Saturday, March 25, 2006

Censure Hearings Scheduled For Friday

Next week is a key week for those wanting to see accountability for King George...

Reuters: Senate hearing set on move to censure Bush
The Republican-led U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee announced on Friday it would hold a hearing next week on a call by a Democratic lawmaker to censure President George W. Bush for his domestic spy program.

In a one-sentence notice, the panel said the hearing would be held next Friday by the order of its chairman, Republican Sen. Arlen Specter...

Scheduling it for a Friday? Doesn't sound like Specter considers this a serious matter.

You can contact all the Senate Judiciary Committee members- here.

Ask them what the President would have to do before they held him accountable for anything.

Let's also hope this is not a partisan nightmare like the Alito hearings ended up being (they will be, of course, but I'm trying to be optimistic). I would hope that the Committee members put aside their partisan leanings, remember the oath of office that they took, and use this as way of trying to get accountability and answers from an administration that holds them in ill regard.

I also hope that the hearings ignore the false debate that is quickly becoming the the conventional wisdom... namely the notion that Democrats (well just Feingold, Harkin, and Boxer right now) want to censure the President for spying on terrorists. The Democrats need to make sure to get that crap out of the way first thing. This is not a fictional debate between the War President and weak Democrats who want to help Al Qaeda. It is an issue of executive power and of the fate of checks and balances during wartime.

The President's case is weak, which is why he and his followers are busy knocking down strawmen, calling people 'moonbats', and accusing critics of not wanting to capture terrorists. The fact that he is winning this debate is only because Democrats are letting him. They need to stop letting him.

They should also remind people that the President is the one who has politicized this war.

I posted this before, but here are some questions Senators should debate...

Why did the President need to break the law, as opposed to simply wanting to? How did the incredibly accomodating provisions of FISA (which, among other things, provides options for retroactive warrants) hamper the President's ability to move quickly in ordering surveillance? What attacks/plans has this program thwarted that could not have been uncovered using legal surveillance?... to date, the White House has not answered this.

Also, did the President and the Justice Department just think up the AUMF and/or Article II legal justification after the program was outed or is that what they believed all along? Why did the President make several statements in 2004 making it clear (falsely) that all wiretapping involved court orders? How does this program relate to recent reports of the Pentagon (etc) spying on peaceful political activists? How many secret, illegal spying programs are going on? Will Congress or the courts ever be briefed on them? Since no court orders or records are kept of this warrantless wiretapping, how can they offer assurances that innocent Americans aren't being spied on (factoring in FBI reports noting that this has happened)?

More- Considering terrorists are very well familiar with methods and practices of surveillance, how did the leak hurt national security? Does the President respect whistleblower laws? What impact does jailing reporters have on a democracy? Does the President believe there is any limit to his power? If so, where specifically would he draw the line?

I will send a heartfelt thank you letter to any Senator whos asks these questions.

By the way, I came across this story today in regards to the question of how pervasive the domestic spying is- DOJ: NSA Could've Monitored Lawyers' Calls (AP). This, along with news of other government agencies spying on protestors, is a good starting point for a debate on the extent of the program's reach.

Meanwhile, the calls for full-on impeachment of the President grows louder-
Near Paul Revere Country, Anti-Bush Cries Get Louder

This censure debate is more important right now, but it's just something to keep in mind.

Finally, Ward Sutton expresses in cartoon form what I've been saying all week... The idea that the Republicans want this issue out there because it's win for them is a complete bluff. They are scared of what will happen when someone as smart and strong as Feingold can rally public support in his favor and they are reacting desperately- trying to squash investigations and running ads accusing Feingold of undermining the war on terror.

The Democrats need to call this bluff- or else, they will have some explaining to do to angry constituents.

King George Swats Pesky Congressional Flies

As if the revelations of the President's signing statement on the Patriot Act (in which he exempted himself from its requirements and limitations) wasn't worrisome enough, there is plenty more news today on the King George front.

Major revelations continue to unfold in the background...

Glenn Greenwald has details-
The Republicans and Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee submitted detailed questions to the Bush Administration regarding the NSA program, and the DoJ's responses to both the Democrats' questions and its responses to the Republicans' are now available.

There are numerous noteworthy items, but the most significant, by far, is that the DoJ made clear to Congress that even if Congress passes some sort of newly amended FISA of the type which Sen. DeWine introduced, and even if the President "agrees" to it and signs it into law, the President still has the power to violate that law if he wants to. Put another way, the Administration is telling the Congress -- again -- that they can go and pass all the laws they want which purport to liberalize or restrict the President's powers, and it does not matter, because the President has and intends to preserve the power to do whatever he wants regardless of what those laws provide...

Greenwald looks at the answer to the question on "whether President Carter's signature on FISA in 1978, together with his signing statement" meant the law was binding. The answer Republicans got from the Department of Justice stated that it didn't. The response stated specifically that the Constitution grants the President his "inherent" (and apparently, unlimited) powers and that no law made (even if the President signs and agrees to it) ultimately supercedes that inherent power,.

Scary, no?

Greenwald shares thoughts on that response-
None of [what Congress does] matters, because no matter what Congress or even the President do with regard to the law, the law does not restrict what the President can do in any way. They are telling the Congress to its face that all of the grand debates it is having and the negotiations it is conducting are all irrelevant farces, because no matter what happens, the President retains unlimited power and nothing that Congress does can affect that power in any way.

He also looks at the answer to a question on whether the President exceeded his power by interpreting the laws rather than simply just executing them as stated (in our system Congress makes the laws, the courts interpret them, and the President executes them). The Department of Justice's response (not surprisingly) was that he hadn't exceeded his authority. They state the President must be able to interpret laws as he sees fit in order to "defend the Constitution" as his job requires.

Paging Mr. Orwell, paging Mr. Orwell...

Of course, as Greenwald notes, the administration's power grab is not a shock. They came into office via a power grab and we've always known this the way they prefer to operate- above the Congress, above the courts, above the Constitution, and above the American people. What is shocking, though is the way that Congress and the media have reacted to all of this... ie., they haven't reacted much at all. Glenn ends with thoughts on this underlying problem-
[T]he most amazing aspect of all of this is not that the Administration is claiming these powers. It is that even as it claims them as expressly and clearly as can be, the Congress continues to ignore it and pretend that it still retains power to restrict the Administration by the laws it passes. And the media continues to fail in its duty to inform the country about the powers the Administration has seized, likely because they are so extreme that people still do not really believe that the Administration means what they are saying.

They mean it all right.

The President and his administration may the ones committing the deed, but unless the press or the Congress attempt to stop him, they are willing accomplices to the unraveling of the American system of government we were all taught in school was the bedrock of our democracy.

U.S. To Iraq: Hurry It Up, Already!

McCain and Feingold team up again for the forces of good!

This time, it's to encourage Iraqis to work past the divisions tearing their country apart...

AP: Senators to Iraqis: U.S. Losing Patience
As a gunbattle raged south of Baghdad, Sens. John McCain and Russell Feingold told Iraqi leaders Saturday that American patience was growing thin and they needed to urgently overcome their stalemate and form a national unity government.

It was the second high-level U.S. delegation in less than a week delivering the same stark message to Iraqi politicians as the Bush administration steps up pressure to overcome the political impasse that threatens to scuttle hopes to start an American troop pullout this summer.

"We need very badly to form this unity government as soon as possible," McCain, R-Ariz., said at a news conference after meetings with President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari. "We all know the polls show declining support among the American people."...

...Feingold, of Wisconsin and the ranking Democrat in the U.S. delegation joined McCain in pressing for the quick formation of a government, but he spoke bluntly of his concern that the continued presence of American forces was prolonging the conflict.

"It's the reality of a situation like this that when you have a large troop presence that it has the tendency to fuel the insurgency because they can make the incorrect and unfair claim that somehow the United States is here to occupy this country, which of course is not true," Feingold said...

I wish it weren't true, Russ, but all the base-building suggests otherwise.

Still, it's good to put some pressure on the Iraqis, we need to get out of there as soon as possible. I'm not sure how much of this delegation work is purely political (ie. everyone in DC wants the situation improved as midterm elections approach) and how much is the White House realizing what they should have three years ago... that our diplomatic efforts are just as needed there as our military ones.

[PS- This likely won't please the Iraqis either, though:
U.S.: Iraq on own to rebuild ]

Taking To The Streets...

