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Posts tagged ‘Joe Biden’

Russian Forces Push Beyond Crimea Before Referendum.


Ukraine said Russian forces tried to push deeper into its territory and the Kremlin strengthened its rhetoric, threatening to escalate the worst diplomatic standoff between Moscow and the West since the Cold War.

By Saturday afternoon, The New York Times reports, Russian troops moved beyond the Crimean border and overtook a gas plant just beyond the regional border of Crimea.

Meanwhile, Russian troops entered the Kherson region on the Azov Sea from the Crimea peninsula they already occupy, Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Nations, Yuriy Sergeyev, told reporters Saturday at the United Nations in New York. The Foreign Ministry in Kiev issued a statement protesting the seizure by Russian soldiers of the village of Strilkove.

The incursion raises tensions before the Black Sea Crimean region holds a referendum Sunday on joining Russia. While the European Union and the U.S. are threatening to tighten sanctions against Russia if it doesn’t pull back, President Vladimir Putin has said ethnic Russians in the region need protection from “extremists.”

“Russia now takes it as a fact that they’ve picked off Crimea and is sending more soldiers and provocateurs into Ukraine to test the waters and see how much further they can go,” Joerg Forbrig, a senior program officer at the Berlin bureau of the German Marshall Fund of the U.S., said in a phone interview.

As many as 130 Russian soldiers are in Strilkove, digging trenches and doing “other engineering work,” said Oleh Slobodyan, a spokesman for Border Guard Service. They have three armored personnel carriers and are in control of a Ukrainian natural gas pumping station, he said. There have been no military confrontations between Ukraine and Russia so far, he said.

The UN Security Council met Saturday in New York where Russia vetoed a resolution proposed by the U.S. that stressed the need for political dialogue. Thirteen members of the Security Council backed the resolution and China abstained.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said the vote shows Russia is “isolated, alone, wrong.” Chinese Ambassador to UN Liu Jieyi said the resolution would have resulted “in confrontation and further complicate the situation.” He said respecting “sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states” is a “fundamental” in China’s foreign policy.

U.S. officials who monitor social media say the number of posts on Twitter, Facebook and other public Internet sites about possible Russian incursions into eastern Ukraine and a growing number of unidentified men who appear to be Russians with military or police training is rising sharply Saturday.

The officials were quick to add that the trend doesn’t mean any Russian action is imminent and that the accuracy and origin of such posts are difficult to verify quickly. Nevertheless, one of the officials called the trend worrisome.

Clashes erupted Friday in Ukraine’s second-biggest city, Kharkiv, near Russia’s border, where a shootout left two dead and a policeman injured. Russian troops massed just inside Russia’s border nearby for exercises, stirring concerns of a Kremlin move to annex eastern Ukraine. Russia said it’s examining numerous requests for protection received from people living in Ukraine.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who met Friday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov without a breakthrough, warned Russia would face consequences if it failed to change course.

Russia moved more forces into Crimea, bringing the total to about 22,000 soldiers as of Friday evening, Ukrainian Defense Minister Ihor Tenyukh said in a website statement. The troops “may be used for an offensive,” he said.

Lavrov expressed outrage over March 13 clashes in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk in which one person was killed and 17 injured, according to the regional government.

“Militants came to Donetsk from other regions and started fighting with demonstrators,” Lavrov said.

Putin is driven by deep geopolitical goals and isn’t likely to fear the consequences of sanctions by Western nations, Eugene Rumer, director of the Russia and Eurasia program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington policy group, said in a telephone interview.

After watching the North Atlantic Treaty Organization expand and the U.S. build ties with former Soviet Union countries, Russians feel they “have every reason to push back and expand their ‘sphere of privileged interests,’” Rumer said.

“The confrontation has reached a new level,” acting Ukrainian President Oleksandr Turchynov said in a website statement late Friday. “Either the new young democracy wins, or a totalitarian curtain falls on Ukraine.”

Putin’s government contends ethnic Russians in Crimea are at risk after the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych, an assertion that Ukraine’s new leaders deny. The Kremlin supports Crimea’s recently appointed administration, which organized Sunday’s referendum.

