Saturday, May 06, 2006

World War III?

...So says Bush.

AP: Bush says fight against terror is 'World War III'
US President George W. Bush said the September 11 revolt of passengers against their hijackers on board Flight 93 had struck the first blow of "World War III."...

Yikes! Is he delusional or what? No more "Dr. Strangelove" for you, George!

I expect he'll asking us to hunker down and ration our food any day now...

To quote Homer Simpson, "Anything's possible with Commander Cuckoo Bananas in charge!"

Gen. Hayden To Replace Goss at CIA?

So hints an update from the AP-
...Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, top deputy to National Intelligence Director John Negroponte, is the leading candidate to replace Goss, a senior administration official said. An announcement could come as early as Monday.

Hayden was National Security Agency director until becoming the nation's No. 2 intelligence official a year ago. Since December, he has aggressively defended the Bush administration's warrantless surveillance program. He was one of its chief architects...

Gen. Hayden has a very close relationship with the White House and, according to Time magazine, "has a close rapport with Vice President Cheney". He also, as the AP article notes, is heavily tied to the warrantless spying scandal that has caused national controversy and anger been largely ignored by the media.

If Hayden is indeed nominated, could/should the Democrats use his nomination hearings as an opportunity to recast a national debate on the President's domestic spying program? I say yes. Give the evidence that the program is far more pervasive than they've stated, that major telecommunication companies are actively involved in the program, and that numerous questions about the justification for and scope of the program have gone unanswered, I think it's key to find out where the potential next CIA director stands. Does he believe in the unitary executive theory? How does he feel about the sanctity of the Constitution and the rule of law in wartime? Given their track record, how can Americans be assured that agency resources won't be abused to suit the President's political agenda?

It is also now known that Hayden lied to Congress in 2002 about the administration's spying.

All the above should be an issue. This is a good chance for Congress to take a stand.

Also- a late-December Washington Post article had this from Hayden on why they don't follow FISA-
Hayden said getting retroactive court approval is inefficient because it "involves marshaling arguments" and "looping paperwork around."

In their America, the rule of law gets trumped by the cumbersome nature of paperwork.

Finally, keep a few more things in mind in regards to Hayden's questionable background. This is a guy who doesn't know what the Fourth Amendment says. He is also the man who, when asked by a journalist if Bush's spying program has targeted his political enemies, simply refused to answer. And they want him to run the Central Intelligence Agency, which has faced much criticism in the past few years (not the least of which is becoming a partisan arm for the White House). As Comic Book Guy would say, worst administration ever.

[PS- Still no explanation for Goss' resignation. Most people, even conservative outlets buying the power struggle angle, are conceding that sudden departure hints at a larger story yet to be revealed. Wesley Clark was on Bill Maher's show tonight and was asked about the resignation. He stated that it's likely due to a 'personal' scandal... the 'Hookergate' explanation thus remains fairly plausible, especially since his #3 man- Kyle Foggo- is under federal investigation. It could be a mixture of many things.

UPDATE: Even Drudge is now leading with the Wilkes/Cunningham/hooker angle. Hmmmm.]

[PPS- Thanks to AmericaBlog for the heads up.]

Bushie Goes Down

A new AP poll suggests bad news for the President and his Republican friends...

AP: Conservatives Drive Bush's Approval Down
Angry conservatives are driving the approval ratings of President Bush and the GOP-led Congress to dismal new lows, according to an AP-Ipsos poll that underscores why Republicans fear an Election Day massacre...

...The AP-Ipsos poll also suggests that Democratic voters are far more motivated than Republicans. Elections in the middle of a president's term traditionally favor the party whose core supporters are the most energized...

In addition to the regular findings (Bush still stuck around 32-33% approval, meaning all he's got left are the hardcore believers), the poll also finds that 45% of conservatives alone disapprove of Bush and 65% of them disapprove of Congress. A majority want Democrats in power (51% for them v. 34% for Republicans) and even 31% of Republicans alone said they wanted Republicans out. Six in ten conservatives say the country is heading in the wrong direction and an overall 73% of Americans feel that way. Short of an attack on Iran and a gay marriage ban a miracle, I don't see the President and his party reversing this before November.

It took a few years, but the majority of Americans have caught up to us. I guess we all hate America now.

This was my favorite passage from the article-
"I think he's the dumbest president we've ever had," said Mark Rauzi, a conservative voter from Gillespie, Ill. "I disapprove of a lot of the stuff he's doing. This war was a big boo-boo and he won't admit he did wrong."

It was a big boo-boo indeed. And Bush's arrogant indifference to the problem speaks volumes about his presidency.

Andrew Sullivan looks at some charts showing how Bush's downfall is unprecendented.

In the face of this downfall, many conservatives all over the right-wing spectrum are attempting to distance themselves from the President. I wrote about this, if specifically in regards to the neocons, last Saturday. But on the mainstream right (ie. places like the National Review), the marginalizing of Bush to save themselves continues. He was never their guy anyway, they insist. He's a big-government conservative and not really representative of them at all, you see! Of course, when he was at 70% approval, he was the Hero War President Man-God Embodiment Of America itself whom we all had to worship and follow or else we were traitors and worse. Now that he's down at 32%? He's basically a liberal and, gosh, a fairly flawed President. As Glenn Greenwald notes, "It is only now that his approval ratings are reaching historically low levels, and it is becoming unavoidably apparent that his presidency is dying and failed, that conservatives are seeking to claim that Bush's failure is not a failure of conservatism because -- as it turns out -- Bush was really a liberal all along." This point of view is based on their unflinching belief in conservatism. You see conservatism, in their eyes, simply cannot fail. It's impossible. So if it appears to be failing, it's not their fault- it's Bush's! Because he wasn't a conservatism, at all, and therefore his failures are not those of the conservative movement. But anyone who looks at our massive record debt, the exporting of our economy to Asia, the failings of our schools and science, the energy crisis, Iraq, and a myriad of other problems know that is not the case. It wasn't just Bush's doing; he just finished the job that began during the Reagan revolution. Any pretense of a successful legacy for the Bush era of conservatism was washed away in the waters of Lake Pontchartrain last September.

My instincts tell me this running-away strategy is too inside-the-beltway to have an impact on voters. The majority of Americans (obviously) see President and the conservative movement as one and the same. Conservatives worshipped him, they told us (and well, still tell us) that the very survival of our nation depends on him being in office. For the party that is supposed to embody strength, they sure do act weak, paranoid, and scared. Well I say that a party that is so fearful that it depends on this freefallin' President as their protector deserves what they get in November.

It's time to put some grownups in charge, people for whom security is more than a slogan.

Finally, the founder of USA Today has written a must-read editorial along these lines.

Money quote-
How low can Bush's approval rating go? My hunch is it's at or near the bottom. That 34% represents mostly unshakeable far-right wingers. Like Bush, Vice President Cheney and company, they are in denial. As were the 24% in the polls who still approved of President Richard Nixon before he resigned in disgrace.

What happened to the 37% who have switched from pro-Bush to anti-Bush? They finally realized they were suckered by Bush and his buddies back then about Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons of mass destruction, his tie to terrorists and his threat to the USA.

What he said.

Is it November yet?

Sounds Like Iraq Is Turning Out Well

Freedom and democracy, Jerry Falwell-style, comes to Iraq...

The Independent (UK): Iraqi police 'killed 14-year-old boy for being homosexual'
Human rights groups have condemned the "barbaric" murder of a 14-year-old boy, who, according to witnesses, was shot on his doorstep by Iraqi police for the apparent crime of being gay...

...Campaign groups have warned of a surge in homophobic killings by state security services and religious militias following an anti-gay and anti-lesbian fatwa issued by Iraq's most prominent Shia leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani...

A good sign of things to come, no doubt. Thanks, George.

Saturday Morning Funnies

Here's a cartoon that embodies the Republican Party's greatest fear... an informed voter.