...That's what many are doing this weekend to protest the planned immigration 'reform' laws.

AP: Thousands Again Protest Immigration Bill
Tens of thousands of immigrant rights advocates from across Southern California marched Saturday in protest of federal legislation that would build more walls along the U.S.-Mexico border and make helping illegal immigrants a crime.

The march followed rallies on Friday that drew throngs of protesters to major cities around the nation...

Check out the pictures, it's pretty amazing stuff.

Estimates for Los Angeles alone are that half a million people marched today. You better believe they're paying attention to all of this in the halls of Congress.

MSNBC has video- here.

PS- Max Blumenthal has an interesting on-the-ground report about all of this:
Sensenbrenner Awakens A Sleeping Giant

Now, *That* Is Playing Hardball

Chris Matthews may be a total fanboy for the President, but he's never been big on his little Iraq adventure...

Here's what he said on Don Imus' show on MSNBC yesterday-
MATTHEWS: "They used her as a punching bag- Helen Thomas. They never call on her for five years, so they want to have some fun with her. And they played that little sporting thing of "don't interrupt", she wasn't interrupting. He just used her for fun. You know, and it works with that crowd.

I think the president made a big mistake this week, and maybe I'm the only one that caught it, but when he came out and said he never said that we went to Iraq because of what happened on 9/11, that Saddam was never involved in 9/11, that whole mentality, the whole culture, the country music, everything, was saying this was payback. We are getting them in Iraq because of what they did to us on 9/11, and now they come out and say I never claimed that. Well you know it's in the actual language of when he said to Congress, I'm now going to pick you up on that authorization to go to war, but we are going to war tomorrow, this is in 2003 in March, we are going to war tomorrow and the reason we are going is because we are going to get the countries that attacked us on 9/11 we are going to get them. He clearly said all along. The Darryl Worley song remember how you felt, and you know all that stuff, the Vice President saying that Saddam was involved in 9/11 again and again. To come out now and say I never said this was payback is B.S."

IMUS: "Didn't they actually say, because we were talking about that as well, because the way they left it out... didn't he actually say that they harbored terrorists, and as I pointed out the way that people pay attention to the news, which is not as much as you and I do, it was easy for Americans to infer that he meant... and by the way they did these polls, as you well know, in which the majority of the American people actually thought that the people who flew the airplanes into the World Trade center, the Pentagon and then the field in Pennsylvania actually came from Iraq, so while they didn't specifically say that they said that they harbored terrorists and the implication was... well you are right, but did he actually say that?"

MATTHEWS: "He said in the statement he gave to Congress when he said ok boys we are going to war tomorrow morning, in that statement he said I'm operating under the authorization that allows me to go after organizations or countries that attacked us on 9/11. Many times he said we can't distinguish between the people who attacked us on 9/11, we can't separate the two. The vice president was very clear, continually talking about coordination between the Iraqi intelligence and Muhammad Atta, who was the chief hijacker, it's right there in the tapes, and then Cheney comes out and denies it even though it's right on tape. Remember Gloria Borger interviewed him, I'm not sure if she was CBS at the time, but she interviewed him and he directly lied about it, and said that he did not say that. A number of times we have showed the tape and when he actually said exactly what he was denying on tape, we got the tape of what he was denying."

IMUS: "I forgot who said this, it could have been Tom Friedman or, and I always thought that after September 11th, the administration wanted, maybe they always wanted to go to war with Iraq or whatever, but they wanted to demonstrate to the Muslim community and the Muslim world that we were not going to take that and that we were going to strike back at somebody and they picked what they thought was going to be the easiest target, they thought as that moron at the CIA said that it was a slam dunk. They went in there and instead of being greeted as liberators as the Vice President told Tim Russert a week before this thing started, they got in there and the thing blew up on him and they have been there three years trying to get out."

MATTHEWS: "Well I am just going to stick to this point that the president led us in there with the background music of American culture. Everybody was led to believe that we were getting payback, we were avenging what happened on 9/11 and that we are going to get them. Cheney said we are going to attack terrorism at its base. Over and over the language was, this is where it came from, in fact most recently the President suggested that it was always the hot pursuit, like a New York police chase, we chased them back into their country. We pursued the terrorists back to Iraq and it's all nonsense. The reason there are terrorists in Iraq today like Zarqawi is we created the opening by blowing the country apart. From the beginning it's been not true. Now you can't prove motive and you can't prove somebody lies, but from the beginning everything about how they've got WMD, they are a threat to us, they are going to bomb us with a nuclear weapon, this country is going to be an easy liberate, it's going to be a cake walk. As Cheney said as recently as ten months ago the insurgents are in their last throes. Everything they've said is not true. And right to the end here, here we are now and it's not a civil war and when Allawi the Prime Minister is saying it is a civil war and here is the president quoting his own people that it's not a civil war. I mean the denial has been continuous. So you really can't count on the administration to tell you what is going on. That is just the fact. You've got to check it out... By the way, the President said this week that he wants the whole truth about what is going on in Iraq, the whole truth and that the media isn't telling the whole story. I'll tell you what we are not telling. We are not showing pictures of the twenty five hundred bodies coming back because they won't let us show the pictures. They don't want the whole truth out and that's the fact."

Well, I think that says it all, doesn't it?

Saturday Morning Funnies

Tired this morning.

I'll let the cartoons do the talking...

On President Bush:

On the Democrats:

On immigration:

On religion:

See You Next Tuesday, Barbara

Charity begins (and ends) at home for Barbara Bush...

TaxProf Blog: Barbara Bush's Hurricane Donation Earmarked for Son's Business

This must be that compassionate conservatism I heard so much about.

[Flashback: Working Out Well]

Friday, March 24, 2006

Our Permanent Constitutional Crisis

The Boston Globe has more news on President Bush's use of signing statements to circumvent the laws he signs...

Boston Globe: Bush shuns Patriot Act requirement-
In addendum to law, he says oversight rules are not binding

When President Bush signed the reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act this month, he included an addendum saying that he did not feel obliged to obey requirements that he inform Congress about how the FBI was using the act's expanded police powers.

The bill contained several oversight provisions intended to make sure the FBI did not abuse the special terrorism-related powers to search homes and secretly seize papers. The provisions require Justice Department officials to keep closer track of how often the FBI uses the new powers and in what type of situations. Under the law, the administration would have to provide the information to Congress by certain dates.

Bush signed the bill with fanfare at a White House ceremony March 9, calling it ''a piece of legislation that's vital to win the war on terror and to protect the American people." But after the reporters and guests had left, the White House quietly issued a ''signing statement," an official document in which a president lays out his interpretation of a new law.

In the statement, Bush said that he did not consider himself bound to tell Congress how the Patriot Act powers were being used and that, despite the law's requirements, he could withhold the information if he decided that disclosure would ''impair foreign relations, national security, the deliberative process of the executive, or the performance of the executive's constitutional duties."...

(bold added by me)

Besides the obvious insanity of the President not finding the extremely expansive powers granted by the Act accomodating enough, there are many other issues here as well. The whole point of the Patriot Act reauthorization debate was that Congress would repass the law, if the White House would agree on a few small changes to ease civil liberties concerns. Yet, as soon as Congress passed the bill and gave the President his photo-op, he betrayed their goodwill and that of the American people as well. We've seen this imperial arrogance play out recently when he used another signing statement to assert that while he agreed to Congress' torture ban in theory and would sign the bill, he was not bound by its rules. And we saw it big time when he declared himself above the FISA system and the laws governing surveillance in this country.

Does this sound like democracy to you? While Congress, the courts, and much of the American populace may be too worried about their own self-interests to care, our system of government is being eroded further every day by this administration and their radical (and wholely unamerican) views on executive power.

As Josh Marshall notes, "Our permanent constitutional crisis under the lawless presidency of George W. Bush [continues]... There's really no overstating the importance of the president's disrespect for and serial violations of the law he has sworn twice to uphold."

No, there isn't, which is why we must continue to push the issue until we get accountability.

[Via Andrew Sullivan, who asks "Upon what Constitution doth this our Caesar feed?". Good question.]

Quote of the Day (Pt. II)

"It is sometimes convenient, for purposes of rhetorical effect, for national leaders to talk of a globe neatly divided into good and bad. It is quite another, however, to base the policies of the world's most powerful nation upon that fiction."
--Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright

From this powerful new article she has authored:
Good versus evil isn't a strategy

Bush's worldview fails to see that in the Middle East, power politics is the key.

