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Royal Navy’s HMS Bulwark to go after “criminal gangs”

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By Nick Squires, Catania and Barney Henderson

9:37PM BST 22 Apr 2015

European Union leaders meeting in Brussels on Thursday will consider launching a military operation against Libyan migrant traffickers, a draft statement seen by AFP showed on Wednesday night.

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On the eve of the emergency EU summit on migration in Brussels, Matteo Renzi, the Italian prime minister, said the country was “at war” with migrant traffickers, who are responsible for the deaths of as many as 1,000 migrants in the past week alone.

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David Cameron and other EU leaders will consider a commitment to “undertake systematic efforts to identify, capture and destroy vessels before they are used by traffickers,” the draft statement showed.

A diplomatic source told a news agency that the EU’s 28 member states were widely mobilised to approve the statement’s wording, reflecting a growing willingness to launch an operation to fight the traffickers.

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Roberta Pinotti, Italy’s defence minister, earlier said: “We know where the smugglers keep their boats, where they gather. The plans for military intervention are there.”

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Italy was prepared to lead a military intervention as long as it had the approval of the UN, she said.

“We think it’s the moment in which Europe decides, forcefully, to have an international police operation, which will undo this band of criminals,” she said.

Mr Cameron is reportedly considering deploying to the Mediterranean one of the Royal Navy’s biggest warships, HMS Bulwark, in an effort to “go after the criminal gangs”. The Ministry of Defence said that it was “looking at options”.

However, experts pointed out there could be major repercussions of any military intervention.

“They talk about capturing and destroying migrant boats, but presumably they will have people on-board, so they’re not going to just shoot them out of the water,” Matt Carr, the British author of Fortress Europe, a book on migration, told AFP.

“Others say the only way to stop them is to destroy all the boats in Libya, which is obviously nonsensical.” Alain Coldefy, a retired French admiral, said: “This problem is totally unsolvable with military means.”

Mr Renzi likened the human trafficking to the slave trade. “Fighting people trafficking means fighting the slave traders of the 21st century. It is not only a question of security and terrorism – it is about human dignity,” he told the Italian parliament in Rome.

The problem had to be tackled at its origins, with intense diplomatic efforts to solve conflicts in Africa and the Middle East, he added.

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Mapped: Migrant deaths attempting to reach Europe by sea since 2000

Mr Renzi urged the EU and the United Nations to establish migrant reception camps in countries such as Tunisia, Sudan and Niger, where their applications for refugee status would be assessed.

Those granted asylum would then be resettled in countries throughout the EU, including Britain.

Mr Cameron said on Wednesday night he was ready to commit British resources to a strengthened search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean.

“Let’s also go after effectively the modern slave traders,” the Prime Minister said. “Let’s also try and stabilise these countries – not just Libya but also Nigeria, Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia. It’s these unstable countries that people are coming from that’s part of the problem.”

It also emerged on Wednesday that the worst migrant boat sinking on record could have been even more deadly.

Survivors of Sunday’s disaster, in which a boat sank with more than 800 migrants locked inside the hold and lower deck, said that traffickers in Libya had initially tried to cram 1,200 people on board, but had to settle for the lower number when they realised the vessel was full to the limit.

“They wanted to put 1,200 people on the boat, they were shouting ‘hurry up’ and beating us to make us get on board. But in the end it was completely full and they stopped at 800 people,” a 16-year-old boy called Said from Somalia told Save the Children.

“It was so full we couldn’t even move. There was no food or water. The people that were put below were locked in.” He was one of just 28 survivors, including Africans and Bangladeshis, who lived to describe the horror of the unprecedented capsizing.

Italy has long argued that while migrants head for its shores because they are closest to North Africa, the issue of illegal immigration is a Europe-wide problem.

“Italy is like the front door in an apartment block – if the door is broken, then it will be a big problem for those on the floors above. Italy’s problem is also a problem for the rest of Europe,” Mauro Casinghini, a senior officer with the Order of Malta, a Catholic charity and humanitarian organisation, told The Telegraph.

