As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Watch The Approval Ratings Hit 20%

...once the Freepers and the immigrant bashing-base figure out that Bush is allowing defense contractors to recruit Border Patrol agents for duty in Iraq (h/t Think Progress):

Wanted: current and former U.S. Border Patrol agents to train others in border enforcement.

Good pay and benefits, room and board included. Exotic locale: Iraq.

That's essentially the pitch a Virginia-based military contractor made in Tucson this week as it recruited people with Customs and Border Enforcement experience for a new mission in the Middle East. The company, DynCorp, has been asked by the U.S. State Department to find 120 people to train Iraqis in the security of their country's border.

But the recruiting drive comes as the United States wrestles with its own border security. Calling the DynCorp hirings a contradiction of that effort, Gov. Janet Napolitano wrote President Bush this week to say the deal "makes no sense."

Is it a positive step to train Iraqis to police their own border? Perhaps, although any time a contractor like DynCorp is involved, I'm skeptical about the outcome. But this is part of a trend of Bush skimming off the Border Patrol and not replacing them. Half of the National Guard troops sent to the border have been withdrawn, and a scant few of them have been replaced by new Border Patrol agents.

But all of that is irrelevant. The imagery to an anti-immigrant conservative of Bush taking agents off the border and sending them to Iraq is likely to be enough to make them swear off the Republican Party for good. Bush's new rhetoric on immigration, when he bothers to say anything, is to stress toughening up the border as the primary priority, only to be coupled afterwards with workplace enforcement and earned legalization and a guest worker program. The idea that he's sending the Border Patrol to Iraq (which is a blunt way of putting it, but not entirely untrue) flies in the face of that, and will simply enrage anyone left in his corner on the far right.

"We should be focused on supporting our nation's security efforts along the Mexican and Canadian border instead of hampering (Customs and Border Patrol) by sending our best agents to a war zone in Iraq," Napolitano, along with New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, wrote Bush [...]

"The issue isn't the numbers," Napolitano spokeswoman Jeanine L'Ecuyer said. "(DynCorp) basically has a contract to skim off Border Patrol agents."

Bush has already alienated a vast amount of the anti-immigrant right. This ought to finish it off.

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Why is this on the front page?

Breaking: War's over! OK, fine, actually, war's reduced, maybe.

The Bush administration is developing what are described as concepts for reducing American combat forces in Iraq by as much as half next year, according to senior administration officials in the midst of the internal debate.

It is the first indication that growing political pressure is forcing the White House to turn its attention to what happens after the current troop increase runs its course.

The concepts call for a reduction in forces that could lower troop levels by the midst of the 2008 presidential election to roughly 100,000, from about 146,000, the latest available figure, which the military reported on May 1. They would also greatly scale back the mission that President Bush set for the American military when he ordered it in January to win back control of Baghdad and Anbar Province.

The mission would instead focus on the training of Iraqi troops and fighting Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, while removing Americans from many of the counterinsurgency efforts inside Baghdad.

They've been saying this for 3 years. There's always a caveat of "if conditions on the ground improve." And when conditions don't, they'll stay. Or when they do improve, but not enough to leave, they'll say, "we have to stay until we see this through."

It's all bullshit and all the same bullshit. Why is the New York Times dutifully printing it?

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Friday, May 25, 2007

More Of This, Please

Barack Obama hits back at the little authoritarians of the right, the GoOPer Napoleons, and shows he's plenty tough to handle a Presidential campaign.

One of the reasons that the events of this week disappointed me so much is because people get their understanding of political parties as much through watching their actions as they do from their policy positions. Actually, much more so. And the Democratic leadership provided the opposite of leadership this week. If they can't be trusted to stand up to the Republicans, how can they stand up to the world's bad actors, etc. Which is why it's very important for Obama and Edwards to distinguish themselves on this score, not just through staking out strong positions, but through acting strong when challenged. Both passed the test this week.

On a similar topic, Ezra Klein describes the learned helplessness of the Democrats on foreign policy issues.

They've been spanked on national security for so long that they literally cannot conceive of pulling out a win merely because their position commands overwhelming public support. At best, the reprisal will be delayed a few years, until the Right convinces a fickle populace that the Reid-led withdrawal lost the war for us.

And it's almost hard to blame them. Hawkishness holds court as the default correct position in national security politics. Save, possibly, Curtis LeMay, I can't think of a single figure reviled or even mocked for excessive warmongering. Meanwhile, the ground is littered with dovish Democrats, from McGovern to McCarthy to Dean. Scoop Jackson, for no particular reason, is far more revered than William Fulbright. It's a sick and twisted tendency, and it manifests constantly, as in the Fineman column discussed earlier today, where McCain's poor accuracy in evaluating foreign policy outcomes is ignored and his enduring hawkishness and "moral seriousness" grant him the status of wise old national security man.

This kind of ties into my lizard brain post. There's an obvious instinct for self-preservation in humans, and people who constantly see Democrats in a defensive position won't instinctually expect them to ever be able to lead. The only way to break out of this is to accentuate the positive benefits of a progressive "smart power" foreign policy and to never back down from any mockery from the other side; in fact, turn it around and mock them right back. Every Democrat should be issued a copy of Dr. Strangelove, pronto.

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Study: Political Preference Is Half-Genetic

Here's some interesting Friday night reading. A study has revealed that political preference may be genetic, based on studies with identical and fraternal twins.

The other factor that determines a person's political beliefs is biology. Research by John Hibbing, a University of Nebraska political scientist, showed that identical twins share more political beliefs than fraternal twins. They also, of course, share more genes.

"Forty, perhaps 50 percent of our political beliefs seem to have a basis in genetics," said Hibbing, whose studies were included in (NYU psychologist John) Jost's analysis. While genetics are unlikely to "hardwire" people into being liberal or conservative, Hibbing said that genes could make people more or less likely to have certain values or react to situations in a particular way.

John Jost has done several studies on political preference in the past, and most of them have fallen in the "breaking: water is wet" category. His piercing analysis has shown that conservatives prefer order and structure and the status quo (you're kidding, conservatives are conservative?), liberals are more open to new experiences and support social change (stop it, liberals are more liberal and progressive?), and that people become more conservative in states of uncertainty or when they fear death (also fairly obvious, though he did brain scans to prove it).

But because this particular research was done by a different scientist, I'm giving it a little more weight, although I'm not sure I agree with this final analysis.

This knowledge could pave the way to a more tolerant society, Hibbing said.

"If you think your opponents are not just being willfully bullheaded but rather have a kind of biological predisposition toward a set of beliefs, you might not spend as much time beating your head against the wall trying to get them to change," he said.

We've all come up against the "brick-wall conservative" in our lifetimes, and I'm sure the other side thinks the same thing (Actually, the Freeper thread on this very subject, which is pretty much full of trenchant observations like "I told you libs are stupid!!1!!," confirms this point). But regardless, if true I find this information useful.

We don't know the breakdown of this genetic disposition; how many liberals versus how many conservatives. And environment certainly still plays a role. But I do agree that the "lizard brain" can be something that's extremely powerful, and resistant to persuasion or even simple logic. Where can we go with that information? How can we tap into the lizard brains of genetic progressives who may be acting conservative out of fear or uncertainty? If the world is more stable, will people's natural liberal dispositions be more able to flourish?

I don't know if there are any answers to these questions, but it may be an interesting topic for discussion.

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"The Intelligence I Get Is Darn Good Intelligence..."

"I don't follow it or anything, but you know, it's darn good..."

Intelligence analysts predicted, in secret papers circulated within the government before the Iraq invasion, that al-Qaida would see U.S. military action as an opportunity to increase its operations and that Iran would try to shape a post-Saddam Iraq.

The top analysts in government also said that establishing a stable democracy in Iraq would be a "long, difficult and probably turbulent process."

Democrats said the newly declassified documents, part of a Senate Intelligence Committee investigation released Friday, make clear that the Bush administration was warned about the very challenges it now faces as it tries to stabilize Iraq.

"Sadly, the administration's refusal to heed these dire warnings — and worse, to plan for them — has led to tragic consequences for which our nation is paying a terrible price," said Senate Intelligence Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.

I hate to keep heaping scorn on the Democrats, but this was known to anyone with a brain in 2002. Removing Saddam Hussein, who was keeping Iraq together by sheer force of will, without making any credible plan for the postwar environment,was OF COURSE going to lead to turbulence and instability. And handing over the country to the Shiites was OF COURSE going to embolden Iran, and OF COURSE they would move to solidify their presence in Iraq and in the region. Iraq is not a country but an arbitrary set of lines on a post-Ottoman empite map devised by the British after WWI. Shiites were persecuted in Iraq for 30 years and had an ongoing feud with Sunnis for 1,400 years. The intelligence community probably needed 10 minutes to look at the evidence and say "This will not end well." Hell, it's the same assessment DICK FRIGGIN' CHENEY made as SecDef in 1991 for pulling back and not marching onward to Baghdad during Gulf War I.

