Has CNN adopted an editorial policy of ignoring altogether, the finding reported last week by McClatchy, that the serial torture of "high value detainees" Khalid Sheikh Muhammad and Abu Zubaydah was done not to prevent another terrorist attack, but rather to try and extract false confessions that would tie Saddam Hussain to 9/11?
John King this morning (Sunday) had on Diane Feinstein, Lindsey Graham and the treacherous Mr. Lieberman to discuss, among other things, the release of the torture memos. Lieberman and Graham were allowed, unimpeded by King, to repeat the meme that "enhanced interrogation techniques" (torture) was used, in Graham's words, "not to commit a crime against individual people, but to save us all from another attack."
He interjected no such thing. In fact, I don't recall hearing the McClatchy story repeated on CNN in any daypart since the news broke last week. Has anyone else noticed what seems like an editorial decision to stick to the official (Bush-Cheney) narrative about torture being necessary to prevent another attack? Perhaps CNN simply doesn't believe McClatchy's sources, or maybe they don't want to open up this line of inquiry against the prior administration for reasons unknown.
(Not that NBC has been exactly aggressive, other than Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow's shows about making this point, either, but CNN seems to be particularly determined to hew to the Cheney line.)
With Obama having traveled to Capitol Hill today to try and sell his omnibus budget, we're witnessing a singular spectacle in American politics. Namely, the same legislators who brought you $1.3 trillion in deficits, who greenlighted any and everything George W. Bush asked for, without a whiff of debate, and who raced to bail out the banks to the tune of $700 million last September, when the Bushies were still in charge ... now, these same people, Democrat and Republican, are demanding caution, incrementalism, and only a little bit of change, from the new president.
What's that all about?
Voiced daily by the cast of the increasingly unwatchable "Morning Joe," the new Incrementalism goes something like this: things are so bad, and the last administration blew it so badly, the only prudent course is to do, not nothing, but very, very little. They want President Obama to "just do the economy." But what does that mean? It means just do tax cuts for the well-to-do and leave the nettlesome stuff, like healthcare, energy and climate change, alone. They want him to stop being so flashy -- get off the TV and stop talking so darned much, especially to Jay Leno (too many viewers, who don't understand policy the way a cable chat show host does!) They worry that he's "overexposed," which is another way of saying they envy his popularity, and have therefore become full-time haters. They want him to "slow it down," do less, do it less ambitiously, and for gods sakes do it later. That, they say, is the "fiscally responsible" thing to do. Of course, these are the same people who couldn't invade Iraq fast enough, at any cost, because we "couldn't afford to wait for a smoking gun to become a mushroom cloud..." who never saw a war supplemental they didn't like, and who over the last eight years have happily raked in more pork than a fat guy at a barbecue stand.
Evan Bayh has become the Democratic face of the Incrementalists (while Kent Conrad apparently is the muscle,) and he is certainly congenial enough -- sort of a Mr. Rogers with better hair. But Bayh's approach is to insist that he and his "Moderate Coalition" fully intend to help pass Obama's agenda ... only very, very slowly...
Here's the real deal. Conservative Democrats and frustrated Republicans alike know that the fundamental truth of presidential elections is that the euphoria they create doesnt' last long. The really ambitious presidents, the ones who want to do more than just redecorate the Oval Office, push their biggest agenda items through in the first 8-10 months, while they have maximum "political capital." (Dubya actually trumpeted his supposed "capital" after winning a second term, which is about 3 years and two months longer than 8-10 months... he isn't a very smart man...) Bill Clinton made the mistake of putting less central, more radioactive issues, like gays in the military, up front, draining his election capital almost immediately. Surely Obama, who knows his history, knows that what big things he doesn't get done before October, he probably won't get done at all.
So here's my question: will Obama give in to the Incrementalists and settle for a so-so presidency, or will he go big, as Chris Matthews has been not-so-subtly telegraphing he'd like to see him do?
My vote is go big, Barack. Otherwise, you wind up Millard Filmore.
... after working most of Tuesday night, members and staff were plainly exhausted, and continued disputes over Obama’s school construction initiative delayed a planned meeting of the formal House-Senate conference on the bill.
