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

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Oh This Is The Greatest Day Of My Life

Run Alan run!!!

After two previous runs for U.S. president, former Reagan diplomat Alan Keyes has announced he's again seeking the White House in the 2008 election, and he'll take part in Monday night's Republican presidential debate here.

Keyes told syndicated radio host Janet Parshall he's "unmoved" by the lack of moral courage shown by the other candidates, among whom he sees no standout who articulates the "key kernel of truth that must, with courage, be presented to our people."

And that kernel of truth is, "I'm Alan Keyes and I'm 31 flavors of crazy."

I actually started an aborted blog back called Draft Keyes! back when the Maryland Senate seat came open in 2006. The premise was that he got 15% of the vote in Illinois, and he ACTUALLY LIVES in Maryland, so he'd probably do twice as well!

Alan Keyes is the snarky blogger's best friend. He's like the Jeff Gannon of the blogosphere; you can always go to him when you're looking for a lifeline. When his profile waned over the last few years, that lifeline had waned.

Thank you, Alan, on behalf of all people who love to laugh, thank you.

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Infinite Monkeys

One hypothesis goes that infinite monkeys typing on infinite keyboards for an infinite amount of time would eventually produce the collected works of Shakespeare.

"Return on Success." Hmmm. This new slogan for the Iraq war doesn't quite have the zing of its predecessors. It's a phrase better suited to remarks by a mediocre CEO at the corporate retreat than a rousing rah-rah call. The phrase suggests unremarkable, bland bureaucratese rather than huah. One feels the Bush Administration's previously all-important job at producing muscular, assertive rhetoric has now been delegated to lesser lights picking away at keyboards in some sub-basement of the West Wing.

The man who coined the phrase Axis of Evil has this to say about the latest effort:

"I thought it was a good phrase," says former Bush speechwriter David Frum in a telephone interview. "The problem is the public forms its own views about whether you're succeeding or not, and there's a danger with you insisting you are succeeding when the public sees no evidence of that proposition.

"I thought the way to go was televise from the map room and stand there with a bunch of maps and a laser pointer," Frum, now a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, says. "Don't worry about the phrasing. At this point language doesn't matter very much."

Interesting that Mr. Frum recognizes that hypertrophied rhetoric does tend to open up a credibility gap when audiences cannot help but observe that events are so starkly divergent. He is, after all, directly responsible for overinflating a lot of hot-air balloons.

Let's take a stroll through the Museum of Post 9/11 Slogans. Don't forget your flag lapel pin on the way in.

September 13, 2007: "Return on Success" - "The more we succeed, the more troops we can bring home from Iraq. The president calls this policy 'return on success,' and that will be a major emphasis of the speech."

November 30, 2005: "Plan for Victory" - "I will settle for nothing less than complete victory," said Mr Bush, standing above a large banner which read 'Plan For Victory'. "Victory will come when the terrorists and Saddamists can no longer threaten Iraq’s democracy."

August 30, 2004: "Catastrophic Success" - "Had we had to do it over again," [Bush] said, "we would look at the consequences of catastrophic success, being so successful so fast that an enemy that should have surrendered or been done in escaped and lived to fight another day."

May 1, 2003: "Mission Accomplished" - Moments after the landing, the president, wearing a green flight suit and holding a white helmet, got off the plane, saluted those on the flight deck and shook hands with them. Above him, the tower was adorned with a big sign that read, "Mission Accomplished. ...

THE PRESIDENT: "Thank you all very much. Admiral Kelly, Captain Card, officers and sailors of the USS Abraham Lincoln, my fellow Americans: Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed."

November 8, 2001: "Let's Roll" - "We cannot know every turn this battle will take. Yet we know our cause is just and our ultimate victory is assured. We will, no doubt, face new challenges. But we have our marching orders: My fellow Americans, let's roll."

So much for victory!

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Rights vs. Wrongs

Here's Grandpa Fred speaking in Little Havana:
“Some things are eternal,” Mr. Thompson said. “They’re handed down to us through the wisdom of the ages. And one of the things we got from that was the Declaration of Independence, which reminds us that our basic rights come from God, and not from government,” he said, leading several people to jump to their feet and applaud.

Thompson's statement about our rights descending from God has a long tradition: its source is centuries old in English common law. Some conservatives who have recently invoked this notion are Bush, Scalia, and Gingrich - just to name a few.

Fred Thompson has yet to weigh in with any specifics on, well, anything. Which means we haven't yet been treated to his aw-shucks plain-spoken horse-sense reading of constitutional issues including Guanatanamo, extraordinary renditions, military tribunals, FISA and warrantless wiretapping.

However, we do know one thing about Freddie and the War on Terra: he thinks Osama bin Laden should be subject to 'due process.'

I'm not suggesting Freddie is a secret anti-authoritarian. (Quite the opposite, I fear.) Nor, it should be said, are Freddie's casual utterances indicators of any thought, deep or otherwise.

But Fred's utterance gives an opening for some enterprising character to ask the following questions of the competitors for the Republican nomination:
Q: Do you believe our rights derive from God, not the government?
A: Yes.
Q: Then why would you support the government having the power to spy on your private conversations without you knowing and even lock you away forever without restriction? Do you support government taking away something you say God endows?

Granted, parsing the words of demagogues is a fool's errand. And of course I don't agree with any invocations of God's grants, wishes, intentions or power in political debates. But I relish the opportunity to have these God-talkers square their mutually exclusive notions of inherent rights to "freedom" and the surveillance state.

I suggest we start with Grandpa Fred. I see him as the jowly, soft underbelly.

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The Red Queen's Last Day

Just at this moment, somehow or other, they began to run.

Alice never could quite make out, in thinking it over afterwards, how it was that they began: all she remembers is, that they were running hand in hand, and the Queen went so fast that it was all she could do to keep up with her: and still the Queen kept crying 'Faster! Faster!', but Alice felt she could not go faster, though she had no breath left to say so.

The most curious part of the thing was, that the trees and the other things round them never changed their places at all: however fast they went, they never seemed to pass anything. 'I wonder if all the things move along with us?' thought poor puzzled Alice. And the Queen seemed to guess her thoughts, for she cried 'Faster! Don't try to talk!'

Not that Alice had any idea of doing that. She felt as if she; would never be able to talk again, she was getting so much out of breath: and still the Queen cried 'Faster! Faster! 'and dragged her along. 'Are we nearly there?' Alice managed to pant out at last.

'Nearly there!' the Queen repeated. 'Why, we passed it ten minutes ago! Faster! And they ran on for a time in silence, with the wind whistling in Alice's ears, and almost blowing her hair off her head, she fancied.

'Now! Now!' cried the Queen. 'Faster! Faster!' And they went so fast that at last they seemed to skim through the air, hardly touching the ground with their feet, till suddenly, just as Alice was getting quite exhausted, they stopped, and she found herself sitting on the ground, breathless and giddy.

The Queen propped her up against a tree, and said kindly, 'You may rest a little, now.'

Alice looked round her in great surprise. 'Why, I do believe we've been under this tree the whole time! Everything's just as it was!'

'Of course it is,' said the Queen. 'What would you have it?'

'Well, in our country, said Alice, still panting a little, 'you'd generally get to somewhere else - if you ran very fast for a long time as we've been doing.' 'A slow sort of country!' said the Queen. 'Now, here, see. It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!'

'I'd rather not try, please!' said Alice. 'I'm quite content to stay here - only I am so hot and thirsty!' 'I know what you'd like!' the Queen said good naturedly, taking a little box out of her pocket. 'Have a biscuit!'

Alice thought it would not be civil to say 'No,' though it wasn't at all what she wanted. So she took it, and ate it as well as she could: and it was very dry: and she thought she had never been so nearly choked in all her life.

'While you're refreshing yourself,' said the Queen, 'I'll just take the measurements' And she took a ribbon out of her pocket, marked in inches, and began measuring the ground, and sticking little pegs in here and there.

'At the end of two yards,' she said, putting in a peg to mark the distance, I shall give you your directions have another biscuit?' 'No, thank you,' said Alice: 'one's guite enough!' 'Thirst quenched, I hope!' said the Queen.

- Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow's last day at work was Wednesday. How could we just let him slip out the wings without some sort of send-off? Particularly when he presented a master class in rhetorical obfuscation, complete with an array of comical expressions that would do a Borscht belt comedian proud.

Here are some of the answers Mr. Snow gave at the press gaggle. All the floating answers are in response to variants of this question: Are we in an open-ended commitment in Iraq?


MR. SNOW: ... Well, you answer the charge by pointing to General Petraeus's testimony. It's pretty clear that it is not a war without end. As a matter of fact, it is a war that actually has victory as its aim. And victory is defined as helping the Iraqis develop the capability of defending themselves and governing themselves.


MR. SNOW: ... So I think in order to try to caricature it as a war without end is simply to ignore two days of testimony, including 11 hours yesterday in front of the United States Senate. It's just not true.

But on the other hand, to say that you don't know when a war is going to end doesn't mean that you don't think it's going to end.


MR. SNOW: ... The whole -- what General Petraeus is saying is that you are able to move forces out as a result of success, not simply -- this is not an exercise to get to a number.


MR. SNOW: ... Now, in terms of -- I think what you're trying to do is to develop a narrative that says, well, you know what he's really trying to do is he's trying to put lipstick on this thing because he was going to have to remove the troops anyway. Is that what you're -- is that the buried insinuation?

Q I didn't use the lipstick analogy, but you just did. So it seems --

MR. SNOW: No, but is that kind of the thesis here?

Q No, the question is that Army officials have already said publicly that, in fact, you're going to have retention issues, you have rotation issues and that by next spring/next summer you're going to have to start bringing some troops home or you're going to have -- if, God forbid, there's another situation in another part of the world you might not have enough troops. So how can you say the reason why you're potentially pulling out up to 30,000 troops is because you're having so much success on the ground when, in fact, it's because you have to pull them out anyway?

MR. SNOW: No, wrong. You don't have to pull them out. And General Petraeus has made it clear -- see, what you're doing is you're taking unrelated testimony and you're trying to draft it and you're saying, you guys will leave because you have to. Wrong. General Petraeus has made it clear that he -- by the way, this is not a guy who's simply going to try to fake it. His career, his reputation, his honor are on the line. And this is a man who makes decisions based on what he thinks is going to work. And therefore, he will continue to do so.

And in this particular case he is talking about potential drawdowns next year based on conditions on the ground, and they will continue to do so. I will let -- you know, you can take quotes from various generals about --


MR. SNOW: ... Again, the strategy that General Petraeus is pursuing is one that is designed to produce results and to produce the kind of stability that the Iraqi people deserve. It is not one that is gauged at numbers.


MR. SNOW: ... Number one, you don't know when the war is going to end because you don't know when the war is going to end -- you don't have a crystal ball. I mean, you could have asked Eisenhower when the war was going to end and he wouldn't have known. You could have asked generals and -- the fact is, you just --


MR. SNOW: No. Look, benchmarks were something that Congress wanted to use as a metric --

Q You signed off on it.

MR. SNOW: -- and we're going to produce a report. But the fact is that the situation is bigger and more complex, and you need to look at the whole picture.


Q Tony, when the President addresses the nation in the way that he will tomorrow night, it often sets lots of expectations on the part of the public. Is there a concern that with so much discussion about potential for drawing down troops, if there is not the kind of progress on the ground that you foresee, that that will simply be an expectation unfulfilled?

MR. SNOW: No, we tend not to go into these with failure narratives in mind. No, what the President is going to do is he's going to outline what he thinks is the sensible way to proceed in Iraq, based on the facts on the ground and based on developments.


MR. SNOW: You know what really strikes me is that there seems to be this attempt to go after General Petraeus in every possible way so that there can be an avoidance of the fact that his strategy is succeeding.

This new line of argument that -- where you're just going back to the same numbers, it was -- you've got to assume that when you have a surge and the number goes up, they are going to go down, and at some point you will reach the level you were at before. And they may continue to go down. I'm going to let the President make whatever announcements he has to make. ...

So I think what's going on is that there is an attempt to create a cause to get you to ask about numbers, rather than results. But the fact is, the numbers will reflect realities on the ground. The realities on the ground, at least according to General Petraeus, seem to be such that you can start drawing down numbers.


MR. SNOW: ... I've got to tell you, this is an amazing canard in the sense that you have shifting realities at all times, and you respond to changing facts on the ground. The idea that you have an unchanging strategy -- only a crazy person would fail to adjust strategy on a regular basis based on the realities on the ground.

Similarly -- it's interesting, because Democrats have said, we want a change in mission -- and there does seem, at least on the part of what General Petraeus was talking about, a change in mission -- they immediately try to inoculate against that argument by saying it's not, but it is.


Q A lot of people are dying.

MR. SNOW: Because there are bad guys that are out there, Helen, and they don't want to go away.


Q Tony, back to Iraq. Regardless of what the President says tomorrow night, the funding debate is going to continue next week on the Hill. You spoke earlier about benchmarks and said, well, they really don't show the whole picture. Does he still accept that he needs a report on benchmarks, and really do something --

MR. SNOW: Yes, it's the law. Of course he's going to do it.

Q So next spring? In other words --

MR. SNOW: Well, we've got a benchmark report due Saturday.

Q Understood. Will they continue to follow that as the condition for getting the funding that --

MR. SNOW: Well, look, I think a condition for getting the funding is trying to figure out where the strategy is working. I think if you try to -- lash yourself to the benchmarks, you get -- as General Petraeus was pointing out, you could achieve every one of those benchmarks and not be succeeding. So I think what you need to do is take a broad view. They certainly provided valuable input, and that will continue to be a source for people to look at.

Q Are they relevant?

Q Tony, if --

MR. SNOW: I'm sorry, what?

Q Are they relevant then?

MR. SNOW: Not necessarily relevant -- look, number one, it's the law, we're going to abide by it; members of Congress will have to decide how relevant they are. Some of them are -- I mean, as you noted in the first report, some of them not particularly, but it's still -- any inputs you can get to get a fuller appreciation of what's actually going on is helpful.


Q If the troop numbers are based on the reality on the ground, if basically they're based on need, isn't that really the definition of an open-ended commitment, because the reality may not get better, may not get much better. Isn't that really -- doesn't that define an open-ended commitment?

MR. SNOW: If you take a look at the trend lines we have seen, I'm afraid -- I'm happy to report that your hypothesis doesn't hold. What you have seen is a significant degradation not only in the strength, but also in the public view of al Qaeda in Iraq. It has lost what prestige it may have had, and it now has Iraqis openly going after it. So I would contend that what you're trying to do is to set up a scenario that itself flies in the face of the facts that have been accumulating in Iraq over the last six months.

Q If we looked at trend lines -- for the 2000 election we'd have a President Gore. (Laughter.) I mean, trend lines change, and so the fact is, you don't know exactly what the reality on the ground is going to be, and if you're basing the number of troops on that, then it's an open-ended commitment.

MR. SNOW: That is the most -- look, all right, I give up. I give up. --

I'm outta here.

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Travel Day

I'm headed to Des Moines, Iowa, for the Drinking Liberally National Conference, which lasts through the weekend. You'll be in the capable hands of Vernon Lee. I'll try to post some through the wekeend; I've never been to Iowa at the height of Presidential campaign season, so that should be enlightening. Sunday I'll be at the 30th Annual Tom Harkin Steak Fry along with all of the Democratic candidates, so at some point I'll have a full report.


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Just Weights And Measures

Yesterday I managed to get myself to services for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. The familiar rituals and rites of Judaism can be comforting but often lapse into rote recitation. But yesterday, the rabbi's sermon woke me up and put a new spin on the moral code that underpins all humanity, which is at the heart of not only Jewish teaching, but the foundational premises of our country, principles we are rapidly losing over the course of the Bush Presidency.

The rabbi talked about a little-remarked-upon section of the Old Testament. Leviticus is filled with a laundry list of commandments and guidelines for life in Biblical times. One section focuses on "just weights and measures."

35 Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in meteyard, in weight, or in measure. 36 Just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin, shall ye have: I am the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt.

