Council Members Call For More Openness in San Jose's Permit Process

Two San Jose council members say their city makes it too tough on small business owners who want to open shop or expand.

CPUC to File Revised PG&E Penalty

The California Public Utilities Commission is set to file a revised penalty proposal Monday for PG&E’s part in the fatal San Bruno gas line explosion.

Israel Launches Gaza Ground Invasion

Israeli troops initiated a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip on Thursday, escalating a conflict that has raged for 10 days. The latest round of violence has claimed the lives of more than 200 Palestinians, mostly civilians. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Israel Defense Forces will strike infrastructure and operatives posing a danger to Israeli citizens. We talk with Middle East analyst Aaron David Miller and foreign correspondent Nicholas Casey about the ground offensive.

Will New Watchdog Help Clean Up the L.A. Sheriff's Office?

In recent weeks, Los Angeles County supervisors have been wrestling with how to make sure their new Sheriff's Department watchdog gets the access he needs to provide effective oversight. The agency's top brass has been accused of allowing -- and even fostering -- a culture of violence among deputies in the County's main jail. We talk with Frank Stoltze, who covers crime and politics for KPCC in Los Angeles.

PBS NewsHour

100 days out from Election Day

An Alabama man urged voters to get to the polls during the 2012 presidential election in Birmingham. Turnout for the
         2014 midterms is expected to be extremely low. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

An Alabama man urged voters to get to the polls during the 2012 presidential election in Birmingham. Turnout for the 2014 midterms is expected to be extremely low. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

Today in the Morning Line:

  • There are 100 days until Election Day
  • Campaign seasons without end and without beginning
  • Deal reached on VA reform – Congress’ sprint to summer recess
  • What’s all this impeachment talk about?
  • What did Hillary Clinton say about Darth Vader (and Russia)?

The Morning Line

100 days until Election Day: It is 100 days until Election Day (well, 99, but who’s counting). There are going to be 15 primaries in August, but the general-election fields in the dozen competitive Senate races are pretty much set. The only one that could affect Senate control with a competitive primary remaining is Alaska (Aug. 19) on the Republican side. That could help Democrat Mark Begich, but there will be a lot of activity post-Labor Day when most will start paying attention to what is expected to be a close race. The next 35 days until Labor Day will also be something of a summer proving ground for several Democrats, including Begich and Arkansas’ Mark Pryor, who are trying to hold off GOP challenges in red states, as well as Michelle Nunn in Georgia and Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky — both of whom appear tied or within striking distance of flipping Republican seats. Will that last or will Republicans put separation between themselves and the Democrats with the glut of ads that are coming? If those Democrats are still faring as well as they are now by Labor Day (Sept. 1), they could have a viable chance at holding the Senate narrowly. But if not, it could be a wave. It will also be a proving ground for Republicans wanting to expand the playing field. Does Joni Ernst in Iowa keep Democrat Bruce Braley on his heels? Does Terri Lynn Land prove to be the real deal in Michigan?

So where do things stand? Republicans have done everything they need to so far — with a few exceptions — to put themselves in as good a position as possible for this fall. They are already favored to be halfway to their goal of netting six seats — with West Virginia, South Dakota, and the plagiarism scandal in Montana. And they have beaten back potentially problematic tea party candidates. The New York Times’ Upshot model, in fact, now gives Republicans now a 60 percent chance of taking control of the Senate, up from 54 percent back in April. Of course, it’s not a done deal (for reasons stated above). By the way, if you think you’re seeing even more political ads than you used to, you’re right. They are up 70 percent since 2010 and spending is on pace to surpass $2 billion in this midterm election, the New York Times reports. Driven by increased outside spending, already more than 300,000 Senate ads have run, up from just over 200,000 in 2012 and about 175,000 at this point in 2010. It looks like we’re entering a period in American politics of never-ending political seasons that could have the effect of causing “voters to tune out before Election Day,” as the Times writes. There is already evidence of that with turnout and interest in this election at lows.

Deal reached on VA reform: Lawmakers appear poised to cross at least one item off their to-do list before leaving in four days for their five-week August recess. The chairs of the Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs Committees, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., are expected to unveil their VA reform deal at a Capitol Hill news conference Monday. The Washington Post’s Ed O’Keefe reports, “One House aide, not authorized to speak publicly about the talks, said that the final agreement more closely mirrors a Senate measure overwhelmingly approved by Democrats and Republicans last month.” That measure, which was approved on a 93-3 vote, provided additional funding to hire more doctors and nurses, and called for the Department of Veterans Affairs to lease 27 new medical facilities. The agreement reportedly will give veterans flexibility to seek care from private doctors if the wait for an appointment at a VA facility is more than the current wait-time goal of 14 days.