Please read. Thank you.

Quote of the Day (Pt. I)

"If you want the government in your pocket vote Democrat. If you want to keep more of your hard earned money vote Republican."
-President George W. Bush (today)

This is a joke (no, not the quote- that is real- but the fact that he said it with a straight face).

The last place this government has been out of is our pockets. They've raised healthcare costs, cut American jobs, and otherwise made life more difficult for the working and middle classes. This government has also been in our homes, in our bedrooms, in our schools, in our science labs, and on our phones. They're such busy-bodys, they make even the most stereotypical 'big government' liberal blush.

In addition, this administration, and the current Congress, have been the most fiscally irresponsible leaders we have had in at least 50 years. Ignore the moral and economic insanity of offering tax cuts during wartime (never been done before), where is all this excess spending going? Important New Deal-esque programs that will benefit the country for decades? NO. It goes to war, pork/earmark projects for congressmen, and more war.

The current leadership has accrued the largest deficit in our nation's history. They've had to raise the debt ceiling and borrow billions from China just to stay solvent. But the President knows that the average American does not care about those consequences (deficits, underfunded schools and social services, soldiers without body armor and lower benefits, etc) as long as they get a few extra bucks in their wallet come tax time. But a real leader, an adult leader, makes the tough decisions, asks for the sacrifices from those who can afford it.

George W. Bush is not an adult leader. He's a bad parent who pissed away his savings spoiling his kids rotten.

I end with the following quote from Matt Miller, host of KCRW's 'Left, Right, and Center', from last week's show:
"It is amazing, when it is so clear now, after the Clinton administration's record, and what we've seen under total Republican control in D.C. now, that Democrats are the party of fiscal responsibility. Yet it is next to impossible to change the public image of Democrats being the ones who are loose with your money. It flies in the face of what the facts are today."

Facts mean nothing in politics, apparently.

"Immigants! I knew it was them! Even when it was the bears, I knew it it was them!"

This year's hot-button political issue? IMMIGRANTS.

Washington Post: Immigration Debate Is Shaped by '08 Election-
President Bush’s effort to secure lawful employment opportunities for illegal immigrants is evolving into an early battle of the 2008 presidential campaign, as his would-be White House successors jockey for position ahead of next week’s immigration showdown in the Senate.

Bush called on Congress yesterday to tone down the increasingly sharp and divisive rhetoric over immigration, as he renewed his push for a guest-worker plan that would allow millions of illegal immigrants to continue working in the United States. But Bush’s political sway is already weakened by public unease about the war in Iraq and by Republican divisions.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), whom Bush helped elect as party leader, is threatening to bring a new immigration bill to the Senate floor early next week. It would tighten control of the nation’s borders without creating the guest-worker program the president wants...

Sadly, this important debate will be ruled more by xenophobia and politics than common sense.

Let's see... The conservatives don't want Mexicans taking their jobs (when they come to the suburbs and mow their lawns instead), so Republicans want tougher immigration laws. On the other hand, many hispanics are strong Republican voters, so they can't be too tough. And Big Business wants cheap, abusable labor, so guest worker programs are important. How best for a politician to balance the demands of their anti-immigration base with these other factors? Ohhh, this will be an interesting to watch and I don't imagine common sense will prevail.

Marc Cooper has an interesting article on this issue at Truth Dig:
The Great Immigration Debate: Getting Beyond Denial

President Bush Takes On Al Qaeda Reporters (Pt. III)

CNN's Jack Cafferty smacks down the White House's assertions about the media coverage of the war...

After the Washington Post's Howard Kutz sheepishly defended the attacks, Cafferty said this-
"You know, I just have a question. I mean, part of the coverage, they don't like the coverage, maybe because we were sold a different ending to this story three years ago. We were told that we'd be embraced as conquering heroes, flower pedals strewn in the soldiers' paths, a unity government would be formed, everything would be rosy this -- three years after the fact, the troops would be home.

Well, it's not turning out that way. And if somebody came into New York City and blew up St. Patrick's Cathedral and in the resulting days they were finding 50 and 60 dead bodies a day on the streets of New York, you suppose the news media would cover it? You're damn right they would.

This is nonsense- 'it's the media's fault and the news isn't good in Iraq'. The news isn't good in Iraq. There's violence in Iraq. People are found dead every day in the streets of Baghdad. This didn't turn out the way the politicians told us it would. And it's our fault? I beg to differ."

Video- here.

Elsewhere... NBC's Baghdad correspondent Richard Engel has thoughts on this strategy.

As I've said before, it takes a special kind of chickenhawk to blame the media for your mistakes. Shooting the messenger is always the weapon of choice for the coward. War's going to hell? Poll numbers in the toilet? Blame Helen Thomas! Blame the newspapers! Blame the bloggers too! The base will eat it up! Fresh hot scapegoat... right off the grill.

That strategy may or may not work, but it's not what this 'war effort' needs. It needs honesty. It needs leadership. It needs accountability and a course correction. None of those we will ever get. Not from this President. Thank goodness we at least have a few reporters who won't be pushed around by him any longer.

Digby has more thoughts: Media Contortionism

-President Bush Takes On Al Qaeda Reporters
-President Bush Takes On Al Qaeda Reporters (Pt. II)]

Book Recommendations

Do you like books? Ohh, sure you do!

There's a lot of good political books out- dozens and dozens. When I go to the New Non-Fiction table at Barnes & Nobles, it's all current affairs books, half of them about the war in Iraq. Outside of that whimsical Harry Potter fellow, these are the only books I read. I'm a big nerd for this stuff. So I decided to post some recommendations for my reader(s)... Two of the books are out now, one (the Greenwald one) is due out soon.

Book #1- Crashing The Gate

I'm reading this book now and it's fantastic. Besides just the main goal of playing up the importance of netroots/grassroots movements, it's a two-part indictment: One of the conservatives destroying our nation's values; and one of the unfocused Democratic establishment too fragmented to stop it from happening. This book is one of the best summaries of our modern political landscape I've read. It sums up the problems both parties face, how they got there, and how that can be changed. Top recommendation. Here's my review in a nutshell, use it on the back cover of the paperback- "A literary call to arms for the complacent DC Democratic establishment!".... From the intro:
Five years ago, the Republicans took over the government through nondemocratic means. Establishment Democrats, for the most part, stood back and watched as a partisan judicial body halted the counting of presidential votes. While conservative activists led the charge on behalf of their party, there was nothing happening on our side. That was the spark. Fed-up progressives activists began organizing online. Fueled by the new technologies- the web, blogging tools, internet search engines- this new generation of activists challenged the moribund Democratic Party establishment. We didn't have the money, the connections, or the pedigree to break into the insular world of traditional politics. But in the democratic world of online activism, we didn't need those things to be heard.

Book #2- How Would A Patriot Act?: Defending American Values From A President Run Amok

This quick-to-press book by blogger Glenn Greenwald is meant to expose more people to the debate over the warrantless NSA program and, in turn, the lawless behavior of a President with little to no respect for the basic values of our nation. Glenn has been on this story like white on a Republican since December and his blog posts have been the best coverage of it around (outside the NY Times' original reporting, natch). Not sure how many people will get this book, but hopefully people will see the book in stores, look at the Statue of Liberty on the cover, then read about George W. Bush inside, and realize the two represent two completely different things. In a new post, Glenn explains why he made this book (it wasn't for the money; he's barely breaking even):
At its core, this scandal is not and has never been about the scope of eavesdropping powers which the Government ought to have. It is much more significant than that. We face a genuine and profound crisis as a country because we have a President who has continuously exploited the threat of terrorism and engaged in rank fear-mongering in order to expressly claim the power to act without any checks or limits at all -- including, literally, the power to break the law. And he has been exercising that law-breaking power aggressively and enthusiastically in numerous ways, all of which are radically changing our national political character and the system of government that we have had since our founding.

Book #3- Hell In A Handbasket

Sometimes, the best way to deal with the insanity that is today's political landscape... is to laugh at it. Tom Tomorrow makes that possible. Most political cartoons you see in the paper are tired and boring- donkeys and elephants, etc... you often get the impression these cartoonists never really understand the stories and only know what's going on beyond the headlines. There are a good number of exceptions- Tom Toles, Mike Lukovich, Ward Sutton, Ruben Bolling, Tom Tomorrow, and some others. This is the latest collection of his strips, dealing with the past few years. Lord knows we needed the laugh. Since it's a book of cartoons, not words, the excerpt I will post will be a cartoon. This cartoon ran last year and is one of my favorites-

In conclusion- Buy these books. It gives you something to do on the john.