“Until now, we have not seen adequate decisions being taken at the international and European level. There are plenty of leaders with good intentions and plans but nobody makes any decisions about how to stop the smuggling.”

In a fresh development it emerged that the EU is expected to ignore pleas to accommodate more migrants who succeed in crossing the Mediterranean, it was reported.

According to the Guardian only 5,000 places will be offered to those who survive the journey.

Nearly everyone who did reach Europe – 150,000 did succeed in making the crossing last year – will be sent back as soon as possible.

A new rapid return programme will be run by Frontex, the EU’s border agency.

In a draft statement the EU said it would more double the funding for the funding for the Triton and Poseidon units which are responsible for surveillance operations.

It will also begin working on a military operation to capture and destroy the ships which are being used to transport thousands of migrants across the Mediterranean.

This will disappoint humanitarian groups who had been calling for a search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean.

However the EU has identified taking on the people smugglers as its main task.

“Our immediate priority is to prevent more people dying at sea. We have therefore decided to strengthen our presence at sea, to fight the traffickers, to prevent illegal migration flows and to reinforce internal solidarity,” the draft statement said.

No place for asylum seekers: EU reportedly plans to kick out 29 of every 30 refugees

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The EU plans to allow only 5,000 refugees for resettlement by asylum seekers in response to the Mediterranean refugee crisis, reports the Guardian. Last year alone 150,000 people arrived in Southern Europe after surviving a trip across the sea.

The measure is part of a package that EU leaders are discussing in Brussels on Thursday. The British newspaper cites a confidential draft conclusion of the summit that outlines the union’s response to the inflow of illegal immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East.

The draft suggests “setting up a first voluntary pilot project on resettlement, offering at least 5,000 places to persons qualifying for protection.” That would be one 30th of the number of immigrants who reached Europe in 2014. This year more than 36,000 of them have arrived in countries like Italy, Malta and Greece, the newspaper notes.

Read more

EU to hold immigrants at bay with third-country asylum centers

While allowing the few lucky ones in, the EU plans to aid southern European countries establish a system to fast-track asylum seekers. Emergency teems would be deployed to Italy to help register, fingerprint and process applications – so that the bulk of the refugees could be swiftly sent back to their countries of origin. The program is coordinated by EU’s border agency, Frontex.

Aid would also go to Tunisia, Egypt, Sudan, Mali and Niger to help them better monitor their land borders and intercept would-be refugees before they reach the Mediterranean coast.

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Earlier on Monday EU foreign and interior ministers agreed to double the funding of Operation Triton and Operation Poseidon, the naval border monitoring operations near the Italian coast. They were introduced to replace Italy’s own much more expensive Mare Nostrum operation, which was scrapped last year amid Rome’s complaints that other EU members would not share its burden with Italy.

Unlike Mare Nostrum, EU’s operations are not focused on search and rescue and will not be in the years to come. Instead the EU plans to identify, seize and destroy trafficker ships before they load refugees on board and send them on potentially deadly trips to Europe.

READ MORE: 200 body bags on Brighton beach highlight scale of Mediterranean migrant crisis

“Triton cannot be a search-and-rescue operation. I mean, in our operational plan, we cannot have provisions for proactive search-and-rescue action. This is not in Frontex’s mandate, and this is, in my understanding, not in the mandate of the European Union,” the agency’s head Fabrice Leggeri said on the eve of the summit.

Since the change introduced in EU’s response to Mediterranean refugees some 1,500 people are estimated to have drowned in attempts to cross the sea. The bulk of that number comes from last weekend’s wreck of a ship near Libyan coast, which is thought to have been carrying some 900 refugees.

While it was continuing in 2014, the Italian Navy’s Mare Nostrum operation rescued over 166,000 people. Critics argued that rescuing the refugees was a ‘pull factor’ that encouraged more of them to take the perilous journey and ultimately leading to a larger number of deaths.