“Like any negotiation this involved give-and-take, and if you don’t mind my saying so, that’s an understatement,” said Reid. Down to the end, the school modernization funds were a bone of contention for Sen. Susan Collins (R.-Maine), whose vote is pivotal to the president.
Last Friday, she had successfully eliminated all such money from the Senate bill. Wednesday she agreed to allow $10 billion as part of a $54 billion fiscal stabilization fund but argued that the $10 billion should not be confined to this single dedicated purpose.
After Reid’s announcement, an administration official said the issue was resolved, as did Collins. But House leaders, who had grown resentful of the Maine Republican’s veto power over the bill, remained unhappy—forcing the delay.
So what is Collins' problem?
The constructions funds are especially sensitive in poor, often minority school districts less able to finance new schools. Among the many spending cuts made last week in the Senate, the school construction issue was perhaps the most ideological.
For the Obama camp, it brings back New Deal memories of the Public Works Administration creating construction jobs and building schools across the country. But Collins has always resisted arguing that, in today’s world, it represents an expansion of the federal role in state and local affairs.
Uh-huh... yeah, why help those poor minority kids, when you can just move to Maine, where there are no poor minority kids...
BTW it appears that the Senate has also screwed over urban districts, in favor of the rural folk who don't like Barack Obama anyway, and who from what I can tell, don't want an economic stimulus plan... and of course, they've also screwed over the poor.
... House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D., Cal.) said the tentative deal calls for 65% of the money to be distributed according to the Senate’s more rural formula; 35% as the more urban House wanted.
In the same talks, the House appears to have preserved its higher 65% subsidy to help laid- off workers meet COBRA payments to maintain employer-provided health insurance; the Senate had proposed 50%. But the House agreed in turn to drop its proposal to increase Medicaid coverage to help lower income individuals face the same insurance dilemma and can’t afford to pay even a subsidized COBRA payment.
One issue is that liberals in the House are objecting to the amount of money in the bill for school construction. Sources say the bill includes $6 billion for school construction. Negotiators worked hard to find a way to put the provisions back in after the Senate eliminated all $16 billion in school construction money. But some key House Democrats say that's not enough.
Another problem, sources say, is that some House Democrats say the bill gives states too much discretion on how to use some of the money intended for education. Some Congressman are concerned that governors will not use the money to help poor school districts.
Some Senate Democrats are unhappy, too. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, says there is just not enough money in the bill for school construction.
"Every school in America will get 10,000 bucks if they're lucky," Harkin said, guessing that might be enough to buy two energy efficient windows. "And what's that going to do for them?" he asked. "We're trying to add new heating facilities. We're trying to add renovations. And doing it by formula doesn't do it."
Harkin says he'd ultimately vote for it, but he doesn't like the concessions made to get the support of the moderate Republicans.
WASHINGTON - Moving with lightning speed, key lawmakers announced agreement Wednesday on a $789 billion economic stimulus measure designed to create millions of jobs in a nation reeling from recession. President Barack Obama could sign the bill within days.
"The middle ground we've reached creates more jobs than the original Senate bill and costs less than the original House bill," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, one of the participants in an exhausting and frenzied round of bargaining.
The bill includes help for victims of the recession in the form of unemployment benefits, food stamps, health coverage and more, as well as billions for states that face the prospect of making deep cuts in their own programs.
It also preserves Obama's signature tax cut — a break for millions of lower and middle income taxpayers, including those who don't earn enough to pay income taxes.
However, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was conspicuously absent from the news conference in which members of the Senate announced the agreement, and it was not clear whether she stayed away out of unhappiness or a scheduling conflict.
Officials had said previously that one of the final issues to be settled was money for school modernization, a priority of Pelosi as well as Obama and one on which they differed with Collins and other moderates whose votes will be essential for final Senate approval.
The WaPo reports on the new D.C. Don Corleone, Susan Collins' ... take:
"I'm particularly pleased that we have produced an agreement that has the top line of $789 billion," she said. "It is a fiscally responsible number that reflects our efforts to truly focus this bill on programs and policies and tax relief that will help turn our economy around, create jobs and provide relief to the families of our country."