And I'm sorry Senator Rockefeller, but you voted for the war along with half of your colleagues. And you voted yesterday to sink more money and American lives into this disaster. So kindly STFU.

This is hysterical:

Some Republicans rejected the committee's work as flawed. The panel's top Republican, Sen. Kit Bond of Missouri, said the report's conclusions selectively highlight the intelligence agencies' findings that seem to be important now, distorting the picture of what was presented to policy-makers.

He said the committee's work on the Iraq intelligence "has become too embroiled in politics and partisanship to produce an accurate and meaningful report."

See, the intelligence community failed by bring too right about the postwar situation.

I found this particular assessment interesting...

Postwar Iraq would face significant economic challenges, having few resources beyond oil. Analysts predicted that Iraq's large petroleum resources would make economic reconstruction easier, but they didn't anticipate that continued fighting and sabotage would drag down oil production.

Because they didn't anticipate the fact that Iraq could always switch to the world's oldest profession and become a narco-state.

Farmers in southern Iraq have started to grow opium poppies in their fields for the first time, sparking fears that Iraq might become a serious drugs producer along the lines of Afghanistan.

Rice farmers along the Euphrates, to the west of the city of Diwaniya, south of Baghdad, have stopped cultivating rice, for which the area is famous, and are instead planting poppies, Iraqi sources familiar with the area have told The Independent.

The shift to opium cultivation is still in its early stages but there is little the Iraqi government can do about it because rival Shia militias and their surrogates in the security forces control Diwaniya and its neighbourhood. There have been bloody clashes between militiamen, police, Iraqi army and US forces in the city over the past two months.

Stupid intelligence assesment. Why didn't you warn us about the opium production?

The fact is that the Administration downplayed anything that painted less that a rosy scenario in Iraq, and took this nation to war under complete false pretenses. And the other fact is that it was STILL obvious that Iraq would not go gently into that good night, and Democrats should be rightly faulted at the time for not seeing through the spin. Same with the media.

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Invisible Fred

Guess what? Nobody knows who Fred Thompson is.

Hillary Clinton - 98%
Rudy Giuliani - 86%
John Edwards - 81%
John McCain - 80%
Barack Obama - 75%
Mitt Romney - 46%
Fred Thompson - 38%

We in the blogosphere sometimes overstate the importance of blog posts, and we expect the general public to have the same political literacy as we do. Plus, Fred Thompson's on TV, right, surely people know who he is? The short answer is no. Ronald Reagan was an actor, yes, but he also was Governor of California and a conservative icon for about 15 years before he became President. And Arnold Schwarzenegger was an "above-the-title" actor. Fred Thompson's a character actor, "the guy from Curly Sue." His face might be vaguely known but his name isn't. And he was a complete unknown as a Senator, not authoring or passing any notable piece of legislation in eight years.

So as much as the political press wants to push this he-looks-the-part nonsense, the truth is that Thompson is just some random character actor without any actual resonance in the country. The press may be star-struck, but the people aren't. And when people do start to figure out that he's pretty much your generic Republican, whose campaign manager is a former tobacco industry executive, whose main career is really as a lobbyist, whose political action committee was largely a slush fund for his son, they're going to look at him the same way they look at all Republicans in the "culture of corruption" era: with a jaundiced eye.

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Fare Increases on Those Who Can Least Afford It

After a raucous meeting in downtown LA, where FIFTEEN HUNDRED bus riders converged to protest, the Metropolitan Transit Authority nevertheless approved sweeping fare increases for bus and rail riders, though not as high as their initial plans. But it's a significant increase, with rates going up around 50% for most riders over the next two years. The meeting included fiery exchanges, not only between the citizens giving testimony, but between the LA County Board of Supervisors and the Mayor (all of whom sit on the MTA Board of Directors).

The decision by the MTA's Board of Directors marks a stinging defeat for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who had tried to broker a compromise that would have raised most fares only 5% a year. But the board roundly rejected the mayor's proposal, saying it would leave the agency with a deep operating deficit and would delay future rail projects [...]

Villaraigosa was hoping to bring the board together on a compromise that would soften the blow for riders. Instead, he drew strong criticism from Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who called the mayor's stance disingenuous.

During a heated exchange, Yaroslavsky said Villaraigosa had indicated that he would support a fare increase in a closed session last summer after the MTA board agreed to a new contract with bus drivers and mechanics.

A visibly angry Villaraigosa shot back, accusing Yaroslavsky of mischaracterizing private conversations and then lashing out at the supervisor for sitting in his office while the mayor was in Sacramento on Wednesday trying to get more transportation funding.

Villaraigosa then said Yaroslavsky didn't have the courage to propose his own fare increases, calling him a "sheep who walks in wolf's clothing."

For the record, the Mayor's final proposal would have included lots of borrowing to deal with the MTA's major operating deficit (sounds like Schwarzonomics to me).

The problem is that state and federal funding for mass transit continue to stagnate while California continues to build more roads. And it's evident why this happens when you hear the median income for Los Angeles' bus and rail riders:

An MTA survey showed that the median household income of rail riders is $22,000 a year, compared with $12,000 for bus riders.

That's well below the poverty line for bus riders. Those people don't have lobbyists in Sacramento or Washington. They don't throw fundraisers in their homes for Presidential candidates. They have their own voice, and they used it in force yesterday (1,500 people at a municipal meeting is astounding), but in the end it didn't matter.

As I've said before, a budget is a moral document. What you prioritize for spending suggests what you value in society. In a time freighted with the threat of global warming, we should be prioritizing mass transit and smart growth extremely, not making it harder for the people already using mass transit to afford it.

Steve Lopez has a great column about this rate hike, a compromise that will do nothing in the long term.

I shouldn't pin all the blame on the MTA, even though it's tempting after the defeat of Villaraigosa's proposal had him sniping with fellow board member Zev Yaroslavsky to the benefit of no one. State and federal officials are culprits in the collective failure to support transit, despite the growing social and economic cost of congestion and pollution-related illness. Where's bold, creative leadership when you need it?

Would the option of a few high-speed toll lanes for Los Angeles motorists raise enough money to buy the buses the MTA needs?

Is it time to mandate that large companies offer transit vouchers to employees and eliminate free parking?

Does the efficiency of smaller transit systems in Santa Monica, Culver City and the foothill cities suggest that the MTA should be broken into smaller regional agencies?

Is it time to increase the 18-cent federal gas tax or use more of it to fund transit?

Should developers get bigger incentives for building near transit centers? [...]

It's time for the MTA board and the Southern California Assn. of Governments to lead a discussion on these kinds of solutions and fight for their support here, in Sacramento and Washington. As it is, they're on a slow bus to nowhere.

Bus fares is an issue that typically has very little impact on politicians whose voters aren't typically riding them. But it should. Urban planning is one of the most important issues of the 21st century, and how we go about it will affect the very health of this planet. There will be resistance, and when nobody speaks for the bus rider, not just by borrowing to keep fares down but by prioritizing a sea change in how we transport ourselves, the resisters will win. And the working poor will lose.

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Thank You Blue Cross

The fact that Blue Cross of California is leading the insurance company effort to stop any reform in the state's health care system makes me smile broadly. There couldn't be a more reviled corporate entity around these parts than Blue Cross, the team who systematically tried to throw any sick person off their rolls and reduce any effort to get them to actually pay for medical treatment, which after all is their entire job. Health Access picked up on this and noticed that Blue Cross tried to use the Enron energy crisis as a scare tactic ("Unintended consequences do happen"), when in fact nobody is more like Enron than... Blue Cross.

Because there are so few rules on insurers now, Californians are concerned now they are one job change or life event away from facing a blackout of coverage. We have over 6 million Californians in a coverage blackout. Frankly, we have tolerated deregulation for too long: new and fair rules would increase the security that Californians have now with their coverage, so they are not denied because of their health status.

BlueCross' ad campaign may backfire with the public. They won't believe BlueCross, and they will make it clear to Californians what we can win with health reform.

I don't think it's may, I think it's will.

Nobody's going to buy this for a second. That's why the campaign is only in Sacramento and not statewide. If our leaders in this state are anything like Democratic national leaders, they'll immediately drop all health care reform plans for fear that Blue Cross will continue to be mean to them. But having Blue Cross argue about responsible health care policy is like having Tony Soprano argue about gun control. And it's up to us constituents to let the politicians know that.