[PS- Unrelated, but it's been one week since Stephen Colbert kicked DC ass. Salon looks back:
-Making Colbert go away
-Stephen Colbert and the funny/not funny distraction]

Friday, May 05, 2006

CIA Director Porter Goss Resigns

From the AP: CIA Director Porter Goss Resigns
CIA Director Porter Goss resigned unexpectedly Friday, leaving behind a spy agency still battling to recover from the scars of intelligence failures before America's worst terrorist attack and faulty information that formed the U.S. rationale for invading Iraq...

But... but... who will prosecute agency whistleblowers now?

The release of this information on a Friday afternoon- where news stories go to die- seems suspicious.

Anyone want to place bets on what the real reason for this resignation is? Or heck, any reason at all, since Goss did not bother to provide one. The AP article has no official answer, other than a vague assumption that this is about White House 'shake-ups' (hint to AP: the CIA is, in theory, not a direct part of the White House. Try again.). This is a glaring hole in the story thus far.

The director of the CIA did not randomly decide today that his work was finished and he's gonna call it quits. This was an immediate, and unexpected, resignation. That there was no replacement ready further solidifies that point. President Bush tried to play it off that his role was merely transitional. Sure it was, George.

I imagine the reason will come out sooner rather than later; the vagueness in the initial reports leaves much room for suspicion. I know he was implicated in the growing Hookergate scandal I mentioned in the previous entry- could it be because of that? That's the most obvious explanation for now.

Or was he just not performing well? Agency power struggle? Is it punishment for a failure of intelligence like when Tenet 'resigned'? Is a Presidential Medal of Freedom headed his way? Is it because he remembered that he was not qualified for the job?

There'll be lots of spin here, but this is definitely more bad news for the White House.

[Update: Goss releases a statement that basically says nothing. Blog speculation here, here, and here.]

A Tale Of Two Scandals

Here's two news stories that are creating buzz on blogs today...

Story #1- Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D- RI) crashed his car (again), critics say he was drunk, he insists he was 'merely' popping pills.

Story #2- Numerous Republican lawmakers and officials have been implicated in a developing scandal involving bribery, parties, and favors- and hookers?- which has now resulted in a subpoena for the infamous Watergate hotel.

Which do you think is actually getting coverage by the press? If you guessed the latter, you lose.

Darn that liberal media!

Rumsfeld Lies When Questioned On WMD Statement

Former CIA analyst, and current anti-war activist, Ray McGovern, called Sec. Rumsfeld to task for previous statements he'd made on Iraq today during a speech Rumsfeld gave in Atlanta. The version of this story that is being played up by the press- as the AP article would indicate- is that Rumsfeld was 'heckled'. That's right AP, Statler and Waldorf were up in the balcony shouting insults at Rummy.

At first I thought the term referred to some protestors who shouted at him during the speech (which is a side issue in the story, anyway), but the AP title specifically states Rumsfeld was "Heckled by Former CIA Analyst". Apparently, asking a pointed question now counts as heckling in America.

During the Q&A session, McGovern asked Rumsfeld why they lied to get us into a war of choice, a charge Rumsfeld denied. He blew off any accountability he has for the case they made for war turning out wrong, stating "I’m not in the intelligence business". Tell us something we don't know, Don.

McGovern then called him on his 2003 assertion that he knew where the WMDs were. Rumsfeld denied ever saying that. McGovern then quoted him back what he said in 2003. Rumsfeld stammered for several seconds (do these people honestly not know their words are recorded and archived?) and then diverted away from that issue... Rumsfeld in the end never accounted for the lie he had just spouted.

Rumsfeld then changed the subject, trying to use Zarqawi to make an Iraq-9/11 connection, an assertion McGovern quickly shot down.

Video here- VIDEO: Rumsfeld Called Out On Lies About WMD

Here's a transcript of the first part of the back-and-forth, courtesy of Atrios-
QUESTION: So I would like to ask you to be up front with the American people, why did you lie to get us into a war that was not necessary, that has caused these kinds of casualties? Why?

[*Booing in audience*]

RUMSFELD: Well, first of all, I haven’t lied. I did not lie then. [*Applause in audience*] Colin Powell didn’t lie. He spent weeks and weeks with the Central Intelligence Agency people and prepared a presentation that I know he believed was accurate, and he presented that to the United Nations. The President spent weeks and weeks with the Central Intelligence people and he went to the American people and made a presentation. I’m not in the intelligence business. They gave the world their honest opinion. It appears that there were not weapons of mass destruction there.

QUESTION: You said you knew where they were.

RUMSFELD: I did not. I said I knew where suspect sites were and –

QUESTION: You said you knew where they were- Tikrit, Baghdad, northeast, south, west of there. Those are your words.

RUMSFELD: My words — my words were that — no, no, wait a minute, wait a minute. Let him stay one second. Just a second.

QUESTION: This is America.

[*audience applauds*]

RUMSFELD: You’re getting plenty of play, sir.

QUESTION: I’d just like an honest answer.

RUMSFELD: I’m giving it to you.

QUESTION: Well we’re talking about lies and your allegation there was bulletproof evidence of ties between al Qaeda and Iraq. Was that a lie or were you mislead?

RUMSFELD: Zarqawi was in Baghdad during the prewar period. That is a fact.

QUESTION: Zarqawi? He was in the north of Iraq in a place where Saddam Hussein had no rule. That’s also…

RUMSFELD: He was also in Baghdad.

QUESTION: Yes, when he needed to go to the hospital. Come on, these people aren’t idiots. They know the story.

This is why I want to see these guys under oath in a Senate investigation. They're really bad at lying.

For the record, here is the May 4, 2003 exchange from ABC that McGovern referred to:
STEPHANOPOULOS: And is it curious to you that given how much control U.S. and coalition forces now have in the country, they haven’t found any weapons of mass destruction?

SEC. RUMSFELD: …We know where they are. They’re in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.

Gosh, I guess Rumsfeld forgot saying it.

This is a standard trick they use- instead of defending previous statements they made, they deny ever having said them. President Bush did it when called on his 2002 statement that he wasn't that interested in Osama bin Laden anymore. Vice President Cheney did it when called on statement about Iraq and nuclear weapons. Rumsfeld has done it before when called on statements made calling Iraq an imminent threat. And the President has also denied that they said there was a connection between 9/11 and Iraq. Then they get shocked when they are called on these lies. Like I said, apparently not only do they underestimate the intelligence of the American people, they also don't realize 'cameras' and 'microphones' record the things that they say.

The Colin Powell mention is odd too, since he has come out publicly since retiring to state that he, along with many others, severely questioned the intelligence prior to the war. He indicated in a recent interview that he didn't buy into the idea of an Iraqi nuclear threat, stating “That was all Cheney.” He also verified the accounts of former ambassador Joseph Wilson, stating "I didn’t need Wilson to tell me that there wasn’t a Niger connection. He didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know. I never believed it.” He insisted he gave his speech to the U.N. based on a mix of good faith and loyalty to the administration. This says a lot about Powell (that he sold his soul and helped lie us into war), but it certainly doesn't say that he believed his presentation was accurate.

Another interesting thing I found about this exchange was this- after McGovern reminds Rumsfeld of his 2003 quote, you hear Rumsfeld saying "no, no, wait a minute, wait a minute. Let him stay one second. Just a second." The camera is only on Rumsfeld, but I think it's clear that, at this point, security was grabbing McGovern and trying to remove him. Does security always remove people who ask tough questions at these events? That seems to be a pretty upsetting thought. At least Rumsfeld was smart enough to know his bad press would be doubled by allowing that to happen.

The distraction of this did give Rumsfeld a chance to dodge the question.

The right-wing blogs are already ranting on this, trying to make McGovern the issue. Yet, in all their exposes of McGovern as a 'moonbat', I notice one thing... not one blog I went to made an attempt to defend Rumsfeld or the accusations made against him. The facts just aren't with them there. So as usual, it becomes easier to attack the critic- be it the media, Cindy Sheehan, or ummm, 68% of America- than to actually address the substance of the issue. It's amusing to observe.

The issue is that Rumsfeld was caught in a lie. Again. He still has a job... why?

[PS- The Rumsfeld torture legacy continues.]