Border battle: Another top priority for lawmakers this week is working out a solution to address the influx of migrants from Central America that have come across the southern border in recent months. But with time running short, the two parties remain split on key provisions. House Republicans continue to insist on making changes to a 2008 human trafficking law that requires unaccompanied children from Central America receive a court hearing before being deported. There’s also the issue of money, with the president asking for $3.7 billion, Senate Democrats calling for $2.7 billion and House Republicans now aiming for less than $1 billion. By the way, the New York Times reports that most of the migrant children who have come to the United States have been released to sponsors or relatives in various states. Of the 57,000 total children who have come to the U.S. since October, 47,000 have been released with court dates to come.

Clock is ticking: The Senate is also set to act this week on a House-passed bill that authorizes more than $10 billion for highway and mass-transit projects. The Wall Street Journal reports one of the amendments being considered would “reauthorize the highway programs only through Dec. 19 of this year,” which would punt the issue past the midterm elections “when partisan political pressures might ease.” As far as the timing of the votes in the Senate this week, a senior Democratic leadership aide says to expect the highway bill and the confirmation of the VA Secretary nominee Robert McDonald to get votes likely Tuesday and Wednesday (not necessarily in that order); the border bill vote could come Wednesday or Thursday; and VA reform will be determined by when it gets out of conference committee.

What’s the impeachment talk all about? Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, the newly installed House majority whip, No. 3 in House GOP leadership, on Fox News Sunday would not answer if he’d rule out impeaching President Barack Obama. Instead, he pointed the finger at the White House for bringing it up. “We take it very seriously, and I don’t think it would be a good thing,” said Dan Pfeiffer, White House communications director, Friday of the possibility of the president being impeached. Democrats are using the prospect to fundraise and almost goading Republicans to go even further than their lawsuit. But Scalise has to see the trap, be more politically savvy and, in the words of Nancy Reagan, “Just say no.” There is a reason, though, perhaps that Scalise felt he couldn’t do that. There’s an activist contingent of conservatives, like Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, who think the president should be impeached. For his part, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has stated publicly, as recently as Wednesday, that he disagrees with those on the right calling for impeachment. Boehner also has an op-ed in USA Today defending his lawsuit. Impeachment talk has become a bipartisan affair. Remember, a town in Maryland voted to impeach President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney a decade ago; Liberal activist group even has a petition going to impeach Boehner. There’s even an “Impeach Boehner” Facebook page. All this seems to be the new normal among activists post-Bill Clinton when the “impeach” bar was set.

U.S. accuses Russia of firing missiles into Ukraine: The U.S. released satellite imagery it says is evidence that Russia has fired rockets into Eastern Ukraine and has provided material support to rebels there. It’s an effort to put pressure not only on Putin, but also on the U.S.’s European allies to go along with tougher sanctions. By the way, Hillary Clinton weighed in on Russia Sunday. Despite giving Russia the gift of a “reset” button at the beginning of her tenure at the State Department, Clinton told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that she was “among the most skeptical” that the overtures from the West to Putin and Russia would work. “The United States and Russia were hoping for the best,” she said. Part of this, however, creating a narrative for Clinton if she runs in 2016 to latch onto President Obama when its convenient because he’s still popular with important parts of the base while at the same time attempting to separate herself on more thorny or controversial parts of his foreign policy.

Quote of the day: “People get frustrated and people are just so fed up with the gridlock and dysfunction in Washington, the Congress is just so, unfortunately, unable to even agree on the most obvious kinds of matters. That I think, you know, Darth Vader looks pretty good to a lot of people.” — Hillary Clinton, appealing to the Star Wars geek set. It should be noted that Luke Skywalker, Hans Solo and Yoda all poll higher than Darth. Yoda 2016 slogan? “Do or do not. There is no try.”

Daily Presidential Trivia: On this day in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson announced he was increasing the number of American troops in South Vietnam from 75,000 to 125,000. Where did Johnson make this announcement? Be the first to Tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to Richard Oehler, Jr. (‏@rickoehler) and David Schooler (@GandTMan) for guessing Friday’s trivia: Who subpoenaed President Clinton? The answer was: Ken Starr.