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Another Reason To Love John Edwards

The DC insiders, the ones high-fiving each other over capitulating to Bush on Iraq, hate him.

When I did my profile of the guy, Chuck Todd, who's got a pretty good sense for these sorts of things, marveled to me, "for some reason he's pissed off half of DC. I can't tell you why, I don't know. But half of the Democratic elite here in DC just hate John Edwards. It's amazing, some of it's irrational, and the Edwards people know it and see it as a badge of honor, somewhat. Maybe they feel like it's because he didn't play ball, maybe they feel like he forced himself onto the ticket, that he was too brazen in how he campaigned for that second slot. There's no one rational reason, but there's a not insignificant clique of elites in DC who are not Edwards fans, and who are borderline irrational about it. It's not unlike that sort of clique of Republicans and John McCain."

Maybe they hate him because change is bad for business...

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Look on the Bright Side

Well, at least the House got some lobbying and ethics legislation passed.

The House voted Thursday to drag into public view the role that registered lobbyists play in soliciting and collecting contributions for political campaigns, exposing for the first time one of the most effective ways that influence-seekers ingratiate themselves with lawmakers and presidents.

The measure goes to the heart of how Washington does business by uncovering a hidden practice that sprang up as an unintended consequence of restrictions imposed by campaign finance laws. Because those laws cap individual contributions — now $2,300 per campaign — candidates have been turning to well-connected lobbyists to bundle stacks of checks to make up the millions they need to run their campaigns.

Washington lobbyists hoping for access to lawmakers have the greatest incentive to shoulder such fund-raising burdens. But previous election rules required campaigns to disclose only their individual contributors, not the intermediaries who may have bundled them.

This "bundling" practice looked like it was going to be saved in the final legislation, but they did ban it. The rest of the bill would "penalize lawmakers that receive a wide amount of favors from special interests."

So, see? We just delivered billions of taxpayer dollars to Iraq, but lobbyists won't be able to give $100,000 to legislators anymore! They'll just have to collect the money individually!

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Friday Random Ten

Setting the iPod on "melancholy":

Sheila Take A Bow - The Smiths (so far so good)
Thunderbird - They Might Be Giants
Title And Registration - Death Cab For Cutie (weepy)
Mas - Kinky ("We want more and more," in Spanish )
Randomness - TV On The Radio
The Boogie Monster - Gnarls Barkley (accurately describes the fears of the Democratic leadership)
Devil's Haircut - Beck
Straight To The Man - Stone Roses
Don't Get Lost In Heaven - Gorillaz
El Mañana - Gorillaz

Verdict - fairly melancholy.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007


A bird crapped on Bush today.

In some cultures they call that an omen.

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"Jane Harman Hasn't Changed"

That's what her campaign manager told me just a month ago, after I gave him numerous chances to concede that she's a more progressive Congresswoman now than she was before she was subject to a primary from Marcy Winograd. But after today's events, where she not only voted against the supplemental bill, but was one of only seven Democrats, along with McNerney and Stark, to vote against accepting the rules for debate, a vote which came tantalizingly close to failing (216-201).

This is clearly a long way from the person who called herself "the best Republican in the Democratic Party." But it's been a year-long evolution for Harman. It's not only Iraq; she's introduced legislation to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, has called to put the Iraq war on budget, and done several other good works of which progressives can be proud.

This was also personal. Harman's constituent, Pfc. Joseph Anzack, was found floating in the Euphrates River yesterday, one of the three soldiers taken prisoner by insurgents that sadly turned up dead. Her statement on that tragedy is here.

Today is a shitty day. The war is now essentially funded until the end of Bush's tenure (the supplemental covers to September, but the defense appropriation for FY2008 then kicks in to carry well into next year). The Democratic leadership gave Bush the ability to use critical funding money as leverage to force the Iraqis to pass an oil law that privatizes the entire industry for the benefit of multinationals (that benchmark, I can assure you, won't be waived). The leadership played a good hand in the worst way possible, dissipating the goodwill of the American people and showing through their actions the lack of any capacity to lead. We can only take solace in the efforts of the rank and file to deliver a strong "no" message. And Jane Harman, given the fact that she most certainly has changed in myriad ways, is the best embodiment of that we have in Congress. (By the way, PRIMARIES MATTER!!!)


Calls vote a referendum on this President’s failure to listen; says claims that troops will be under-funded are “rubbish”

Today, Representative Jane Harman (D-Venice) issued the following statement after her vote against the Iraq Supplemental Appropriations bill:

“Last weekend, I made my fourth visit to Iraq. Each time, despite the extraordinary dedication and effort of US and Iraqi soldiers, the country has seemed less secure. I stayed overnight inside Baghdad’s Green Zone in one of the trailer pods used by most Americans there. A day later I learned that a nearby pod had been totally destroyed by an RPG launched into the Zone in broad daylight.

“In Ramadi in Anbar Province commanders on the ground described real security improvements, but our group still needed full body armor to walk down the main shopping street, and I remain unpersuaded that our combat mission can succeed. The time has come for it to end. We must redeploy out of Iraq.

“Today’s vote offers two unsatisfactory choices.

“A ‘yes’ vote affirms funding for the troops and benchmarks, but fails to impose a responsible end to the combat mission.

“A ‘no’ vote will be manipulated to tell the troops I flew with on a C-130 just days ago that we are not sending the new anti-IED vehicles (MRAPs) and other support they so desperately need. Rubbish. Today’s vote is not about that. General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker will make certain that essential equipment arrives.

“Today’s vote must be seen as a referendum on this President’s refusal to listen to a majority of Americans and a majority of Congress, who want him to end the combat mission and implement the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations on training, counter-insurgency, and enhanced diplomatic and economic efforts in the region.

“I support our troops and I refuse to be manipulated. My ‘no’ vote on the Iraq Supplemental is a vote to move past the fractured politics on Iraq and restore some sanity and bipartisanship as Congress confronts the serious threats of the 21st century.”

UPDATE: Joe Klein really is the stupidest man alive.

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How About I Talk About Something I Like?

I don't know if John Edwards won the election today, considering his chief rivals voted against the supplemental. But this week has been an extremely good week for him, as he outlined a strategy for how America can return to the world community again instead of being its largest rogue state. The speech he gave at the Council on Foreign Relations was notable for how it looked at the current state of our politics, with its sloganeering and appeals to American exceptionalism, are a game which he will not play. He made these remarks knowing full well that he would be assailed by the little authoritarians on the right, which he was. And he fought right back and let them have it afterwards.

Here's an excerpt from the CFR speech:

The core of this presidency has been a political doctrine that George Bush calls the "Global War on Terror." He has used this doctrine like a sledgehammer to justify the worst abuses and biggest mistakes of his administration, from Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, to the war in Iraq. The worst thing about the Global War on Terror approach is that it has backfired—our military has been strained to the breaking point and the threat from terrorism has grown.

We need a post-Bush, post-9/11, post-Iraq American military that is mission-focused on protecting Americans from 21st century threats, not misused for discredited ideological pursuits. We need to recognize that we have far more powerful weapons available to us than just bombs, and we need to bring them to bear. We need to reengage the world with the full weight of our moral leadership.

What we need is not more slogans but a comprehensive strategy to deal with the complex challenge of both delivering justice and being just. Not hard power. Not soft power. Smart power.

This fundamentally rejects the entire "war on terror" frame in favor of a smart power frame that recognizes that America has a global responsibility, but must lead morally for it to have any purpose. It's a hopeful vision, and after the last eight years maybe a little too rose-colored. But I don't think this country can get by being isolationist in a world of Darfurs and Bosnias and Rwandas. We need to rethink our place in the world and understand that we take away the power of grievance from the radical jihadists when we try to lift up instead of tear down.

Of course, Edwards was dead on the mark on Iraq.

The president has played political brinksmanship over the war in Iraq time and time again. He refuses to acknowledge the futility of his approach, disregards the clear message sent by the American people last fall, and falsely claims that the only way for Congress to support the troops is to prolong the war. That's just not true. Congress can support the troops and end the war, which is exactly what the bill they sent the president last month would have done. When the president vetoed that bill, it was the president alone who was blocking support for the troops. Nobody else.

Any compromise that funds the war through the end of the fiscal year isn't a compromise at all, it's a capitulation. As I have said repeatedly, Congress should send the president the same bill he vetoed again and again until he realizes he has no choice but to start bringing our troops home.