An ephah is a unit of dry measure, roughly equivalent to about 23 liters. The way that business was conducted in this time was that every shopkeeper would have their own ephah, and their own stone, and would parcel out portions of products based on how they filled the ephah or balanced against the stone. It was stressed in the Old Testament that you have ONE ephah, and that it be clean and untainted, so that the measure was the same everywhere anyone traveled. What was commanded was that you never substitute "ephah v'ephah": having one measure for some people, and a different measure for others.

The rabbi made a strong statement paralleling this commandment for just measures with our present policies on immigration. "You deal with the person in front of you, and you have mercy on them and deal with them and provide for them and care for them as you would anyone else." This is not a political accomodation but a moral imperative; to do any different would be to put our thumb on the scale. And then the rabbi paused, and said, "I should stop there but I won't. For I must not be silent about torture." This is also a violation of "ephah v'ephah." He said that locking up suspects indefinitely and coercing their confessions through prohibited tactics is a sin against God, an "abomination," as the Old Testament calls it, and one that was held in the highest seriousness to Hebrew scholars. "We know a lot about that other thing called abomination," he said, a clear reference to the oft-used line by conservative Christians that homosexuality is an "abomination." Unlike sexuality, using separate ephahs for separate people CANNOT be rectified through penance. It is as serious a sin as there is in Judaism. And this is perhaps because it gets at the very heart of the measure of a man. If we cannot treat others the same, no matter what the circumstances, we have no basis to call ourselves moral human beings.

The United States has their own "ephah," called the Constitution. We cannot profess to follow the rule of law while breaking it whenever convenient. We not only damage our credibility, but we do violence to the ancient concept of just weights and measures. For six and a half long years we have seen an Administration throw morality out the window while claiming to have the word of God on their side. They have eliminated the Great Writ of habeas corpus, they have spied on their fellow citizens without warrants, they have incarcerated terror suspects at Guantanamo and secret prisons indefinitely and without charges, they have nullified federal statutes through the questionably legal means of signing statements, and more. And we cannot stand idly by while they use one ephah for their friends and allies, and another ephah for anyone they deem a threat, be it militarily or politically. We must stand up for just measures.

This week, the ACLU of Southern California, in partnership with Calitics, is launching The Campaign for Our Constitution. It is an aggressive effort to restore our Constitution and our civil liberties and reverse the extreme policies of the Bush Administration that have made us less safe and called into question just what freedom we're supposed to be fighting for abroad. Bloggers, constitutional scholars and activists are joining together in the fight to recapture basic constitutional values. There are going to be a lot of action items you can take in the future, but for now I want to give you the schedule for the coming weeks.

The campaign officially kicks off Monday, Sept. 17, with a conference call with contributor and New York Times bestselling author Glenn Greenwald. He will discuss the future of the Constitution with Cenk Uygur, co-host of Air America’s “Young Turks” morning show, and take members’ questions. The conference call is open to anyone who RSVPs through

In the next month, the campaign will hold conference calls on Sept. 20 with Dr. Drew Westen, an Emory University psychologist, Huffington Post contributor, and author of “The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation” and on Oct. 4 with John Dean, former White House counsel for Richard Nixon and author of the new book “Broken Government: How Republican Rule Destroyed the Legislative, Executive and Judicial Branches,” just released by Viking Press. There also will be a free screening and discussion with director Robert Greenwald (“Outfoxed,” “Unconstitutional”) in Hollywood on Sept. 25.

“Southern Californians are itching for a fight,” said ACLU/SC field director Susanne Savage. “The U.S. Constitution is our core issue. We intend to lead a campaign that will expose the sad truths about our government’s policies, inspire people to act and give our electeds the political cover they need to stop legislating out of fear.”

There is no more important issue for our country moving forward than to regain the sense of justice and truth that's been sorely missing for too long. Please visit and see what you can do to help. We can and must return this nation to one where there are just weights and measures.

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Back of the Envelope

They're trying to wiggle out of ending the surge.

“Somebody made a back-of-the-envelope calculation and put a number, 30,000, out there,” a senior administration official told reporters hours before the speech. “As you know, we have tried to make clear to people in this room and outside this room that no one in the administration has ever used that number. And we cautioned against using that number.”

White House officials said the administration does not want to make predictions “beyond what you can do with reliability.” That means that Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan Crocker will come back in March “and give a fresh assessment on how we’re doing on the ground, what they can foresee, because we’re six months further down the road at that point, and what the situation will bear.

30,000 will be shaved to 20,000, and before the end of it there'll be only 8 or 10,000 less troops there than before, and the White Hosue will claim that it's just because rotations are overlapping, and the media will turn away and forget, and we'll have an even bigger presence than before if we're not careful.

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The Iraq 4-Evah Fallout

I didn't watch the President's address but it appears from the reviews in the media that he used the word "success" charitably. As in "Return on Success"! Look, he can declare victory and get out all day long. I won't even notice that there is no victory, as long as the "get out" part happens. But he's trying to snooker the American people into thinking the end of the surge represented some kind of progress rather than... the end of the surge, forced by troop rotations and a desire not to completely destroy the military.

Jack Reed was pretty combative in his response, challenging the President on that point and highlighting the real news in the speech, that the President would keep a permanent force in Iraq well beyond his presidency similar to the US presence in Korea, despite how flawed that parallel is to Iraq. He said that "an endless and unlimited military presence in Iraq is not an option," and also:

"Do we continue to heed the president's call that all Iraq needs is more time, more money and the indefinite presence of 130,000 American troops - the same number as nine months ago?" the senator asked. "Or do we follow what is in our nation's best interest and redefine our mission in Iraq?"

Reed criticized the president for spending $10 billion a month in Iraq while saying that there isn't enough funding for veterans and children's health care.

Democrats were said by Reed to have a quick and responsible strategy to bring troops home, fight terrorism and train the Iraqi army with an emphasis on diplomacy. He said the focus should be on fighting al-Qaeda and other terrorists, not on Iraq.

And John Edwards bought two minutes of airtime to offer a strong rebuke.

Unfortunately, the president is pressing on with the only strategy he has ever had - more time, more troops, and more war.

In January, after years of evidence that military actions cannot force a political solution, the president announced a military surge to force a political solution. In May, he vetoed a plan to end the war, demanded more time to show the surge could work, and Congress gave it to him. Now, after General Petraeus reports the surge has produced no progress toward a political solution, what does the president want? More time for the surge to work, when we know it won't.

Our troops are stuck between a president without a plan to succeed and a Congress without the courage to bring them home.

But Congress must answer to the American people. Tell Congress you know the truth - they have the power to end this war and you expect them to use it. When the president asks for more money and more time, Congress needs to tell him he only gets one choice: a firm timeline for withdrawal.

No timeline, no funding. No excuses.

It is time to end this war.

All of the Presidentials made strong statements of opposition. Idiots like Fred Hiatt are endorsing Bush's stay the course policy, which is a sure sign to know it's a disastrous idea. In fact the White House's own report on progress shows even less than there was in July.

A new White House report on Iraq shows slim progress, moving just one more political and security goal into the satisfactory column: efforts to let former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party to rejoin the political process, a senior administration official told The Associated Press.

The latest conclusions, to be released Friday, largely track a comparable poor assessment in July on 18 benchmarks. The earlier White House report said the Iraqi government had made satisfactory gains toward eight benchmarks, unsatisfactory marks on eight and mixed results on two.

It's beyond time to call for an end to this war. The country is a political, security, and even economic mess. As for what the Democrats are doing, it appears they're trying to pass something, anything, that will get them supermajority support. I'm not sure that's even possible, regardless of the gains they claim to be making (although they should continue to claim them). Jim Webb's "readiness strategy" bill got 56 votes last time. Can it crest to 60? The President will veto it. Can it get 290 in the House? Highly unlikely. And the President already said that he'd call up more reserves and National Guard units in that event. I agree with Michael Cohen to an extent:

Here's the rub: No matter what the Congress passes, the President will veto it. So 60 is not the magic number - 67 is; and there is no way the Dems are going to achieve that goal. So my question is why not keep applying the political pressure? Why not make the GOP defend a policy that has about 30-35% support in public opinion polls?

