboarding would be fine,” Trump said. “If they could expand the laws, I would do a lot more than waterboarding. You have to get the information from these people.”

* Lest you think the guy coming in second is any less dangerous, here’s what Ted Cruz had to say:

We need to immediately halt the flow of refugees from countries with a significant al Qaida or ISIS presence. We need to empower law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods before they become radicalized.

* As if that wasn’t bad enough, Caitlin MacNeal reports that our comparisons of the Islamophobia gripping certain sectors of the Republican Party these days to the McCarthy era were confirmed by a foreign policy advisor to Ted Cruz.

Clare Lopez, a national security adviser to Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) presidential campaign, earlier this month said the late Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-WI) was “spot on” about communists infiltrating the United States government in the 1950s…

She then compared Americans’ reactions to the Muslim Brotherhood to how “unprepared” the U.S. was for communists during the Cold War.

“We can go all the way back, of course, to the time of the Cold War and back to the 1920s, ‘30s, ‘40s when communists, you know, the KGB, infiltrated our government at the very highest levels. And then, like now, we were unprepared and in large measure unaware of what was going on, at least until the House Un-American Activities got rolling in the 1950s with Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who absolutely was spot-on in just about everything he said about the levels of infiltration,” she said. “So we have precedent for this where we were not fully aware of the infiltration occurring at the time.”

* Here is another quote from President Obama’s speech in Cuba today:

So even as our governments became adversaries, our people continued to share these common passions, particularly as so many Cubans came to America. In Miami or Havana, you can find places to dance the Cha-Cha-Cha or the Salsa, and eat ropa vieja. People in both of our countries have sung along with Celia Cruz or Gloria Estefan, and now listen to reggaeton or Pitbull. (Laughter.) Millions of our people share a common religion–a faith that I paid tribute to at the Shrine of our Lady of Charity in Miami, a peace that Cubans find in La Cachita.

Denise Oliver Velez caught the reference to La Cachita and provides us with this information on why it was so significant.

As “the Mother of all Cubans,” this symbol has represented the potential of reconciliation for the Cuban people, an important task considering the present estrangement existing between the communities of La Habana and Miami, Florida. As symbol, it remains layered by contradictory religious thoughts, normalizing intra-Cuban racial oppression. While La Virgen de la Caridad/Ochún can serve as a catalyst for reconciliation among Cubans on both sides of the Florida Straits, She also serves as a witness against the dominant white Cuban elite who recreate Her image in order to mask their own dominant social position.

* Finally, the outrage du jour for Republicans today was that President Obama continued his itinerary in Cuba despite the attacks in Brussels. That included attending a baseball game with Raul Castro. Here is how he responded to the critics:

Acknowledging calls to go back to the U.S. or Brussels to lead, Obama shared what he called one of his proudest moments as president — when Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz told fans in a pre-game speech following the Boston marathon bombing: “This is our f—ing city and nobody is going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong.”

“Probably the only time America didn’t have a problem with somebody cursing on live TV was when he talked about Boston and how strong it was and wasn’t gonna be intimidated,” Obama said. “That is the kind of resilience and the kind of strength that we have to continually show in the face of these terrorists. They cannot defeat America.”

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.