The Cult of Bush Has Its Priorities Straight

Josh Marshall looks at an amusing email that Sen. Elizabeth Dole sent out to supporters in search for contributions to the Republican senatorial committee. From the email-
"If Democrats take control of the Senate in '06, they will cancel the Bush tax cuts, allow liberal activist judges to run our courts and undermine all Republican efforts to win the War on Terror. Even worse, they will call for endless congressional investigations and possibly call for the impeachment of President Bush!"

So a bad outcome, in the Republicans' eyes, would be Democrats undermining efforts against terrorism (unlike the Republicans who have captured Osama and brought peace to Iraq). But even worse be the Democrats... investigating the actions of the Bush administration!!! [*GASP*] I mean terrorism, fine that's bad and all, but President Bush being investigated?! Our country would never be able to survive the assault.

This is what scares the Republicans the most- accountability and investigation of the President. More than another issue- yes, even terrorism- this is the issue that they are going to use to rally the base. I wrote about this last week as well. The White House, and its defenders, know that getting past these elections is the key to protecting all their secrets and wrongdoings. And they will do anything to stop the Democrats from gaining power. Not because of any specific policies of the Democratic party (given the GOP Congress' abysmal record, it'd be hard for them to defend themselves on policy ground), but simply because someone in the party may want to actually push to the forefront the many pending investigations that have been stonewalled or blocked the past few years. For a group of people who claim they've done nothing wrong, they sure are acting pretty desperate.

As Glenn Greenwald noted in March-
There is a palpable increase in the level of extremism and desperation among Bush followers as the Commander in Chief's approval ratings fall lower and lower and as the views which Americans have of both him and his party become more hostile. This is going to be a significant dynamic -- as their power slips further and further away, Bush followers are going to resort to increasingly radical and rage-fueled measures to keep it...

...Many of them have become convinced -- or convinced themselves -- that it is literally a matter of their immediate and personal survival that the country be controlled by Republicans devoted to the neoconservative mindset. Many of them actually believe that if those who deviate from that worldview gain political power, that they will be irradiated or blown up by Al Qaeda. And then still others are just so filled with rage and contempt for "liberals" (meaning anyone who is not a Bush supporter) that those sentiments are, by themselves, sufficient to push them into extreme and irrational thought as they lose more and more power.

Indeed. Have you seen the shirts?

As Josh Marshall said, "Get ready for a rough summer and fall. The White House can't afford to lose either house of Congress."

Terrorist Woes

Sometimes you get some encouraging news.

As I'm sure you've already heard, 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui has been sentenced to life in prison. The jury opted not to go with the death penalty, likely to avoid making him a martyr. I am glad since I don't believe in the afterlife or any potential lakes of fire that would await him there. Life in the Supermax, isolated and forgotten, is a fitting punishment for this walking footnote.

Will Bunch is less than excited, as the real 9/11 architects are not being brought to justice.

Perhaps this will convince the Bush administration to actually respect our legal process.

Meanwhile, a video has been released by the U.S. military of well-known terrorist leader al-Zarqawi fumbling with his rifle. In the video, Zarqawi is unable to get his gun to work properly until he gets assistance from someone. The video was released, according to the AP report, "as part of a propaganda war aimed at undercutting the image of the terror leader". Sounds good to me. You can see the video- here.

A reader of Andrew Sullivan's blog has a different take, stating "Yes, it's quite funny that Zarqawi can't fire that weapon properly, but what's not so funny is the fact that if this is the caliber (pardon the pun) of the enemy we're fighting, what does it say about our ability to catch the guy? Do you think the Pentagon's spinmeisters thought about that before releasing the video?"

I don't think the people running the Pentagon (Rumsfeld's crew anyway) do much in the way of thinking these days. I mean have you, ummm, seen Iraq lately?

Finally, the House approves the Flight 93 memorial as costs for the NYC memorial double.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Taking A Break

I decided that I'll take a break from the old blog today (after this post explaining that, natch). Always good to take a break from the internet for a day to clear the brain out. Gonna sleep in, watch some DVDs, and eat a bunch of cheese. Good times.

Speaking of which, I got a chance to chat tonight with John Aravosis- who runs AmericaBlog- as he was in NYC taking care of business. He had organized a small get-together of readers to discuss politics and blogs. It was a great group conversation. The chat was held at Starbucks, naturally, where we liberals always gather to plot our nefarious schemes.

Finally, I think I mentioned this briefly the other day, I am currently reading Eric Boehlert's new book, 'Lapdogs'. It's a great summary of how, in the past several years, the press not only fell asleep, but also reacted to fear of liberal bias accusations by embracing right-wing narratives. Much of this has been documented all over the web the past couple years, but Boehlert does an excellent job of bringing it all together. In a preview of the book on Salon, Boehlert writes "Battered by accusations of a liberal bias and determined to prove their conservative critics wrong, the press during the run-up to the war -- timid, deferential, unsure, cautious, and often intentionally unthinking -- came as close as possible to abdicating its reason for existing in the first place, which is to accurately inform citizens, particularly during times of great national interest." Yup. It was a huge mistake and one they're just barely beginning to wake up to in the past year.

Thus ends my random chatter for the night.

Enjoy your day. Wake me if Bush gets impeached anything exciting happens.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

It's Good To Be King, Pt. II

Coming on the heels of a must-read Boston Globe article on the several hundred laws the President has declared he has the authority to break, the Cato Institute (a conservative/libertarian think-tank) has released a two dozen-plus page report entitled "Power Surge: The Constitutional Record of George W. Bush".

The introduction states-
Unfortunately, far from defending the Constitution, President Bush has repeatedly sought to strip out the limits the document places on federal power. In its official legal briefs and public actions, the Bush administration has advanced a view of federal power that is astonishingly broad, a view that includes

  • a federal government empowered to regulate core political speech—and restrict it greatly when it counts the most: in the days before a federal election;
  • a president who cannot be restrained, through validly enacted statutes, from pursuing any tactic he believes to be effective in the war on terror;
  • a president who has the inherent constitutional authority to designate American citizens suspected of terrorist activity as "enemy combatants," strip them of any constitutional protection, and lock them up without charges for the duration of the war on terror— in other words, perhaps forever; and
  • a federal government with the power to supervise virtually every aspect of American life, from kindergarten, to marriage, to the grave.

President Bush's constitutional vision is, in short, sharply at odds with the text, history, and structure of our Constitution, which authorizes a government of limited powers.

They're being far too polite.

In the name of defending democracy abroad, the President is making a mockery of ours here at home. Warrantless wiretapping of American citizens with the cooperation of major telecommunication companies, secret prisons in foreign countries, kidnapping and rendition, government-sanctioned torture, the intimidation of journalists and whistleblowers, launching a war under false pretenses, selectively leaking classified information in secret to reporters to repair that damage, spying on political activists, using signing statements to free himself from obligations to laws that he signs... These are all things that the United States of America apparently stands for now.

And the President orders it all by himself, with no oversight from Congress and the courts, regardless of what laws may exist prohibiting such things. The President has "run amok", as Glenn Greenwald notes in the title of his new book.

Someone needs to stand up to this... more than just the faux-outrage of 'mavericks' like Arlen Specter.

The Democrats have even managed to silence Russ Feingold and his censure resolution.

Jack Balkin at the Balkinization blog has a good take on Bush, concluding that-
Bush is not the first President to try this strategy, but he has taken it to new extremes, making it a regular part of his relationship to law, as Savage details in his article. Making this a regular and pervasive practice is constitutionally worrisome, because it allows the President to escape responsibility for enforcing laws that he himself signs into law based on what may be unreasonable claims about constitutionality which are devised primarily to increase his own power. It allows the President to gain many of the advantages of the veto without incurring the political disadvantages, and it allows him, by riddling bills with exceptions in how he will enforce them, to produce what is in effect legislation that Congress never passed. In this way, Bush does an end run around the logic of separation of powers, one of whose central purposes, it should be pointed out, is to restrain the arbitrary exercise of power.