Crimean Premier Sergei Aksenov told reporters in the region’s capital, Simferopol, that the peninsula may become part of Russia next week, though full integration may take a year. Turnout is expected to be more than 80 percent, he said.

“Preparations are already under way to incorporate Crimea into Russia,” Sergei Markov, a Kremlin adviser and vice rector of the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics in Moscow, said in a telephone interview from Sevastopol on Saturday.

Russian lawmakers are scheduled to consider legislation March 21 that would allow Russia to incorporate parts of countries where the central authority isn’t functioning and local residents want to secede, he said.

The bill isn’t needed to make Crimea part of Russia because the region already declared independence from Kiev, according to Markov. It would allow for the annexation of parts of eastern Ukraine, though Russia would only want to do that if it’s sure “we are welcomed with flowers,” he said.

Russian stocks posted the biggest weekly drop since May 2012, with the Micex Index sliding 7.6 percent to 1,237.43 Friday, the lowest level since May 2012. Russia’s 10-year bond fell for a sixth day, driving up the yield by 38 basis points to 9.79 percent, the highest level since 2009. The ruble weakened 0.2 percent to 43.0570 against Bank Rossii’s target basket of dollars and euros Friday in Moscow. Gold climbed to the highest in sixth months.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index of U.S. stocks fell 2 percent this week to 1,841.13, erasing its gains for the year. The UX index of Ukrainian stocks was down 7.1 percent for the week. Even so, Ukrainian Eurobonds and the hryvnia rebounded after Lavrov said Russia had no invasion plans.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will travel to NATO members Poland and Lithuania on March 17, the day after the Crimea vote, for talks on Ukraine, according to a White House statement. The Pentagon said this week that it would send 12 F-16 aircraft to Poland as a sign of U.S. commitment to defend allies in the region, and the U.S. sent six fighter jets to Lithuania last week.

EU foreign ministers, who meet March 17, the day after the Crimea vote, are poised to impose asset freezes and visa bans on people and “entities” involved in Russia’s seizure of the peninsula, an EU official said. The next stage of sanctions would be weighed at a summit at the end of next week.

Forbrig said that visa bans and other political moves aimed at Russia won’t deter Putin.

“If Putin sees the EU sanctions as not strong enough, he may view them as a green light to go further,” Forbrig said.

“We have to get to the material base of Putin’s regime through economic and trade measures that both target his revenue directly and have a snowball effect of scaring off investors and fueling capital flight out of Russia,” he said.

Bloomberg contributed to this report. 

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Newsmax Wires

Christine O’Donnell: Tax Law Didn’t Protect Me.


A federal law intended to protect the privacy of personal tax information has become a “shield” to protect tax agency employees, says tea party favorite Christine O’Donnell, whose tax data was accessed  immediately after she announced her Republican Senate candidacy in Delaware nearly three years ago.

“What was written as a well-meaning law to protect taxpayers has inexplicably transformed into a shield for the perpetrators,” O’Donnell wrote in the New York Post Saturday under the headline “Christine O’Donnell: I was a victim of the IRS.”

“Unless the law is changed, there will be no public accountability for those who committed this crime, no one will be brought to justice — and there will be no deterrent preventing such crimes from being committed again.”

O’Donnell defeated former Delaware Gov. Mike Castle, in a 2010 primary for Vice President Joe Biden’s old seat, but lost the general election to Democrat Chris Coons.

The day she announced her candidacy the Internal Revenue Service placed an $11,744 tax lien on a Wilmington home O’Donnell had sold in 2008.

“On March 9, 2010, around 10 a.m., I announced my plans to run for the Senate representing Delaware,” O’Donnell said in her Post column. “Later that same day, my office received a call from a reporter asking about my taxes.

“It’s since come out, after a halting and unenthusiastic investigation, that a Delaware Department of Revenue employee named David Smith accessed my records that day at approximately 2 p.m. — out of curiosity, he says.