Collins, one of three Republican senators whose votes for the bill yesterday gave it a filibuster-proof majority, also said that in the final version, "we were able to increase the amount of infrastructure spending," which she called "the most powerful component in this bill to create jobs." She said the bill contains about $150 billion for infrastructure including transportation, environmental, broadband and other projects.
More than 35 percent of the funding goes for tax relief, Collins said.
And a bit more on what they were fighting over:
Before the House-Senate conference, Democratic negotiators convened a final meeting with Senate centrists who had forced steep cuts in the spending portion of the stimulus plan -- which at one point last week had grown to almost $940 billion in new tax cuts and domestic spending.
Even after the Senate scaled down its version to $838 billion, approved 61-37 yesterday, the centrists continued to demand more reductions. Senate aides said the targets were reducing Obama's "Make Work Pay" tax cut of $500 a year for most individuals and $1,000 a year for most families, paring it down to $400 and $800, respectively.
Other reductions were likely in a $15,000 tax credit for all home purchases in the next year as well as a tax credit for the purchase of new cars, both of which were added to the Senate bill after little debate.
House Democrats have objected to wholesale deletions from their original bill during the Senate debate, but they appeared likely to see some return of aid to states that totaled $79 billion in their plan. The Senate reduced that figure to $39 billion. Senators also zeroed out a fund that would finance school construction, another priority for which House Democrats are pushing to restore funds.
The wrangling may be the reason that not just Pelosi, but also the White House, have withheld the kudos from what just might be a moderate mish-mash bill:
... in a bewildering _ if temporary _ turn of events, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the White House withheld immediate expressions of support, and the formal meeting of congressional bargainers who will need to ratify the deal was delayed.
At a news conference in the Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, flanked by moderate senators of both parties, said agreement had been reached on a compromise that "creates more jobs than the original Senate bill and costs less than the original House bill."
“Usually you go to conference and split the difference between the two houses — that may not be the case here,” Pelosi said. “At these conferences, my experience has been that the White House has a seat at the table — that they weigh in.”
Both Obama and Pelosi are hoping to restore significant stimulus spending eliminated by the Senate, especially $21 billion in school construction and technology grants, $10.3 billion in COBRA insurance and $8.6 billion in new Medicaid coverage for the unemployed.
Personally, I blame Harry Reid, who has given virtual veto power over the bill to Susan Collins.
Step one: take out everything House Republicans asked for
The negotiations are moving along on the House-Senate economic revitalization conference bill. Andrea Mitchell just reported that the gist of the changes are to add back in state grants that were stripped in the Senate (and we know the White House wants school construction money restored as well) and cutting back some tax cuts requested by Republican House members who wound up not voting for the bill. As Mitchell put it, the House GOP provisions were "the first to go." After all, Democrats got nothing in exchange for them.
Obama finally fires back (Senate Dems, not so much...)
After taking weeks of crap from Republicans who are busy braying for more tax cuts for the rich, while the country literally falls apart, President Obama finally hit back yesterday, while signing the State children's healthcare bill Dubya vetoed twice. Said Obama:
"In the past two days, I have heard criticisms of this plan that, frankly, echo the very same failed theories that helped lead us into this crisis in the first place," Obama said, before signing a children's health insurance bill.
He took aim at the "notion that tax cuts alone will solve all our problems" and warned against the idea that the economic crisis could be tackled with "half steps, and piecemeal measures and tinkering around the edges."
Obama also faulted unnamed opponents he said believe "that we can ignore the fundamental challenges like the high cost of healthcare and still expect our economy and country to thrive."
"I reject these theories, and by the way so did the American people when they went to the polls in November and voted resoundingly for change," the president said, in his most edgy partisan language in his two weeks in office.
Meanwhile, guess who is emerging as the face of the opposition in the Senate? John "Defeated in the Last Election" McCain. He had this to say about the bill:
"No bill is better than this bill, because it increases the deficit by over a trillion dollars," Senator McCain told CBS News, a day after Democratic leaders sent signals that they did not yet have the votes to pass the measure.