Well, they didn't. But that was the correct strategy, that or telling the Republicans there will be no more votes on funding unless they get a discharge petition signed by 218 members of Congress, forcing the minority into the majority and pinning the blame for the blank check squarely on them.

But let me go back to Edwards' assailing of the "war on terror" myth. This might as well have come off of a blog:

The war on terror is a slogan designed only for politics, not a strategy to make America safe. It's a bumper sticker, not a plan. It has damaged our alliances and weakened our standing in the world. As a political "frame," it's been used to justify everything from the Iraq War to Guantanamo to illegal spying on the American people. It's even been used by this White House as a partisan weapon to bludgeon their political opponents. Whether by manipulating threat levels leading up to elections, or by deeming opponents "weak on terror," they have shown no hesitation whatsoever about using fear to divide.

But the worst thing about this slogan is that it hasn't worked. The so-called "war" has created even more terrorism—as we have seen so tragically in Iraq. The State Department itself recently released a study showing that worldwide terrorism has increased 25% in 2006, including a 40% surge in civilian fatalities.

Edwards is clear-eyed enough to look at the phrase IN PRACTICE and determine that it lacks meaning. It was obvious as soon as other authoritarians like Putin started using "war on terror" to justify their consolidation of power that this was not a helpful way to look at a multifaceted problem. Furthermore, he looked to the past and drew the right lessons:

Bush defenders have tried to crown him the love child of Winston Churchill and Harry Truman, full of steely resolve and great moral clarity. But of course, Churchill and Truman understood that managing the post-war peace was just as important and winning the military conflict. Likewise, American foreign policy in the first two decades of the Cold War relied on a combination of military might and more liberal interventionist measures—student exchanges, foreign assistance, and so forth. There's no reason to cede ground on "strong foreign policy" to a bunch of Republicans who want us to hide under the covers every time the President de-classifies a two-year old conversation.

Unfortunately, our lizard brains are still so saturated with this nonsensical, bipolar view of the world, that too many of us can't conceive of a foreign policy that's not grounded in an enemy, one that considers George Marshall to have done far more for world peace than an MX missile. The White House, Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani let loose with their own attacks, saying that Edwards isn't facing reality and is in denial. Medium John summed up these attacks with one killer phrase:

"George Bush has made America less safe and less respected in the world. What we are seeing now in this campaign is John McCain, Rudy Giuliani and the other Republicans running for president of the United States are trying to be a bigger, badder George Bush. Is that really what America wants over the next four years?"

That's friggin' beautiful. It yokes the GOP candidates to an unpopular President, and shows that they are wedded to this wrong-headed, deliberately stupid, fearmongering policy that ought to be rejected by the entire nation. Edwards is showing real leadership here by sticking his neck out on this.

UPDATE: Edwards sent this to my inbox:

About an hour ago, the Senate caved to President Bush and sent him another blank check to continue the war in Iraq.

This is a serious blow for all of us, but no one lost more today than the troops in the field who continue to sacrifice so nobly and their families still waiting back home.

It's a hard moment, but you and I don't have the luxury of getting discouraged. We must remember: This is not over. For those of us committed to change, it has only begun.

This weekend, thousands of us will take action in our communities to support the troops and end the war. We will speak out in public. We will send care packages to soldiers in Iraq. We will gather letters for Congress and the president. And on Memorial Day, we will remember and honor those who sacrificed everything for their nation.

You can do a lot worse than running against the Senate right now. Support the Troops, End The War. I'll be out there this Memorial Day.

UPDATE II: Of course, the best news of the week for the Edwards campaign is that Bob Shrum bashed him in some book of his, making it extremely unlikely that "The Cooler" himself will ever work for him.


86 Dems

The vast majority of Democrats in the House voted against the supplemental. It passed anyway, with near-unanimous support from Republicans. The final count was 280-142. 86 Democrats voted for the bill, and voted to co-own the war. Their names are here, and it's everyone you'd expect (though Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is a particularly surprising addition. Same with Joe Sestak and Tim Walz).

That you could pass a bill in Congress when only a little over 1/3 of the majority supports it shows you just how much of a cave this really was.

I think I've said everything that needs to be said. I appreciate those who voted against this blank check, and those who voted for it just bought themselves a war. The Senate should vote on this tonight.

UPDATE: Is there nothing that John Boehner won't cry about? Mr. Tough Guy Daddy Party Majority leader set the water works flowing during the floor debate. He did the same thing in February. I thought the GOP was supposed to be tough. This guy wets the bed, literally, with any talk of Al Qaeda (who, by the way, isn't the major actor in Iraq, so stop lying).

Don't tell me the Republicans wouldn't run ads of a leading Democrat crying on the House floor and call him a wuss and a Nancy boy. Of course, the Dems can't do that because it was their own goddamn bill.

UPDATE II: 80-14 in the Senate. Obama and Clinton both vote NO, along with Dodd, Kerry, Sanders, Leahy, Feingold, and others. Biden, yes. Durbin, yes. Reid, yes. Klobuchar, yes. It was a bloodbath.

Congratulations, Democrats, you own the war. And now that there's no difference on that issue between you and the Republicans, prepare to lose seats in 2008.

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Sen. AWOL Taking Heat

Senator McCain showed up for work today, but I don't think that's going to satisfy this Arizona legislator:

A Phoenix-area Republican legislator called on Sen. John McCain to resign from his seat Tuesday if he continues to miss votes while campaigning for president.

State Rep. Russell Pearce of Mesa also said he regrets supporting Sen. Jon Kyl during last year's election because the senator now supports a comprehensive immigration bill — though he stopped short of calling for Kyl's resignation.

"It's about time we start cleaning house if that's what it takes," said Pearce, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

According to the Washington Post, McCain has missed 43 votes, nearly 50 percent of the current Congress' votes. In comparison, Hillary Clinton has missed less than 2 percent of votes and Barack Obama has missed 6.4 percent, according to the Post.

"We need a senator," Pearce said. "I think if McCain wants to be a full-time candidate and not be at the Senate, he ought to consider resigning."

Asked if he would prefer a Napolitano appointee over McCain, Pearce said: "Even poor representation is better than no representation."

Republicans in Arizona are so pissed at McCain (and I assume at least some of this has to do with immigration) that they would rather see a Democrat appoint someone to the seat than have him continue to blow off his Senatorial duties.

In 1996 Bob Dole resigned from the Senate to run for President, but only after he got the nomination. McCain is being as cavalier about his responsibilities two years out. He ought to go and tilt at Presidential windmills instead of being a SINO (Senator in Name Only).

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Why is he the only politician who can figure this out?

You know what’s going to happen in September? They’ll bring General Petraeus back and he’ll say, Just give me until the end of year. I think things are turning around. And then we’ll be out of session, come back in late January, February, and the fact is a thousand more troops will lose their lives in a situation that doesn’t make any sense and it is hurting our military, hurting our country. This should not wait till September.

OK, he's not the only one, there's Dodd, Kerry, Sanders and Leahy, along with John Edwards from outside the Senate. I just called Boxer and she's given no indication of how she'll vote. But isn't Feingold's point obvious? Name the last active-duty general carrying out a mission that would dare say "I don't think we can do it, guys, we should go home." It doesn't happen. Furthermore, generals SHOULDN'T dictate foreign policy. This isn't a military junta. It's supposed to be a democracy, barely.

Nobody likes this war and the Democratic leadership in Congress is about to fund it. Why?

UPDATE: It's tangential, but this from Rick Perlstein deserves wide attention.

President Bush today: "These people attacked us before we were even in Iraq!"

Can we have a little frankness, please?

The President of the United States is a racist. Or at the very least, an anti-Muslim bigot.

In Iraq, Shi'ites and Sunni are fighting each other to the death. Under what possible logic can they be joined by a common identity?

There is no "these people" except in their common Middle East-ness.

Iran and Iraq fought a decade-long war - Shia against Sunni. They are, to our president, "these people." "They" attacked us. "They" continue to attack us. Iran, Iraq: all the same.

And the Democratic leadership is endorsing these blurred lines by voting to fund a misbegotten war.

UPDATE II: The reason people hate this war, and especially the surge, is because it's not working.

More than three months into a U.S.-Iraqi security offensive designed to curtail sectarian violence in Baghdad and other parts of Iraq, Health Ministry statistics show that such killings are rising again.

UPDATE III: Join Russ Feingold to help end the war

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Fish Gonna Swim, Republicans Gonna Be Mean

So why the fuck would you care if they're going to be mean for any particular reason?