Ohh Great, NOW He Resists Making Predictions...

Here's one of those stories that really gets you shaking your head-

AP: Rumsfeld Resists Making Iraq Predictions
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld declined to predict on Thursday when U.S. forces would be out of Iraq, a decision President Bush has said would be up to a future U.S. president and a future Iraqi government.

"I've avoided predicting the timing," Rumsfeld told reporters at the Pentagon...

Hmmm, that's odd, because I remember you saying in early 2003 that:
"It is unknowable how long that conflict will last. It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months."

Please, please, for the sake of our troops, please somebody fire this man.

"Ohhh, tough crowd."

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Speaking Truth To Power

[See also previous entry- When Are We Going To Have A Grownup Debate?]

The wiretapping debate brings us back to Sen. Feingold... Despite the cowardly actions of his colleagues (they now have a recess to hide behind), the Senator's decision is receiving praise from many. When Feingold returned home to Wisconsin for the congressional recess, he spoke with some of his constituents who reacted positively to his stand. He said- "We cannot allow the president of the United States to break the law. Censure is a quick way to solve the problem. Pass a resolution. It's over. We can get back to the work of fighting terrorism, dealing with health care issues." Those responding noted that this was not a "safe issue" for him and thus they appreciate him putting himself on the line for it.

People are inspired by him and that's not been the case with a Democratic senator in a long time.

His appearance on the Daily Show last night also proved a positive showing for the Senator.

Money quote from Stewart: "Your Democratic colleagues are reacting as though you're Jack Abramoff and you have a casino you wanna talk to them about."

Meanwhile, the NY Observer has an excellent cover story on the power of Russ Feingold:
Russ Never Sleeps

‘Politicians and Pundits Are Afraid,’ Says Wisconsin’s Feingold, As Democrats Abandon Him on Bush Wiretap Censure Motion; Will Senator Become the Eugene McCarthy of ’08 Primaries?

None of this fits any of the tried-and-true formulations in the red-and-blue American playbook. A mild- mannered Midwestern Senator—Russ Feingold—announces on a Sunday-morning chat show that he’s going to introduce a resolution to censure the President. His grounds are straightforward: that the President’s warrantless-wiretapping initiative violates the law and the constitutional separation of powers. His party’s leaders, all universally understood as coastal-elite figures drunk on their hatred of the President and hell-bent on his undoing—well, they flee en masse, literally hiding behind each other as inquiring reporters try to suss out what they make of the proposal.

“Both Democratic politicians and pundits are afraid,” Mr. Feingold said on March 21 by phone. He was between constituent tours during the week’s Congressional recess. “Time and again, they allow themselves to be intimidated from taking a strong stand against the administration.”...

...“What [Congress] succeeded in doing, in other words, was to sweep the illegality under the rug,” Mr. Feingold said. “I decided it was time to include that on the record and came up with the censure proposal, to bring accountability back into the discussion. And I succeeded in doing that. That’s been achieved.”...

The article is long, but a highly recommended read for anyone looking to feel proud of a politician again.

Greg Sargent at the The American Prospect Online has a great analysis of the article and of the censure resolution-
People around the Clintons are supposed to be too cautious to embrace Russ Feingold's censure resolution, right? Well, it turns out that one Clintonite is not at all frightened of it: former Bill Clinton press secretary Joe Lockhart.

Lockhart speaks out in an interview with Chris Lehmann in his entertaining piece on Feingold in this week's New York Observer. Lehmann writes:
[Lockhart] sees no political downside to Senator Feingold’s proposal—and likewise sees much desperation in the Republican spin that it would be another self-inflicted Democratic wound that would haunt the minority party in the fall elections. All the G.O.P. bluster about an early vote on the Feingold proposal to smoke out weak-sister Democrats for elimination in November, Mr. Lockhart said, “is complete nonsense.”
He said: “One simple rule of politics is that the more ferociously you’re pushing your talking points, the less you believe in them. The Republicans jumping so hard on this tells you that they believe they’re in a really vulnerable position—that this issue is not the winner they thought it was.”
Whatever you think of censure, Lockhart's hitting on a really critical point that can't be emphasized enough. Reporters and commentators have grown conditioned to believe Republicans when they say an issue's a political winner for them -- mainly because Democrats too often act as if they're convinced they're going to lose. When Karl Rove threw down the gauntlet in that speech about NSA wiretapping, few if any commentators even thought to imagine that Rove might be bluffing, even though it was perfectly likely that he was trying to psych out moderate Dems and get them to break ranks. And of course, some moderate Dem thinkers immediately followed Rove's script.

The point is that Rove knew he could count on such folks to do this. And when Feingold floated censure, Republicans immediately -- and very confidently -- tried to force a vote on it, because they knew they could count on Dems to reveal a craven fear of losing and otherwise project a general aura of indecisiveness. More and more Dem strategists are arguing that Dems need to stop tripping over their own caution every single time the GOP says they've got a winner on their hands -- after all, the Republicans can always be counted on to say that, regardless of whether they even believe it -- but it's especially refreshing to hear a Clintonite saying so.

Sargent gets the main point many have been trying to make in the past two weeks... namely that the idea that the Republicans want this issue out there because it's win for them is a complete bluff. They are scared of what will happen when someone as smart and strong as Feingold can rally public support in his favor and they are reacting desperately- trying to squash investigations and running ads accusing Feingold of undermining the war on terror.

Glenn Greenwald has an excellent debunking of myths:
Myth-making and excuse-making on the Feingold Resolution

The Democrats need to call this bluff.

They need to become unified as a party standing together with one message; after all, their failure to do is what has cost them elections. They need to start fighting. Stand up on principle like Feingold did. Don't debate on the White House's level. Debate on the grownup level... on the law, on checks and balances, on what good this program has done, on how pervasive the surveillance has been, and so on.

Worst case scenario- censure doesn't pass- the Democrats can at least have proven that they stand for something important and will fight for it, no matter what the Rove noise machine has said about them in the process. However, given the ambivalent polling on the issue, there's good reason to believe that this is a debate the public is ready to hear.

The White House wants the Democrats to be afraid. That's a great sign that they shouldn't be.

[PS- One newspaper wants to find out whether innocent Americans were spied on:
Newspaper sues for documents in NSA wiretap case]

Specter To Lead Wiretapping Legislation Battle

Thanks to Sen. Feingold and others, the public debate on warrantless wiretapping continues...

Sen. Arlen Specter continues to voice opposition to the program's legality-
A vocal Republican critic of the Bush administration's eavesdropping program will preside over Senate efforts to write the program into law, but he was pessimistic Wednesday that the White House wanted to listen.

"They want to do just as they please, for as long as they can get away with it," Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I think what is going on now without congressional intervention or judicial intervention is just plain wrong."...

(bold, as always, added by me)

The article has more details on the planned bills-
One bill, written by Specter, would require a secretive federal intelligence court to conduct regular reviews of the program's constitutionality. A rival approach — drafted by Ohio Sen. Mike DeWine and three other Republicans — would allow the government to conduct warrantless surveillance for up to 45 days before seeking court or congressional approval.

And Specter explains why the DeWine bill is wrong-
Under that approach, Specter said the administration can still "roam and roam and roam, and not find anything, and keep roaming. ... I think that's wrong."

I applaud Specter's efforts (he's not trying to sweep this under the rug like the Roberts/DeWine crew), but I think his plans still miss the point. His approach still doesn't work because it blows off the wrongdoing in favor of 'fixing' the law... as if there was something wrong with the law and not with the President's treatment of it. The administration will fight both planned bills anyway, as signing them is a silent acknowledgment that they behaved outside the law in the first place.

While all this legislative work is going on, we must not ignore that the President still needs to be held accountable for the actions that led to all of this.

Iraq Today: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The good-
U.S., British Troops Rescue Iraq Hostages

The bad-
US-Iran talks on Iraq may prove dialogue of deaf

And the ugly-
At Least 56 Dead in Latest Iraq Violence

Links of the Day: Science Edition

Lots of science stuff in the news, let's take a quick look...