I understand that Democrats love to pass legislation as a sign that they are getting something done. But if it has no chance of getting past the President's veto pen what exactly is the point? Believe me, if I thought this approach would have any success in changing course in Iraq I'd be all over it, but there doesn't seem to be any real evidence that Bush will acquiesce to legislation that changes our Iraq strategy. The only possibility of change is if Republicans grow some political courage and turn against their President. Letting them off the hook is not the way to accomplish that goal.

At the very least, applying maximum political pressure on some of the Senators up for re-election might actually clear some of these jokers out of the Senate - not only increasing the Democratic majority, but teaching these folks about the nature of representative democracy.

But the right course of action, of course, is nothing. The magic number is 41, the number required to filibuster any bill that doesn't have a timeline. No other bill should get to the President. It's as simple as John Edwards makes it. Stop funding endless war.

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

The "I Don't Remember" Campaign

Seriously, how long is this shtick going to hold?

Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson gave no opinion Thursday when asked about efforts by President Bush and Congress to keep Terri Schiavo alive, saying he does not remember details of the right-to-die case that stirred national debate.

Thompson was asked in an interview for Bay News 9's "Political Connections" program whether he thought Congress' intervention to save the life of the brain-dead woman two years ago was appropriate.

"I can't pass judgment on it. I know that good people were doing what they thought was best," Thompson said. "That's going back in history. I don't remember the details of it."

History? That was TWO YEARS ago. I know that those hazy, sepia-toned days of 2005 are barely recalled at all (does Google even go back that far?), but I think a candidate for President should have a memory that goes a bit beyond that morning's breakfast.

We already have a President with absolutely no sense of history. This candidate has no sense of CURRENT history. Don't ask Freddie about the Petraeus hearings, I mean, that was MONDAY.

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The Professional Liars of the Bush Administration

Mike McConnell was made the Director of National Intelligence because he was such a straight shooter. Here's what happened in the last two days:

• McConnell claimed that the new FISA law, enacted barely more than a month ago, was responsible for breaking up the German terror plot.

• The Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee calls him a liar, saying that the intelligence in the German case was collected several months ago, well before this new law was rammed down the throats of the Democrats and the American people.

• McConnell admits he lied to the Senate.

During the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs hearing on September 10, 2007, I discussed the critical importance to our national security of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), and the recent amendments to FISA made by the Protect America Act. The Protect America Act was urgently needed by our intelligence professionals to close critical gaps in our capabilities and permit them to more readily follow terrorist threats, such as the plot uncovered in Germany. However, information contributing to the recent arrests was not collected under authorities provided by the Protect America Act.

Some straight shooter.

The new, draconian FISA bill has nothing to do with our national security. We disrupted a terrorist attack by collecting foreign intellligence after getting a warrant. This wasn't good enough for the authoritarian ideologues in the White House, and now they're claiming victories where none exist.

Good for Jane Harman.

WASHINGTON (CNN) — A leading congressional Democrat on Wednesday accused the director of national intelligence of undermining the authority of his office by taking political positions.

Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., lashed out at DNI Mike McConnell for taking a political role in recent negotiations with Congress about updating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), the law that regulates foreign intelligence eavesdropping.

"He appeared to be taking orders from the White House, negotiating for the White House," said Harman. The role he played, "whether he intended it or not, appeared to be political," she said.

Hey Democrats, it's time not to lay down like dogs again and give up even more of our civil liberties.

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Rick Noriega on Omar Mora

Lt. Col. Rick Noriega is a combat veteran and State Senator running to defeat John Cornyn in the US Senate race in Texas next year. He's gained quite a following online, having been drafted by the Burnt Orange Report to run. On a day when the President of the United States will call for the consigning of millions of Americans to policing a civil war in Iraq indefinitely, I thought it would be fitting to read Noriega's tribute to Omar Mora, one of the seven soldiers from the 82nd Airborne who wrote an op-ed piece questioning the war's ultimate strategy. Mora died this week, and Noriega's tribute is touching. It's from an email, so no link:

Yesterday, the greater Houston area lost another of its sons in uniform. US Army Sergeant Omar Mora died in a rollover accident while serving in his second tour of duty in Iraq.

Melissa and I extend our deepest condolences to the Mora family, especially his wife and his 5 year old daughter, as well as to the families of the six other soldiers who died in the accident with him. The rising number of casualties strike a chord in even the most hardened among us, and the loss felt as each soldier passes does not diminish. Omar and his brothers in uniform will be missed, and must be remembered.

Omar honored his parents, staying in contact with them regularly. A good son, he let them know he was safe and looking forward to returning home. Omar followed his mother's advice, and honored his God, never losing his faith. And Omar honored his country, not only serving voluntarily and tackling each task he was assigned, but by having the courage to speak out and voice his opinion that our nation's military presence in Iraq was no longer a war of liberation, but an occupation in the midst of a civil war between religious sects.

Omar voiced his concerns in an op-ed to the New York Times on August 19, written along with six other airborne soldiers ... one who died along with him in the accident, another who was shot in the head and is in critical condition.

It is the right of every citizen to speak their mind, as Omar's brother Roger told the Houston Chronicle -- a right that belongs to civilian and soldier alike, regardless of rank. Voicing one's opinion, especially from a soldier, is very difficult when 'management' is wrong. Omar, and his fellow soldiers had a better understanding of the cultural matrix in Iraq than what gets reported by the media, he had walked the walk. He spoke from experience when they said "we operate in a bewildering context of determined enemies and questionable allies, one where the balance of forces on the ground remains entirely unclear."

There is another manifestation of bravery that for those in uniform is a matter of course, but takes on special meaning among civilians who do not have to follow a chain of command ... the courage to listen. It's time our political leaders listen to the insights of Sergeant Mora, his fellow soldiers, and the reality in Iraq reported by every objective analysis from the bi-partisan Iraq Study Group to the recent GAO reports.

Sergeant Mora and his soldiers concluded their editorial by making clear "as committed soldiers, we will see this mission through." He lived up to his word. Now the challenge lies with the rest of us to listen and bring this mismanaged war to an end.

Noriega's Senate website is here.

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Failure on Sentencing Reform a Model for Failure of Legislative Leadership

There will be no sentencing and parole reform coming out of Sacramento this year. Do you know what that means? It means that this man will be in our state's corrections system for the next 12-20 years because military doctors addicted him to opiates.

Sargent Binkley is a high school classmate of ours and West Point graduate who is currently facing twenty-odd years in prison for robbing a Walgreens under California's minimum sentencing laws. He used a gun (unloaded) and robbed the drugstores of only Percocet - no money, harming nobody.

Here's the kicker -- he was addicted to the opiates after smashing his hip while serving abroad in the Army -- the military medical system kept misdiagnosing him, and feeding him more of the painkillers. Add in some serious PTSD (he guarded mass graves in Bosnia from desecration at one point) and he spiraled down.

Sargent turned himself in, has been in a rehab program in county jail for over a year and a half while he awaits sentencing, and by all accounts is doing well. The Santa Clara DA wants to chuck the book at him, and he'll be gone.

Because the leadership in Sacramento - Republicans and Democrats - have no sense of how to legitimately deal with the crisis in our jails, and would rather look like tough guys and gals while putting sick people in prison. Sargent Binkley is a sick man. He needs treatment and aid from a nation which has abandoned him. Because of our mandatory minimum sentencing law, an angry DA is going to make him spend the next 20 years in a crowded cell.

Sargent was sent to Bosnia after his graduation, where he served as a peacekeeper by guarding the mass graves of genocide victims. From there he was sent to Central America, where he participated in drug interdiction operations. At one point he was ordered to open fire on a truck that contained a civilian teenage boy, an act that haunts him to this day. While on duty in Honduras, he fractured his pelvis and dislocated a hip. This injury was consistently misdiagnosed by Army physicians over the next several years, resulting in chronic pain and an addiction to prescription painkillers.

This is a textbook example of where we are today in Sacramento. There's a complete failure of seeing beyond narrow political gamesmanship rather than stepping up to solve problems. Sentencing commissions have worked all over the country. They have succeeded in returning corrections systems to its mission, of rehabilitation and treatment. The current system threatens public safety and needlessly puts sick people behind bars. If you want to know why nothing gets done in Sacramento, look no further.