“That these records ended up in the hands of the press is just a coincidence, the IRS claims,” O’Donnell said.

“The tax records given to the reporters weren’t even accurate,” she continued. “I had never fallen behind on my taxes, and a supposed tax lien was on a house I no longer owned.

“The lien was highly publicized and used as political ammunition by my political opponents. The IRS later withdrew the lien and blamed it on a computer glitch but, at that point, the damage — and the invasion of my privacy — was done,” O’Donnell said.

She noted how the IRS has admitted to targeting tea party, conservative, and religious groups in their applications for tax-exempt status and acknowledged how “opponents of President Obama have been subjected to audits soon after criticizing the administration.”

In fact, former Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz and other conservatives have charged to Newsmax TV that last month’s indictment of Obama critic and best-selling author Dinesh D’Souza on campaign-finance charges “smacks of selective prosecution.”

“What we all have in common,” O’Donnell said. “No answers.”

A Treasury Department official told O’Donnell in January 2013 that “my tax records were compromised and misused,” she said, but since then, “no one has been called to testify, no more answers given.

“How did Smith’s curiosity become an erroneous tax lien? How did the material end up in the hands of a journalist?” O’Donnell asked. “Neither Smith, nor anyone else in the Delaware Department of Revenue, nor anyone at the IRS, has never been placed under oath to explain this.”

The House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee are investigating the IRS targeting — and Iowa GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley has discussed O’Donnell’s case.

Just this week, Grassley and three other Judiciary Committee members called on FBI Director James Comey to answer specific questions regarding the “routine review” of campaign filings, IRS records and other data that led to the D’Souza indictment.

But “in a brutal irony, even if Congress does track down answers, they may not be able to share what they discover with me,” O’Donnell said.

That’s because of the law requiring the privacy of personal tax information.

“Too bad it didn’t protect mine,” O’Donnell said.

“It has already been 10 months since Sen. Grassley and I were told by Treasury Department officials that we would be given information about my case,” she added. “What is taking so long?

“The only way people will be confident the government is truly on their side is if these cases are resolved with the perpetrators held accountable and brought to justice,” O’Donnell said. “Until then, any taxpayer is a potential target.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

 

By Todd Beamon

Biden: ‘We May Not Get to 7 Million’ by Obamacare Deadline.


Vice President Joe Biden acknowledged on Wednesday that it will be hard to reach the target on the number of people signing up for health insurance by a looming March 31 deadline for Obamacare enrollment.

The Congressional Budget Office had originally forecast that 7 million people would sign up for insurance, many with help from subsidies provided under the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare.

But the program got off to a rough start in October when a website used to shop for insurance plans failed to work for almost two months. The nonpartisan CBO recently trimmed its enrollment forecast for 2014 to 6 million.

Biden, on his way to a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in Minneapolis, spoke with a small group of people in the city who are working to help others sign up for insurance, and thanked them for their work.

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“We may not get to seven million, we may get to five or six, but that’s a hell of a start,” Biden said, according to a pool report of his meeting.

The Obama administration said last week that 3.3 million people have enrolled in private Obamacare health plans between Oct. 1 and Feb 1.

The deadline for 2014 coverage is March 31, and the administration and allied groups are pushing to convince more uninsured people in big cities to sign up.

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

Judicial Watch Sues for Obama Trip Costs.


Image: Judicial Watch Sues for Obama Trip Costs

By Todd Beamon

Judicial Watch has sued the Secret Service and the U.S. Defense Department to obtain information on the amount of taxpayer funds spent on trips by President Barack Obama and his family over the past two years.

The conservative watchdog group said Thursday it had filed the lawsuits under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in U.S. District Court in Washington.

The litigation seeks information on how much the government spent on trips last year by President Obama to Africa, California, Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, and to Hawaii in 2012; and by first lady Michelle Obama to Ireland last June and to London in 2012 for the Olympics.

“The Obama administration is in cover-up mode on the costs of the Obamas’ travel,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement. “The Secret Service has, in contemptuous violation of law, simply stopped answering our Freedom of Information inquiries.