Bush has already adopted President Nixon's view that if the President authorizes something, it isn't illegal, despite what the text of the law says. Now Bush has taken the converse position that if the President doesn't agree with legislation, even legislation that he signs, it isn't law. Together, these two attitudes are deeply corrosive of the Rule of Law and move us down the path to a dictatorial conception of Presidential power-- that is, the conception that the President on his own may dictate what is and what is not law, rather than the President merely being the person in constitutional system entrusted with faithful implementation and enforcement of the law.

And that's key. It's not just contained to the President personally; he's radically altering the way the system works.

Sen. Feingold, wherever you are, maybe it's time for round two.

Howard Dean = Douchebag?

Expect the good doctor to catch a lot of crap for this move-

Washington Blade: Dean fires Dems' gay outreach chief
Democratic Party Chair Howard Dean on May 2 fired the party's gay outreach advisor Donald Hitchcock less than a week after Hitchcock's domestic partner, Paul Yandura, a longtime party activist, accused Dean of failing to take stronger action to defend gays...

Did Dean fire Hitchcock because of his partner's criticism? Seems likely.

Shame on you, Mr. Dean. Your party is supposed to be the party of tolerance and social change. But between moves like this and President Clinton's Defense of Marriage Act/Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell two-fer in the '90s, it's clear you are failing to live up to that in respect to the gay community. Even Sen. Kerry didn't speak out against the gay marriage ban initiatives in 2004 for fail of alienating homophobic swing voters. Some Democrats get it, of course. Russ Feingold gets it. Al Gore does too. But those are also the Democrats that the party establishment has marginalized in recent years (though less so with Gore, since he's out of office).

With the Republican Party planning another round of gay marriage ban initiatives this summer (and right when there's an election coming up- gosh, what a coincidence!), the Democratic Party has a moral obligation to speak and denounce this bigotry. They need to expose these efforts as not only transparently political, but also socially backwards. They need to tell voters to focus on the real issues (the war, the monstrous national debt, corruption, the Gulf Coast, etc.) and not on the trumped-up 'values' issues the Republicans dig up every two years to placate the far-right. They also need to reclaim their role as the civil rights party and embrace the inevitable support of equal marriage rights.

Judging by what we've seen to date, I'm less than hopeful, to say the least.

[PS- Other blogs weigh in (and thanks to them for the heads up too):
-AmericaBlog: Howard Dean fires gay man in apparent retaliation against his partner
-Andrew Sullivan: Dean's Revenge]

Why Mr. Colbert, I Do Believe You Hit A Nerve.

"Hi, I'm Stephen Colbert. I'd love to show you my balls tonight."

Despite the media's near-blackout of mentions of the Stephen Colbert keynote in their coverage of the Correspondents Dinner, right-wing outrage at his acerbic comedy routine has yet to fade. I mentioned some of the early comments in my writeup of the event on Sunday morning. The general consensus on the right is that he 'bombed' or was 'rude' to the President. Ignore that the reaction (outside the press corp) to the routine was extremely positive and that videos of it are spreading virally around the web (it's an instant classic, ala when Jon Stewart took down 'Crossfire')... no, Colbert supposedly disrespected the President and was therefore awful. They are not likely to forgive Mr. Colbert for daring to insult his majesty on his special night. In the world of the cultists, "not only disrespect towards the President, but also mere criticism of him [is] somehow inappropriate, even unpatriotic", as Glenn Greenwald notes.

I knew this backlash was real when I saw this on the Drudge Report-
FLASH: Colbert averaging just over one million viewers a night (1,077,000], year to date on COMEDY CENTRAL, which is less than FOXNEWS's 6-11pm line-up...

These news "flashes" are a very common tactic on Drudge's site (ie. FLASH: [Insert miscellaneous project of liberal media figure] is STRUGGLING, according to incredibly faulty data I have gathered. Liberalism is therefore NOW OVER). You would think he'd have learned his lesson after he tried to paint the new book 'Crashing The Gate' as a flop and promptly was schooled by numerous bloggers. Regarding the Colbert 'flash', there are several things that are wrong with it. First, he mentions Fox's 6-11 slot. Colbert is on at 11:30. Second, is he really comparing Fox News to Comedy Central? The latter is supposed to be comedy, but the former makes me chuckle too (Hannity = comedy gold). That is actually a fantastic rating for the network and time slot (and for a relatively new program). Colbert's show is a smash. Then, of course, there is the inherent ridiculousness of the Drudges reacting to a comedy routine with the same "We gotta attack!!" attitude they would have if Howard Dean called the President a criminal.

The press corp also hated it, if only because Colbert ripped into their timidity as well.

To quote Han Solo, "I must've hit it pretty close to the mark to get her all riled up like that, huh kid?"

Jon Stewart defended Colbert on Monday night's program and praised the performance, calling it "ballsilicious". He also hit the nail on the head by sarcastically noting "Apparently [Stephen] was under the impression that they'd hired him to do what he does every night on television". Well that just proves that no one in the White House had ever seen the show before inviting him.

It wasn't just his supporters who were mad... The President himself was ready to pop!-
"Colbert crossed the line," said one top Bush aide, who rushed out of the hotel as soon as Colbert finished. Another said that the president was visibly angered by the sharp lines that kept coming.

"I've been there before, and I can see that he is [angry]," said a former top aide. "He's got that look that he's ready to blow."


Yes, our Commander-In-Chief, our big tough WAR PRESIDENT, couldn't handle a comedian using irony to burst the bubble that has surrounded him for the past five years. We should thank our lucky stars. If Stephen had gone for a few minutes more, the President would've flipped out and ordered a nuclear strike on Iran that very night.

Why oh why couldn't Mr. Colbert do something nice like the President and his impersonator doing their "ain't it funny how dumb I am?" routine? Or, for something even funnier, why not flash back to the 2004 Dinner in which President Bush aired a taped skit of himself desperately searching all the over the White House for nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. The audience certainly enjoyed that (we're talking bellowing laughter). Editor & Publisher's Greg Mitchell refreshes our memory-
Where was the outrage when President Bush made fun of not finding those pesky WMDs at a very similar media dinner—in the same ballroom--two years ago? It represents a shameful episode for the American media, and presidency, yet is rarely mentioned today...

...According to the transcript this was greeted with “laughter and applause” from the audience...

...The reporters covering the gala were apparently as swept away with laughter as the guests. One of the few attendees to criticize the president's gag, David Corn of The Nation, said he heard not a single complaint from his colleagues at the after-party. Corn wondered if they would have laughed if President Reagan, following the truck bombing of our Marines barracks in Beirut, which killed 241, had said at a similar dinner: “Guess we forgot to put in a stop light.”

I know there's nothing more hilarious to me than a deadly war based on false intelligence.

You can see a remixed video of that skit- here. Joe Lieberman loved it.

Digby also notes that the press loved Don Imus' biting (and vulgar) address in 1996.

Of course, as I noted above, the reaction among most people (pretty much everyone outside of Bush's core base and outside the DC press corp) to Colbert's routine was positive. He was funny, he was powerful, he spoke truthiness to power. But mostly, he had balls. Big brass balls. Like Stewart's deconstruction of 'Crossfire', I think people will be buzzing about this for quite some time. Never before in the Bush presidency have we seen such a frank (and public) satirical indictment of the state of our union. As an article on Salon noted, "His imitation of the quintessential GOP talking head -- Bill O'Reilly meets Scott McClellan -- uncovered the inner workings of the ever-cheapening discourse that passes for political debate. He reversed and flattened the meaning of the words he spoke... What Colbert did was expose the whole official, patriotic, right-wing, press-bashing discourse as a sham, as more 'truthiness' than truth."

The DC world exists in its own reality. Colbert brought them back to ours.

That's why we love him.

[PS- I've been reading Eric Boehlert's new book 'Lapdogs'. Highest recommendations.]

Net Neutrality

The NY Times has a great editorial on the growing battle over internet neutrality-
"Net neutrality" is a concept that is still unfamiliar to most Americans, but it keeps the Internet democratic. Cable and telephone companies that provide Internet service are talking about creating a two-tiered Internet, in which Web sites that pay them large fees would get priority over everything else. Opponents of these plans are supporting Net-neutrality legislation, which would require all Web sites to be treated equally. Net neutrality recently suffered a setback in the House, but there is growing hope that the Senate will take up the cause.