It's beyond obvious that we're going to have a federal takeover of our prison system. Schwarzenegger tried to prevent any cap on the population but that was blocked on Tuesday. The three-judge panel is going to have to take it away from these mewling children who can't look past their next election to actually do their jobs.

P.S. THE PHARMACIST SARGENT BINKLEY ROBBED is on the record supporting him. You can support him too. And one way is to demand that the politicians we elect actually move the state forward instead of this ugly slow motion. If not, we'll get new politicians.

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Common Ground=Agreeing With Me

Oh my God.

Tim Russert just gave a report that shouldn't shock, but did. He met with the President today in advance of his speech tonight. He's going to push for a long-term strategic relationship with Iraq that would put us in the region permanently. He's likening it to the Korean War (what's the Demilitarized Zone, the whole country?). And then there's this.

The President kept talking about funding common ground with the Democrats. Russert asked the President what common ground means? The President answered, "accepting the Petraeus report."

And then Russert asked about Jim Webb's readiness bill, which would mandate keeping troops in a 1:1 ratio (12 months out, 12 months back) and ensuring that our troops are rested and properly trained. He answered that if that is done to tie his hands on troop numbers, he would CALL UP MORE RESERVES AND NATIONAL GUARD FORCES.

People should be in the streets tonight. This man is out of his mind.

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Democrats Don't Do Enough Grandstanding

Republicans got their marching orders to denounce the MoveOn Petraeus/BetrayUs ad, they came out day after day after day and manufactured a story. People don't pay a lot of attention to ads inside the New York Times, but the Republicans forced it onto the front page. They proposed resolutions of condemnation in the House and the Senate. They yelled loud enough and long enough that the media had to pay attention. They closed Daou's Triangle.

Yesterday John Boehner, who is apparently George Bush's new best friend, appeared on The Situation Room with Wolf and literally said that the death of over 4,000 Americans in Iraq was a "small price."

BLITZER: How much longer will U.S. taxpayers have to shell out $2 billion a week or $3 billion a week as some now are suggesting the cost is going to endure? The loss in blood, the Americans who are killed every month, how much longer do you think this commitment, this military commitment is going to require?

BOEHNER: I think General Petraeus outlined it pretty clearly. We’re making success. We need to firm up those successes. We need to continue our effort here because, Wolf, long term, the investment that we’re making today will be a small price if we’re able to stop al Qaeda here, if we’re able to stabilize the Middle East, it’s not only going to be a small price for the near future, but think about the future for our kids and their kids.

I heard this on Randi Rhodes, a couple bloggers have linked to it. Beyond that? Nothing.

This is the Minority Leader in the House, perhaps the highest-ranking elected Republican under the President, and he's diminishing the sacrifice of those who've died in Iraq, not only in the long term but in the NEAR TERM. In other words, it's worth it to us today to have American men and women dying in the Arabian desert.

And nothing.

Um, Democrats? Hello? Anybody home? If the only elected official fighting back is John Kerry, you know they're out to lunch on this one.

The reason for this disparity, however, doesn't reside just within the media. Recall what happened last fall with Kerry's botched troop joke. In less than a day, virtually every Republican in public life was condemning the remark in every conceivable forum. And Kerry's gaffe was obviously a screwed up gag, whereas there's very good reason to believe that Boehner meant his remark in exactly the way it came across. A very similar Republican message eruption happened with the MoveOn ad blasting General Petraeus the other day. In both cases, the media responded in kind.

By contrast, only a single Dem -- John Kerry -- has stepped forward to condemn Boehner. We hear various Democrats are weighing right now whether to try to make an issue of his comment. But thus far, there's virtual silence. This is astonishing -- particularly because Boehner's remark captures rather nicely what's going on with the war debate. Boehner, like the White House and most Republicans, is willing to sink an untold number of American lives into the pursuit of the fantasy of a stable Middle East and into the illusion that civilization as we know it will come to an end if we don't defeat the ever omnipotent Al Qaeda.

Is there even the slightest doubt that the Repubs would have cranked up the message machine in a big way had a Dem made this "small price" remark? No, there isn't.

Bottom line: It's hard to see what Boehner said as anything but reprehensible. And his remarks could become a big story, if Dems wanted to make it one.

People take their cues from candidates and political parties by their actions. Not fighting back on something despicable like this shows weakness. You can say that Democrats aren't into grandstanding because they don't have such self-righteousness. Well, when voters are faced with self-righteousness versus nothing, they're not going to go with nothing.

This is the same problem I have with Barack Obama, who apparently is more interested in being a pundit than a leader.

Despite the unpopularity of the Iraq war, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama predicted Thursday that Congress won't directly challenge President Bush's plans and will focus instead on putting a ceiling on the number of troops deployed to that country.

Obama, on the second day of a trip to Iowa, conceded that Democrats who control Congress lack the votes to cut off funding for the war or even to tie continued funding to a timetable for withdrawing troops.

The Illinois senator said the most likely scenario would be to grant troops more time at home between deployments, a politically popular step that's difficult to oppose and one that would have a practical impact.

"You have to at least give people a one-year break for every year served in Iraq," Obama said. "At least that would put a ceiling on how many troops could be sent there at any given time.

The cue given to voters is that Democrats don't have the guts to stand up to George Bush or the Republicans, and that they'll have to go in through the back door to get anything done. There's no need for a political candidate to predict what Congress will do, especially when he's IN the Congress. Obama is not interested in leading, just throwing up his hands and saying "What can you do?" How about not funding any request without a withdrawal timeline? Bush has already taken away one of his responses to that - he's about to announce a timeline for (being forced to) ending the surge tonight.

Sometimes you want to give up on this party and start over.

UPDATE: Finally.

"Boehner’s comments yesterday are deplorable and he should apologize immediately," Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean said in a statement emailed to Election Central. "Bohener’s comments show how truly out of touch the Republicans are. The loss of a son or daughter is never a small price to pay, especially for a policy which was initiated by Republicans who misled the nation about why we are there."

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Ignorance Is Bliss

As I expected, the traditional media has simply ignored GOP Rep. Jim Walsh, who has changed his view on Iraq and backed withdrawal. Contrast it with Brian Baird, everybody's new favorite Democrat who has become a media staple because he now supports a continued military presence in the country.

Other things the media has conveniently forgotten: claims that the surge would bring stability to Iraq, the fact that the benchmarks were written by the Iraqi government and the Congress, not the White House, the knowledge that the surge was always going to end next spring because there aren't any troops available to continue it, and the continual proof that an Iraqi oil law is always two days away from being a "done deal."

BAGHDAD, Sept. 12 — A carefully constructed compromise on a draft law governing Iraq’s rich oil fields, agreed to in February after months of arduous talks among Iraqi political groups, appears to have collapsed. The apparent breakdown comes just as Congress and the White House are struggling to find evidence that there is progress toward reconciliation and a functioning government here.

Senior Iraqi negotiators met in Baghdad on Wednesday in an attempt to salvage the original compromise, two participants said. But the meeting came against the backdrop of a public series of increasingly strident disagreements over the draft law that had broken out in recent days between Hussain al-Shahristani, the Iraqi oil minister, and officials of the provincial government in the Kurdish north, where some of the nation’s largest fields are located.

The White House relies on people's short-term memories. Those running the traditional media are among the most reliable.

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L'Shanah Tovah

Light posting the rest of the morning - I've got to see a man about a ram's horn.

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What's John McCain Up To?

I confess that I haven't been writing much about John McCain, mainly because I forgot he was still a Presidential candidate. But he's had a couple newsworthy moments of late. First he participated in a political rally on 9/11 where he said the following:

“The important thing about Sept. 11 is that it not be repeated,” McCain told reporters after the event. “And if we leave Iraq, then it will be repeated.”

This is the tired old "they'll follow us home" argument, propagated mainly by the fact that V-22 Osprey transport planes leave a trail of bread crumbs. They'll know the routes! Even General Petraeus was careful to distance himself from a notion that Iraqi insurgents fighting for their own country will get on boats and start car bombing Milwaukee.

Appearing at McCain's side at that campaign event in Sioux City was Col. Bud Day, who he called a longtime friend. Day appeared in national TV ads for the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Yet McCain still has the nerve to claim that he renounced the Swift Boat ads.

