Even President Obama's most aggressive critics aren't calling for a military response to the crisis in Ukraine. Plenty of voices on the right are demanding the White House do "something" and act "tough," but practically no one is calling for the administration to start moving U.S. troops into position for possible action.
So what do Obama's critics want to see? The preferred prescription is usually far less specific, but it usually involves calling for some combination of visa restrictions and economic sanctions.
Which, as it turns out, is exactly what the president has been preparing, as the White House announced this morning.
The State Department will place visa restrictions on individuals "threatening the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine."
President Obama has also ordered financials sanctions to be set up against those "responsible for activities undermining democratic processes or institutions in Ukraine," following days of threats that the United States may use economic pressure to move Russia towards a diplomatic solution.
There's no list of targeted people or companies yet, but a senior administration official tells NBC that it puts them "on notice they could be targeted for sanctions." As for visas, the administration has made it clear that both Russian and Ukrainian individuals will be affected by the move and see their visas revoked.
The policy will not require congressional action; Obama made the move by way of an executive order. Whether or not congressional Republicans will pretend to find this outrageous -- they recently decided they're against presidential executive orders, but only Obama's orders and only when the GOP disapproves of the underlying issue -- is unclear.
Regardless, the administration's moves raise questions about the sincerity and coherence of conservative criticism. Many of the responses Republicans have demanded -- financial support for Ukraine, G8 meeting boycott, sanctions, visa restrictions -- are the same responses the Obama administration supports.
Several years ago, John Cole described the Cameron Todd Willingham case as a story that "reads like a Grisham novel -- allegations of murder and arson, the execution of an innocent man, corrupt politicos." As it happens, the real-life story appears to have a new chapter.
As long time readers may recall, Texas executed Willingham a decade ago, after he was convicted of killing his daughters in a deliberate house fire. Prosecutors secured a conviction thanks to the testimony of an "expert" whose credibility and findings were later torn to shreds.
But that's really just the start. As controversy surrounding the case grew, the Texas Forensic Science Commission, created to consider the competence of those who offer forensic testimony, hired an actual arson expert to consider the evidence, but before the panel could proceed, Gov. Rick Perry (R) started firing commission members before they could discuss the case.
But wasn't there a jailhouse informant who said Willingham confessed to him? There was, but in the latest twist, "newly discovered evidence suggests that the prosecutor in the case may have concealed a deal with a jailhouse informant whose testimony was a key part of the execution decision."
In recent weeks, as part of an effort to obtain a posthumous exoneration from the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Gov. Rick Perry, lawyers working on Mr. Willingham's behalf say they have found evidence that [jailhouse informant Johnny Webb] gave his testimony in return for a reduced prison sentence. Evidence of an undisclosed deal could have proved exculpatory during Mr. Willingham's trial or figured in subsequent appeals, but Mr. Webb and the prosecutor at trial, John Jackson -- who would later become a judge -- explicitly denied that any deal existed during Mr. Webb's testimony.
If you're starting to think Texas executed an innocent man, you're not the only one.
Republican efforts to blame officials in the United States for the Ukrainian crisis reached a strange level on Tuesday, when Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) argued Russia's invasion can be traced back to the terrorist attack in Benghazi.
Almost immediately, political observers of all stripes were eager to know one thing: what in the world Graham was thinking.
Yesterday, the senator defended his argument with CNN's Dana Bash.
"The point I'm trying to make is that there's been too many times in the last six months where the President has told people, 'if you don't do what I say, there'll be consequences,' and nothing's happened," Graham told CNN.
As Graham sees it, President Obama has barked orders to foreign nations, demanding that they do as he says or face adverse consequences. The South Carolina Republican believes those threats were hollow, which in turn undermined U.S. credibility, which in turn renewed Putin's interests in Ukraine, which in turn inspired an invasion.
The problem with Graham's defense is that it doesn't make much sense.
Initial unemployment claims have been stuck at a discouraging level lately, but according to the new figures from the Labor Department, last week offered a welcome break. The weather, however, may have contributed to the progress.
The number of people who applied for U.S. unemployment benefits fell by 26,000 to 323,000 in the week ended March 1, marking the lowest level since late November, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch expected claims to total 335,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis. Like other economic reports, claims have been distorted by a harsh winter.... A better way to gauge the trend in claims is the four-week average that reduces the effects of weather and other unusual factors. The monthly average posted a much smaller decline of 2,000 to end up at 336,500, and it's shown little change in 2014.
To reiterate the point I make every Thursday morning, it's worth remembering that week-to-week results can vary widely, and it's best not to read too much significance into any one report.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) no doubt thought he was making a smart political move by scheduling another IRS hearing. The "scandal" stopped being interesting many months ago, but there's an election coming up, and fundraising letters to be sent out, so Issa likely hoped a new hearing would serve some larger partisan purpose.
Indeed, the California Republican seemed to have a plan: he'd demand testimony from Lois Lerner, the former head of the IRS' tax exempt division; she would assert her Fifth Amendment rights; and Issa would share his righteous indignation for the cameras. It's a custom-made stunt for the right, generating plenty of "IRS official takes the Fifth" headlines.
But Issa just couldn't control himself. Instead of the political world chattering about a discredited controversy, everyone is now shaking their head about Issa cutting off microphones and refusing to let Democrats speak at the hearing. Issa stopped pushing the story and quickly became the story.
A reporter than asked Issa if he was still "confident" the investigation would "get to the bottom of this."
"It may well be we have gotten to the bottom of it," Issa said. "At this point, roads lead to Ms. Lerner. The witness who to took the Fifth. That becomes -- she becomes one of the key characters at this point. Had she been willing to explain those emails which were provided through separate subpoenas, then we could have perhaps brought this to a close. Without that, it may dead end with Ms. Lerner."
And it's at this point that even Issa's Republican allies may have to wonder whether the committee chairman was the right person for this job in the first place.
It's been nearly three months since congressional Republicans allowed extended unemployment benefits to lapse, despite independent warnings that this would cost the national economy hundreds of thousands of jobs. Since then Senate Democrats have brought multiple extensions to the floor for a vote, but in each instance, the bills failed due to Republican filibusters.
Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said Wednesday that he will need to "pull out all the stops" to get enough GOP support for a 6-month extension to unemployment benefits that could come up for a vote next week.
"I have to pull out all the stops to try to pick up another Republican vote, it's not Democrats I have to worry about," he said. "It's getting the Republicans to allow these millions of people who are desperate long-term unemployed a shot in the arm."
Weather in the nation's capital has affected the calendar, but Reid's office expects a vote next week, either Wednesday or Thursday.
For those struggling to find jobs, every day counts. About 1.3 million Americans lost their benefits when the GOP opposed an extension a few days after Christmas, and 72,000 more are added to that total per week.
Why will the latest Democratic effort succeed where the others failed?
Attorneys are not supposed to be judged by the crimes of their clients. It's a basic American principle that eluded the U.S. Senate today.
The Senate voted 47-52 Wednesday to reject controversial nominee Debo Adegbile as an assistant attorney general.
Seven Democrats voted against moving forward with President Obama's nomination of Adegbile, which the Fraternal Order of Police and other groups opposed because of his involvement in the defense of Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of killing a Philadelphia police officer in 1981.
Adegbile's nomination had 48 votes -- two shy of a tie, which Vice President Biden would have broken in the nominee's favor -- but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had to switch his vote for procedural reasons.
Every Republican in the chamber voted against Adegbile, and they were joined today by seven Democrats. It's the first defeat for an Obama nominee since the so-called "nuclear option" was executed last fall.
Any in this instance, it's pretty easy to argue that Adegbile deserved better.