“It seems that our ‘king’ does not want taxpayers to know how much he’s spending on his unnecessary travel,” he said.

Last week, Judicial Watch said that information obtained through a FOIA request revealed that taxpayers spent a total of $295,437.04 on separate trips for President Obama, Mrs. Obama, and Vice President Joe Biden during the three-day President’s Day holiday last February.

That request was filed last June, the group said.

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© 2014 NewsmaxHealth. All rights reserved.

Bolton: Hillary Would Be Worse Than Obama.


John Bolton, former ambassador to the United Nations under President George W. Bush, believes Hillary Clinton would be worse than Barack Obama as president because she is smarter and more effective.

During an appearance on conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt’s show Tuesday,  Bolton said he agreed with former defense secretary Robert Gates that Vice President Joe Biden has been wrong on basically every single foreign policy decision made by the Obama administration.

When Hewitt asked whether he thought Biden or Hillary Clinton would make a worse president, Bolton responded, “I think Hillary Clinton would be a worse president, because she’s smarter and more effective than Biden, and would be smarter and more effective than Obama.”

Urgent: Do You Approve Or Disapprove of President Obama’s Job Performance? Vote Now in Urgent Poll 

Bolton continued, “And I view her policies, she and her husband were a year ahead of me in law school. I’ve known them for a long time. And back in law school, she was very radical. Her appearance as a moderate these past ten years, I think, is due to the sophisticated political advice of Bill.”

“But I think where her heart is was Hillarycare in 1993-94, the ancestor of Obamacare. And that would be the direction of a Clinton administration,” he added.

Currently a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, Bolton also discussed his new committee, BoltonPac, established to support congressional candidates in the midterm elections who support a strong national security policy.

“Our way of life here at home depends on a strong American position internationally, and [leaders] who are willing to stand up for those positions. I think under Obama, national security has fallen off the radar screen of political issues,” he said.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Lisa Barron

 

Israel, World Dignitaries, Honor Sharon at State Funeral.


Image: Israel, World Dignitaries, Honor Sharon at State FuneralTony Blair eulogizes Ariel Sharon during a state memorial service at the Knesset in Jerusalem on Jan. 13.

JERUSALEM — Israel said its last farewell to former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Monday with a state ceremony outside the parliament building before his flag-draped coffin was taken on a cross-country procession to its final resting place at his family farm in the country’s south.With a high-powered crowd of VIPs and international dignitaries on hand, Sharon was eulogized as a fearless warrior and bold leader who devoted his life to protecting Israel’s security. Vice President Joe Biden and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair headed the long list of visitors.

In a heartfelt address, Biden talked about a decades-long friendship with Sharon, saying the death felt “like a death in the family.”

ObamaCare: You Can Win With The Facts 
When the two discussed Israel’s security, Biden said understood how Sharon earned the nickname “The Bulldozer,” explaining how Sharon would pull out maps and repeatedly make the same points to drive them home.

“He was indomitable,” Biden said. “But like all historic leaders, all real leaders, he had a north star that guided him. A north star from which he never, in my observation, never deviated. His north star was the survival of the state of Israel and the Jewish people wherever they resided,” Biden said.

Sharon died on Saturday, eight years after a devastating stroke left him in a coma from which he never recovered. He was 85.

One of Israel’s greatest and most divisive figures, Sharon rose through the ranks of the military, moving into politics and overcoming scandal and controversy to become prime minister at the time of his stroke.

He spent most of his life battling Arab enemies and promoting Jewish settlement on war-won lands. But in a surprising about-face, he led a historic withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005, uprooting all soldiers and settlers from the territory after a 38-year presence in a move he said was necessary to ensure Israel’s security.

His backers called him a war hero. His detractors, first and foremost the Palestinians, considered him a war criminal and held him responsible for years of bloodshed.

The speakers at Monday’s ceremony outside parliament largely glossed over the controversy, and instead focused on his leadership and personality.