Republican Senators characterize Paul as dangerous libertarian isolationist


Kentucky Senator and presidential candidate Rand Paul has fired back at harsh criticism leveled against him by two neocon senators, John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

Paul characterized McCain and Graham as lapdogs for Obama’s foreign policy.

“They supported Hillary Clinton’s war in Libya; they supported President Obama’s bombing of Assad; they also support President Obama’s foreign aid to countries that hate us. So if there is anyone who is most opposed to President Obama’s foreign policy, it’s me. People who call loudest to criticize me are great proponents of President Obama’s foreign policy — they just want to do it ten times over,” he said.

On Monday McCain said Paul “just doesn’t understand” the foreign policy agenda of the United States. “He has displayed this kind of naiveté since he came to the Senate.”

In September, however, McCain said he would support Paul if he won the Republican nomination.

“I know that, if he were president or a nominee, I could influence him, particularly some of his views and positions on national security. He trusts me particularly on the military side of things, so I could easily work with him. It wouldn’t be a problem,” he told The New Yorker.

Graham also criticized Paul on Monday. He told Joe Scarborough Rand Paul is “is one step behind leading from behind.”

“So, yes, even Obama is more aggressive. Obama believes you can kill Anwar al Awlaki without getting a court order. Obama believes you can hold unlawful enemy combatants at Gitmo without a criminal trial because this is law of war detention. So Rand Paul is behind Obama, not just Hillary Clinton,” he said.

“My problem with Rand Paul is foreign policy. He’s a libertarian and I come from a more traditional Republican perspective,” Graham said.

Graham aides say the South Carolina senator is positioning himself as a Paul opponent as part of a possible presidential bid.

Libya, Syria, Yemen: Sectarian conflict threatens entire Middle East

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A coalition of 10 Sunni Arab states is on a military offensive against Shiite Houthi militants in Yemen, recently proclaimed by America’s president as a brilliant example of war on terror, but now catapulting the Middle East into the inferno of battle.

Saudi Arabia has initiated an international military operation in Yemen that many experts are already calling a proxy war against Iran, since Houthi fighters are believed to have strategic backup from Tehran.

The internal Yemeni conflict has the potential to transform into a military standoff based on religious background between the Sunni monarchies of the Persian Gulf on one side and Shiites of the region supported by Iran on the other.

READ MORE: Saudi Arabia bombs Yemen, launches coalition op against Houthi rebels

US President Barack Obama has authorized “logistical and intelligence support.”

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The coalition is bombing a country that used to have heavy American presence for years, since Washington used to station a fleet of assault UAVs in Yemen, waging drone warfare against militants of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

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“This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the frontlines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years,” said Obama as recently as September 10, 2014.

This longstanding fruitful cooperation between Sanaa and Washington has had a bitter ending, as Houthi fighters captured Yemen’s major cities and are offering a reward for US-backed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, while the US were forced to evacuate its embassy from Yemen along with diplomatic missions of other western countries in early February.

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Yemen’s territory has become increasingly fragmented, with Sunni militant groups operating in the south of the country and AQAP becoming active again.

The base with deployed US killer drones remained operable until last week, when it was abandoned like all other US installations in the country.

READ MORE: US evacuates ‘special forces’ in Yemen as rebels seize third largest city

The developments in Yemen have drawn attention to Obama’s policy of dealing with terrorism hot-beds around the world from Republican Senators John Mc Cain and Lindsey Graham.

They rebuked the Obama administration over Yemen’s descent into a regional proxy war threatening to engulf the Middle East, calling it “another tragic case of leading from behind.”

READ MORE: Yemen rebels gained access to secret US files – report

Yemen now in many ways resembles Libya, disintegrating after foreign intervention, or Syria, devastated by years of civil war, as fighter jets of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition are pouncing Yemeni military installations and infrastructure facilities.