McCain began by calling on the Democrats to repudiate the aspersions cast by on the patriotism and integrity of General Petraeus. McCain reminded us that he repudiated what he considered attacks on the patriotism of Max Cleland and John Kerry.

Repudiated the attacks, but appears at campaign events with those who do the attacking.

Finally, McCain, the surge's biggest cheerleader, ought to get his story straight with the White House. While he continues to call for the capture of Muqtada al-Sadr, the US government is trying to negotiate with him.

There's talk of a great McCain comeback in his core constituency, the media. Somebody ought to tell that to the three more staffers who resigned this week.

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Anbar Is Not Missouri

When the President poked his head into Anbar Province, he spent an hour with Sattar Abu Risha, a Sunni tribal sheik notorious for highway banditry and petty theft, a con man pretty much any way you look at it. He was also held up as the de facto leader of the Administration's brand-new "bottom-up" security strategy.

Sheikh Sattar, whose tribe is notorious for highway banditry, is also building a personal militia, loyal not to the Iraqi government but only to him. Other tribes — even those who want no truck with terrorists — complain they are being forced to kowtow to him. Those who refuse risk being branded as friends of al-Qaeda and tossed in jail, or worse. In Baghdad, government delight at the Anbar Front's impact on al-Qaeda is tempered by concern that the Marines have unwittingly turned Sheikh Sattar into a warlord who will turn the province into his personal fiefdom.

Risha was murdered today.

The most prominent figure in a U.S.-backed revolt of Sunni sheiks against al-Qaida in Iraq was killed Thursday by a bomb planted near his home in Anbar province, 10 days after he met with President George W. Bush, Iraqi and U.S. officials said.

Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha and two of his bodyguards were killed by a roadside bomb planted near the tribal leader's home in Ramadi, Anbar's provincial capital, said Col. Tareq Youssef, supervisor of Anbar police.

Abu Risha was leader of the Anbar Salvation Council, also known as the Anbar Awakening — an alliance of clans backing the Iraqi government and U.S. forces. His death deals a sharp blow to American efforts to recruit tribal leaders to fight terror.

Obviously, al Qaeda will be seen as responsible; in fact, Gen. Petraeus has already said as much. But it appears Risha had a lot of enemies. He was forcing other Sunni tribes into acting under his command, under threat of being branded as al Qaeda. The central government in Baghdad didn't want to see him set up a personal Sunni kingdom out in the desert and resist efforts to unify. Risha granted an interview recently to Al Jazeera which added to those worries.

Enders interviews the famous Sattar Abu Risha in Amman (he claims to be the leader of all Iraq's Sunni tribes, and makes some rather grand promises), and also presents harsh criticism of Abu Risha from his rival Ali Hatem (who denounces Abu Risha as a con man and fraud, as he has repeatedly to various American journalists) [...]

Hatem and the Shia head of Maliki's reconciliation office both warn that the Americans are pouring weapons into the hands of people who will still have those weapons once the immediate AQI problem is gone. Maliki's guy describes it as bringing a "baby crocodile" into the house which will grow into a monster, warning that putting more guns into the hands of "war criminals" responsible for sectarian cleansing guarantees more bloodshed down the road. Hatem warns that once AQI is gone the weapons will be used for intra-tribal fighting. When Abu Risha told Enders (on camera) that "we are on our way to Mosul and Kirkuk, God willing", one wonders whether that should be seen as a promise or a threat (it also lends plausibility to the story making the rounds in the Iraqi press yesterday that during the meeting with Bush Abu Risha offered to extend the services of his tribesmen into the center and south of the country if the US would provide more money and guns.. exactly what many Shia fear).

There is absolutely no reason to automatically state that Risha was a martyr killed by al Qaeda. The Shia and other Sunni tribes in the area feared his taking power and resented his public relations campaign to curry favor with US interests. Add on that he wanted to move into Mosul and Kirkuk, and any interest group in the whole country had a motive.

This demonstrates a few things.

• Anbar Province is still incredibly dangerous, and not the rosy picture we've been given over the last week.

• Competing interests in Iraq will not hold the country together, but drive the country further apart. This isn't a case where you arm both sides and expect a detente to hold; you just ensure more blood.

• Furthermore, dealing with tribal interests leads to tribal warfare, as warlords compete for power. This is completely unsurprising, and why signs point far more to Risha being killed by fellow national insurgent groups and not foreign jihadis.

• General Petraeus made the point, unwittingly, during Congressional hearings that we do not have the power to control events in Iraq. This proves it; the architect of the "Anbar miracle" strategy has now been gotten to a mere few days after meeting with the President of the United States. We are not going to be able to mold the future course of events in Iraq, whether we're in the region with 160,000 troops or 130,000 troops or 50,000 troops or three advisers and a flashlight. The Iraqis will determine the future of Iraq. And we've unleashed a whirlwind that ensures that future will be deadly and tragic.

• If you want to make yourself a marked man in Iraq, take a picture of yourself shaking hands with President Bush and put it in every newspaper in the country.

...wonder if this will get a mention in tonight's speech in between all the happy talk about how Anbar is like Paris in the springtime...

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The Warner Legacy

In Virginia, from John to Mark.

A very popular governor may end up facing the governor he replaced, Jim Gilmore, under whose "leadership" Virginia was mired in debt. Warner turned that around and ended up wildly popular. The thought of Warner getting to re-run the 1997 governor's race after Virginians have seen that his methods were obviously superior gets me giddy. Tom Davis, a faux-moderate Congressman from the Northern VA area, is also looking to get in the race. So Republicans have a bloody primary and Warner gets to run the general election right now.

If you look at the Senate landscape, Virginia, Colorado and New Hampshire look pretty good right now, and Minnesota, Maine and Oregon will be competitive. Nebraska can be a win if we get the right candidate, and Ted Stevens is in a lot of legal trouble in Alaska that could endanger THAT seat. Not to mention an open seat in Idaho, falling approval ratings for Liddy Dole in North Carolina and Pete Domenici in New Mexico and John Cornyn in Texas...

I'd rather be in the Democratic position than the Republican. And once again, Chuck Schumer gets his top recruit to run, which the NRSC has found impossible both this cycle and last. That speaks to long-term trends.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007


CBS News boldly defines their role in 21st century journalism.

Apparently a C&L reader got a similar response with the same signature tag line: "imagine all your info came from a blog."

Based on the ratings, I imagine all CBS' viewers came from one Nielsen household.

That's not entirely fair, the nightly news is still outdrawing Internet news sites, but I fail to understand how these traditional news organizations can still insult their most loyal and news-hungry consumers and expect to get away with it. Probably because they are unused to such trivialities as accountability and answering to the great unwashed. CBS got out of the news business when they hired Katie Couric; now they want to demean their viewers for noticing.

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Democrats, We're Not Idiots

There are a few encouraging signs on the Iraq front. Harry Reid has called the end of the surge bait-and-switch unacceptable, Nancy Pelosi judged it as a path to 10 more years of war, the Democratic National Committee is saying time's up, and even Levin and Reed, authors of the toothless Levin-Reed Amendment, are calling bullshit on the President's so-called plan, which is hope and nothing more.

But what will they DO about it? That's the key question. And two of our Presidentials are aware of where this is leading: a lot of talk without action.


"Some, like Senator Obama, have said we should only 'begin' to end this war now. Senator Obama would withdraw only 1-2 combat brigades a month between now and the end of next year, which for the next several months could essentially mimic the president's own plans to withdraw 30,000 troops by next summer...

"Enough is enough. We don't need to 'begin' to end the war now. What we need to do now is actually end the war. This is about right and wrong. Our young men and women are dying every day for a failed policy. Every member of Congress who believes this war must end, from Senators Obama and Clinton to Senator Warner, has a moral responsibility to use every tool available to them, including a filibuster, to force the president to change course. Congress must stand firm and say: No timetable, no funding. No excuses."


"I was disappointed that Senator Obama's thoughts on Iraq today didn't include a firm, enforceable deadline for redeployment, and dismayed that neither he nor Senator Clinton will give an unequivocal answer on whether they would support a measure if it didn't have such an enforceable deadline.