Really? No bill? And who might be blamed for the tanking economy if no bill passes? That's right: Republicans. Oh, and the spineless Democrats, led by the even more spineless Harry Reid, who purportedly form the Congressional majority. As this post by Tommy Christopher over at Political Machine puts it:
I had to chuckle a little when I saw Matt Lewis' similarly titled article (actually, it was less a chuckle, and more of a singular "Ha!"), because I was preparing to blast Senate Democrats for their utter lack of balls. As my trip to the inauguration proved, Democrats are more than willing to dance at them, but completely disinterested in having any of their own.
The Huffington Post reports that Senate Democrats are wandering around, decrying their lack of votes to pass the stimulus plan...
Only they don't need 60 votes. All they need is for Harry Reid to do his job and impose the old fashioned fillibuster rules. Which Republican will be willing to take the bait? And if they don't, the bill would pass on a straight up or down vote. Grow a pair, Dems.
Meanwhile, Obama floats an op-ed, reiterating his opposition to old, stale, failed tax cut policy.
As expected, the Illinois Senate voted to impeach Rod Blagojevich today, with just one 'no' vote from a retiring State House member.
Rep. Milt Patterson (D-Chicago) was the lone vote against impeaching the governor. Patterson, from Chicago's Southwest Side, said after the roll call that he didn't feel it was his job to vote to impeach the governor. He declined comment on whether he approved of the job Blagojevich is doing.
A Blagojevich spokesman said the governor will not resign.
Meanwhile, in the battle of Roland Burris vs Jesse White, it's Jesse by a vote:
The Illinois Supreme Court today rejected Roland Burris' effort to get the signature he needs to complete his appointment to the U.S. Senate.
Burris was seeking to compel Secretary of State Jesse White to sign the certification of appointment naming Burris to the seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. Gov. Rod Blagojevich named Burris to the Senate seat last week, but White refused to sign the required paperwork because the governor has been charged with crimes including trying to sell the Senate seat.
Democratic leaders in the U.S. Senate have cited the lack of White's signature as a reason not to allow Burris into the Senate.
White has maintained that his signature is purely symbolic, and the high court agreed in its refusal to grant the motion.
"Because the secretary of state had no duty ... to sign and affix the state seal to the document issued by the governor appointing Roland Burris to the United States Senate, petitioners are not entitled to an order from this court requiring the secretary to perform those acts," the high court wrote in its opinion. "Under the secretary of state act, the secretary's sole responsibility was to register the appointment, which he did."
Um... somebody had better call Harry... how does this guy manage to lose even when he's not even playing?
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and his sidekick, Dick Durbin would like you to know that Roland Burris doesn't think they're racist. And seeing as how Burris presents himself so well, and really, really loves his family... Harry will do what he always does: capitulate, this time in a self-created mess, and having allowed an embarassing spectacle to take place at what should have been the triumphal opening of the even more Democratic Senate. Just like I told you he would.
By the way, the signature of the Illinois secretary of state is a ceremonial matter and not at all necessary for Burris to be seated. Durbin and Reid's claims to the contrary are a pathetic sideshow, which White, by the way, resents. Oh, and he's black, too, although I'm sure he's extremely proud of his family...
I think I'll score this one, Rod Blagojevich: 2, Harry Reid: 0.
There's an old story that George H.W. Bush told the two sons who hadn't bankrupted a savings and loan, that whichever of them won their respective races for governor -- Jeb (dad's favorite) in Florida, and George (mom's favorite) in Texas, would be the one to run for president. Jeb lost (narrowly) and with the loss went his long held ambition to be president. Now that his big brother has screwed it up royally, you'd think the family ambition had died. Not so with "Poppy," who's still delusional, or loving, enough to believe his baby boy -- the smart one (or the chubby one, depending on your point of view...) -- can be president someday (and perhaps restore the family honor???) But apparently, for Jeb, the thrill of running for election, at least for now, is gone. [Illustration at left by Cox and Forkum]
"I can play a role in helping to reshape the Republican Party's message and focus on 21st century solutions to 21st century problems," Bush told The Associated Press in a phone interview. "Not running does not preclude me from being involved in these things and I will be."
Bush seriously considered a run after Martinez said last month he wouldn't seek a second term. Bush spoke with senators, supporters and family, including his brother, President George W. Bush, and his father, former President George Bush.