The meltdown in Yemen is causing embarrassment in Washington, editor of the Pan-African News Wire, Abayomi Azikiwe, told RT.

“It is a very dangerous situation. What it represents is a total collapse of the US foreign policy in Yemen,” Azikiwe said, stressing that it was “clearly miscalculation” on the part of the Obama administration, which underestimated power of Houthi groups.

“It is clearly a failure of the US foreign policy in Yemen,” he said.

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The US withdrawal from Yemen has revealed a massive property lost, as the US government is believed to have lost track of about $500 million worth of military aid provided to Yemen in recent years, beginning in 2007.

Officials acknowledge that they’re unable to account for more than a million rounds of ammunition, 160 Humvees (HMMWV) vehicles, 200 M-4 assault rifles and 250 body armor suits – and this is far from being the full inventory of lost property.

The US has no intention of stabilizing other nations, retired US Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski told RT.

“What the US government is focused on is putting arms out there and creating bias for those arms. The US taxpayer subsidizes foreign weapon sales. So we’re always out there, our government is always out there looking for places to market our weapons,” Kwiatkowski said. US foreign policy is aimed at creating markets for the US weaponry and is good at it, not at solving crises, promoting good governments etc.

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“That’s not our expertise. We don’t spend time and money on that. We spend time and money on creating consumers for our weapons,” she said.

Meantime Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Sudan, Pakistan, Morocco, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain are bombing Yemeni territory using mostly US-made weapons and hardware, with a proclaimed objective to prevent President Hadi from losing power.

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“We will do whatever it takes in order to protect the legitimate government of Yemen from falling,” Saudi Arabia’s ambassador in Washington, Adel al-Jubeir, told a news conference while announcing the operation.

After the Iran’s advances in Iraq – which borders Saudi Arabia to the north – the kingdom is worried that Yemen, on its southern frontier, is going to become a proxy for Iran as well.

“In the absence of the Americans, who have temporarily quit the field, the Saudi’s will think they have no choice but to go in pretty hard. We are going to see redesign of the region,” President of the Australia Institute of International Affairs John McCarthy told Reuters.

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The key to the unwinding military conflict is going to be reaction of Iran, which has its finger in many ongoing conflicts in the Middle East.

If Tehran decides to play big, oil exports from the region – crucial to the world economy – could fall victim to the regional conflict. That in turn will threaten energy supplies of many countries, particularly China, Japan and South Korea.

READ MORE: Oil surges 6% on Saudi airstrikes in Yemen

Saudi Arabia moves heavy arms to border with chaos-stricken Yemen

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Saudi Arabia is deploying a significant task force to the border with neighboring Yemen, where Houthi Shiite rebels allegedly forced the president to leave the country. President Hadi has been asking the UN to approve the use of foreign forces in Yemen.

The situation in Yemen remains murky, with Houthi militants claiming capture of the southern seaport of Aden, President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s stronghold. The fighters say the city of Aden is now under their control and they’re arresting the president’s supporters there.

The rebels claim Hadi has fled the country, and announced a 20 million riyal ($100,000) reward for Hadi’s capture, Lebanese-based Al-Manar TV reported, citing the rebels’ representatives. While two of the president’s aides have said he remains in Aden and has no intention of leaving the country, later reports claim he has left Yemen.

Yemen’s president has left the country on a boat from Aden, officials told AP. Hadi is now traveling by sea to the neighboring country of Djibouti, Yemen’s former president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s secretary told RIA Novosti.

Local residents informed Reuters that Houthi fighters have overrun Al-Anad airbase and entered Aden, arresting the defense minister.

Elements of the Yemeni army who have sided with the rebel fighters have seized control of the Aden international airport, according to Al Mayadeen TV. The airport representatives told AP it was closed with flights canceled for security reasons and the worsening situation in the city.