"It is clear to me - especially after yesterday's testimony - that half-measures aren't going to stop this President or end our involvement in this civil war. I thought it was clear to Senators Obama and Clinton as well after they finally came around to supporting the Feingold-Reid measure and voting against a blank-check supplemental spending bill this spring. If 'enough was enough' then, why isn't it after the bloodiest summer of the war?

"Senator Obama has a gift for soaring rhetoric, but, on this critical issue, we need to know the substance of his position with specificity. Without tying a date certain to funding how does he plan to enforce his call for an immediate redeployment?

Hope is not a plan on either side of this debate. Obama's people and Hillary's people send out staffers to write white papers all they want, but until they respond with legitimate action to end the war instead of hopping up and down like Daffy Duck when they get played on the supplemental again, it's useless. We all know that no legislation need be passed to end this war. Jack Cafferty explained it very simply on The Situation Room today. Without a bill for more funding, either the troops come home or the President commits an impeachable offense by stealing money to hold the troops hostage in Iraq. He explained it very simply. The Speaker of the House can hold up any legislation in the House by herself, and 40 Senators can do the same in the Senate. I truly believe that the Democrats think the American people are so ignorant, and that they have so little faith in their own communication skills, that they couldn't make the same claim.

Markos lays out one plan:

Pass a supplemental bill with a withdrawal deadline. Let the GOP filibuster. If it comes to the point where the troops are being harmed from lack of funding, pass one-month supplementals -- keep forcing Republicans in vote after vote to stand with Bush and his hated war.

If the bigger supplemental, the one with teeth, passes, let Bush veto it. Send it back to him, again and again. All the while, keep the one-month supplementals going to ensure our troops have everything they need.

Tell the American people -- we will support the troops by bringing them home safe and sound to their families, and we will fund them appropriately every step of the way. Ignore what Joe Klein and David Broder say. They don't speak for, or to, the American masses.

THIS is what the American people want. They don't want another blank check to Bush for $200 billion more. They want binding legislation to end this thing. The polls are clear. It's morally justified.

Actually all you have to do is not support any plan. But this one is best matched with political reality.

The political blogosphere grew up watching a series of extreme far-right assaults on democracy, from the Clinton impeachment to the stolen election of 2000 to the hijacking of the tragedy of 9/11 into an unnecessary war of choice. We watched as our elected representatives in Washington did literally nothing to stop these predations, and indeed led the Party on a slow road to marginalization and defeat. This is the line in the sand. They have one last chance to restore the trust of the American people. We do not need an elite establishment that is too cozy with incrementalism and will avoid noth the big changes we need and the fortitude to stop the Republicans. If the Democratic leadershipe in DC will not stand up for the will of the American people we will stand up for it by running primary challenges and overtaking these seats. 2008 is going to be a bad year for incumbents, particularly if the gridlock on Iraq continues. Democrats were given a mandate and they shouldn't be afraid of what pundits will think by acting on it.

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No Go On Olson

I've avoided speculating on who the Fourthbranch Administration would pick to be the next Attorney General, but this seems pretty important. It's clear that the Administration is engaging in business as usual, bypassing Congress completely and bulldogging their choice through by spoiling for a fight. This leads us to the possible nomination of Ted Olson, who was intimately involved in both Bush v. Gore (as the head lawyer in the Supreme Court for the President) and the Arkansas Project, the long-term Scaife-funded attempt to smear President Clinton over Whitewater.

Reports of Mr. Olson’s candidacy suggested that President Bush, in choosing the third attorney general of his presidency, might defy calls from Democrats and choose another Republican who is considered a staunch partisan to lead the Justice Department. Mr. Gonzales is departing after being repeatedly accused of allowing political loyalties to blind him to independently enforcing the law.

“Clearly if you made a list of consensus nominees, Olson wouldn’t appear on that list,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer, the New York Democrat who led the Judiciary Committee effort to remove Mr. Gonzales. “My hope is that the White House would seek some kind of candidate who would be broadly acceptable.”

Indeed, Olson was an architect of the policy to deny Congress documents and witnesses despite subpoena power. He is no less a political figure than Alberto Gonzales was. And that is completely unacceptable.

Harry Reid is on board with this.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid vowed on Wednesday to block former U.S. Solicitor General Theodore Olson from becoming attorney general if President George W. Bush nominates him to replace Alberto Gonzales.

Congressional and administration officials have described Olson as a leading contender for the job as chief U.S. law enforcement officer, but Reid declared, "Ted Olson will not be confirmed" by the Senate.

"He's a partisan, and the last thing we need as an attorney general is a partisan," Reid, a Nevada Democrat, told Reuters in a brief hallway interview on Capitol Hill.

Reid and other Democrats argue that after Gonzales' stormy tenure the Justice Department needs to become less political.

Well, I appreciate the strong, unequivocal statement. If the Democrats manage to hold firm, then nominating Ted Olson would be the worst thing this President to do. It would be a no-brainer for them to step up and show the country that they will not capitulate to the White House's every whim, and that they can stand strong.

Personally, I think they should extract a special prosecutor from this exchange. But at the very least, we need an Attorney General with some independence. We can't trade one of the President's lawyers for another one.

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Lying To Congress Is A Crime

David Petraeus said over and over and over during his two days of testimony that "we aren't arming the Sunnis." It was not a slip of the tongue, there was no equivocation in the statement. He said that "What we have done is applaud when they ask if they can point their guns at al-Qaeda."

Of course, we knew that this was just a distinction without a difference. Spencer Ackerman noted that the NYT reported that the military is paying local tribes $10 per person to maintain security in their areas, and funding those tribes isn't all that different from arming them. And then there's this, from a CNN appearance in June:

[Question] (on camera): Will the assistance or the coordination with these former insurgent groups extend to arming [them] or helping them out in logistics in any sense?

GEN. BENJAMIN MIXON, U.S. REGIONAL COMMANDER IN IRAQ: It certainly will. We have seen this in counterinsurgency operations before, using local nationals, if you will, arming them, forming them into scouts, if you will. And that's the primary role that we want to use them in. They know the territory, they know the enemy.

So somebody is not telling the truth here. Either we're arming security units made up of Sunni tribesman, or we're just applauding. Are we supposed to be so ignorant to believe that Sunni tribes respond to applause like a Pavlovian dog? They are being supported in their efforts. Gen. Mixon says it's with guns.

We all know the danger of arming both sides of a civil war. We are entrenching Sunni tribal leaders in their own region while presiding over the ethnic cleansing in mixed areas like Baghdad. Since practically everyone in Iraq doesn't want a partitioned system, and really are interested in a strong central government on their own terms, civil strife and a battle for power is inevitable, and arming virtually everybody in the region ensures that will be a deadly battle.

General Petraeus came out even at best from his testimony, if not worse. I agree with Kos that the initial reviews have ranged from "cool to hostile." Gen. Petraeus' demurral to answer whether or not the Iraq occupation is making America safer proved his irrelevance to the ultimate debate, unable to answer Cindy Sheehan's key question "for what noble cause," unable and unwilling to understand the larger geopolitical question of how to best secure the nation, and how a myopic focus on Iraq damages that. If he is also found to be lying about the extent to which we are arming former Sunni insurgents who not long ago were killing Americans, and may still be, his credibility will be completely eliminated.

It's also a crime; I believe they call it perjury. For an explanation, contact Gonzales, Alberto at the US Dept. of Justice (until Friday).

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World's Most Intelligent Blog Post (Not Mine)

So much so it instead was on national television.

It's hard to wrap your mind around the fact that all of the architects of this war, who misled the public into believing that Iraq constituted an imminent threat, suffered no consequences for their dissembling and dishonor to the Republic. And still to this day, as the President asks for another one hundred billion dollars to be thrown down the black hole of Iraq, practically nobody has experienced the sting of being held accountable for this monstrous, catastrophic action. Mr. Bush is trying to play a shell game by hitting the reset button and returning us to pre-surge levels by summer 2008, making it seem like the withdrawal has begun just in time for the 2008 elections. He's also trying to hide behind his general, who can't even answer if the fight in Iraq is making America safer.

General Petraeus has a very limited area of concern -- the US military in Iraq -- and his testimony today reflected that.