  • At 11:10 a.m. President Obama will deliver remarks at the Young African Leaders Initiative’s Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders Presidential Summit in Washington, D.C. In the afternoon, Mr. Obama will speak at a White House ceremony to award the National Medal of Arts to singer Linda Ronstadt; Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of DreamWorks; author and poet Julia Alvarez; the Brooklyn Academy of Music; arts patron Joan Harris, dancer/choreographer Bill T. Jones; composer John Kander; writer Maxine Hong Kingston, documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles; architects Billie Tsien and Tod Williams; and visual artist James Turrell. The president will also award the 2013 National Humanities Medal to radio hosts Diane Rehm and Krista Tippett; literary critic M.H. Abrams; historians David Brion Davis, Darlene Clark Hine and Anne Firor Scott; East Asian studies scholar William Theodore De Bary; architect Johnpaul Jones; filmmaker Stanley Nelson and the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Mass.

  • The Senate is working on a plan to crack down on tax cheaters and House Republicans want nothing to do with it.

  • Efforts to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank are facing intraparty resistance, while Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., plans to introduce a reauthorization bill that includes a coal provision, and Rep. John Campbell, R-Calif., has circulated a draft bill that that would curtail the bank’s power.

  • Congressional Democrats on Friday called on Majority Leader Reid and Speaker Boehner to delay recess until the House and Senate could agree on a VA reform bill. House Majority Whip-elect Steve Scalise, meanwhile, wouldn’t say on Sunday whether he supported delaying recess if a deal to stem the border crisis isn’t reached.

  • Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, says Congress needs to act on immigration legislation that would stem the flow of migrants, because children heading to the border are at risk of death in the summer heat.

  • Early polling of the Georgia Senate general election matchup is split.

  • The League of Conservation Voters has made two-week ad buy to boost Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz ahead of his August 9 Democratic primary against Rep. Colleen Hananbusa.

  • Republicans’ increasing focus on economic mobility will be a new way to reach out to Hispanic voters still wary of the GOP on immigration, writes National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar.

  • Democratic Sen. Mark Warner and Republican Ed Gillespie squared off Saturday in their first debate, moderated by NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff, with the two candidates drawing contrasts on women’s health issues, immigration and health care.

  • Politico reports that Iowa Democratic Senate candidate Bruce Braley “has shaken up his campaign, parting ways with admaker Larry Grisolano and pollster Diane Feldman.”

  • A new CBS/New York Times battleground tracker based on online interviews with registered voters gives Republican Terri Lynn Land a slight advantage in the Michigan Senate race against Rep. Gary Peters.

  • National Republican Congressional Committee chair Greg Walden predicts that the GOP will pick up 11 seats in the House this fall.

  • Sen. John Walsh, D-Mont., admitted Friday he made a mistake and that he was not in the “best academic mind state” when writing his Army War College master’s thesis, but he deflected concerns that he had been suffering from PTSD.

  • Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is working to secure more black votes for the Republican Party. The 2016 hopeful spoke before a small crowd at the National Urban League Conference in Cincinnati Friday.

  • Mine, mine, mine! New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo defended his decision to disband an ethics commission he formed. “It’s my commission. My subpoena power, my Moreland Commission,” he told Crain’s. “I can appoint it, I can disband it. I appoint you, I can un-appoint you tomorrow. So, interference? It’s my commission. I can’t ‘interfere’ with it, because it is mine. It is controlled by me.”

  • As goes Virginia… Remember when there used to be such a thing as the “Virginia Way” and a “Virginia Gentleman”? It appears that gentile way of doing political business is falling by the wayside, tracking with the more vitriolic and partisan national climate, the New York Times reports.

  • The trial of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife Maureen commences Monday. The couple is facing 14 criminal charges of public corruption and lying on financial documents.

  • In North Carolina, two Republican leaders are caught in a balancing act: moving to the center to appeal to moderate Tar Heel state voters, while still pleasing the right-leaning base.

  • There’s now a “full-fledged cottage industry” of GOP consulting firms dedicated to defeating incumbent establishment Republicans.

  • Michigan Rep. Justin Amash is cruising just two weeks ahead of the GOP primary since establishment Republicans have largely held their fire against the tea party incumbent.