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The objective of the Saudi Arabian troops remains uncertain and even the US, Riyadh’s major ally, is not sure what the House of Saud has on its mind regarding the long-lasting political turmoil of its southern neighbor.

The opinions of US officials contacted by Reuters on the issue are divided. Two said that the concentration of artillery systems and armor on the Saudi border with Yemen have defensive purposes, while other government sources were not so sure.

A US source that described the concentration of Saudi troops as “significant” made a guess that Riyadh might be getting ready to strike the Houthis if they attempt to seize the residence of Yemen’s legitimate president. It cannot be excluded that Saudi Arabia might use its Air Force to strike rebels near Aden.

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Hadi has been seeking support from the United Nations Security Council for military action against Houthi militias by “willing countries,” Reuters reports.

The president wants the UNSC to adopt a resolution authorizing “willing countries that wish to help Yemen to provide immediate support for the legitimate authority by all means and measures to protect Yemen and deter the Houthi aggression.”

Hadi has also asked the League of Arab States to immediately interfere in the situation in Yemen, Al Arabiya TV reported, citing a statement by Yemen’s foreign minister, Riad Yassin. A “joint Arab slant” is needed to coordinate and decide on an “immediate military intervention,” Yassin said.

The Arab League’s foreign ministers will meet Thursday to discuss possible military involvement, Reuters reported, referring to the League’s deputy chairman.

Meanwhile, the militants in Yemen have called for all neighboring states to “keep the peace” and “side with the people of Yemen,” an official representative of the Ansar Allah armed group said, as cited by Tass.

Read more

US evacuates ‘special forces’ in Yemen as rebels seize third largest city

Some Yemeni military officers don’t like the idea of foreign intervention.

“We express our total and utter rejection of any external interference in Yemeni affairs under any pretext and in any form and from any side,” Reuters cited statement of a group of officers calling themselves Higher Committee to Preserve the Armed Forces and Security.

“All members of the armed forces and security and all the sons of the proud people of Yemen with all its components will confront with all their strength and heroism any attempt to harm the pure soil of the homeland, its independence or its sovereignty or to threaten its unity and territorial integrity,” the military group announced on a website.

In late February, Yemen’s Shiite rebel leader Abdel-Malik al-Houthi accused Saudi Arabia of attempting to divide Yemen along sectarian lines.

“Our elder sister, the Saudi kingdom, doesn’t respect the Yemenis and wants to impose here in Yemen the sequence of events and divisions that happened in Libya,” al-Houthi said, as cited by the AP.

A brief war between Houthis and Riyadh resulted in deaths of about 200 Saudis four years ago.

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There were plans for an observer mission or a local ceasefire with the Houthi rebels, but due to the fact that Saudi Arabia borders Yemen and Yemen is now posing a security threat to Saudi Arabia, the US is more likely to advocate any sort of intervention in Yemen,” Middle East researcher Danny Makki told RT.

As the US is fighting Al-Qaeda militants within Yemen, “now the problem is that the Al-Qaeda militants that Americans are fighting are actually fighting the Houthi rebels, who America is un-allied to,” Makki added, saying that such a situation results in a “geopolitical war of mirrors.”

READ MORE: ‘No Arab, GCC country has time or capacity to save situation in Yemen’

Sunni Saudi Arabia believes that Shiite Houthi rebels are supported by Riyadh’s arch-enemy Iran. The kingdom’s richest oil deposits are in the Eastern Province bordering Yemen and inhabited by Shiites. Given that the power in Saudi Arabia’s neighbor Iraq is also in the hands of Shiites, Sunni Riyadh could find itself between rock and a hard place and in a state of proxy war with Tehran.

The porous 1,800km border between Saudi Arabia and Yemen, used by local tribes for illegal trade and contraband, has always been a headache for Riyadh. In 2004, Saudi Arabia even initiated construction of the so-called ‘Saudi–Yemen barrier’ with control towers and electronic detection equipment. Although the multi-billion project was only partially implemented, talks about construction’s renewal reappeared on many occasions and came up with a bang after Houthi rebels’ success in seizing power in Yemen.