He said his decision wasn't based on politics, but on his "personal journey." He said his brother's low approval rating didn't factor into his decision, and that Floridians are familiar with his record as governor.
His personal journey also includes business interests he'd rather not air out during a Senate run. Not to spoil the moment or anything... from the LAT version:
... running would have subjected Bush to scrutiny of his business dealings, such as his service as an advisor to the now-failed Lehman Bros. investment bank. And despite approval ratings above 60%, Bush would have become a national target and would have had to devote time during the campaign to defending the record of his unpopular brother.
Jeb did have some parting advice for his party:
Bush said the GOP should cooperate with the Obama administration in dealing with climate change and reforming the immigration system. And Bush -- a fluent Spanish speaker whose wife is Mexican American -- singled out for criticism those in his party who have used harsh language in their opposition to illegal immigrants.
"The adjectives and adverbs used, the raising of the voice and the anger . . . I think is very harmful politically for the Republican Party," he said. "There's got to be a better way of expressing our views without turning people off."
See? Told ya he's the smart one. Devious... but smart. Now, of course, the Florida Senate race is a total jump ball. Poor Bill McCollum, the Don Quixote of Florida politics, will undoubtedly run, again... as will GOP semi-wunderkind Marco Rubio, the former Speaker of the House, who brings with him the "cute factor," even though he looks like a teenager and wants to drill up the Florida coast. On the Dem side, it's all about state CFO Alex Sink, who hopefully won't drag her hubby Bill McBride along on the campaign trail too often. After that it gets down to Dan Gelber. I know, you're thinking "who?" and possibly, maybe Kendrick Meek, who would have a much better shot at it now that Jeb's out of the way. We shall see...
The cracks in Harry Reid's leaky lifeboat begin to show:
WASHINGTON -- Democratic leaders seeking to bar Roland Burris from the Senate suffered an important crack in support as they prepared to meet with him on Wednesday to begin negotiations over whether he will be able to take the seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the outgoing chairwoman of the committee that judges senators' credentials, urged that the Senate seat Burris, arguing that his appointment by Gov. Rod Blagojevich was lawful regardless of the corruption allegations swirling around the Illinois governor. "If you don't seat Mr. Burris, it has ramifications for gubernatorial appointments all over America," Feinstein told reporters in a Capitol hallway Tuesday. "Mr. Burris is a senior, experienced politician. He has been Attorney General, he has been (Comptroller), and he is very well-respected. I am hopeful that this will be settled."
Whoops! BTW that would be the rules committee that Feinstein is moving on from. And doesn't she want to be governor of California someday? (Her and Meg Whitman... wouldn't that be interesting. The layoff queen leading an economy in crisis...)
The pictures that Harry Reid has got to be dreading just shot across the satellites. Roland Burris, surrounded by aides, security and media, attempted to present his credentials to the secretary of the Senate, and was rejected. He was not allowed into the Senate Chamber after leaving the secretary's office. Afterward, he held a brief press conference in which he and his lawyers promised to pursue their legal options. Here we go.
Harry Reid is using the excuse that the Illinois Secretary of State has not certified Burris' nomination, so the Senate doesn't have to seat him. That may work for today, but guess what? Everyone knows that the real reason Reid, Durbin and company won't accept Burris is that they don't happen to like the guy who nominated him ... that, and Harry and Dick had their own nominees in mind...
News reports suggest Reid may be trying to strike a deal with Burris, in which Burris would promise not to run in 2010. That strikes me as incredible hubris, given that every citizen has a right to run for office. Harry Reid doesn't have the God-given right to determine who the next Senator, or even the candidate in 2010, will be. First off, he isn't smart enough, or tough enough. If this goes to the Supreme Court, my money says Burris wins.
The media hacks are declaring Burris an egomaniac ... as if ALL politicians aren't egomaniacs...
Roland Burris is arriving at the United States Senate as we speak ... or type ... you get the picture. The expectation is that he will be prevented, perhaps bodily, from taking the oath of office as the appointed junior Senator from the state of Illinois. Harry Reid's Waterloo approaches...