  • Romney would beat Obama 53 percent to 44 percent according to a CNN/ORC poll. Of course, there are no do-overs in presidential elections. Democrats also lead 48 percent to 44 percent on the generic congressional ballot.

  • “In what may be the most awkward legacy campaign,” the New York Times’ Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes, Georgia State Sen. Jason Carter has taken campaign advice and fundraising help from his grandfather, former President Jimmy Carter, but is trying to distance himself from his grandfather’s politics in a red state.

  • How New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie handles his state’s public pension crisis could indicate more about his success as a presidential candidate than anything he does in the early GOP primaries, Karen Tumulty writes in the Washington Post.

  • This is another potentially bad health care story for the administration. There are possible problems with automatic renewal, which was supposed to make the whole thing easier.

  • It’s “high time” to legalize marijuana, says the New York Times editorial board.

  • While pot politics becomes more liberal, guns are moving the opposite direction. A federal judge in New York found Washington, D.C.’s rewriting of its gun laws unconstitutional, going further than the 2008 Supreme Court law. The ruling allows people to carry guns outside their homes rather than just be permitted for self-defense within them.

  • During a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing last week, newly elected Florida Rep. Curt Clawson mistook two senior U.S. officials for representatives of the Indian government. “I’m familiar with your country; I love your country,” Clawson told the women, who were introduced as officials from the State and Commerce Departments.

  • Mr. Obama is not yet all cried out at the prospect of his oldest daughter heading off to college soon.

  • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.


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Questions or comments? Email Domenico Montanaro at dmontanaro-at-newshour-dot-org or Terence Burlij at tburlij-at-newshour-dot-org.

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Editor’s note: The date of the Alaska primary was corrected to August 19.

The post 100 days out from Election Day appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Why automatic renewal of 2015 health coverage may backfire

         At A Health Clinic As Obamacare Exchanges Begin

Certified nurse practitioner Myra Tilson conducts a check-up on a patient at a Community Clinic Inc. health center in Takoma Park, Maryland, U.S., on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013. Health insurance experts say customers who opt for convenience by automatically renewing their coverage for 2015 are likely to receive dated and inaccurate financial aid amounts.

WASHINGTON — If you have health insurance on your job, you probably don’t give much thought to each year’s renewal. But make the same assumption in one of the new health law plans, and it could lead to costly surprises.

Insurance exchange customers who opt for convenience by automatically renewing their coverage for 2015 are likely to receive dated and inaccurate financial aid amounts from the government, say industry officials, advocates and other experts.

If those amounts are too low, consumers could get sticker shock over their new premiums. Too high, and they’ll owe the tax man later.

Automatic renewal was supposed to make the next open-enrollment under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul smooth for consumers.

But unless the administration changes its 2015 approach, “they’re setting people up for large and avoidable premium increases,” said researcher Caroline Pearson, who follows the health law for the market analysis firm Avalere Health.

It could be a new twist on an old public relations headache for the White House: You keep the health plan you like but get billed way more.

“It was our preference for (the administration) to have the capacity to update people’s subsidy information, but they haven’t been able to get that built,” said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for the industry trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans.

Here’s the issue, in a nutshell:

To streamline next year’s open enrollment season, the Health and Human Services Department recently proposed offering automatic renewal to 8 million consumers who are already signed up.

But the fine print of the HHS announcement said consumers who auto enroll will get the “the exact dollar amount” of financial aid they are receiving this year.

That’s likely to be a problem for a couple of reasons, not to mention inflation.

First, financial aid is partly based on premiums for a current benchmark plan in the community where the consumer lives. Because more plans are joining the market and insurers are submitting entirely new bids for 2015, the benchmark in many communities will be different.

Second, financial aid is also based on household income. If your income goes down, you are entitled to a bigger health insurance tax credit. If it goes up, you get less. The 2014 amounts could well be out of date and incorrect for many people. Financial assistance is also affected by age, family size and where people live.

And that doesn’t get into another motivation for consumers to shop around: Premiums and choices for 2015 are changing, so your current plan may no longer be a good deal.

“Just continuing in the same plan with the same credit is not going to be the optimal outcome for most people,” said Judy Solomon of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which advocates for low-income people. “Your 2014 credit is going to be lower in most cases, and in some cases it could be too high.”