In August 2014, Houthi rebels swept down from their stronghold in the mountains, demanding economic and political reforms. In September they seized key state installations in the capital, Sanaa.

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After Hadi left the capital, Houthis continued advancing to the south of the country, seizing cities one by one. All Western embassies were evacuated from Yemen.

READ MORE: Marines ‘smashed’ weapons before evacuating US embassy in Yemen

When last weekend Shiite rebels seized Yemen’s third largest city Taiz, the US announced the evacuation of remaining special forces involved in a drone campaign against Al-Qaeda.

READ MORE: Dozens dead in Yemen mosques bombings, ISIS ‘claims’ responsibility (GRAHIC IMAGES)

Last Friday a suicide bomber attack on two mosques in Sanaa became one of the worst terror acts in Yemen’s history. At least 126 people were killed and some 250 more were wounded in the bombings. Islamic State militants have claimed responsibility for the deadly suicide bomb attack, according to their statement cited by Reuters.

Here’s the single most convincing reason to vote for Ted Cruz in the Republican primary *(SAY NO TO ANOTHER BUSH.)*



Texas Senator Ted Cruz officially entered the presidential race on Monday. His decision to run was greeted by his friends and attacked by his foes.
One of those who was pleased was Red State’s editor in chief Erick Erickson, who wrote a post welcoming him.
The hyperbolic Jennifer Rubin was less enthused. She wrote a blog post calling his candidacy “absurd” and said it was important for conservatives like Scott Walker to reject the “libertarianish, conspiracy mindset that opposes the NSA program.”
Perhaps the strongest opposition to Cruz thus far has come from Congressman Peter King (R-N.Y.). But in attacking Cruz, King may have also provided the single best reason Cruz should receive your support.
CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked King about comments he made comparing Cruz to a carnival barker. According to Mediaite, here’s what King said:
“We need intelligent debate in the country. Ted Cruz may be an intelligent person, but he doesn’t carry out an intelligent debate,” King said. “He oversimplifies, he exaggerates and he basically led the Republican Party over the cliff in the fall of 2013. He has shown no qualifications, no legislation being passed, doesn’t provide leadership and he has no real experience. So, to me, he is just a guy with a big mouth and no results.”
But would King support Cruz if he ended up becoming the Republican Party nominee for 2016?
“I hope that day never comes,” King told Blitzer. “I will jump off that bridge when we come to it.”
Many of the same people who talk about a “big tent” in the Republican Party threaten to “jump off a bridge” if called upon to support a conservative candidate.
There are reasons Peter King, who has developed a reputation for being an authoritarian bully, should be ignored. The first and foremost is that he is a hypocrite on fighting terrorism.
King has emerged as a supporter of the NSA’s domestic surveillance program that is troubling to civil libertarians. King has also called for the arrests of journalists such as Glenn Greenwald for publishing the documents stolen by former contractor Edward Snowden, which showed the NSA had been conducting surveillance on the phone calls and e-mails of the American people.
But King was and still is a supporter of the Provisional IRA in Northern Ireland. The IRA, which was backed by Moammar Gaddafi’s Libya, was responsible for the deaths of 1,823 people between 1969 and 2001.
As Michael Moynihan documented for Reason in 2011, Peter King is not sorry about his support for the IRA, despite the group’s record of murdering civilians in bombing attacks throughout the United Kingdom.
Another reason Peter King should be ignored is that he doesn’t believe in limited government. King’s lifetime rating from FreedomWorks is a pathetic 55 percent, his lifetime rating from the Club for Growth is an even more awful 50 percent, and his lifetime Heritage Action score is an abysmal 39 percent.
Is this man even in the right political party?
If Ted Cruz running for president will make hawks and other big-government Republicans go crazy, that’s reason enough to consider supporting him.