Sahil Kapur

Sahil Kapur is TPM's senior congressional reporter and Supreme Court correspondent. His articles have been published in the Huffington Post, The Guardian and The New Republic. Email him at sahil@talkingpointsmemo.com and follow him on Twitter at @sahilkapur.

Articles by Sahil

President Obama told an AIPAC crowd Sunday that he remains deeply committed to preventing Iran from buildling a nuclear weapon, describing war as a last resort but declaraing that military force remains an option.

"When it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say," Obama said. "That includes all elements of American power. A political effort aimed at isolating Iran; a diplomatic effort to sustain our coalition and ensure that the Iranian program is monitored; an economic effort to impose crippling sanctions; and, yes, a military effort to be prepared for any contingency."

He added: "For the sake of Israel’s security, America’s security, and the peace and security of the world, now is not the time for bluster; now is the time to let our increased pressure sink in, and to sustain the broad international coalition that we have built. Now is the time to heed that timeless advice from Teddy Roosevelt: speak softly, but carry a big stick."

President Obama on Sunday emphasized to an AIPAC crowd that he has consistently stood by Israel and will continue doing so, despite the political attacks against his foreign policy to the Jewish state.

From his speech:

And because of AIPAC’s effectiveness in carrying out its mission, you can expect that over the next few days, you will hear many fine words from elected officials describing their commitment to the U.S.-Israel relationship. But as you examine my commitment, you don’t just have to count on my words. You can look at my deeds. Because over the last three years, as President of the United States, I have kept my commitments to the state of Israel. At every crucial juncture – at every fork in the road – we have been there for Israel. Every single time. 

Four years ago, I stood before you and said that “Israel’s security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable.” That belief has guided my actions as President. The fact is, my Administration’s commitment to Israel’s security has been unprecedented. Our military and intelligence cooperation has never been closer. Our joint exercises and training have never been more robust. Despite a tough budget environment, our security assistance has increased every year. We are investing in new capabilities. We’re providing Israel with more advanced technology – the type of products and systems that only go to our closest friends and allies. And make no mistake: we will do what it takes to preserve Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge – because Israel must always have the ability to defend itself, by itself, against any threat. ...

Just as we’ve been there with our security assistance, we have been there through our diplomacy. When the Goldstone report unfairly singled out Israel for criticism, we challenged it. When Israel was isolated in the aftermath of the flotilla incident, we supported them. When the Durban conference was commemorated, we boycotted it, and we will always reject the notion that Zionism is racism. When one-sided resolutions are brought up at the Human Rights Council, we oppose them. When Israeli diplomats feared for their lives in Cairo, we intervened to help save them. When there are efforts to boycott or divest from Israel, we will stand against them. And whenever an effort is made to de-legitimize the state of Israel, my Administration has opposed them. So there should not be a shred of doubt by now: when the chips are down, I have Israel’s back.

Which is why, if during this political season you hear some question my Administration’s support for Israel, remember that it’s not backed up by the facts. And remember that the U.S.-Israel relationship is simply too important to be distorted by partisan politics. America’s national security is too important. Israel’s security is too important. 

Obama added that he remains committed to seeking peace between Israel and Palestine. "I believe that peace with the Palestinians is consistent with Israel’s founding values – because of our shared belief in self-determination; and because Israel’s place as a Jewish and democratic state must be protected," he said.

President Obama announced in a speech Sunday that he will award Israeli President and former Prime Minister Shimon Peres the presidential Medal of Freedom later this spring.

Addressing the American-Israeli group AIPAC, Obama made a stirring tribute to Peres's life work.

Shimon was born a world away from here, in a shtetl in what was then Poland, a few years after the end of the first World War. But his heart was always in Israel, the historic homeland of the Jewish people, and when he was just a boy he made his journey across land and sea – towards home.

In his life, he has fought for Israel’s independence, and he has fought for peace and security. As a member of the Haganah and a Member of the Knesset; as a Minister of Defense and Foreign Affairs; as a Prime Minister and as a President – Shimon helped build the nation that thrives today: the Jewish state of Israel. But beyond these extraordinary achievements, he has also been a powerful moral voice that reminds us that right makes might – not the other way around.