About 8 in 10 of those who signed up for private coverage under the health care law are getting financial aid. In the 36 states served by the federal insurance exchange, the tax credits average $264 a month, reducing the average monthly premium of $346 to just $82.

Even with such generous subsidies, about 4 in 10 who bought a health law plan say they have trouble paying their premiums, according to a poll by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

Open enrollment starts Nov. 15, and consumers who already have a policy will have just about a month to renew or make changes to avoid a break in coverage Jan. 1. Millions of new customers are also expected to try to sign up for the first time.

New Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell is hoping that auto renewal will simplify things, a welcome change from this year’s website problems.

But the subsidy scheme created by Congress to keep premiums affordable has so many moving parts that it’s turning out to be difficult for the government to administer.

Administration spokesman Aaron Albright says all consumers are encouraged to contact their health insurance exchange to update any changes in personal and financial details. You can do that at any time, before the open-enrollment crunch.

However, you will have to wait until the fall to change to a new plan for next year.

Even if the financial aid amounts are off the mark, some advocates say auto renewal is still a safeguard to keep some people from falling through the cracks.

“It is not a perfect solution, but I’m not sure that there is a better solution in terms of protecting people so they don’t lose health coverage,” said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, an advocacy group supporting the overhaul.

The post Why automatic renewal of 2015 health coverage may backfire appeared first on PBS NewsHour.

Shields and Brooks on Obama’s handling of the border crisis, Mideast violence


Watch Video | Listen to the Audio

HARI SREENIVASAN: And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That’s syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

So, as we wrote about in the “Morning Line” e-mail this morning, when you talk about immigration, there’s policy and there’s politics. So, let’s tackle the policy first.

There was a — maybe a photo-op here today at the White House, where the president was lined up with three other presidents. He made the point of saying that we are a nation of immigrants, but we are also a nation of laws. It seemed like he wanted to sort of thread the needle a bit. Is this the right balance? Can he strike that?

MARK SHIELDS: I think he did strike it, but I think it’s politically for naught. Nothing is going to happen, in my judgment, even as we — the drive to adjourn for the August recess.

They’re too far apart. I think the Democrats are not going to support a change in the 2008 law, which does provide different coverage and different treatment of the children and others from Guatemala and El Salvador, Honduras.

And the Republicans only want to vote for $1 billion. And I don’t think — let’s be very blunt about it. There are the votes — and everybody knows this — in the House of Representatives to pass the Senate comprehensive immigration bill, which passed the Senate a year-and-a-half ago.

And — but they wouldn’t do it with Republican votes. The speaker doesn’t want to do it with just Democratic votes and not a majority of Republican votes. So I think the chances of anything being done on this are very remote.

HARI SREENIVASAN: So, why doesn’t it happen?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, first — first on the president, I thought he did thread the needle, but he leaned a little further on the side of these children have to be sent home than I expected.

He said, we will do it humanely, within institutions. But he more or less said that, which I think is the proper response, unfortunately, in order to stem the tide. I totally agree with Mark on the politics of it. Everybody wants to be seen to do something.

And so I think the House will pass something, and — but that doesn’t mean they will all agree to do the same thing. And I agree with Mark that they’re too far apart. The politics — and the Eric Cantor hurt things. And so I just — I guess I just think that the country is — well, the political leadership is terrified of the activists on this one.

HARI SREENIVASAN: But what about the political reality of trying to lure the Hispanic vote, trying to win favor going into an election a year-and-a-half from now?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, this is a problem.

I mean, this has been an issue, immigration, very bluntly, that’s been a great political advantage for the Democrats. And the president’s handling of the border is — gets a 54 percent disapproval rating from Latinos, which — who are the key.

Republicans cannot win the president without Latinos. Democrats can’t win without Latinos. I mean, Republicans have to change their ways, at least to get competitive, rather lose better than 3-1 Latino vote, the fastest-growing demographic in the country.

And I just don’t think that any Democrats are going to vote right at this point to change the 2008 — maybe a handful — to change the 2008 law to make it tougher on kids from — that appears to be in some way tougher on Latinos in particular who are trying to get in the country.

DAVID BROOKS: I must say, I’m a little mystified by that, because it would more or less equalize kids from different countries.


DAVID BROOKS: And it seems to me more or less fair. It seems to me the law was miswritten in a way that was not anticipated. It seems to me that equalizing, and depending on what — so it doesn’t depend on what country you happen to come from in Latin America, seems to me a fair option.