-If you can believe, our behavior on this planet is destroying life all over:
Humans spur worst extinctions since dinosaurs: UN

-Meanwhile, 40% of the Amazon's rainforests could be lost by 2050 unless action is taken:
Greater efforts needed to save Amazon rainforests

-Finally, the Darwin exhibit at the Natural History Museum has proven a big hit:
Huge crowds extend Darwin exhibit in New York

What Does George Bush Believe?

Here's the background... Abdul Rahman is a citizen of Afghanistan who converted to Christianity years ago. This is a crime under Sharia law and Rahman is facing trial and possibly could be sentenced to death. His case has created a major global uproar.

This also shows our 'success' in liberating Afghanistan and removing the Taliban was widely overhyped.

President Bush was asked about this man's plight in yesterday's town hall meeting. This question was going to be tricky for the President, since has previously praised the Afghan constitution (after having been warned earlier that it would institutionalize a 'Taliban-lite' government), stating in 2004 that "We’re making good progress, we really are, in parts of the world. Afghanistan has now got a constitution which talks about freedom of religion and talks about women’s rights."

The President's response yesterday about the Rahman case was:
"I'm troubled when I hear, deeply troubled when I hear, the fact that a person who has converted away from Islam may be held to account. That's not the universal application of the values that I talked about. I look forward to working with the government of that country to make sure that people are protected in their capacity to worship."

The President's history of (in)action and indifference betrays him here.

Michelle Malkin immediately decried his mealy-mouthed answer... wow! Perhaps Ms. Malkin's opinion in this matter would be better received if she didn't have a history of anti-Muslim hatred and general support for the mealy-mouthed President.

This "mealy-mouthed" response was not an anomaly either; it is actually rather typical of the President. Another recent example came this past Monday. A woman asked him about a popular belief among fundamentalist Christians. She asked-
"[Author Kevin Phillips] makes the point that members of your administration have reached out to prophetic Christians who see the war in Iraq and the rise of terrorism as signs of the apocalypse.

Do you believe this, that the war in Iraq and the rise of terrorism are signs of the apocalypse? And if not, why not?"

The President responded with fear and caution, mumbling-
"Um... uh... I... The answer is, I haven't really thought of it that way," he finally spit out. "Here's how I think of it. The first I've heard of that, by the way. I guess I'm more of a practical fellow."

As Jon Stewart noted on the Daily Show (video- 'Rambling Man'), Bush was asking himself "Well let's see, I got a Christian base, I gotta take care of. Well I also need to look sane. Well, hmmmm."

Arianna Huffington also looked at the incident: Apocalypse What?

I think these two examples prove how genuinely duped the President's base is, particularly his hardcore Christian base. The Karl Rove strategy, which has been successful, was to convince this base that George W. Bush was their political savior- the man who would take their beliefs into the Oval Office and make them the law of the land. But the extent to which he believes this things is a well-guarded secret (outside his belief that his mission in the Middle East is a divine one); it was mostly an easy way to scam votes off an extremely ideological and well-organized movement. His religion is power. His base gets some token gifts in return (an abortion ban here, some anti-gay legislation there), but they don't get their ultimate wish... a Pat Robertson-esque end-of-days validation.

I don't believe that the President really believes or cares about any of this stuff. He's certainly not a Christian by any stretch (Christians don't torture and kill and promote intolerance). I don't believe he cares what an awful state Afghanistan is still in. Or what happens to Mr. Rahman. And who knows whether he really believes the fundamentalist Christian stuff he uses to shore up votes. George W. Bush is, in the end, a very clever salesman who has no real use for the products he sells other than to collect his earnings from them.

Christians are a huge part of the President's remaining base. The question is how long it'll be before they realize they are simply being used a pawn in the White House's game. Or do they not care either?

President Bush Takes On Al Qaeda Reporters (Pt. II)

MSNBC's 'Countdown' had a great report tonight on the White House's war on the media.

Watch it. And be glad Mr. Olbermann hasn't been bought-and-paid-for like his NBC colleagues.

Video- here.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

"I am not granted basic civil liberty that this country was founded upon, how is that constitutional?"

A gay teen takes on Sen. George Allen and his record on gay rights-
Culpeper and a Senator vs. Civil Liberty

More of this, please.

[UPDATE: New polls are somewhat encouraging-
Poll: opposition to gay marriage declining (AP)]

President Bush Takes On Al Qaeda Reporters

The most talked-about part of yesterday's press conference at the White House (besides the President stating troops will remain in Iraq through 2008, his odd praise of Rumsfeld, and his lies about weapons inspectors and how long he'd wanted this war) was the President's back and forth with Helen Thomas. Ms. Thomas is an 86-year-old journalist who has covered every President since Kennedy and has always done so with the toughness required of our press. But she was moved to the back of the room years ago by this White House, her tough questions getting in the way of their spin and lies.

Yesterday, after ignoring her for years, the President called on her. Why now, some asked? My hypothesis was this- Bush's base like red meat. They like to worship see him as their big, tough Commander-In-Chief kicking some ass. The problem is that Mr. Bush isn't kicking ass where it matters. The best way to get that impression back- and throw some chum to the Malkins and Hannitys- is to go after the right's favorite scapegoat... the media. Taking on an 86-year-old woman should really get the President's ratings back up.

This is all part of a larger strategy- make the press the scapegoat for the disastrous Iraq war. You see, the war is actually going really really well! But that darn ol' liberal media just doesn't want you to know that. The media is simply distorting the truth, as the meme goes. The goal is, of course, to convince you that everything the White House has been saying about Iraq (we're making great progress- did you hear?) is true... and that anything you hear/read otherwise is the real propaganda. I don't think I need to restate how maligning the press is a fascist tactic.

We've seen this strategy being played out even more than usual in the last week or two. For instance, when Vice President Cheney was on 'Face The Nation' this past Sunday, he said his previous statements about being greeted as liberators and the last throes of the insurgency "were basically accurate and reflect reality" and that you don't know that because all that is "newsworthy" are the carbombings and not the progress. And then just today, during one of the President's handpicked Town Hall meetings, a woman in the audience ranted about how the press "just want[s] to focus on how they don’t agree with you and what you’re doing, when they don’t even probably know how you’re doing what you’re doing anyway". And just what is the President doing, hmmm? Besides, ya know, giving an endless parade of speeches... He's our PR President. Sorry, no real leadership available at this time.

This brings us to Helen Thomas. What better way to get this "it's all the media's fault" talking point launched fully than to field a question from Helen Thomas whom they knew would have a tough one for the President? To recap, Helen's question was-
"I'd like to ask you, Mr. President, your decision to invade Iraq has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis, wounds of Americans and Iraqis for a lifetime. Every reason given, publicly at least, has turned out not to be true. My question is, why did you really want to go to war? From the moment you stepped into the White House, from your Cabinet -- your Cabinet officers, intelligence people, and so forth -- what was your real reason? You have said it wasn't oil -- quest for oil, it hasn't been Israel, or anything else. What was it?"

The President didn't answer the question, stating that he didn't want war (when it's a well-known fact that he did, regardless of whether you believe intelligence was manipulated). He then launched into a talking point tirade- about 9/11, and Afghanistan, and the White House's false premise that Saddam denied weapons inspectors. He talked down to her like she was a child, stating "Our foreign policy changed on that day, Helen. You know, we used to think we were secure because of oceans and previous diplomacy", as if anyone actually believed that. Thomas tried to interrupt him to get back to the original, stated question, but the President shouted her down. He continued with the talking points, stating how the world is "safer" now because of his actions (this may come as shocking news to the people of Iraq). Ms. Thomas' question was never answered.

See video- here.

Ignoring all of that, the President got what he wanted out of it- He got to act tough and appear like a victim of the fictional media monsters. His right-wing base immediately picked up the message. Drudge had it as his main story yesterday evening and the tale of the President's bravery made its way around the conservative blogosphere.

Bob Cesca also looks at the President's strategy-
...Before we go through the Q&A, let's take a look at the broadstroke idea of the president calling on Helen Thomas. Helen Thomas has been a staple of the White House press corp since Kennedy. She's asked tough questions of all presidents no matter their party or politics. She's also 80-years-old and just about the height of a hobbit. Yet the president decided to toss her to the back of the room and strip her of her ceremonial "Thank you, Mr. President" closer simply because she said something critical about the president. Tough guy. He's a really tough, strong man. But yesterday, he was apparently ordered by his political strategists to field a question from her. Oh the horror!