One of the Internet's great strengths is that a single blogger or a small political group can inexpensively create a Web page that is just as accessible to the world as Microsoft's home page. But this democratic Internet would be in danger if the companies that deliver Internet service changed the rules so that Web sites that pay them money would be easily accessible, while little-guy sites would be harder to access, and slower to navigate. Providers could also block access to sites they do not like.

That would be a financial windfall for Internet service providers, but a disaster for users...

They go on to mention potential political moves to fight for net neutrality.

Meanwhile, former Clinton press secretary Mike McCurry shills for the telecom industry. It's worth reading for the reactions. Josh Marshall reacts to this issue as well, without McCurry's douchebaggery.

The Government Pledged $60 Million In Aid To Katrina Victims!

Well not our government, they need all our money for more tax cuts. Of course.

NY Times: Qatar Grants Millions in Aid to New Orleans

Sen. McCain: Dissected

A great analysis of John McCain...

The "Real McCain" and the Cult Of Authenticity

The conclusion-
McCain’s latest move is necessary, if he wants to be president, but it’s awfully daring. Live by the cult of authenticity, perish by the cult of authenticity. A pollster once told me that the way to destroy a political opponent is to get people wondering, "Who is this guy?" That insight was certainly borne out by the demolition of John Kerry, in which he collaborated in creating a sense that he didn't quite have a real core of beliefs. I assume that McCain's gamble is that he has so strongly established the "straight-talk express" brand with the general electorate that he can perform the ritual obsequies of the Republican nominating process and still emerge with his reputation intact. But he can't. The odd period in McCain's career that Chait focuses on created too many Republican activists who simply aren't going to stomach his nomination, and he can't spend two years in his current mode and expect the independent moderate voters in New Hampshire and elsewhere to remember what they kind of liked about him for a period in 2000.

So the question isn't, "what would the "real" McCain be like as President. It is, what is McCain going to be like when his presidential hopes are put to rest and he serves out his 70s in the Senate.


[PS- The media lovefest of Sen. McCain continues. God help us all.]

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

President Bush Was For Hispanics Before He Was Against Them

I briefly mentioned last week the 'scandal' of some people recording a Spanish-language version of the National Anthem. I think this is nonsense. The National Anthem is the National Anthem; people sing it lots of ways... it's not really a big deal and the outrage speaks more about the complainers than whoever recorded the Spanish version. To me, it seems a perfectly reasonable way for hispanic immigrants to celebrate their American pride while also recognizing their roots. As even Condoleeza Rice said on 'Face The Nation' on Sunday, "I've heard the national anthem done in rap versions, country versions, classical versions. The individualization of the American national anthem is quite under way." She then goes to say that what people really should be concerned is coming up with an immigration reform law "that recognizes our laws and recognizes our humanity." It's not too often that I agree with Ms. Rice and her stone-cold glare, so this is a special occassion.

All of this outrage is coming up as the Republican party tries to placate the xenophobic (and occassionally racist) wing of the Republican base in an election year where they need every vote they can get. Apparently, Ken Mehlman weighed the need for those votes against the need for Hispanic votes and the former won out. Poor choice. The problem is that the far-right will never be satisfied until a Great Wall is erected across the border and any illegals already here are deported or jailed. They don't want immigration reform, they just want (to quote Mr. Garrison) "to get rid of all the Mexicans".

For a look at this racism in action, check out this link from a popular conservative blog.

The sad part is that most Americans (including myself) do want immigration reform, tougher enforcement of the border, and a crackdown on employers who exploit undocumented workers. We also want a policy that is humane and does leave a path for people to become citizens (in the proper way) in the rich immigrant tradition of our country. Of course, this is not what Congress is doing... they're not pushing for reform, they're fishing for votes in the right-wing pond. We're asking for Bruce Banner; they're giving us the Hulk. They never cared about this issue before, but it's an election year and Lou Dobbs is yelling at them, so they're doing what they do best- acting busy.

Back to the anthem... As the well-oiled outrage from the right grew over the Spanish version, the President threw his base a bone and stated on Friday that "I think the national anthem ought to be sung in English, and I think people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English and they ought to learn to sing the national anthem in English." It didn't take long for intrepid bloggers to dig up information that contradicts this nonsense.

Think Progress has put up several entries today on the topic:
-FACT CHECK: U.S. Government Commissioned Spanish-Language ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ in 1919
-Candidate Bush Would ‘Sing The Star-Spangled Banner in Spanish’ At Hispanic Festivals
-National Anthem Sung In Spanish At First Bush Inaugural

This information even made its way into today's White House press briefing. Scott McClellan is played dumb.

Finally, Greg Saunders looks at how President Bush has always used spanish-language campaign ads in his career.

President Bush used to reach out to our hispanic population. But it's 2006 and the conservatives are angry, so arrepentido, latinos. When are these people ever going to learn that, beyond their votes, the Republicans have little use for them?

The Next War

With the 'Mission Accomplished' anniversary come and gone, perhaps it's time again to turn our attention back to the war with Iran that administration is not planning. Many feel that we are on the brink of an inevitable conflict.

That's a legitimate issue for debate.

The Iranian leaders, of course, are not exactly making diplomacy easy. They're enjoying the attention.

(And ol' Drudgey is quite happy to have another chance for yellow journalism fearmongering)

But the other end of this debate is the political reasons why a conflict might be embraced by our current leadership. We've certainly all seen this script before, only four short years ago. Josh Marshall looks at how this debate- sure to heat up as the Fall approaches- will influence the midterm elections-
With respect to what's coming on Iran, what is in order is a little honesty, just as was the case with the Social Security debate a year ago. The only crisis with Iran is the crisis with the president's public approval ratings. Period. End of story. The Iranians are years, probably as long as a decade away, and possibly even longer from creating even a limited yield nuclear weapon. Ergo, the only reason to ramp up a confrontation now is to help the president's poll numbers.

This is a powerful message because it is an accurate message. We have many challenges overseas today. Chief among them, as one of the Democrats' senate candidates puts it, is "refocusing America's foreign and defense policies in a way that truly protects our national interests and seeks harmony where they are not threatened." The period of peril the country is entering into isn't tied to an Iranian bomb. It turns on how far a desperate president will go to avoid losing control of Congress.

Go to his heart. Go to his weaknesses. Though the realization of the fact is something of a lagging indicator, the man is a laughing stock, whose lies and failures are all catching up with him.

To the president the Democrats should be saying, Double or Nothing is Not a Foreign Policy.

What he said.

Matthew Yglesias also urges Democrats to be prepared-
Politicians in the mix, meanwhile, need to disabuse themselves of any illusions about the administration acting in good faith. It's clear that a certain faction on the right is determined to have a war. It's not clear whether that faction will ultimately drive policy, but it is clear that if there is a war the war will be a result of the hawks' ascendancy. At the same time, there's a school of thought in the GOP that thinks a war will be politically beneficial. Put it together and what you most certainly don't have are a group of people who are merely keeping all options "on the table" as they try to play a game of patient diplomacy.

The war party needs to be attacked -- vociferously -- in part by pointing to the sort of crassness on display in the Time article, in part with reference to the administration's now-legendary incompetence, but in part with the deeper point that this is simply a wildly bad idea.

Meanwhile, the left-of-center expert types are going to need to step up and show some leadership as well. So far, the silence has been a bit deafening.

It has been defeaning.

Bottom line- I don't want more people to die because of the President's misguided ideology, hero complex, and (ultimately) incompetence. I don't want us sitting around in three years debating what wrong in Iran and we what can do to resolve the growing quagmire. I don't want to see another foreign entanglement left to the next set of U.S. leaders after the Bush crew leaves office. I don't want to see worldwide terrorism increase further in the face of U.S. agression. I don't want Iran to gain nuclear weapons and play a game of chicken in the Middle East, but I also don't want to see us play into their hands. I don't want to see the United States drop nukes on a country with a disgruntled populace simply to prevents its leader from getting nukes themselves.