On December 19, 1998, U.S. President William Jefferson Clinton was impeached by the United States House of Representatives for allegedly committing perjury, obstructing justice and abusing his presidential powers in the Paula Jones sex harassment case (and the icky, irrelevant Monica Lewinsky scandal.) After the prurient Ken Starr, the Republican House leadership (led by confessed wife thief Bob Livingston, who replaced the disgraced, wife dumping fellatophile Newt Gingrich, and then resigned himself,) and the fatuous press corps had put the country through a full year of bawdy, useless sturm und drang (and about $80 million in wasteful spending,) Clinton was acquitted in the Senate, by a vote of 55-45 on the obstruction charge, and a 50-50 deadlock on the perjury charge, on February 12, 1999. [Photo at left from coolstamps.com]
During the time of impeachment, Bill Clinton continued to exercise the full powers of his office, including operating a joint military campaign with Great Britain that was actively bombing Saddam Hussein's Iraq. The Senate did not move to curb his powers. And Clinton felt no burden to stop making appointments during that awful period in his presidency, including the following additions to his State Department:
On December 28, 1998, he appointed Eric James Boswell to a career diplomatic security post in the Office of Foreign Missions.
On December 29, he made a recess appointment of James F. Dobbins to a career post at the Office of European and Canadian Affairs.
And because the impeachment sideshow was just the end of a full year of fruitless investigation by Starr, and sensational media coverage, it's helpful to look at the entire year of 1998, when Clinton managed to make a number of appointments to the federal bench, all of which were acted on by Congress, even as Clinton was "under a cloud." Those included:
*Vote 190+: June 30, 1999 Keith Ellison Southern District of Texas Gary Feess Central District of California Stephen Underhill District of Connecticut W. Allen Pepper Northern District of Mississippi Karen Schreier District of South Dakota
Vote 262: September 8, 1999 Adalberto Jordan Southern District of Florida Vote 263: September 8, 1999 Marsha J. Pechman Western District of Washington
Vote 307: October 5, 1999 Ronnie L. White Eastern District of Missouri
Vote 308: October 5, 1999 Brian T. Stewart District of Utah
Vote 309: October 5, 1999 Raymond C. Fisher 9th Circuit
And Congress didn't even hint at not seating them. In fact, 1998 marked the high water mark for roll call votes on Clinton judicial nominees - there were 13 such votes on lower court picks, more than any year in the Clinton presidency. And by the end of his second term, Clinton had put more judges on the bench than any president before him: fully 47% of those actively serving on the court.
What's the point? Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is in the midst of a pretty ugly scandal; and he is attracting the gaze of the excitable press corps. But he made his Senate appointment before he has been convicted of anything, and before he has even been impeached. By what grounds, legal or ethical, can Harry Reid (who didn't seem to mind seating Clinton appointees during the president's impeachment, and worse, who had no trouble seating the treacherous Joe Lieberman, gavel and all, deny Blago's appointment of Roland Burris?
The Chicago Sun-Times delivered a swift kick in the giblets to our good friend Harry Reid this past week, reporting that he, like Rahm Emanuel, talked to Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich about a certain vacated Senate seat. However, while Rahm's wish-list was multi-cultural, the one proffered by our friendly neighborhood Mormon from Nevada, was most certainly not, at least according to Blago aides:
Days before Gov. Blagojevich was charged with trying to sell President-elect Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder, top Senate Democrat Harry Reid made it clear who he didn’t want in the post: Jesse Jackson, Jr., Danny Davis or Emil Jones.
Rather, Reid called Blagojevich to argue he appoint either state Veterans Affairs chief Tammy Duckworth or Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, sources told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Sources say the Senate majority leader pushed against Jackson and Davis — both democratic congressmen from Illinois — and against Jones — the Illinois Senate president who is the political godfather of President-elect Barack Obama — because he did not believe the three men were electable. He feared losing the seat to a Republican in a future election.
[Links added by me.] If you click them, you'll discover what Jackson, Davis and Jones have in common, and what Duckworth and Madigan do. (Hint: the latter two are both women...) But wait! There's more:
Blagojevich spokesman Lucio Guerrero confirmed that Reid (D-Nev.) and U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) — the new chief of the Senate Democratic political operation — each called Blagojevich’s campaign office separately Dec. 3. Sources believe that at least portions of the phone conversations are on tape.