If you saw the cable news pundit shows last night, you know that everyone from Newt to O'Reilly to Scarborough to Hannity were blasting Thomas and the press for their harsh treatment of the president. What I can't figure out is why a group of tough-talking manly men needed to defend the President of the United States against Helen Thomas. And they went on to praise the president for doing well in the face of it all. Stop the presses! Our second-term president handled questions well (he didn't)! Talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations.

Poor, poor LEADER OF THE FREE WORLD and COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF OF OUR MILITARY. Had to take hard questions from the mean press corps and a tiny old woman for the first time in forever. How tragic. How sad. To quote Artie Lange: "WAH! The press asked tough questions. WAH!"...

Bolded added by me. The press is so used to Bush ignoring them, it's considered a bold move when he doesn't.

Cesca also does a great job of outlining the falsities in Bush's response.

This is how the President plans to rebuild his support- SHOOT THE MESSENGER.

It's not his fault the intelligence was all wrong. It's not his fault there was no plan for a post-war Iraq. It's not his fault the insurgency was allowed to gain strength. It's not his fault our troops were sent there without the proper protection and support. It's not his fault that Osama is still free. It's not his fault we facilitated a theocratic regime in Iraq friendly to the Shia rulers of Iran. It's not his fault the Pentagon has no plan to deal with the changing conditions in Iraq. It's not his fault that worldwide terrorism has been increasing every year. It's not his fault most of the world sees the United States as war criminals. It's never his fault. Nothing's his fault... That so many people still swallow this nonsense is sad.

I'll say it again- the President's base is a cult. They've drunk the Kool Aid. And there's no going back.

Final thoughts: More leadership, less speeches, please.

[PS- Watch video of Helen Thomas schooling CNN's Wolf Blitzer:
Helen Thomas with Blitzer]

[PPS- A soldier in Iraq discusses being fed up with the propaganda he's been fed.]

Special thanks to State of the Day for the pimpin'.

The Copy-And-Paste President

The Daily Show had a great segment last night on the President's recent speeches. At the end of this segment, they featured a long Bush speech about progress in Iraq... all pasted together from parts of previous speeches. This was easy since he always just says the same thing over and over. They've done this before; it's always hilarious.

See video:
Stumped Speech

In Summation

"Every war plan looks good on paper until you meet the enemy."
--President George W. Bush (yesterday)

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

President Bush: 'I Will Leave Iraq Mess To Others'

This is big.

Anyone waiting for news of full troop withdrawals from Iraq should... not bother.

In his speech today talking up the progress in Iraq, President Bush hinted that U.S. troops will remain in Iraq for the remainder of his presidency. A reporter asked the President this simple question- "Will there come a day, and I’m not asking you when — I’m not asking for a timetable — will there come a day when there will be no more American forces in Iraq?". His answer was quite revealing- "That, of course, is an objective, and that will be decided by future presidents and future governments of Iraq."

Aka- I'm not taking responsibility for this, let someone else figure the way out.

It sounds like whoever is running for President in 2008 has one hell of an issue to worry about.

(Think Progress has video of this exchange)

The AP also has a story on this-
President Bush said Tuesday the decision about when to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq will fall to future presidents and Iraqi leaders, suggesting that U.S. involvement will continue at least through 2008.

Acknowledging the public's growing unease with the war — and election-year skittishness among fellow Republicans — the president nonetheless vowed to keep U.S. soldiers in the fight...

Reality, meet George Bush. George Bush, meet reality. Please shake hands.

Not that the Iraqis were expecting us to leave anytime soon. They weren't that naive. They see all the construction at various areas in the country (Balad air base, al-Asad, Tallil, etc) for bases...
...Are the Americans here to stay? Air Force mechanic Josh Remy is sure of it as he looks around Balad...

...The Iraqi people suspect the same. Strong majorities tell pollsters they’d like to see a timetable for U.S. troops to leave, but believe Washington plans to keep military bases in their country...

Yet the U.S. military won't comment on permanent bases. Hmmmm.

Today the President also fielded a question from Helen Thomas, one of the best ever asked of him-
"I'd like to ask you, Mr. President, your decision to invade Iraq has caused the deaths of thousands of Americans and Iraqis, wounds of Americans and Iraqis for a lifetime. Every reason given, publicly at least, has turned out not to be true. My question is, why did you really want to go to war? From the moment you stepped into the White House, from your Cabinet -- your Cabinet officers, intelligence people, and so forth -- what was your real reason? You have said it wasn't oil -- quest for oil, it hasn't been Israel, or anything else. What was it?"

The President's response, noted in the AP article above, was this-
"I didn't want war. To assume I wanted war is just flat wrong ... with all due respect," he told a reporter. "No president wants war." To those who say otherwise, "it's simply not true," Bush said.

You sure did a great impression of a man who wanted war, sir.

After all, it was President Bush himself who said this- "You said we're headed to war in Iraq -- I don't know why you say that. I hope we're not headed to war in Iraq."- two months after his administration had rushed a authorization for force resolution in October 2002 to coincide with midterm elections. I doubt more than a quarter of the population would argue against the reality that this President sold this war like a desperate salesman working on commission.

Josh Marshall looks at this lie, particularly the President's assertion that he tried for a diplomatic solution and that Saddam denied the inspectors. Both are false. The President never made any diplomatic efforts; he'd been banging the war drums since late 2002. Furthermore, Hussein did let the inspectors into his country. It was President Bush himself who ordered the inspectors out on the eve of invasion, even as they insisted the country was clean.

Transcript- here. Video- here.

Think Progress has more: Bush Insists ‘I Didn’t Want War,’ Overwhelming Evidence Suggests Otherwise.

More lies that the President gets away with.

But no, it's not his fault. Through the lies and through the failures, it's never his fault. It's the Congress' fault for allowing him to mess it up. It's the Iraqis' fault for not embracing their freedom better. It's the media's fault for not pretending that civil war equals peace.

The President continues to downplay the violence, asking Americans to 'look beyond' it. But the violence is what's there- no looking beyond it. Any 'progress' in a country that is engulfed in violence is fleeting. An example from today's news is this- the attack on a police station by insurgents which killed 18 police officers and freed all prisoner inside. Does this sounds like a country that has its basic security needs met, let alone is making progress? No wonder so many Iraqis are buying terror insurance.

This Fox News graphic says it all about how reality conflicts with the President's statements.

I've always said that the problem with the President's refusal to admit mistakes is that it means that they will never be corrected. I also said on Sunday that we do need to make things better in Iraq before leaving, but that requires the President to come up with a plan, a real strategy, and not more slogans. But the President doesn't want to come up with a plan for victory. He doesn't want to change course. That would involve an unspoken admission that his original plan was a failure. Today he made his strategy clear- ride out the rest of his term and let the next President deal with the mess he's created... and god only knows how many more lives will be thrown away before then.

Worst President ever? That's being way too generous.

"I said we were making progress and blamed you for all the bad news. What more do you want from me?"

When Are We Going To Have A Grownup Debate?

A few entries down, I posted the new Tom Tomorrow cartoon which asks if we can have an adult conservation about the war or illegal surveillance without conservatives resorting to childish accusations of Bush critics supporting terrorism.

The answer, apparently, is a big NO.

The President said today this-
Calling a censure resolution "needless partisanship," Bush challenged Democrats to go into the November midterm elections in opposition to eavesdropping on suspected terrorists. "They ought to stand up and say, `The tools we're using to protect the American people should not be used,'" Bush said.

Once again, we see the White House falsely frame the debate... while the media does not care to offer a correction. They blindly accept the President's assertion/lie that anyone has ever tried to stop the government from conducting legal surveillance of terrorist communications. No, to them, the debate is not about the law that the President broke. It's not an issue of executive power and of the fate of checks and balances during wartime. No, it's merely a fictional debate between the War President and weak Democrats who want to help Al Qaeda. This is, of course, a strawman argument, as is the President's speciality.

This nonsense needs to be challenged, publicly and as often as possible.


But not the fake one that the President has invented. You can blow off that debate in a minute by flatly stating, as Feingold has, that the President is a liar and that he had/has numerous tools for wiretapping terrorists, but chose to violate the law simply because it was easier to do so, not out of necessity.

The President's case is weak, which is why he and his followers are busy knocking down strawmen, calling people 'moonbats', and accusing critics of not wanting to capture terrorists. The fact that he is winning this debate is only because Democrats are letting him. In one sentence, above, I knocked this down. But I am nobody, so that's irrelevant. We need all Democrats (and some sensible Republicans) to show some courage and take on these liars and demand that this debate be based on the facts- not on third-grade level name calling and spin.