I don't want war if it can, by any means, be avoided. Problem is that 'avoid' is not in this President's dictionary.

[PS- Was Valerie Plame working on Iran intel before she was outed? That appears to be the case.]

'24': As Seen Through The Eyes Of Bush Supporters

Man, that President Logan is a total scumbag, isn't he? I hope Jack Bauer takes him down! The idea of the seemingly bumbling and clueless President turning out to be a calculating villain was a brilliant twist; I don't know where these writers get their ideas.

Anyway, supporters of President Bush and his gloves-off, laws-don't-apply-to-me approach to his presidency and the war on terror have found in hero in the ass-kicking Jack Bauer. Jack Bauer answers to no one! He always saves the day and he isn't afraid to break the law or kill random people to do it. This motherfucker is such a badass he will hijack an airplane just to get the evidence he needs (and it's really cute that people keep thinking they can stop him).

He's, well, supposed to be a fictional character- an amped up counter-terrorism John Wayne-, but don't tell that to the people who see the world (and the war) as it were a story arc on '24'.

It is on this note that cartoonist Tom Tomorrow reimagines the '24' world in the way that the President's supporters see our battle against terror...

Adam Elkus on TruthDig also takes a look at the conservative obsession with the fictional Bauer:
What Would Jack Bauer Really Do?

Monday, May 01, 2006

Mission Accomplished

Today is the third anniversary of the infamous 'Mission Accomplished' photo-op.

The President (unintentionally?) used the occassion to reassure Americans that we are turning the corner in Iraq... again. Perhaps we should be moving forward instead of just walking around the block. The President spoke of "tough days ahead" but stated the Iraqi government is "more determined than ever to succeed." He also continued to play up this war as part of the war on terror. Is that rhetorical sleight of hand still selling? Just curious. Of course, as course the AP article notes, this is a 'decidedly less positive message than the one he offered from aboard an aircraft carrier' three years ago.

Josh Marshall, I believe, perfectly sums up that disaster of a photo-op:
I think this will go down as the symbol of the Bush administration -- like Carter's malaise speech, Bush's father with the carton of milk, LBJ falling on his metaphorical sword in a nationally televised address. It captures everything. The arrogance. The dingbat personality cult. The fleeting triumph of Potemkin stagecraft over tangible accomplishment. The happy willingness to let others take care of the president's messes.

It is on that last note- the willingness to leave his mess to others- that I am again reminded of the press conference the President gave last month on the third anniversary of the invasion. Asked about when he planned to remove U.S. forces from Iraq, Bush said that decision "will be decided by future presidents and future governments of Iraq" and the proceeded to blame the media for reporting on all the bad news.

Mission accomplished indeed.

Think Progress has a good comparison of numbers between May 1 in 2003 and in 2006. The number of U.S. soldiers killed at that point in 2003 was 139; the amount killed at this point is 2,400. Tne number wounded then was 542; the total wounded now is 17,469. The number of insurgents then was around 5,000; the number now is around 15,000-20,000. The total cost to taxpayers then was $79 billion; the total cost thus far is now $320 billion and climbing.

Given all of that, is it any surprise that doubts are growing over whether any success can be found in Iraq?

On the more surreal end of this anniversary is a look back at the media coverage of the event from 2003, courtesy of Media Matters. That darn ol' liberal media, in addition to joining the President in declaring full-out victory in Iraq, also heaped mighty (and somewhat lusty) praise upon the Commander-In-Chief who just wanted to stage a nice photo for his reelection campaign personally flew a jet onto that carrier after his successful combat tour in Iraq. Here's a snippet from the May 1, 2003, edition of 'Hardball'-
MATTHEWS: Do you think this role, and I want to talk politically [...], the president deserves everything he's doing tonight in terms of his leadership. He won the war. He was an effective commander. Everybody recognizes that, I believe, except a few critics. Do you think he is defining the office of the presidency, at least for this time, as basically that of commander in chief? That [...] if you're going to run against him, you'd better be ready to take [that] away from him...

...Here's a president who's really nonverbal. He's like Eisenhower. He looks great in a military uniform. He looks great in that cowboy costume he wears when he goes West.

Read the whole writeup at the link above. Chris Matthews' obsession later on with Bush's package is scary. On the May 1 edition of 'Countdown', Matthews told Keith Olbermann that "Women like a guy who's president. Check it out. The women like this war. I think we like having a hero as our president." Yeeesh, get a room, Chris!

Even CBS' Bob Schieffer said "As far as I'm concerned, that was one of the great pictures of all time." Indeed. That photo will remain a testament the incompetent and deadly style-over-substance governing of George W. Bush.

Chris Matthews may like having a cowboy President, but the rest of us wanted a grown-up.

Links of the Day

If you only read the newspapers or the mainstream news coverage, you'd barely even know that Stephen Colbert was at the White House Correspondents Dinner on Saturday. I am curious why his performance (which, whether you enjoyed it or not, was noteworthy in its biting tone) is being marginalized in the press. Were they uncomfortable with the idea of the event's host so clearly critiquing the President... or were they upset that he turned his jokes on them too? Maybe Stephen will share his thoughts tonight. Mainstream media, you're on notice.

Anyway, lots of happenings today, here's some notable news...

-Immigrants- legal and illegal- are protesting today nationwide to demand legal rights:
Immigrants mount boycott, rallies

-A massive rally was held in Washington DC yesterday to call attention to the genocide in Darfur:
Divisions Cast Aside in Cry for Darfur

-Finally, remarks by Colin Powell put Secretary Rice on the defensive:
Powell Forces Rice to Defend Iraq Planning

America To GOP: Take That $100 And Shove It Up Your Gas!

Last week, I posed the question of whether $100 would buy the Republicans back voter support.

The answer appears to be... No.

NY Times: Sharp Reaction to G.O.P. Plan on Gas Rebate
The Senate Republican plan to mail $100 checks to voters to ease the burden of high gasoline prices is eliciting more scorn than gratitude from the very people it was intended to help.

Aides for several Republican senators reported a surge of calls and e-mail messages from constituents ridiculing the rebate as a paltry and transparent effort to pander to voters before the midterm elections in November...

Pander? The Republicans? The hell you say!

Looks like, this year, the Republicans will have to rely on more then cheap bribes to regain their mojo.

Even Rush Limbaugh said on his show last Friday, "What kind of insult is this? Instead of buying us off and treating us like we're a bunch of whores, just solve the problem." I'll have to agree with him there. No word yet, though, on whether Rush believes the gas crisis is the work of Bill Clinton's secret shadow government. The truth is out there.

Meanwhile, the hypocrisy of the Republican leadership is laid bare in one photo of Speaker Hastert.

Yea, it's definitely going to be a long summer...

Sunday, April 30, 2006

It's Good To Be King

In the past six months, many facts have come to light that have shown us the dramatic- and unparalled- steps the Bush administration has taken to increase Executive power and put themselves above the laws of our nation. Presidential signing statements freeing him from obligations against torture or free himself from Patriot Act oversights, warrantless wiretapping, bypassing Congress on issues requiring legislative approval, and many other actions. These actions have been justified with national security imperatives and given legal cover by the President's operatives in the Justice Department. Most of this has been roundly ignored by both Congress and the press (some exceptions do exist, of course). These are dramatic steps that should give every self-respecting American pause.

Now a new Boston Globe article puts a lot of this in perspective-
President Bush has quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution.

Among the laws Bush said he can ignore are military rules and regulations, affirmative-action provisions, requirements that Congress be told about immigration services problems, ''whistle-blower" protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research.

Legal scholars say the scope and aggression of Bush's assertions that he can bypass laws represent a concerted effort to expand his power at the expense of Congress, upsetting the balance between the branches of government...