Before their contacts, Obama’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel called Blagojevich to tell him to expect to hear from Senate leadership because they were pushing against Jackson and others, according to statements the governor made to others.
The Reid-Menendez calls came a day before a Dec. 4 conversation overheard on government wiretaps where Blagojevich says he “was getting ‘a lot of pressure’ not to appoint Candidate 5.” Candidate 5 is Jackson.
The calls reveal the varying forces directed at Blagojevich as he weighed the appointment.
So it seems that the Blago "Senate seat for sale" controversy is more complicated than first thought. Clearly, the governor was getting pressure from multiple sources, including Harry Reid, to appoint this person and not that one. So now, should we feel comfortable with Reid opposing Attorney General Roland Burris so strenuously, when we now know, or at least we can infer, that he was dead set against the appointment of three African-Americans, on the very Clinton primary-like basis that "they can't win?" Hm. And guess who Dick Durbin, who was on "This Week" this morning spouting off against the Burris appointment, was supporting for the Senate appointment? Duckworth. Go figure. These guys had, shall we say, a preference, which seemed to suggest doubt that a black candidate, or at least that these three black candidates, could win statewide in two years. But guess what? Burris has done just that -- multiple times.
In the end, Harry Reid will likely do what he always does: he will fold, and hinted as much this morning on "Meet the (pliant) Press" with David "Softball" Gregory. He will have to. It will be tough to physically block Burris from entering the vaunted Senate chamber with the likes of David "The John" Vitter swilling around in there, and with that body having brought home the treacherous Joe Lieberman, hoisted on Reid and Durbin's shoulders, and toasted the felonious Ted Stevens on his way out the door. Hell, Burris would probably be the cleanest guy there.
UPDATE: Reid on MTP this morning had the cheek to mention Danny Davis twice, among the list of "fine people," Burris included, who he'd be more than happy to welcome to the Senate, if only Blago would do the right thing and resign. So now, the Senate majority leader has given to himself, and to his partner in this affair, Lisa Madigan supporter Dick Durbin, the power to force a sitting governor to resign, before said governor has been either impeached or convicted of a crime. Really? You might find this clip from Reid's statement in 1998 on the Ken Starr investigation, and the House's impeachment of President Bill Clinton:
No prosecutor of integrity, of principle, of fairness would have tried to bootstrap a sexual affair into something criminal. A truly independent prosecutor would not make deals time after time with organizations established to embarrass the President, cavort with attorneys for Paula Jones, do business with Linda Tripp and others to entrap the President. A fairminded prosecutor would not have leaked salacious details to the press in an effort to force the target to resign from office. And, most fervently, a principled prosecutor would have the common sense and the common decency not to misuse their office to go all out, no holds barred, to `get' that targeted individual out of pride, anger and envy.
Now, it is not Pat Fitzgerald who is trying to force Blago to resign, it's Harry Reid, former trial lawyer. Meanwhile, Reid claimed that Blagojevich's camp is "making it up" and distorting his calls to Blagojevich and his alleged pooh-poohing the three black Illinoisians from the Senate. To defend himself against a Politico article that suggested he didn't want a black replacement for Obama, he pulled out the old "some of my best friends," argument, saying he'd served in the Senate with Carole Mosely Braun and worked hard to get Ron Kirk elected in Texas. Uh-huh...
Democrats poised to commit fundamental error on Burris
It's hard to believe that Rod Blagojevich could be considered a winner, well, ever, after his nasty travails with Patrick Fitzgerald and his handy wiretap, but it appears that Blago has found a way to win one against an admittedly easy target: Harry Reid and the wussified Senate Democrats. Reports that the Dems plan to block Blago's choice to fill Barack Obama's Senate seat, one Roland Burris, by any means necessary, have taken on dramatic proportions:
The Democratic leadership's current contingency plan for next week is reportedly for Burris to be met at the chamber by a doorman telling him he's not allowed inside. If he still tries to go in, armed police officers could intervene to get him away. Burris told the Los Angeles Times that he wants to avoid a scene and have all of this negotiated before he arrives, but it's unlikely that he could negotiate his way towards actually being seated.