“Arik was a man of the land,” President Shimon Peres, a longtime friend and sometimes rival, said in his eulogy. “He defended this land like a lion and he taught its children to swing a scythe. He was a military legend in his lifetime and then turned his gaze to the day Israel would dwell in safety, when our children would return to our borders and peace would grace the Promised Land.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who resigned from Sharon’s Cabinet to protest the Gaza withdrawal, said that he and Sharon didn’t always agree with each other. Nonetheless, he called Sharon “one of the big warriors” for the nation of Israel.

“Arik was a man of actions, pragmatic, and his pragmatism was rooted in deep emotion, deep emotion for the country and deep emotion for the Jewish people,” Netanyahu said.

Nearly 10 years on, the withdrawal from Gaza remains hotly debated in Israeli society. Supporters say Israel is better off not being bogged down in the crowded territory, which is now home to 1.7 million Palestinians.

Critics say the pullout has only brought more violence. Two years after the withdrawal, Hamas militants seized control of Gaza and stepped up rocket fire on Israel.

In a reminder of the precarious security situation, Palestinian militants on Monday fired two rockets from the Gaza Strip. Sharon’s ranch in southern Israel, where his body was being laid to rest, is within range of such projectiles, though but Monday’s missiles did not hit Israel. No injuries or damage were reported.

Biden praised Sharon’s determination in carrying out the Gaza pullout, which bitterly divided the nation.

“The political courage it took, whether you agreed with him or not, when he told 10,000 Israelis to leave their homes in Gaza, in order from his perspective to strengthen Israel … I can’t think of a more difficult and controversial decision he made. But he believed it and he did it. The security of his people was always Arik’s unwavering mission.”

Blair, who is now an international envoy to the Middle East, said Sharon’s “strategic objective” never changed. “The same iron determination he took to the field of war he took to the chamber of diplomacy. Bold. Unorthodox. Unyielding,” he said.

Sharon’s coffin lay in state at the Knesset’s outdoor plaza where Israelis from all walks of life paid respects throughout Sunday.

In addition to Biden and Blair, the prime minister of the Czech Republic, and foreign ministers of Australia and Germany were among those in attendance at Monday’s ceremony.

Even Egypt, the first Arab country to make peace with Israel, sent a low-level diplomat, its embassy said.

After the ceremony ended, the closed coffin, draped in a blue and white Israeli flag, was placed in a military vehicle and driven in a police-escorted convoy toward Sharon’s ranch in southern Israel.

Crowds stood along the roadside and on bridges, snapping pictures and getting a final glimpse of the coffin as the procession of vehicles left Jerusalem and snaked down the highway outside the city’s picturesque hills.

The convoy made a brief stop at Latrun, the site of a bloody battle where Sharon was wounded during Israel’s war of independence in 1948, for a brief military ceremony before continuing south. His coffin was lowered into the ground in a military funeral at the family farm in southern Israel.

At Sharon’s graveside, his son Gilad remembered his father for overcoming the odds, whether it was battling a Palestinian uprising after becoming prime minister in 2001 or clinging to life in his final days even after his kidneys had stopped functioning.

“Again and again you turned the impossible to reality. That’s how legends are made. That’s how an ethos of a nation is created,” he said.

Sharon’s life will be remembered for its three distinct stages: First, was his eventful and contentious time in uniform, including leading a deadly raid in the West Bank that killed 69 Arabs, as well as his heroics in the 1973 Mideast war.

Then came his years as a vociferous political operator who helped create Israel’s settlement movement and masterminded the divisive Lebanon invasion in 1982. He was branded as indirectly responsible for the massacre of hundreds of Palestinians at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps outside Beirut when his troops allowed allied Lebanese militias into the camps. An uproar over the massacre cost him his job.

Yet ultimately he transformed himself into a prime minister and statesman, capped by the dramatic Gaza withdrawal. Sharon appeared to be cruising toward re-election when he suffered the second, devastating stroke in January 2006.

ObamaCare: You Can Win With The Facts 
© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Newsmax.com

Robert Gates: Obama Didn’t Make Troops Believe He Supported Their Sacrifice.