That should be even clearer by the President's assertion that there needs not be a 'balance' between the branches. His branch, he asserts, is the only power that really matters. The actions of the other two are nice and all, but he is free to disregard them at will. And to make this even more frightening, he and his lawyer claim his justification for this imperial power grab is derived from the Constitution (using an interpretation of Article II that most members of Congress have agreed is absurd at best). According to the President's belief, what the Founders meant by a separation of powers was that the President has all the power... and the other two branches can have some separate powers too, I suppose, as long as they don't interfere with the President's personal political prerogative.

The Globe article is 7 pages long and worth reading it in its entirety. It's one of the best overviews of the ways in which this administration has been reworking to radically alter our American system of government. This is the biggest scandal of this presidency and also one of the least discussed.

Glenn Greenwald, who has been blogging daily for the past few months about presidential abuses of power, has a detailed analysis up on all this. Also worth reading in full. Money quote for me from his writeup-
It is not hyperbole to say that these actions and theories are as antithetical to democracy as can be. The country intensely debates all sorts of controversial issues (torture, Patriot Act renewal, eavesdropping powers); legislative compromises are reached by the American people through their Congress, often over the objections of the President; the President signs those bills into law -- and then he simply decrees that those laws are irrelevant because he has the power to violate them at will...

...It is not uncommon for a President to refrain from executing a law which he believes, and states, is unconstitutional. Other Presidents have invoked that doctrine, although Bush has done so far more aggressively and frequently. But what is uncommon - what is entirely unprecedented - is that the administration's theories of its own power arrogate unto itself not just the right to refrain from enforcing such laws, but to act in violation of those laws, to engage in the very conduct which those laws criminalize, and they do so secretly and deceitfully, after signing the law and pretending that they are engaged in the democratic process. That is why the President has never bothered to veto a law -- why bother to veto laws when you have the power to violate them at will?

I think that about sums it up.

Let us also remember the administration's growing efforts to criminalize journalists and whistleblowers.

Meanwhile, Digby looks at how the Republicans have become a "dictatorship of puritanical busybodies", as opposed to the constitutional absolutists who 8 years ago began the process of impeaching the President for the obstruction of justice in a civil case. Henry Hyde, then-head of the House Judiciary Committee, said this "The rule of law is what stands between us and the arbitrary exercise of power by the state. The rule of law is the safeguard of our liberties." But when dealing with an unpopular President with delusions of God-given grandeur who's professed an open hostility to the legislative branch as a whole? They look the other way or cover for him directly. Their standards have disappeared almost entirely.

How far we've come.

This is a very serious problem. As I stated last month, when Congress appeared ready to help validate the President's actions, "There is no point to laws or Congress if the President is accountable to neither". That is the main point that Congress has ignored and the overarching scandal that the media has ignored. At this point, I don't know what it would take- if anything- to get them to understand that.

The only hope is a Democratic takeover of Congress this Fall. They're not perfect, but they will do oversight.

If interested, some other takes in the blogosphere on this story:
-Firedoglake: Chasing the Chief Thief
-Andrew Sullivan: King George Watch
-Once Upon A Time: It Can't Happen Here

William Kristol's Revisionist History

Atrios noticed something interesting in regards to William Kristol's interview on Thursday's 'Colbert Report' (covered in detail by me here). Kristol was forced to rejustify the neoconservative worldview and the Iraq war. In his responses, he mentioned nothing about WMDs or Al Qaeda connections, which were the two big selling points that they used to start this war in 2002/2003. Instead, he pushed the revisionist history that it was all about Saddam's human rights record and removing a dictator from power. After Colbert called it a "grand experiment", Kristol got defensive and stated that the neoconservative foreign policy is "an unfortunate necessity that you cannot allow dictators to kill their own people and you cannot allow dictators to threaten their neighbors". Colbert's retort was to mockingly expose how the U.S. only went after the one dictator (can't imagine why they picked him *cough*) and does not take down others.

But Atrios took a look back and noticed something important- Human rights concerns were not mentioned at all in the Project For A New American Century's 1998 letter to President Clinton. Rather, the letter simply mentions the threat Saddam supposedly posed to us, the issue of WMDs, and the need to "protect our vital interests in the Gulf". That's one thing I hit on in my writeup last year, the fact that the neoconservative policy was always only about protecting U.S. interests in the global market, not human rights and not the export of democracy.

The Iraqi people- and their plight- had nothing to do with why this war began. However, that emotional appeal has been a very good way for the administration to retroactively justify the invasion now that their original case for war has entirely fallen apart. And they use that appeal shamelessly. If you were against the war, you therefore must've been for Saddam's regime and the suffering of Iraqis. Rereading the Project's 1998 letter, it's clear their hearts were bleeding for oil the Iraqi people.

Helen Thomas was right last month to ask the President why we really went to war. The truth has been obscured by so much spin from all sides of this debate. Maybe one day, we'll finally hear the answer to her question.

Stephen Colbert Rips President Bush And Press Corp At Correspondents Dinner...

...Neither seemed amused.

In just shy of 30 minutes, Stephen Colbert did a better job at taking this administration to task than anyone else in recent memory. And he did it with President Bush sitting (increasingly uncomfortably) a few feet away.

In his address, Stephen Colbert took on everyone in the room- the administration that has screwed up our country and the press that has largely forgotten that journalism is more than just soundbites. He pulled no punches, no cow was sacred. The Iraq debacle, the President's belief in his policies despite logic or facts, global warming, all the photo-ops, NSA spying, New Orleans, the Plame leak, Justice Scalia's obscene gesture, Jeff Gannon, the failures of the press corp to hold the administration accountable, the Rumsfeld controversy, and the real nature of Sen. McCain... no subject was left untouched. It was scorch-the-earth comedy at its finest.

Stephen spoke truth to power. He said many of the things people in the room likely think, but will not say. He made people gasp. And he did it all while staying in his know-it-all Republican pundit character. That takes talent.

By the end, the only people smiling were Colbert himself and Helen Thomas (who had helped Stephen work on a pre-taped skit with him as White House Press Secretary avoiding her questions on Iraq). When the President left, he slapped Colbert on the arm in lieu of shaking his hand and stormed off. The First Lady wouldn't even give Colbert that; she didn't stand up or move when he went to say goodbye to her. The President is not used to being so openly criticized and no doubt he was madder than Pat Robertson at an evolution lecture. One wonders what he said upon leaving the room. "Have the Rolling Stones killed!"

The press also did not seem to appreciate being ripped a new one by Master Colbert (think of the reaction Jon Stewart received- or didn't receive- at the Oscars by the Hollywood elite). The audience of DC elite did not appreciate being mocked at their own dinner. Keep in mind that these are the same people who laughed hysterically in 2004 when the President pretended to look for non-existent WMDs in his office. In an election year, where our soldiers were dying in Iraq for those non-existent weapons, the press and politicians in attendance found the President's schtick hilarious. But when Colbert takes them to task for being asleep at the wheel for the past few years- then they were offended.

To his credit, Stephen did not flinch and continued on. He wasn't there to make friends.

This is already creating HUGE buzz all of the blogosphere (though not in the official news reports, which are focusing on the President's unfunny routine at the Dinner). I think that's interesting. We are so used to not seeing the President so openly confronted that when he was- by the guy hired to playfully joke around with them- it's a big deal. This isn't like Frank Rich taking swipes at W in the NY Times editorial page or Keith Olbermann criticizing a particular story on MSNBC. This was public and direct in a way that few besides Colbert could've pulled off.

I'm sure the conservative blogs will blow this off as much ado about nothing and not something deserving of such attention, but the look on the President's face at the end says otherwise. Clearly, this was an unprecedented and unflinching critique of his administration. Which, of course, is why his defenders at sites like National Review are panning the performance and why Drudge is leading with the President's tired doppelganger bit. One commenter at a conservative blog said "I cannot believe our president was forced to endure this disgusting insult. I am beyond ashamed." I suppose it is a real shame his Majesty had to sit through that. Next year- Larry the Cable Guy.

Bottom line on that note- If Michelle Malkin hated him, you know he performed brilliantly.

Video here at Crooks and Liars (A torrent download is available here).