Democrats said they did not relish the prospect of leaving Washington for a Memorial Day break — the second recess since the financing fight began — and leaving themselves vulnerable to White House attacks that they were again on vacation while the troops were wanting. That criticism seemed more politically threatening to them than the anger Democrats knew they would draw from the left by bowing to Mr. Bush.

Are you kidding me? The President spent the entire election season last year essentially saying that Democrats would be responsible for getting American babies blown up if elected, and we WON THE ELECTION RESOUNDINGLY!

I'll tell you, the excuses being made for this inexcusable el foldo move are worse than the move itself. Saying we actually won? Puh-leeze. We're not idiots. The winners and losers are clear.

We need WHOLESALE changes in the Democratic leadership, particularly the consultant class that literally have no idea what they're doing. I predict the rank-and-file will by and large do us proud today. It's the leadership that deserves the blame.

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The Benchmark Bush Wants

So apparently Bush today echoed Mitch McConnell's statement that if the Iraqi government wanted us to leave, we would happily comply with their request. He has to say this, of course, if we wants to maintain a patina of credibility whenever he says that Iraq is a sovereign nation. But on another level, he's saying this as a direct threat to the Iraqi government to ensure that they pass the euphemistically named "hydrocarbon law" that recommends production sharing agreements (PSAs) to private oil companies for decades, essentially privatizing the lucrative Iraqi oil industry. Bush is playing a long game here, and the Democrats fell right into the trap (or they may be going into it willingly).

If you have read Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, the strategy at work by the US is familiar. The end goal is to secure the resources of the developing world for multinational corporations to exploit. They start with cajoling and promises of reconstruction aid. Then it goes to threatening. Then regime change.

The cajoling has been going on for months. This "hydrocarbon law" has been in the works for years. But Iraqi oil unions, along with Sunni and Kurdish lawmakers, have resisted the calls to pass it. As kavips pointed out, Dick Cheney visited Iraq recently for a reason. The message was to inform the Iraqi government that this law, which would enable US oil companies to reap 70% of the profits from the sale of any petroleum products, must pass, and soon.

So what's behind the Cheney visit? Why now?

Last week, the Kurds signed deals with both Norwegian and Turkish companies to develop new oil fields in their province. These were not at 70% PSA rates.

This electrified Cheney and his Iraqi leadership, which said that any contracts signed before the new law was passed, would be invalid and illegal.

Suddenly, in the aftermath of Cheney's visit, Iraq announced publicly that they are making preparations for when the Americans leave.

Iraq's military is drawing up plans to cope with any quick U.S. military pullout, the defense minister said Monday, as a senior American official warned that the Bush administration may reconsider its support if Iraqi leaders don't make major reforms by fall [...]

On Monday, Defense Minister Abdul-Qader al-Obeidi told reporters Iraq's military was drawing up plans in case U.S.-led forces left the country quickly.

"The army plans on the basis of a worst case scenario so as not to allow any security vacuum," al-Obeidi said. "There are meetings with political leaders on how we can deal with a sudden pullout."

That "senior American official" was almost certainly Dick Cheney. He clearly was there to tell the Iraqis "sign that law or we walk," and the Iraqis said "OK, we'll plan for life without you." The same day, Monday, the President called Prime Minister Maliki and stressed the need to pass that oil law.

A White House spokesman, Tony Fratto, said President Bush expressed confidence in al-Maliki during a telephone call Monday to the Iraqi leader.

He said the two talked about political progress in Iraq, and al-Maliki gave Bush updates on two key U.S. demands — legislation to share Iraq's oil wealth among its regions and ethnic groups and a reform of the constitution.

But two senior Iraqi officials told The Associated Press that Bush warned al-Maliki that Washington expected to see "tangible results quickly" on the oil bill and other legislation as the price for continued support.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't supposed to release the information [...]

Senior Kurdish lawmaker Mahmoud Othman confirmed that U.S. pressure was mounting, especially on the oil bill, which was endorsed by the Iraqi Cabinet three months ago but has yet to come to the floor of parliament.

"The Americans are pressuring us to accept the oil law. Their pressure is very strong. They want to show Congress that they have done something so they want the law to be adopted this month. This interference is negative and will have consequences," Othman told AP.

The Bush Administration was running into serious resistance with getting the most important part of their agenda in Iraq passed. So they needed another piece of leverage. All of a sudden, Bush says he'll accept benchmarks, the same benchmarks he derided just a week earlier. The Democratic leadership saw an opening where they could state that Bush compromised (he didn't), so they signed the deal.

So how is the el foldo supplemental structured? It includes these benchmarks that the Iraqis must follow or risk the loss of reconstruction funding, although there's a waiver that Bush can sign to send the funding anyway. People rightly consider these to be toothless benchmarks. But one of the benchmarks, the most important one actually, is about the Iraqi oil law. Bush will MOST CERTAINLY withhold funding for the Iraqis unless they sign this misbegotten law that privatizes their oil industry. And the Dems went right along with it in the interest of "holding Bush accountable." We've given him the very tools to rape the country of Iraq of their natural resources.

"Reconstruction money" can mean a lot of things. Would you at all be surprised if a misplaced Air Force bomb accidentally hit an oil supply line? Would "reconstruction money" be construed as bullets for the Iraqi army? Electricity for the houses of the Iraqi Parliament? Security? At the same time as Democrats gave up the power of the purse to stop the occupation, they handed the power of the purse to Bush over Iraq, and now he can turn it on and off like a spigot if the Parliament doesn't do his bidding. And it would all be completely legal.

This is serious Economic Hit Man stuff. They threatened to leave the country if there was no oil law, the Iraqis didn't blink. So they're trying the economic leverage. And if that doesn't work, Maliki's a goner. They blew up Torrijos in Panama. Same with Roldos in Ecaudor. It was over the same kind of things. I believe the Iraqis may hold firm, until they have to deal with Iyad Allawi back in power, and they understand the consequences of being anything but an American puppet.

The only person talking about any of this, friends, is Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who spent an hour on the House floor talking about this Iraqi oil law, very little of which mentions wealth-sharing, and most of which details how the industry would be privatized and how the oil companies, who have bled Americans dry to the tune of 20 billion dollars this year alone. It is completely infuriating that the Congress gave Bush the ability to use reconstruction money as a club over the head of the Iraqi government, in the name of calling it a "check" on Bush's power.

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Thank You Jack Bauer!

The American soldier who was taken prisoner and then found dead yesterday was tortured with a bull whip and a power drill.

I'm sure he gave the insurgents valuable information that they needed, right?

This is the dirty underbelly of torture that the little authoritarians on the right don't want to talk about; it puts our soldiers at risk and removes any moral high ground we could possibly have.

UPDATE: "[The US is] “the leading country using fear to justify the unjustifiable. The U.S. used to be in a position to speak out effectively against torture and military tribunals. We can’t do that now because we are carrying out some of the same practices." -Larry Cox, head of Amnesty International

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We've Got Another One

Monica Goodling admitting that she accidentally used political affiliation as a factor in hiring at the Justice Department, but she "didn't mean to," might be an alibi that Lurita Doan could use.

“An Office of Special Counsel report has found that General Services Administration chief Lurita Doan violated the Hatch Act, which bars federal officials from partisan political activity while on the job, sources say.”

The report addresses a Jan. 26 lunch meeting at GSA headquarters attended by Doan and about 40 political appointees, some of whom participated by videoconference. During the meeting, Scott Jennings, the White House deputy director of political affairs, gave a PowerPoint presentation that included slides listing Democratic and Republican seats the White House viewed as vulnerable in 2008, a map of contested Senate seats and other information on 2008 election strategy.

According to meeting participants, Doan asked after the call how GSA could help “our candidates.”

By the way, we learned from this report how the Office of Special Counsel works. You might remember that they're supposedly investigating Karl Rove, and that this GSA meeting is part of the investigation. So the OSC writes a report for the President that includes RECOMMENDATIONS on the proper course of action for violating the law, including termination. Then it's up to the President to carry them out.

How do you think that'll go?

And should they just stop the Rove investigation now?

Read this, too, where Doan claims that she doesn't care about polls or politics and then reveals that she contributed a quarter of a million dollars to Republican candidates and organizations.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Justice Department Clown Show

Monica Goodling's testimony today, as House Judiciary Chair John Conyers notes, was extremely revelatory on a number of different levels. We now know why she was so keen to receive immunity, because within the first five minutes she admitted that she broke the law by taking political considerations into account while hiring career DoJ officials. She even gave an example of when she blocked the hiring of an assistant US Attorney in DC because he was "too liberal." She used the weasel phrase "I don't believe that I intended to commit a crime," what Tbogg calls the Paris Hilton defense, but Bobby Scott (D-VA) eventually worked the truth out of her.