Shimon once described the story of the Jewish people by saying it proved that, “slings, arrows and gas chambers can annihilate man, but cannot destroy human values, dignity, and freedom.” He has lived those values. He has taught us to ask more of ourselves, and to empathize more with our fellow human beings. I am grateful for his life’s work and his moral example, and I am proud to announce that later this Spring, I will invite Shimon Peres to the White House to present him with America’s highest civilian honor – the presidential Medal of Freedom. 

Conservative columnist George Will on Sunday tore into top Republicans for their tepid response to Rush Limbaugh's smear of Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke, declaring that the GOP is "afraid" of the right-wing radio host.

"It would've been nice if they had shared that with the larger public, the Republican leaders," Will said on ABC's This Week. "Instead, Mr. Boehner comes out and says, Rush's language was inappropriate. Using a salad fork for your entree, that's inappropriate. Not this stuff. I mean, and Rick Santorum says well, what he says was absurd, but an entertainer is allowed to be absurd. No. It is the responsibility of conservatives to police the right in its excesses, just as the liberals unfailingly fail to police the excesses in their own side. And it was depressing, because what it indicates is that the Republican leaders are afraid of Rush Limbaugh. They want to bomb Iran, but they're afraid of Rush Limbaugh."

Newt Gingrich said that Rush Limbaugh was "was right to apologize" for smearing a Georgetown law student over her testimony on birth control, before changing the topic to President Obama and his handing of the Afghanistan protests. 

"But let's talk about apologies for a second," Gingrich said. "I think the president was totally wrong as commander in chief to apologize to religious fanatics while our young men are being killed in Afghanistan, and I think it was a disaster of an apology."

Of the broader debate about the contraception mandate, Gingrich said the "elite media are so desperate to not describe this accurately," declaring that the issue is about religious liberty.

"First of all, this young lady can buy contraception all she wants to," the former Speaker said. "There is no place in America that's difficult for her to get contraception. The question is, should a religiously-affiliated institution -- not just Catholic, but for example the Christian University of -- the Ohio Christian University, which is Protestant, but is right-to-life-- finds that sterilization and abortion provisions of Obamacare totally unacceptable."

Mitt Romney took to Twitter to thank Eric Cantor for his endorsement Sunday soon after the Republican House Majority Leader announced it on NBC's Meet The Press.

Romney tweeted from his official account @MittRomney:

"Thank you @EricCantor for joining the team and helping get our message out prior to Virginia’s primary! #Mitt2012"

Newt Gingrich said Sunday on ABC's This Week that the primary is far from a done deal for Mitt Romney.

"This is going to go on for a good while. Governor Romney, who's outspent all the rest of us by multiples, is the frontrunner without any question. But I think he's not a very convincing frontrunner, and he's a long way from having closed out this race."

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), one of Congress's strongest advocates for the Afghanistan war, said the misgivings expressed by Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh are examples of frustration, but not reason to end the military operation.

"They're expressing frustration but I know why we're there," Graham said on Fox News Sunday. "Don't let this snapshot ruin the strategic importance... If we leave, and it falls back into Taliban hands and Al-Qaeda reemerges, we'll pay a heavy price."

"The key to this," he added, "is a strategic partnership agreement telling the Taliban, the Iranians, the Pakistanis we'll have a follow up military force and the Taliban will never come back."

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) endorsed Mitt Romney for president Sunday on NBC's Meet The Press, describing him as the candidate best suited to improve the economy.

"Mitt Romney is the man for this year," Cantor said, predicting that he will do very well in the Super Tuesday primaries this week.

Rick Santorum insisted Sunday that the Blunt amendment is not about birth control, but about a broad exemption to ensure that employers never have to violate a religious belief.

"The issue is about whether the government can force you to do things that are against your conscience," he said on Fox News Sunday.

Santorum brushed off questions about his personal objections to contraception, declaring that that's not what his campaign has been talking about on the trail.