Questions that should be asked- Why did the President need to break the law, as opposed to simply wanting to? How did the incredibly accomodating provisions of FISA (which, among other things, provides options for retroactive warrants) hamper the President's ability to move quickly in ordering surveillance? Did the President and the Justice Department just think up the AUMF and/or Article II legal justification after the program was outed or is that what they believed all along? Why did the President make several statements in 2004 making it clear (falsely) that all wiretapping involved court orders? How does this program relate to recent reports of the Pentagon (etc) spying on peaceful political activists? How many secret, illegal spying programs are going on? Will Congress or the courts ever be briefed on them? Since no court orders or records are kept of this warrantless wiretapping, how can they offer assurances that innocent Americans aren't being spied on (factoring in FBI reports noting that this has happened)?

More- Considering terrorists are very well familiar with methods and practices of surveillance, how did the leak hurt national security? Does the President respect whistleblower laws? What impact does jailing reporters have on a democracy? Does the President believe there is any limit to his power? If so, where specifically would he draw the line?

I could go on for hours... but I won't.

And I won't hold my breath waiting for the National Review crowd to focus on those issues.

Glenn Greenwald (who luckily is being read more and more) looks at this false debate, including a new RNC ad accusing the Democrats of "reprimanding President Bush for pursuing suspected members of al Qaeda". He also schools National Review neocon Ramesh Ponnuru for his false statements on the censure statement and rolls at his eyes at the childish 'moonbat' label. That post was in response to a KCRW radio discussion Greenwald had yesterday with Ponnuru, John Dean, and others on this issue. Is the media too afraid of offending these cons by pointing out these same things?

Finally, back on the issue of censure itself, Russ Feingold was on the Charlie Rose show. There is a partial transcript and a link to video- here. The Senator challenged his Democratic colleagues to stand up for themselves and said-
"How can we be afraid at this point, of standing up to a president who has clearly mismanaged this Iraq war, who clearly made one of the largest blunders in American foreign policy history? How can it be that this party wants to stand back and allow this kind of thing to happen?...

...The idea that Democrats don't think it's a winning thing to say that we will stand up for the rule of law and for checking abuse of power by the executive --- I just can't believe that Democrats don't think that isn't something, not only that we can win on, but it does, in fact, make the base of our party, which is so important, feel much better about the Democrats. The Republicans care deeply about making the base of their party feels energized. What about the people of our party who believe in the Democratic Party especially because they fight for the American values of standing up for our rights and civil liberties?"

A good question.

And, like the numerous ones I posed above, who knows when it will get answered...

Was It Worth It?

That's the question Time magazine ponders in its current issue.

Here are the three answers I thought the most honest assessments...

FRANCIS FUKUYAMA: I believe that the balance sheet for the war at this moment is quite negative. The war foreclosed the possibility of Saddam restarting his WMD programs and replaced his dictatorship with Iraq's new democracy--both real gains. Balanced against these gains are costs that go well beyond the direct human and financial ones. The occupation of Iraq has served as a tremendous stimulus for Arab and Muslim anti-Americanism and thus has made radical Islamist terrorism significantly worse than it would otherwise be. America's reputation around the world has taken a huge hit among ordinary people who are now more likely to associate our democracy with scenes of prisoner abuse than with the Statue of Liberty. We, of course, do not know what the future will bring, but the upside potential of Iraq's post-Saddam order looks more and more limited. The central state will remain weak for years to come, and where the Shi'ite parties have established their rule, we get not a liberal democracy but an Iranian-style rule by clerics.

LAWRENCE B. WILKERSON: I'm principally a strategist, and from that perspective the war has been a disaster. First, the foremost winner has been Iran: it rid itself of its greatest threat, Saddam and his military, without firing a shot; won the Dec. 15 Iraq elections; owns the south, particularly Basra; and has felt the freedom to elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who, in turn, has felt the freedom to reclaim leadership of radical Islam, leadership Osama bin Laden claimed on 9/11. Second, the foremost loser--after Iraq itself--has been Israel, whose leaders must now fear more than ever the new strategic maneuver room afforded Iran by the U.S.'s ineptitude. Third, the general war against global terrorists has been affected greatly by the failure in Iraq. Recruiting among Muslim ranks has been aided significantly, while America has squandered the upper hand in the world of ideas, which is the real battlefield of this conflict.

ANNE-MARIE SLAUGHTER: Is the cause of freeing a people and pushing for progressive political and economic change in the most dangerous region in the world worth fighting and dying for? Undoubtedly. But has this war--with its disdain for allies and institutions, its willful blindness to any scenario other than easy victory and immediate democracy, and its planners' irresponsibility so deep as to be immoral in failing to protect the heritage, infrastructure and lives of a people who never asked for war--been worth it? Squandering lives and vast sums of money through a combination of arrogance and negligence can never be worth it. And if the Administration had been willing to make a full and honest assessment of the true costs and the uncertainty of the benefits before invading Iraq, I doubt that a majority of the American people would have supported the war.

And there ya go.

The ones who did say it was worth it, of course, do so with statements of wishful thinking for the future.

Links of the Day

The President gave another speech today. More on that soon.

Meanwhile, here's some links...

-Mayor Nagin approves a plan allowing citizens to rebuild where they wish- with a warning:
New Orleans Mayor Endorses Rebuilding Plan

-The government is selling off forest land- what price would you put on nature?:
Conservationists Vie To Buy Forest Habitat

-Stephen Colbert's success translates into a book deal for the 'Report':
Colbert riffs put to paper

Reelect Al Gore

The American Prospect has a good (and long) article on the political rebirth of Al Gore-

The New New Gore

Five years ago, Al Gore was the much-mocked pol who blew a gimme with his stiff demeanor and know-it-all style. Today? C’mon, admit it: You like him again.

Personally, I'm a huge supporter of a Nixon-esque Gore comeback in 2008.

Adult Conversation

[PS- I'll be meeting him in NYC next week. Yea, I'm geeking out for it.]

Quote of the Day

"Who does the President think he's f'n kidding?"
--Keith Olbermann on the President denying he ever connected Iraq to 9/11 (video)

[PS- Is George W. Bush the worst President ever? Josh Marshall makes the case. I say 'yes'.]

Monday, March 20, 2006

President Bush Speaks With Americans... It Doesn't Go Well

I've said it time and time again... whenever President Bush is thrust in front of an audience that his handlers didn't handpick for him, and has to answer unscripted questions, he does not handle it well. He is kept so isolated, he doesn't know how to handle real, working-class Americans when he occassionally goes in front of them. He stammers, he makes bad jokes, and he freaks out.

Case in point- His 'big' speech today in Cleveland.

Toward the end of a fairly pointed question-and-answer session with the crowd (including one who asked him about the influence of radical Christianity in government), the President asked "How long do you people do questions around here?... Doesn't anybody work in this town?".

Think Progress has video (and economic stats on the town Bush probably doesn't care about):
Bush To Cleveland: ‘Anybody Work Here In This Town?’

Digby has a lengthy blog post on the speech and all that stuff Bush talked about- how he's "protecting us" (he said this a lot), lots of 9/11 references (in case we forget to be scared), our progress in Iraq (see last entry), and something about Iran (invasion coming soon to a cable news channel near you?). And, oh yes, he is protecting us.

So why do I have the feeling we need some protection from him?

Bush Rhetoric Tips: "Progress" Good; "War" Bad

President Bush continues his Iraq PR campaign with more empty rhetoric...
...Progress is the buzzword at the White House as Bush headlines a campaign tied to the war's anniversary to buck up public support of the mission.

The president continues yet another series of speeches on Iraq - there have been several similar blitzes in the last year - Monday at the City Club of Cleveland. He planned to take questions about his war policy and other topics from the audience in the heavily Democratic city.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Bush would update Americans on his vision for Iraq - highlighting the progress being made while acknowledging that not everything has gone perfectly...

This is nothing new. He's been using the "progress" buzzword for months... since at least mid-2005 as best I can recall (I even did a search for the phrase in old blog posts and found several references). A Google search finds even more references. "Progress", as used by the President, is a completely hollow word. It means nothing and he often has little to no examples to back up this rhetoric. It's the 2006 version of "turning the corner". It's simply shorthand for 'Just bare with me folks, I know what I'm doing'.