So we have a hiring manager at the Department of Justice basing her hiring and firing on whether or not an applicant was sufficiently Republican. For good measure, that hiring manager had no experience doing any hiring of any kind, except when she was STUDENT BODY PRESIDENT (yes, she actually said that in testimony).

Goodling also tossed Paul McNulty and Kyle Sampson under the bus, claiming McNulty was inaccurate in statements to Congress and that Sampson knows who put the names on the target list (and she all but came out and said the White House was heavily involved in that). But most damaged by her testimony was the famous Abu G. This sequence with Artur Davis shows that Gonzales lied to Congress on several occasions:

Mr. Davis: Ms. Goodling, General Gonzales testified that he never saw the US Attorneys list, the list of terminated US Attorneys. Is that accurate to your knowledge, Ms. Goodling?

Ms. Goodling: I believe he did see a list.

Mr. Davis: So if General Gonzales testified that he didn’t see the list, you believe that would be inaccurate testimony on his part, don’t you?

Ms. Goodling: Um, I believe he saw the list.

Mr. Davis: So therefore you believe it would be inaccurate testimony?

Ms. Goodling: Yes

Mr. Davis: If General Gonzales testified that he had never been briefed about the list, do you believe that would be accurate or inaccurate testimony?

Ms. Goodling: I believe it would be inaccurate.

Mr. Davis: Are there any other inaccuracies in the testimony that General Gonzales gave the Senate that you are able to share with us?

Ms. Goodling: I don’t know that I saw all of it.

Mr. Davis: Let me help you a little bit with on other one. The Attorney General testified that he was not involved with any discussions of the U.S. Attorney firings. Do you believe that to be accurate or inaccurate?

Ms. Goodling: He was certainly at the November 27th meeting.

Mr. Davis: So you believe that to be another piece of inaccurate testimony, don’t you, Ms. Goodling?

Ms. Goodling: Yes.

But the absolute most damaging bit in the testimony, previously unrevealed, is that Al Gonzales brought Goodling into a meeting in March, when the US Attorneys scandal had already gone public and after Goodling's testimony was requested, and essentially coached her on what her recollections should be. This is classic witness tampering and obstruction of justice.

Describing it as an “uncomfortable” conversation, Goodling claimed that in a personal meeting with Gonzales, he “laid out for me his general recollection…of some of the process…regarding the replacement of the U.S. attorneys.” After he had “laid out a little bit of it,” Gonzales asked Goodling if she “had any reaction to his iteration.” She then added:

I remember thinking at that point that this was something that we were all going to have to talk about, and I didn’t know that it was — I just — I didn’t know that it was maybe appropriate for us to talk about that at that point.

Rep. Arthur Davis (D-AL) asked her if she felt the Attorney General was trying to “shape your recollection,” to which she replied “no.” But Goodling acknowledged she was “uncomfortable” with the conversation.

This is WHY she quit the department, she said. And Rep. Davis was tipped off to talking about this aspect of the case by Goodling's own lawyer, who wanted him to ask those questions. Just last week Gonzales was saying that he was barring himself from talking with other fact witnesses about the case because he didn't want it to seem like he was getting everyone's story straight. This guy is the most brazen liar I've seen since... OK, since the President, I guess, but Abu G's almost worse.

Gonzales and the Justice Department went to the extraordinary step of responding directly to the testimony:

Brian J. Roehrkasse, a Justice Department spokesman, said in a statement that Mr. Gonzales “has never attempted to influence or shape the testimony or public statements of any witness in this matter, including Ms. Goodling. The statements made by the attorney general during this meeting were intended only to comfort her in a very difficult period.“

I'm sure it was comforting for Goodling to hear her superior tell her "This is what you're going to remember, capiche?"

The clown show at the Justice Department just rolls on and on. These were a group of ideologically rigid thugs that used their positions of power to attack Democrats, shield Republicans and suppress the vote, and they would do absolutely anything to keep this information a secret. Hell, Gonzales was interfering in Congressional investigations even AFTER they had the goods on him. Unbelievable.

UPDATE: Leahy:

“It is curious that yet another senior Justice Department official claims to have limited involvement in compiling the list that led to the firings of several well-performing federal prosecutors. What we have heard today seems to reinforce the mounting evidence that the White House was pulling the strings on this project to target certain prosecutors in different parts of the country.

“It is deeply troubling that the crisis of leadership at the Department allowed the White House to wield undue political influence over key law enforcement decisions and policies. It is unacceptable that a senior Justice Department official was allowed to screen career employees for political loyalty, and it confirms our worst fears about the unprecedented and improper reach of politics into the Department’s professional ranks.

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Chris Dodd Is Making Sense

"It's not easy to say... but it's important that we do the right thing. And the right thing is to vote against this supplemental."

And then there's this audacious spot, where he adds his name to Feingold-Reid (it's the Feingold-Reid-Dodd Amendment now, apparently) and takes credit for Obama and Clinton voting for it. That seems a little outsized.

But there's no doubt that Dodd has been very good on this in 2007. (By the way, he voted for the war) And he's right that it's too late for half-measures. Would that he did get elected Minority Leader instead of Reid. I believe he missed by one vote. (Not that Reid's all bad, but on this particular issue he was abominable)

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Vote No

Despite the fact that there's no rewriting what happened yesterday on Iraq, the best thing that can happen now is to get an overwhelming majority of rank and file Democratic votes against this blank check. And this is not purely a lefty blogger rabble position: the mainstream DC Democratic Think Progress, run by Clinton's former chief of staff John Podesta, is calling on Congress to reject the toothless supplemental.

MoveOn is whipping the vote. At least individual Congressmen can save face and stand firm against the sell-out from the leadership.

The president has played political brinksmanship over the war in Iraq time and time again. He refuses to acknowledge the futility of his approach, disregards the clear message sent by the American people last fall, and falsely claims that the only way for Congress to support the troops is to prolong the war. That's just not true. Congress can support the troops and end the war, which is exactly what the bill they sent the president last month would have done. When the president vetoed that bill, it was the president alone who was blocking support for the troops. Nobody else.

Any compromise that funds the war through the end of the fiscal year isn't a compromise at all, it's a capitulation. As I have said repeatedly, Congress should send the president the same bill he vetoed again and again until he realizes he has no choice but to start bringing our troops home.

To say that "Congress had to fund the troops before Memorial Day" is a media creation. Out in the country people don't want to see stories like this anymore. If the Democrats were going to listen to the pundits instead of the people they should have given the money to begin with. There is no short-term redemption for them; but individuals can show where they stand by voting no on the supplemental.

UPDATE: Biden put it succinctly on Hardball: you can either vote with the President or vote with the troops. Of course, he'll probably go ahead and vote for this bill.

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Believing the Hype

Yes, Glenn Greenwald gets this exactly right.

What does seem clear is that one of the principal factors accounting for the reluctance of Democrats to advocate de-funding is that the standard corruption that infects our political discourse has rendered the de-funding option truly radioactive. Republicans and the media have propagated -- and Democrats have frequently affirmed -- the proposition that to de-fund a war is to endanger the "troops in the field."

This unbelievably irrational, even stupid, concept has arisen and has now taken root -- that to cut off funds for the war means that, one day, our troops are going to be in the middle of a vicious fire-fight and suddenly they will run out of bullets -- or run out of gas or armor -- because Nancy Pelosi refused to pay for the things they need to protect themselves, and so they are going to find themselves in the middle of the Iraq war with no supplies and no money to pay for what they need. That is just one of those grossly distorting, idiotic myths the media allows to become immovably lodged in our political discourse and which infects our political analysis and prevents any sort of rational examination of our options.

That is why virtually all political figures run away as fast and desperately as possible from the idea of de-funding a war -- it's as though they have to strongly repudiate de-funding options because de-funding has become tantamount to "endangering our troops" (notwithstanding the fact that Congress has de-funded wars in the past and it is obviously done in coordination with the military and over a scheduled time frame so as to avoid "endangering the troops").

This is exactly correct. And if the Democrats weren't going to fight back on this frame (indeed, Pelosi reinforced it day after day right from the beginning), then they shouldn't have even tried to stop the occupation in the manner that they did in the first place. They unnecessarily constrained themselves by playing into the entire idea. Feingold held an entire hearing on the concept of de-funding and what it actually means historically. Nobody paid any attention. So we had Pelosi and Reid rushing headlong into a futile plan because they weren't willing to do what Congress is sanctioned by the Constitution to do to end the occupation.

The lack of proper civics instruction, incidentally, is BY DESIGN. There's nothing on the NCLB tests schools must now teach to about this kind of stuff.