But the fact is, Republicans, they are doomed. But you’re a Republican from Mississippi, say. You know, nationally, we have got to get square on immigration, or else people from minority communities will not even listen to us, no matter what else we say.

But if you’re afraid of what happened to Eric Cantor happening to you, well, the national party can go hang itself. You’re going to look after yourself. And that’s the essential problem.

MARK SHIELDS: The only country in the world that has a higher murder rate than Honduras right now is Syria. That’s how tough it is. I think that to some degree contributed to the special treatment in that 2008…

HARI SREENIVASAN: Well, there was a story last night about possibly increasing the amount of refugee applications in Honduras.


HARI SREENIVASAN: Is it appropriate to broaden the definition of refugee compared to who does seek asylum today? Is basically living in fear of a street gang and the murder that very legitimately could happen in Honduras the same as, say, someone in Somalia trying to seek asylum?

DAVID BROOKS: You’re operating under the assumption that people have trust in the institutions of government.

And I think that would be a good idea. And I think we could handle a more intelligent refugee policy. But if you look at some of the people who are voting against this or opposing this, they simply do not have faith that any law that is passed will be enforced. And they believe that once you broaden the refugee assignment, that will be a loophole to open the borders wide.

And so this is partly a legacy of just the generalized distrust of immigration. It’s probably, frankly, a legacy of the immigration bill that passed under Ronald Reagan, which is a good bill, but without the border enforcement that undermined trust in all future immigration bills.

MARK SHIELDS: Alan Simpson and Ron Mazzoli. That’s right, Simpson-Mazzoli. And it was a good bill, but — and it did help.

I think there is a certain dangerous precedent going into other countries. And we’re going to decide — you going to have a rotating group that go from — I mean, a lot of countries where people are facing both terror and the gangs and worse and precarious futures.

You know, I just don’t — I don’t know if there’s going to be a pre-clearance group that’s going to down and interview people and make those judgments.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All right, shifting gears to Israel, Palestine, we just heard from National Security Adviser Susan Rice.

First off, any reaction to how the administration has been handling it this week?

DAVID BROOKS: I think their posture has been a pretty good one. They have been pretty tough on Hamas, which is the right posture. They have been pretty honest about things. They’re doing what they can.

You can’t force a peace on the parties when the parties don’t want it. Right now, Israel sees a chance to severely weaken Hamas. They do it with a tacit endorsement of some of the anti-Muslim Brotherhood countries, the regime in Egypt, the regime in Saudi Arabia.

And so they’re — just in terms of the region, they’re in a reasonably good moment. If they’re going to try to weaken Hamas and get rid of the tunnels, this is probably a moment to do it. So they see some advantage.

Hamas clearly sees an advantage. They were marginalized. They’re now centralized. They’re very interested in forcing the Egyptian government to allow some of the transport and the communications of the commerce across that border, which the Egyptian regime, which hates the Muslim Brotherhood, hasn’t wanted to do.

But if they can become a movement across the region, then they could force Egypt to open up those borders. So both parties see some advantages here. And so I suspect this thing is going to go on for a little a while.

MARK SHIELDS: I’m more hopeful.

I think each party to this combat right now has a different stake. For Hamas, David’s right. All politics is local. In a bizarre way, what has happened has strengthened Hamas. Hamas was unpopular. It wasn’t seen as able or competent. But what has happened is that, as they have stood up to the invading and occupying army that’s inflicting injury and destruction upon the country, and seem to inflict some damage upon Israel in return, they’re winning the support locally.

For Israel, the opposite. All politics is global. And just as the Vietnam War, in my judgment, the United States’ war in Vietnam was fought and lost on television in the living rooms of America, I think that Israel has really had a very bad week in social media.

I think the images of the hospitals, of the schools, of the children, of the lack of electricity and water and sewage, I just think that’s taken a toll on Israel internationally.

DAVID BROOKS: I guess I disagree on both ends there.

I agree that Hamas has had a short run. And when you’re in a conflict, the people fighting, and the people that are most militant are going to get a surge. And they have certainly gotten a surge in the Palestinian public. The polls clearly show that.

But there’s been a clear pattern in the Middle East that, over the long term, Palestinians do not believe that this war fighting, that a regime that doesn’t even acknowledge that Israel has the right to exist, they generally do not believe that’s the way they’re going to get out of the mess they’re in.