It should be clear, however, that he has no idea what he's doing and is acting on the same misguided belief as he did when he started the war in 2003... that God himself gave this mission to him and that any bad news are lies meant to test his faith. He is supported by the other members of his administration (Cheney, Rumsfeld, etc) for whom their neoconservative philosophy is practically a religion.

The President has also been consistently lowering expectations on what would constitute 'victory' in Iraq and even then he keeps failing to meet them. They refuse to acknowledge the problems in Iraq- Cheney claimed yesterday on 'Face The Nation' that not only is there no civil war in Iraq, but that his previous statements about us being greeted as liberators and of the insurgency being in its last throes were "basically accurate and reflect reality". They deny the statements they made before the war- President Bush said again today that they never said there was an Iraq/9-11 connection. If anyone we knew made these kind of statements, we'd refer them to a psychiatrist. And yet, we are meant to accept the President's false assertions that we are making 'progress'... whatever he defines that as.

Meanwhile, the President refuses to even utter the word 'war'. The AP reports-
President Bush marked the anniversary of the Iraq war Sunday by touting the efforts to build democracy there and avoiding any mention of the daily violence that rages three years after he ordered an invasion.

The president didn't utter the word "war."...

...Bush did not mention the insurgent attacks, the car bombs or the mounting Iraqi deaths in a two-minute statement to reporters outside the White House after returning from a weekend at Camp David. Avoiding the word "war," he called the day "the third anniversary of the beginning of the liberation of Iraq."...

Does this not sound like insanity to you?

This President is all talk and it's time the media started acknowledging that more.

[PS- More news from the AP: Civil war fears grip Iraq on 3rd anniversary]

Republicans: Changing The Subject (Again)

Republicans have a much tougher reelection struggle ahead this year than they were anticipating. But they have a plan- change the subject. Instead of defending their abysmal record, they'll just use the same old non-issues to scare people to the polls.

It's really all they have left.

Bush fanboy Fred Barnes discusses his party's plans-
If the debate in an upcoming election puts your party at a disadvantage, it makes sense to try to change the debate. At the moment, the 2006 midterm election is framed as a referendum on the Bush administration and congressional Republicans, putting Republican candidates on the defensive...

...There's another part of the 2006 Republican strategy. This spring and summer, Republican leaders in the Senate and House plan to bring up a series of issues that are popular with the Republican base of voters. The aim is to stir conservative voters and spur turnout in the November election. Just last week, House Majority Leader John Boehner and Whip Roy Blunt met with leaders of conservative groups to talk about these issues.

House Republicans, for their part, intend to seek votes on measures such as the Bush-backed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, a bill allowing more public expression of religion, another requiring parental consent for women under 18 to get an abortion, legislation to bar all federal courts except the Supreme Court from ruling on the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance, a bill to outlaw human cloning, and another that would require doctors to consider fetal pain before performing an abortion...

So let's see, with record deficits, failures of government at all levels, a losing fight in Iraq, massive corruption of party leaders, a betrayal of their base's basic values, the Republicans are ready to present a platform of... legalizing homophobia, separating the wall between church and state, taking down abortion, and worrying about the Pledge of Allegiance. Surprised? Didn't think so.

Barnes- Don't forget the Iran war rhetoric!!! That's gonna get real excitin'! After all, apparently to the Bush/GOP folks, 'national security' only means kicking the asses of Middle Eastern countries!!! It's not securing our ports, or reversing the failures of Homeland Security, or being prepared to respond when disaster strikes. I hope recent events have exposed this hollow definition of what true 'national security' is.

The big question is... Will voters continue to be hoodwinked by this transparent pandering and these non-issues? Gay marriage, abortion, and the Pledge of Allegiance have been used so many times by the right, one wonders how they can still have an impact on impressionable voters. Will they allow the party that has run this country for the last failures run away from their failures and pretend it's not all their fault? Will bigotry and the GOP's faux-morality trump deficits, national security, and incompetent leadership? The Republican Party is betting heavily that (as in previous election) it will.

[*insert rant about how backwards this country is*]

Meanwhile, Fred Barnes has his own thoughts on whether the Bush administration needs a major staff shakeup. He suggests a game of musical chairs- Condoleeza Rice replaces Cheney as VP, Cheney replaces Rummy as Defense Secretary, and Karl Rove becomes RNC chairman, while Ken Mehlman comes to work for the White House. This wacky idea would fit in well with Bush's attitude toward governing- the superficial over the substance.

Speaking of Mr. Mehlman, he asks conservative voters to ponder this question:
"The question is, who's on your side for reducing the size of government?"

Ummm, clearly not you guys.

Quote from this Washington Post article- GOP Struggles To Define Its Message for 2006 Elections

The Republican Party is running on ideological fumes. Let's pray the engine gives out soon.

Sens. Leahy and Jeffords Want Censure Hearings

Slowly, but surely, Sen. Feingold succeeds in sparking the much-needed debate...

Vermont Guardian: Leahy, Jeffords support hearings on Feingold censure proposal
Vermont’s two senators, Democrat Patrick Leahy and Independent Jim Jeffords, believe that hearings should be held on the Bush administration’s secret domestic wiretapping program before a censure vote is held.

Sen. Russ Feingold, D-WI, has introduced a resolution calling for censure, accusing Pres. George Bush of violating the Constitution and the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act...

...“Sen. Feingold says he intended his resolution to prompt congressional investigations into the president’s actions on these issues. Republican leaders so far have been reluctant to allow that,” said David Carle, a Leahy spokesman. “Sen. Leahy believes in first things first, and the first thing is Congress doing its oversight duty in investigating the Bush administration’s illegal domestic wiretapping.”...

Sounds good to me.

No doubt Sen. Frist will respond by asking Leahy and Jeffords why they love Al Qaeda so much.

[See previous entry - Sunday Cartoon- for links to more right-wing spin]

The War On Science

60 Minutes did a report this weekend on how the Bush administration is attacking science.

ThinkProgress has a report on this story-
VIDEO: How The Bush Administration Muzzles The Government’s Top Global Warming Scientist

I blogged on the administration's attacks on NASA last month. This issue needs more coverage.

[PS- I went to the Darwin exhibit at the Museum of Natural History this weekend. I highly recommend it. In this time of religious dominance in America when only 12% believe in evolution with no interference from a creator, I felt like attending was a subversive act. Viva la revolution (of science)!]

They Were Soldiers Once

Jay Elias at Daily Kos ponders the effect the Bush/Cheney torture policy has on our troops...
...When we hear of the acts ordered of and committed by units such as Task Force 6-26, it is a common reaction for us all to deplore the acts committed in our names. It is a good reaction, and a sign that we are a people of morals and values that go beyond our own instincts for survival at any cost. But usually, we think little of the cost to the men and women who are ordered to commit those acts. We think little of what has been done to them in our name, and what they have done in service of us.

They were soldiers once. They were proud and honorable men and women who took it upon themselves to protect all of us and our way of life. Do you think they are proud today? Do you think they will come home with their honor intact?...

He concludes-
...Nearly everyone here despises our leadership for many reasons. But I would like to add this one to the list of grievances: do you suppose our leaders have thought hard about what they were ordering our young men and women of the armed forces to do? Do you suppose they thought about what they were asking from our soldiers, and what it cost those soldiers to do as they were ordered?

There are many in America today who have little sympathy with those we torture and torment. They are our enemies, they say. They would do worse to us if the situation was reversed. Maybe so. But those young men and women who we have turned into torturers and inquisators, they were soldiers once. What are they now?

An important question.

Mr. President... any answers?

Sunday, March 19, 2006


Think Progress has compiled a detailed timeline of our little Iraq adventure.

Check it out here-

Read it... and weep.

By the way, my thoughts on the whole "bring them home now" debate... Many have said that bringing the troops home now would be a disaster. I want them home, but can't disagree with that assertion. We have an obligation to fix our mess there before we leave. But to make it better would require President Bush having a plan. He doesn't. He has slogans, press releases, and wishful thinking. And so are soldiers are basically kicking the sand and hoping not to die. It's a disgrace; the soldiers and Iraqi people deserve better.

I certainly hope for their return sooner rather than later. This war needs to end and end soon and there seems to be no serious effort to faciliate that by those in power.

I also hope for serious accountability for all those who created this mess.

[PS- NY Times editorial: The Stuff That Happened]