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New Strategy!!!

Guess what? That "surge" that was going so well? In fact, it's moving forward so swimmingly that the military is completely ripping it up and coming up with a new strategy! And guess what? The new strategy is like the fifth reiteration of the old strategy!

Top U.S. commanders and diplomats in Iraq are completing a far-reaching campaign plan for a new U.S. strategy, laying out military and political goals and endorsing the selective removal of hardened sectarian actors from Iraq's security forces and government [...]

The overarching aim of the plan, which sets goals for the end of this year and the end of 2008, is more political than military: to negotiate settlements between warring factions in Iraq from the national level down to the local level. In essence, it is as much about the political deals needed to defuse a civil war as about the military operations aimed at quelling a complex insurgency, said officials.

This is, you know, exactly what Democrats have been saying for years, that Iraq requires a political solution and not a military one. It also includes increasing the size and training of the Iraqi army, which is at least the third time that has been made a priority. And we're talking about "protecting the Iraqi population" as if that's never been a concern before (which, in a way, it wasn't).

In contrast, U.S. operations in 2004 and 2005 "had the unintended consequence of killing off Iraqis who supported us. We would clear an area, encourage people to sign up for government programs, but then we would have to leave and those people would be left exposed and would get killed."

Amazingly, I don't think the Bush Administration has figured out that this government doesn't really want any unified cooperation with each other.

Finally, the campaign plan aims to purge Iraq's leadership of a small but influential number of officials and commanders whose sectarian and criminal agendas are thwarting U.S. efforts. It recognizes that the Iraqi government is deeply infiltrated by militia and corrupt officials who are "part of the problem" and are maneuvering to kill off opponents, install sectarian allies and otherwise solidify their power for when U.S. troops withdraw.

"For the surge to work, Ambassador Crocker and General Petraeus have to identify the Iraqi nationalists and empower them, while minimizing" two other groups - namely "the militant sectarians . . . and the profoundly, personally corrupt," said Toby Dodge, a Middle East expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.

There ARE NO IRAQI NATIONALISTS. Say it with me. There are Shiites and Sunnis and Kurds, and the Shiites will never give up the power we've provided them. This is just wishful thinking.

If you squint, you can look at this "new strategy" as a detailed assessment of what will happen when we eventually leave, and how to bridge that divide. That will only happen with a change of leadership, of course. But the diplomats and military personnel in the country see the handwriting on the wall. Taken along those lines, maybe what the Democrats have done wasn't so horrible. I still think the politics were miserable. But clearly it's motivated some parts of the government to action. However, it's absurd that we still have to do these rudiments of "nation-building," as it were, four-plus years into the conflict.

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The Ballad of Paul Wolfowitz

This reads like a bad country song: "You lost your job and now you're losin' me."

PAUL Wolfowitz has really had a bad couple of weeks. He not only lost his job, he lost his girlfriend, too.

Wolfowitz, one of the architects of the Iraq war, was pushed out as president of the World Bank over a controversial pay and promotion package he arranged for his brunette girlfriend, Shaha Ali Riza.

Sources say Riza, a brilliant feminist with a promising diplomatic career, was upset by all the publicity and the implication that she was getting ahead with the help of a powerful man. "She was furious about the embarrassment," said one source.

Let this be the last time I ever excerpt Page Six. But this one was too amusing to pass up.

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Just So You Know

We invaded Iraq in 2003 to stop bin Laden from using it as a base of attack in 2005. And don't you tell me that doesn't make sense!

Also, we invaded to bring freedom and liberty to Iraq, the kind that lets the Kurds freely stone women to death if they don't fall in love with members of the right tribe.

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Just So You Know

We invaded Iraq in 2003 to stop bin Laden from using it as a base of attack in 2005. And don't you tell me that doesn't make sense!

Also, we invaded to bring freedom and liberty to Iraq, the kind that lets the Kurds freely stone women to death if they don't fall in love with members of the right tribe.

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I'm Just a Liaison, It's Not Like I'm The Go-Between!

From what I'm reading, to believe Monica Goodling's testimony today, you have to believe that, in her position as the Justice Department liaison to the White House, she never talked to anyone in the White House.

By the way, this LA Times story about Goodling is enough to make you wonder how these people ever got into government at all, let alone the very top echelon of the DoJ:

How a 33-year-old graduate of a little-known law school that teaches courses on the philosophy of punishing and controlling "sin" became such a powerful figure in the Justice Department is a key question for congressional investigators looking into charges that the department has been turned into a political tool of the Republican Party [...]

Some of Goodling's former co-workers insist that she has been vilified.

Mark Corallo, a former Justice Department spokesman, said Goodling was trying to bring balance to the department, and he ridiculed those who criticized her for trying to screen potential hires based on their political beliefs. The civil rights division, he argued, has long been populated by "some of the most radical Democrats in the law."

Certainly 27 years of hiring by Republican Administrations and one Third Way Administration brought us radical Democrat after radical Democrat, right? And look at this:

After law school and a stint during the 2000 election doing opposition research for the GOP, Goodling landed in the public affairs office at the Justice Department. She did a six-month tour at the U.S. attorney's office in Alexandria, Va., that was designed to give nonprosecutors a taste of the courtroom. In spring 2005, she became deputy director of the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys — a Justice Department arm that provides support, personnel and policy guidance to prosecutors around the country.

Her tenure at that office appears to have been crucial to facilitating the plan to fire U.S. attorneys. Former colleagues said that she prevailed upon the head of the office, Michael A. Battle, to replace two long-serving officials who probably would have viewed the firing of prosecutors without cause as highly suspicious, and helped install a fellow Regent law school graduate as a replacement.

She was tasked with getting rid of the naysayers. That was her whole raison d'etre.

Also, shorter Goodling's testimony, I dunno. And it was everyone's fault who's already resigned (Sampson, McNulty).

...she just said "I don't believe I intended to commit a crime" when I based my hiring practices on political affiliation. I don't believe I intended to commit a crime. Priceless.

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Bright Spot In Kentucky

Despite the doom and gloom yesterday over the Iraq cave, yesterday was a pretty good day for Democrats electorally. Kentucky held their Gubernatorial primary, and there was good news on both ends. On the Republican side, Gov. Ernie Fletcher held off a challenge from former Rep. Anne Northup. This is great news because Fletcher is as corrupt as they come, having personally pardoned scores of members of his own staff after they were all indicted in various scandals. On the Democratic side, former Lt. Governor Steve Beshear bested DLC Lieber-Dem Bruce Lunsford, who endorsed both Ernie Fletcher and Mitch McConnell in the best. Beshear took it by 20 points, getting over the needed 40% threshold to avoid a runoff.

There's much more on this race at the Bluegrass Report. Beshear is a strong challenger, and will come out of the primary as the favorite to pull off yet another Democratic pickup.

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Goodling Day Sunshine

OK, let's stop obsessing about Iraq (though Rep. Waxman, expect a call later today) and mention that Monica Goodling just started her testimony before the House Judiciary Committee. You can stream it live here. And there's a liveblog at Kos here.

Goodling was the liaison between the Justice Department and the White House, so we may finally be able to figure out who put together the list of US Attorneys to be fired. She has immunity for her testimony today.

Today's Washington Post goes into more detail about Monica's insistence that anyone who wasn't a dyed-in-the-wool Federalist Society Republican not be hired for any DoJ job whatsoever. She appears to be a true believer, so it's unclear how much she'll be willing to divulge today.

Updates as they come in, though I'm not by a TV and can't stream...

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Hey Democrats, Take A Look At What You've Bought!

I know the bloom of buying an entire war has barely come off the rose. I mean, Democrats haven't had a whole war of their own to play with since 1969! But with Iraq, you get so much more than just a war. Just take a look:

You also receive the world's largest embassy, a 592 million-dollar, 104 acre pleasure palace brought in on time and on budget, maybe the only thing in Iraq built with solid construction and free of bomb distress! This 21-building "Thunderdome on the Tigris" should in no way give the impression that Americans are imperial occupiers fixing to stay in Iraq until time immemorial! After all, the Democrats bought Iraq, and they have no such imperial designs!

But that's not all. At no extra charge, other than the $120 billion appropriated, you will get a fine collection of lily pads! And when I say lily pads, I mean permanent installations for 30-40,000 soldiers:

[W]hat it essentially envisions is a series of military installations around Iraq, maybe five or six of them, a total of maybe 30-40 thousand U.S. troops in Iraq for a long period of time, lasting, maybe a few decades. And the idea is that these bases will be somewhat hermetically sealed, that U.S. military forces won’t be leaving them, they won’t be conducting presence patrols and the patrols they conduct now. Ground convoys won’t be driving into them.