And they have over months of peace drifted away from that policy, which is what Hamas has — which is what Hamas has been pursuing. And so I think over the long term, people will look around and say, are we really going to bomb our way to peace? And they’re not going to want that over the long term.

HARI SREENIVASAN: What about his idea that the power of social media affecting perception? Has the political perception about this conflict shifted at all with the onslaught of images that we have all seen, whether it’s from one side or the other?


Well, clearly, if you — if you measure things by body counts, then Israel has killed more, and so they look more vicious. And the people who are inclined to think poorly of Israel are hopping on that. I guess I’m more inclined to think positively of Israel. And I would say the moral calculus is not particularly even, that Hamas — and there’s been tons of media reporting on this — has put the site of the origin of the tunnels under hospitals in a dense residential area.

The missiles are being shot from dense residential areas. They’re inviting civilian casualties by what is clearly an immoral way of waging war, and that they’re — if you take into account, the moral calculus is uneven.

Is that the calculus that is accepted in the European press? No, of course not. And so Israel has faced this barrage of criticism, not from the American administration and not from some of the surprising people in the region, as I mentioned, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, among others.

But, at some point, you can’t govern by popularity. If you have got people mis — bombing you, if you have got all these missiles which cost a million dollars each to build, you have simply got to take care of those tunnels.

MARK SHIELDS: I just — I really feel that the desire for the end of the suffering and the pain is transcendent and I think it’s on the rise in the country.

I think there’s — I give Secretary Kerry great credit and Ambassador — former Ambassador Martin Indyk, who was on our show recently, for making the effort. I just — I don’t think you can accept the status quo or the status quo ante that is there.

We have to get a solution. And it has to be a two-state solution. And it has to be basically encouraged, if not imposed, I think, from without.

DAVID BROOKS: Just one quick thing.

I just don’t think the two-state solution is germane to this situation. It is certainly germane to the West Bank, where Fatah is nominally in control. But Hamas does not believe in the two-state solution. So, a two-state solution will not quiet Hamas. It will not quiet the missiles in Hamas.

There is no occupation of Gaza. There are no settlements in Gaza. To me, this is about the fundamentals, the state of Israel’s right to exist and the rivalries between the Muslim Brotherhood and other parties in the region.

HARI SREENIVASAN: I think we’re almost out of time, but, Mark Shields, David Brooks, thanks so much.

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House and Senate try to find compromise on VA health care plan

WASHINGTON — A day after offering competing plans to improve veterans’ health care, the chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees are again attempting to find a compromise.

Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House veterans panel, and his Senate counterpart, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., had a public spat Thursday that appeared to jeopardize efforts to agree on a plan to fix a veterans’ health program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records covering up delays.

Miller said Friday he spoke with Sanders on Thursday night and planned to speak with him again later Friday.

“We’re working,” Miller told reporters, adding that he was “here if necessary.”

A spokesman for Sanders called the discussion “productive” and said Sanders stands ready to return to Washington if needed to advance the negotiations. He traveled to Philadelphia for a conference and was also planning to go home to Vermont.

The House and Senate are set to adjourn next week until early September, and lawmakers from both parties have said completing a bill on veterans’ health care is a top priority.

Sanders announced a proposal on Thursday that would cost about $25 billion over three years to lease new clinics, hire more doctors and nurses and make it easier for veterans who can’t get prompt appointments with VA doctors to get outside care.

Miller’s proposal would require only $10 billion in emergency spending, with a promise of more spending in future years under the normal congressional budget process. His bill would keep most of the provisions in the Senate-passed bill and also would authorize about $100 million for the Department of Veterans Affairs to address shortfalls in the current budget year.

Both bills cost significantly less than bills approved last month by the House and Senate.

Meanwhile, the House adopted a nonbinding resolution Friday that endorses a Senate-passed provision aimed at improving VA care for survivors of military sexual assault.

The resolution was sponsored by Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Calif., who said the 213-193 vote sent a “strong message” that the House supports improving care for veterans who are victims of sexual assault. Twenty-two Republicans joined 191 Democrats in supporting the motion to accept the Senate language as part of the final bill.

A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said House negotiators, led by Miller, “are continuing to work to find common ground on bipartisan, bicameral legislation to begin to address the scandalous treatment of our veterans.”

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