Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Notes from the Political Middle: Treacherous Terror Plots, Christie Endorses Romney, Occupiers Making House Calls

News just in this afternoon – mere hours before the economy-centric Republican debate tonight at 8 on Bloomberg TV (simulcast on the Washington Post’s web site) -- U.S. officials announced that an “Iranian-directed” assassination plot aimed at killing the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States, Adel Al-Jubeir, as well as plans to attack the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Washington, D.C. have been thwarted, Reuters reported.

Two Iranian men, one a naturalized American, were charged with crafting an assassination plot though only one of the men is in custody. He was arrested on September 29, Reuters reported. Here are some of the chilling details from the complaint that was filed in federal court:  

  • U.S. officials said the two defendants allegedly went to Mexico to hire a man affiliated with a drug trafficking cartel to kill the ambassador, but that the person with whom they met was a paid U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration “confidential source.”

  • One of the defendants reportedly asked the confidential source if he was knowledgeable about explosives because he also wanted to attack the Saudi Arabian embassy.

  • Law enforcement officials claimed that one defendant confessed to authorities that “he . . . was recruited, funded and directed by men he understood to be senior officials in the Qods Force [a covert branch of the Iranian Army]." The complaint alleged that Qods officials "were aware of and approved, among other things, the use of [the confidential source] in connection with the plot; payments to [the confidential source] and the means by which the Ambassador would be killed in the United States and the casualties that would likely result.”

  • U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder pointed his finger directly at Iran and said, “The U.S. is committed to holding Iran accountable for its actions.”

    Now I wish that tonight’s GOP debate wasn’t solely on the economy. We’re at the point where you can’t just talk a convincing game on the economy and jobs front in order to persuade people to vote for you, but you need to also be fleet-footed when it comes to the rising Iranian threats and what we’re going to do with that mess we call the war in Afghanistan.

    New Jersey’s Christie Endorses Mitt Romney

    In another strange turn in today’s news, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie – who many people wanted to jump into the GOP presidential race -- not only endorsed Mitt Romney for president, calling him the most qualified GOP candidate, but also took aim at Texas Governor Rick Perry’s association with a minister who has decried Mormonism, Romney’s religion, a “cult.” “Any campaign that associates itself with that type of conduct is beneath the office of the president of the United States,” Christie said of Romney’s competitor.

    Ironically, while I was working on this post, I received a robo-call – bearing a Boston area code – from Christie inviting me (and the thousands of others who were contacted via phone) to remain on the line to listen to Christie and Romney live. What did I hear on that tele-town hall? Romney said he understood why the folks who are participating in the “Occupy [Fill in the Blank]” protests across the country are upset: “They’re angry because it [the Obama presidency] is not at all what they expected.”

    As for Christie, he said endorsing Romney was “a very easy decision for me.” When he fielded a call from a Midwestern voter about why he didn’t endorse Perry instead, Christie said, “I thought Governor Romney was a better candidate,” citing Romney’s executive leadership skills in the public and private sectors.

    Was I listening to a pair of running mates, these current/former Republican governors of blue states? Another voter was thinking the same thing as he called the two an “unbeatable pair” and asked if Christie would agree to be Romney’s running mate. Christie didn’t answer the question. “That’s going to be Gov. Romney’s choice,” Christie said. “. . .We won’t make any of those decisions unless or until we have to.” Not exactly a denial.

    Occupiers Making House Calls

    While 100+ participants in Boston’s version of the “Occupy Together” economic movement were being arraigned today for unlawful assembly, after being busted this early this morning for failing to heed police warnings not to expand their protest area (protesters complained of police brutality), their New York counterparts, the original Occupy Wall Streeters, hit the road in what they called a “Millionaires March,” protesting in front of the homes of some prominent businesspeople whom they believe to be examples of the "greedy" rich. (Reminds me of some scenes from A Tale of Two Cities which I read for the first time this year.) Meanwhile, 75 people from Occupy D.C. flooded into a U.S. Senate office building today, chanting along the way, resulting in six arrests, Politico reported.

    Between the alleged Iran-directed terror plot and the Occupy arrests, the news seems like it’s getting a late 1960s kind of vibe to it, don't you think?

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