My favorite quotes-
-"Guys like us, we don’t pay attention to the polls. We know that polls are just a collection of statistics that people are thinking in ‘reality’. And ‘reality’ has a well known liberal bias."

-"I stand by this man because he stands for things. Not only for things, he stands on things. Things like aircraft carriers, and rubble, and recently flooded city squares. And that sends a strong message that no matter what happens to America she will always rebound with the most powerfully staged photo-ops in the world."

-"Joe Wilson…the most famous husband since Desi Arnez."

-"I believe the government that governs best is the government that governs least. And by these standards we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq."

-"[Debating Jesse Jackson] is like boxing a glacier. Enjoy that metaphor, by the way, because your grandchildren will have no idea what a glacier is."

-"I am surrounded by the liberal media who are destroying this country, except for Fox News. Fox believes in presenting both sides—the president’s side and the vice president’s side ... You [the media] should spend more time with your families, write that novel you've always wanted to write. You know, the one about the fearless reporter who stands up to the administration. You know-- fiction."

Editor and Publisher looked at the address and the reactions to it:
Colbert Lampoons Bush at White House Correspondents Dinner-- President Does Not Seem Amused

To anyone who didn't see the Dinner, you might ask "is this really a big deal? why blog about this?". It's a good question. Is it because I just enjoy seeing Bush mocked? No, I can go to any number of websites for that. I find very little amusing about this administration at this point anyway. It's because when presented with the honor of hosting this masturbatory farce of a dinner, Colbert took the opportunity to speak his mind and say the things that I believe in, but will never get to say to our President.

Tonight, Stephen Colbert was all of us- all 68% of us Americans who are disillusioned about our leadership. In the age of spin, the truth(iness) hurts. Thanks to Stephen for making my weekend complete.

Gore In '08? (A Continuing Plea For A Comeback)

Eleanor Clift looks at the issue of Gore's future in a Newsweek column-
Getting the country to face up to global warming is his life’s mission, and it could be his ticket to the presidency. Voters yearning for a principled leader who truly believes in something may find what they’re looking for in the former vice president. Gore told NEWSWEEK that he’s in the middle of a campaign, but it’s not a campaign for a candidate. “Been there, done that,” he said.

Nobody believes him. By not playing the overt political game, Gore may be putting in place the first issue-driven campaign of the 21st century, one that is premised on a big moral challenge that is becoming more real with soaring gas prices and uncertain oil supplies. A senior Democrat who once ran for the White House himself but harbors no illusions the party will turn to him in 2008 looks at Gore and marvels, “This guy is running the best campaign I’ve seen for president.”

He claims he isn't, but that may be best for now. It's not a decision to make lightly.

Money quote-
Unlike front runner Hillary Clinton, there is no doubt about where Gore stands and what he believes in. He opposed the Iraq war, he was against the Patriot Act and he spoke out forcefully against President Bush’s torture policies and warrantless eavesdropping. Gore has become the darling of the left, yet global warming is not, or shouldn’t be, a partisan issue.

Yup. Sen. Clinton is a political opportunist, she'll believe whatever you want her to believe as long as you promise to vote for her. Al Gore does not play those games; he's learned his lesson after trying to out-macho Cowboy George in 2000. We know what Gore believes in and we know that he will always stand up for those beliefs. He is a strong leader. I remember reading in 2004 that many conservatives who were dissatisfied with Bush voted for him anyway, because they felt that he stood for something genuine, whereas John Kerry did not seem to. It's a somewhat silly way to vote, but the point is 100% valid. Democrats keep losing because they are perceived as not standing for anything. In the case of many of the party's top players- Kerry, Reid, Clinton- that does seem to be the case. Those who take stands (the Feingolds of the party) are marginalized and ignored. You would think the Democrats would have learned by now that the members of their party who can help bring them back in power and restore their credibility with Americans (desperate now for real leadership) are people like Russ Feingold and Al Gore who have never been afraid to take a stand.

Al Gore won the popular vote in 2000 with a campaign that was largely unfocused and uninspiring. Imagine what he can do now that he's refound his voice... and his issue. I do not believe Sen. Clinton can win the Presidency (nor do I particularly want her to). I do sincerely believe that Al Gore can. We don't even know if he's running yet, but if he does, I will be one of his biggest cheerleaders.

Democrats, listen to your base. They'd really like to win an election at some point, you know.

[PS- The official website for the documentary- An Inconvenient Truth]

Bush, Clinton, and the Press

Stephen Colbert scorched the Earth tonight in his finale address at the White House Correspondents Dinner and never looked back. He was amazing and succeeded in both making me laugh hysterically and making everyone in that ballroom uncomfortable. This will be the buzz of the town for the next day, for sure. More on that in my next entry; hopefully can find clips online.

During the part of Dinner when everyone was eating, C-SPAN showed clips of old speeches, including President Clinton's first (1993) and last (2000) dinners. There was some funny stuff in there. It was also an interesting way to disprove the revisionist history that Clinton was adored by the media, who supposedly covered up for him at every turn. That couldn't be further from the truth. Many comments from 1993 revolved around the increasing scrutiny in the press that surrounded his first 100 days in office. Many of his year 2000 comments revolved around healing the tensions between himself and the press, the result of a bitter impeachment battle and the continued scrutiny he received.

There was one line in particular, from 1993, that stuck out to me-
"It is your job to report on what we do... to analyze it, to probe it, to criticize it. To lift it up to light and turn it around and show all of its facets to the American people. I think it's my job to try and do something beside just enjoy the honor of being the President of the United States. And in the interplay of our efforts, sometimes I will misstep. Sometimes you will too. But the Constitution provides for you a freedom that is virtually without limit, because the Framers recognized that without it, people like me who get power with the best of motives would inevitably abuse it."

I can't picture these words being spoken today.

Particularly since the press now finds themselves a potential enemy of the current administration...
Earlier administrations have fired and prosecuted government officials who provided classified information to the press. They have also tried to force reporters to identify their sources.

But the Bush administration is exploring a more radical measure to protect information it says is vital to national security: the criminal prosecution of reporters under the espionage laws.

Such an approach would signal a thorough revision of the informal rules of engagement that have governed the relationship between the press and the government for many decades...

The implications of this are constitutionally frightening.

Going back to the above Clinton remarks from 1993, about the duty of the press to expose the underbelly of political actions, the media certainly heeded this call. President Clinton was criticized by the press heavily and appropriately.

Supporters of President Bush would counter that Bush is also hammered by the media and they would insist that the media has an agenda to destroy Bush and undermine our country! I suppose these people were asleep between late 2001 and mid-2005. The critical examinations of the President are a new phenomenon (and even then they try to downplay any of the negative developments). Up until September of last year, the press at large seemed asleep at the wheel- too scared of the post-9/11 patriotic zeitgeist and 'liberal bias' charges to bother turning a spotlight on the many scandals that the Bush administration had kept below the surface. Even now, in the post-Katrina era, the media's low attention span seemingly keeps them from doing any long-term, hard-hitting coverage of the current administration. Most notably, they consistently fail to note that seemingly unrelated scandals- warrantless wiretaps, secret prisons, lack of congressional oversight- are all part of a larger story... a President who believes that his inherent powers put him above the law and the system of checks and balances. A big scandal like pre-war intelligence or the CIA leak scandal gets only as much (or less) coverage as what's the status of the Natalee Holloway investigation.

Every inpropriety that occurred in the Clinton administration- Travelgate, Whitewater, Lincoln Bedroom sleepovers!- was treated as if it were Watergate on steroids. Even the more absurd allegations- Hillary had Vince Foster killed!- were treated with great seriousness. Yet now, with an unpopular President who shows a deep and open hostility to the press itself, they fail to treat current events with the same fervor. With increasing evidence of intelligence abuse before the Iraq war, the failures during Katrina still having ripple effects, massive and increasing debt, attacks on science and secularism, and numerous abuses of Executive power, is it too much to ask that the press realize that we will never get answers on those issues until they decide to ask the right questions?

Perhaps when the first group of journalists is jailed, they will wake up.

President Clinton was right... it's time to take this administration and turn them up to the light.