Image: Robert Gates: Obama Didn't Make Troops Believe He Supported Their Sacrifice

By Newsmax Wires

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said says he doesn’t regret anything he wrote in his controversial new book and calls the memoir “an honest account.”

And in an interview Sunday with CBS News, he offered perhaps his harshest yet criticism of President Obama’s wartime leadership: that he didn’t reach out to American troops and make them believe he supported their sacrifice.

Urgent: Do You Approve Or Disapprove of President Obama’s Job Performance? Vote Now in Urgent Poll 

“You say about President Obama that as much as you admired him on so many levels, he never really had a passion for pursuing the war in Afghanistan, and that kind of bothered you,” CBS News correspondent Rita Braver asked Gates.

“It’s one thing to tell the troops that you support them. It’s another to work at making them believe that you believe as president that their sacrifice is worth it, that the cause is just, that what they are doing was important for the country, and that they must succeed,” said Gates.

“President (George W. ) Bush did that with the troops when I was Secretary. I did not see President Obama do that,” he said. “As I write in the book, it was this absence of passion, this absence of a conviction of the importance of success that disturbed me.”

In “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary of War,” the former Pentagon chief raises questions about Obama’s war leadership and harshly criticizes Vice President Joe Biden.

Gates told CBS’ “Sunday Morning” that people credited him with being blunt and candid while he was in the Cabinet and that “I could hardly be any less in writing a book.”

Story continues below video.

Gates say how some are looking at the book reflects the country’s polarized political process.

He says he didn’t think that waiting until 2017 — after the next presidential election — to weigh in on important issues “made any sense.”

“So why was I so angry all the time? Why did I want to leave all the time? . . . It’s just because getting anything done in Washington was so damnably hard,” he said.

Lawmakers in Congress were “uncivil, incompetent in fulfilling basic Constitutional responsibilities, parochial, hypocritical, egotistical . . . too often putting self and reelection before country.”

“I thought about that sentence a lot,” Gates told Braver,” and whether it was too strong. And I decided at the end of the day, that that’s what I believe.”

Gates praised Obama for facing down political opposition from his own party. But he is still very critical of the president and says Obama was at skeptical of his own strategy in Afghanistan.

But he saves much of his criticism for the president’s staffers. The  national security staff under Obama was the most micromanaging and controlling since Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger.

But, Braver asked, “Did you ever tell the president about it directly?”

“No,” Gates said. “And I acknowledge that in the book.”

“Should you have, do you think?”

“Well, first of all, things don’t happen that way if the president doesn’t want them to happen that way.”

“Do you have a sense that’s changed? Or do you think they are still running things from the White House?”

“I actually think it’s gotten worse,” Gates said.

His disagreements with Vice President Joe Biden were especially harsh.

“You are not very flattering to Vice President Biden in this book,” said Braver.

“Actually I think I am in some areas complimentary of him,” Gates responded, “but where I had a particular problem with the vice president was in his encouragement of suspicion of the military and the senior military with the president: ‘You can’t trust these guys. They’re gonna try and jam you. They’re gonna try and box you in,’ and so on. And that did disturb me a lot.”

But Gates said he did occasionally see eye-to-eye with Biden.

“One time when I agreed with him on something — often Admiral Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and I would ride back to the Pentagon together from the White House — and Mullen turned to me at one point [and] said, ‘You know that you agreed with the vice president this morning.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, that’s why I’m rethinking my position.'”

Gates says he was “dismayed” when he heard Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tell Obama that her opposition to the 2007 troop surge in Iraq had been “political, because she was facing him during the primary season.”

But Gates also has high praise for Clinton, saying she became one of his closest allies in the administration.

“The thing that I liked best about Secretary Clinton, other than the fact that she has a great sense of humor, was she is very tough-minded,” he said.

“Do you think she’d make a good president?” Braver asked.

‘Actually, I think she would,” Gates replied.

“And how about Vice President Biden? There is some talk he might run.”

“Well, I suppose to be even-handed, I would have to say I suppose he would,” he laughed.

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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