Airplanes will be essentially landing in to deliver supplies and these sort of lily pads will be in various strategic areas in Iraq … And that will enable the U.S. military to maintain a presence in the country, perhaps…for a few decades.

This is exactly the kind of infrastructure you'll need to keep a perpetual residual force in Iraq, just like your leading Presidential candidate wants to do!

But wait! Because you acted now, we're going to throw in absolutely free a confidential second surge! Some call it escalation; hell, you just bought it, call it whatever you want! But the point is that you'll be presiding over a situation in Iraq with not 100,000, not 150,000, but 200,000 troops in country by Christmas!

The little-noticed efforts to reinforce U.S. troops in Iraq are being carried out without the fanfare that accompanied President Bush’s initial troop surge in January.

The second “surge” of troops to Iraq is being executed by deploying more combat brigades to the country, plus extending tours of duty for troops already there.

Retired Army Maj. Gen. William Nash, the U.S. commander who led NATO troops into Bosnia in late 1995, asked to comment on the findings, said: “It doesn’t surprise me that they’re not talking about it. I think they would be very happy not to have any more attention paid to this.”


Now, when you buy the war in Iraq, you don't just get the occupation or the death statistics or the soldiers held hostage to increased deployments. No, you also get the Iraqi government, a plucky bunch of 275 of the most well-rested lawmakers this side of the Atlantic Ocean. In fact, if you want to meet with them, you don't even need to leave the country!

Iraqi president Jalal Talabani at the Mayo clinic for medical treatment. SCIRI/SICI leader Abdul Aziz Hakim in Houston for treatment of lung cancer. The two leading candidates for greater federalism of Iraq in the States for medical treatment.

Some might find it odd that the President of Iraq would leave at a crucial time for the Parliament to satisfy benchmarks to lose weight at a fat farm, but on the other hand, it may be perfect timing for the latest potential gift to you, Democrats: a freshly minted and new Iraqi government!

As Iraq's government compiles a record of failure, the Bush administration is under growing pressure to intervene to rearrange Baghdad's dysfunctional political order, or even install a new leadership.

Publicly, administration officials say they remain committed to Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, even though after a year in office, his elected government has failed to complete any important steps toward political reconciliation — the legislative "benchmarks" sought by U.S. officials.

But privately, some U.S. officials acknowledge that the congressional clamor to find another approach will increase sharply in coming months if no progress is made toward tamping down sectarian violence, bringing more minority Sunnis into the government and fairly dividing up the nation's oil resources.

Yes, those oil resources must be divided fairly... between the heads of the world's biggest oil companies, that is. And if they aren't, this would certainly be a good time to put in a strongman like Iyad Allawi to oversee the country. After all, Democrats, you just bought the war, why not clean house and change the leadership in one fell swoop! I mean, this government certainly isn't responding to threats.

Note this: Bush and Cheney have resorted to threatening the al-Maliki government with a withdrawal of American forces if they don't pass the Oil Law. And the effect on the Iraqis is . . . "OK, go ahead and leave. We'll start planning for that contingency now." This means that Cheney and Bush just shot their wad, and lost.

Leave? No, no, there's no leaving. We Democrats just got this thing!

I don't want to leave out some of the exciting consolation prizes Democrats will receive. They get a stalled domestic agenda, a release of the ability to end the war to the Republicans who wrote the benchmark bill and set the "September timeline" in the first place, a fresh stream of newly declassified information designed to dishonestly keep America in Iraq longer by claiming it will be a terrorist haven if we leave, and... a base to launch a whole new war with Iran!!! Sorry, a "covert action." So covert that you can see it off the coast.

The U.S. Navy staged its latest show of military force off the Iranian coastline on Wednesday, sending two aircraft carriers and landing ships packed with 17,000 U.S. Marines and sailors to carry out unannounced exercises in the Persian Gulf.

The carrier strike groups led by the USS John C. Stennis and USS Nimitz were joined by the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard and its own strike group, which includes landing ships carrying members of the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The Navy said nine U.S. warships passed through the narrow Strait of Hormuz on Wednesday. Merchant ships passing through the busy strait carry two-fifths of the world's oil exports.

So enjoy your new gifts, Democrats. You'll have enough to keep you busy for the next 18 months! Sure, it might cost you a contribution or three...

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Terrible Politics of the Iraq Funding Debacle

More than anything, what upsets me about this out and out cave-in from the Democratic leadership on the Iraq bill is how poor they played it politically. If the leadership quickly realized that they didn't have the votes for withdrawal or to sustain a veto for any kind of timeline, and they reasoned that they couldn't be seen as denying the troops money - and they had their minds made up about both of these very early, by February - why not give in early and press the domestic agenda instead of getting everyone's hopes up, only to set a self-imposed deadline of Memorial Day and then cave, in the process derailing the other legislation that was critical to electoral success in 2006? Not only are the headlines tomorrow going to be awful, but they lost MORE, far more than they gained in fighting the President to this point. Consider this, via Steve Soto, who I think is one of the sharpest minds in the business when it comes to things like this:

Both Harry Reid and Steny Hoyer stated the obvious today: that the Democrats don't have a veto-proof majority in either house. Yeah, so? You knew this back in February, as did most everyone else. It was your job and everyone else in the Democratic leadership to fashion a strategy that made the GOP pay a price for rubber-stamping Bush's surge while still pushing your agenda. And you and your Beltway consultants failed. So stop your whining and get back to the drawing board [...]

Instead of shifting the burden onto the GOP leadership for finding the votes for a “no-strings” funding bill back in February, and moving ahead with the Democrats’ domestic agenda, Reid and Pelosi got sucked into a futile battle to change course without the numbers or messaging to force such a change. Now, they both will face a hostile Democratic base over the summer while the GOP leadership quietly works towards a face-saving break with Bush late this year. And all the Democrats have to show for it are declining poll numbers, just like Bush.

The worst part of this was imposing this Memorial Day deadline for no good reason. Bush played it the way he goes on about how the terrorists would play a timeline - he waited the Dems out and they panicked. They should have said "our work is done, sign our bill or round up a majority for your own bill" and forced the minority to whip up the votes to rubber-stamp Bush's war. Instead we did the work for them.

AND, if a deal is reached, it'll be the GOP in Congress who "stopped the war." After all, THEIR benchmarks are what made the final bill. THEIR timeline of September is the working assumption in Washington of when the dynamic will change. How could a self-respecting Democratic Party, politically speaking, give away the ability to end an unpopular war and break with an unpopular President?

The domestic agenda has been lying fallow for months while the leadership played a game of chicken that they knew they weren't about to push to win. And adding the minimum wage bill and those Katrina/farm relief programs to this package was doubly stupid. Most true antiwar progressives, like Feingold, aren't going to support a toothless Iraq bill. So now you've put them all in the outrageous position of having to vote against the minimum wage increase, a cruel little trick designed to keep those who don't want to see "Congressman X voted against the minimum wage" ads in their districts next November. And any benefit from FINALLY enacting one piece of the "100 Hour" agenda will be largely forgotten in the wake of the stories about how the Dems conceded and Bush won.

Here's Soto again:

So, four months of bruises leaves the Democrats with perhaps only a minimum wage increase to show for it. In the hopper and still to come is a trade bill written by K Street, a weakened ethics bill, a cave-in on Medicare Part D reform, and nothing yet on an expansion of the SCHIP or implementing fully the 9/11 Commission recommendations. Yes, they are investigating everything that they should, but they still haven’t started the court challenge over White House rejection of congressional subpoenas.

There was a window of time back in early February when the Democratic leadership had split the GOP caucus with the domestic agenda, and that moment has been lost, a casualty of the war funding debates and the Democratic leadership’s willingness to resume its love affair with corporate cash.

It's enough to make you sick. This Congress was elected solely to challenge Bush on Iraq. The other popular pieces of the domestic agenda were nice side benefits. Now the Congress has delivered neither, and their way forward looks completely muddled. (somebody want to tell me why we're debating a crappy IMMIGRATION bill that nobody likes in the Senate right now, when there's so much of the 100 Hour agenda still unpassed?)

Chris Bowers isn't wrong that we've come a long way in the progressive movement (7 years ago our VP candidate was Joe Lieberman) and that we still need to grow our majority of the majority. But all of that was well-known a while ago. It's the horrible politics of this action that irks me. There was a time when I thought Harry Reid was a decent gambler as a leader. He just folded a straight flush while Bush had aces high. He's failed, and so has Pelosi.

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