When one looks at the grander scale, past just the military in Iraq, the picture is dismal, and becoming a critical danger. From the Government Accountability Office report to Congressional Research Service report to the report by General Jones, it is clear that there has been no political reconciliation overall in Iraq or increased security, despite our military's strongest efforts.

From Admiral Fallon to Admiral Mullen, those above General Petraeus in the chain of command are telling the president that this war is hurting our military and our global security. The president has chosen to ignore all of this, in favor of a report based on a false premise with faulty findings, signed by a General with a very limited scope of concern. Call it denial, or call it stubbornness, or whatever you want; it all boils down to the same thing -- this president still refuses to listen to those he needs to listen to, in favor of those who tell him what he wants to hear.

Unwittingly, General Petraeus just confirmed all of that in the exchange above, today.

And so all Mr. Bush has left is to scare people about the consequences of failure, when those consequences have already been met, and it is not at all clear they would ever rage beyond Iraq's national borders. And nobody responsible in this government for that failure has faced the full consequences of their own poor judgment and deliberate lies. Because it's more acceptable to the Wise Old Men of Washington to frighten people than to damage their own credibility.

What, in short, if things turn out to be basically okay for America and for Americans? Well, that'd be good, it seems to me. But it would also call into question a lot of habits of mind, past policies, spending commitments, career paths, sacred cows, delusions of grandeur, etc. That, I think, is why relatively few people in Washington seem interested in entertaining optimistic scenarios about the regional context even though an optimistic scenario seems more likely to me than do frequently discussed worst-case scenarios. The truth of the matter, though, is that there hasn't been a moment when the United States didn't try to micromanage events in the Gulf since, well, since the British Empire was doing it instead. There isn't, however, much in the way of evidence that this kind of policy is actually necessary. It does, however, seem to have succeeded in producing one of the most politically screwed up places on the planet.

There have been inescapable consequences for two men today. Two of the seven NCOs who wrote a laudatory op-ed in the New York Times died in combat in Iraq. On the anniversary of 9/11, two honorable men who were exploited in its aftermath and sent to a foreign land unnecessarily died. Their judgment and bravery and hope will not be rewarded with a cushy think tank job or a government post or even a spot in the White House. They'll come home to a funeral. The architects of this failure should hang their heads low in shame today, acknowledging that they're grinding up sons and daughters to prove their own toughness to themselves. It's the most hollow rationale for war perhaps in human history.

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The Remarkable Fluidity of the GOP Race

I'm not much of a believer in national polls, but clearly Rudy Giuliani's stock is dropping measurably. I'm not sure if it's tied to specific policies, although I'd like to think that, any more than it's tied to the introduction of a fresh candidate that conservatives who are holding out for a hero can now fill with their fantasies of a "real conservative." They've yet to hear the truth on Freddie, but he looks good at 30,000 feet. And that's how national polls are conducted.

Clearly Rudy is not selling the argument that he's the only one in the race who understands the nature of the terrorist threat; one poll shows that he has no advantage on his rivals on the terrorism front. Given that, and the fact that his views on many other topics are completely out of step with the conservative base, I don't see how he can turn it around.

But there isn't a flawless candidate to be found, which is why Newt Gingrich is still rumbling that he might join the race. In fact, there's an argument to be made that the GOP convention can be brokered. Mitt Romney is still leading in Iowa and New Hampshire, albeit by smaller numbers. He's a hardworking candidate and is trying to use the Iowa bounce to the nomination. But his numbers haven't moved an inch in South Carolina, or indeed much of the South, where Thompson runs strong. And in delegate-rich states like California and New York, Giuliani's support hasn't softened. So you can envision a scenario where Romney's bounce isn't quite high enough, Thompson sweeps the South, and Giuliani gets a lot of delegates in large states. Plus John McCain and Mike Huckabee are still lurking back in the pack, and in the non winner-take-all states they'll grab at least some delegates. And I stand by the opinion that Ron Paul will throw a wrench into the New Hampshire race by taking at least 10-15% of the vote.

That's a lot of muddle. And for a party that almost always nominates whoever is at the head of the polls on Labor Day the year before, it's quite astonishing.

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Wherein I Agree With Joe Lieberman

The District of Columbia clearly should have representation in Congress. More people live in DC than some states, and the Congress makes decisions directly impacting DC all the time, and yet they are without representation. Furthermore, 437 representatives over 435 (the bill would add one more district to Utah to balance things out) makes Congress that much more representative of the people (I'd bump it to 500, myself). Failure to allow DC residents a voice is nothing more than airbrushed racism masked by arcane arguments that aren't even Constitutionally valid.

Critics have also raised the constitutional concern that the District is not a state. Article I of the Constitution says that the House of Representatives shall be composed of members elected by the people of "the several states."

However, Georgetown law professor Viet Dinh, President Bush's assistant attorney general for constitutional issues in his first term, detailed the many ways the Supreme Court has approved congressional action equating the District to a state for constitutional purposes. Whether "commerce among the states," federal lawsuits between "citizens of different states," "direct taxes . . . apportioned among the several states" and more, the court has ruled that the word "states" in various constitutional provisions includes our capital city.

We believe that the Framers, who gave Congress these powers, did not intend to deny Congress the right to grant the vote to the District as well.

No taxation without representation. Give DC a vote.

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Presidentials Need To Show Leadership On Iraq

All of our Presidential candidates in the Senate had a chance to question General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker yesterday, and all of them did a decent enough job, though Obama and Clinton used it more as an opportunity to speechify than ask tough questions. Now all of them are on the campaign trail, and they more than anyone else have the opposition megaphone for the Democratic Party. They are running to be the leaders of the free world, so they must lead now, and tell the nation not just what they'll do about Iraq in 18 months should they become President, but what they'll do right now to end the tragic occupation of Iraq.

Chris Dodd has stepped up the most among elected candidates.

He's challenging all other candidates to publicly reject any bill that doesn't enforceable deadlines for withdrawing our combat troops. John Edwards has already announced that there should be no funding without a timeline, which is actually a stronger statement because it speaks to the type of bill that should be put forward, not what the individuals should vote on.

Hillary Clinton today sent a letter to the President (Congress is the only home to inveterate letter-writers these days) asking the President to tell the truth in his speech to the nation tomorrow. She rightly highlights the fact that the surge was planned to end next summer anyway, and so any drop to pre-surge levels is not a troop cut in any way, and she urges a more rapid redeployment. Whether she will do more than send a letter remains to be seen.

Barack Obama is a more interesting case. He's been planning a substantial speech on Iraq all week. He's giving it today in CLINTON, Iowa. And it's apparently very strong.

“Conventional thinking in Washington lined up for war. The pundits judged the political winds to be blowing in the direction of the President. Despite – or perhaps because of how much experience they had in Washington, too many politicians feared looking weak and failed to ask hard questions. Too many took the President at his word instead of reading the intelligence for themselves. Congress gave the President the authority to go to war. Our only opportunity to stop the war was lost.”

“There is something unreal about the debate that’s taking place in Washington… The bar for success is so low that it is almost buried in the sand. The American people have had enough of the shifting spin. We’ve had enough of extended deadlines for benchmarks that go unmet. We’ve had enough of mounting costs in Iraq and missed opportunities around the world. We’ve had enough of a war that should never have been authorized and should never have been waged.”

"I opposed this war from the beginning. I opposed the war in 2002. I opposed it in 2003. I opposed it in 2004. I opposed it in 2005. I opposed it in 2006. I introduced a plan in January to remove all of our combat brigades by next March. And I am here to say that we have to begin to end this war now.”

This is nice rhetoric that I really appreciate in regard to his future judgment. What it says about the current battle in the Senate over Iraq is unclear.

Chris Dodd has the right idea, but the candidates should unite on this issue. The Democratic Party needs to stand up against the just another six months mentality that perpetuates this failed war. I do think that Democratic leaders consider this so-called "troop cut" an insult to their intelligence. I heard Russ Feingold on NPR yesterday say that the mood appeared to be turning among Democrats on Capitol Hill. They have an obligation to pressure the President as much as possible, to get as many concessions as possible in exchange for that funding, and to deny it if there is no meaningful drawdown plan. The Presidentials are the key to that.

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