And even if Burris does manage to physically enter the chamber, there are still a whole lot of avenues to keep him from being sworn in. The Senate is expected to launch a Rules Committee investigation to determine the legitimacy of his appointment, thus delaying him from being seated. They'll look at everything from the facts of the Blagojevich scandal to Illinois Sec. of State Jesse White's refusal to sign the certificate of appointment. Every undotted "i" and every uncrossed "t" will be scrutinized.
At that point, Burris might just be able to go to court and force the Senate to admit him. Many legal scholars believe he has a genuine case here. But even this could take a while -- which would appear to be the whole point.
Really? Do they really plan to do all of tthat? For real for real??? Because if they do, we will have the intriguing mental picture of the party that used to be the party of segregation sending armed police-like figures to stand at the Senate chamber door, George Wallace-style, to keep a black man from taking up the seat being vacated by the first black president of the United States, who was also the lone black member of the United States Senate, who was nominated to the presidency by the former party of segregation. If the circular irony is killing you, join the club.
UPDATE: Oh my damn, I agree with Pat Buchanan again... except that he completely misses the irony that while the Dems had just one black Senator, the GOP has had none. Nada. And they don't have a single African-American in the House of Representatives, either, and precious few Hispanics. Then again, the GOP isn't on record as being the party of inclusion...
UPDATE 2: A lawyer comments on the almost certain legality of the Burris nomination, as does a professor of election law. The verdict: seat the guy, already. BTW, Burris appeared on PBS' News Hour tonight, and made a very strong case for taking the job. Did I mention that he's the former Illinois attorney general, and ergo, an attorney...?
Damn, I love Chuck Hagel! My favorite Republican lawmaker (and a man who should be running for president) is at it again, calling out the Bushies in no uncertain terms:
"This is one of the most arrogant, incompetent administrations I've ever seen personally or ever read about," the always blunt and frequently quotable Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., said yesterday during an appearance at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
"This administration in my opinion has been as unprepared as any administration I'm aware of," Hagel added, "not only the ones that I have been somehow connected to and that's been every administration -- either I've been in Washington or worked within an administration or Congress or some way dealing with them since the first Nixon administration. I would rate this one the lowest in capacity, in capability, in policy, in consensus -- almost every area, I would give it the lowest grade. ...
"And you know, I think of this administration, what they could have done after 9/11, what was within their grasp. Every poll in the world showed 90% of the world for us. Iran had some of the first spontaneous demonstrations on the streets of Tehran supporting America. They squandered a tremendous amount of opportunity."
Hagel, who toyed with the idea of running for president himself, also said:
He would be open to the idea of either working in a Democratic administration or even running as the vice presidential nominee on a Democratic ticket -- though, he conceded, "I probably won't have to worry about it" because he's unlikely to be asked.
"If there was an area that I thought I could make a difference and influence policy, leadership, outcome ... then I would entertain" those possibilities, Hagel said. ...
Don't count on not being asked, Chuck. You're one of the few clear-thinking, independent-minded Republicans in Congress, and one of only a handful of people who truly embody the term "Senator" -- quite the opposite of the kow-towing, royal boot-licking Joe Liebermans around you. If you ran for president, I would seriously consider crossing political lines to support you.
The full transcript of Hagel's remarks can be found on the CFR website.
The Senate votes 50-48 to reject a Thad Cochran (Miss) attempt to stop Congress from setting a timeline for withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. Good looking out, Chuck Hagel and Gordon Smith. Lieberman: I literally cannot wait for your next reelection fight. Now, the House and Senate versions go to conference, and Bush will whip out his veto pen. But if the Dems play their cards right, they could back him into a corner where it's take it or leave the troops broke. Check.
Obama to Edwards: "aren't you cute" ... I'm guessing Edwards' reply would probably rhyme with "bite me" ... oh, okay, it WOULD BE "bit me..."
Meanwhile, Barack and Hillary get a bit hung up on the issue of the morality of gay lifestyles.
And as if it wasn't enough for Democrats to have to watch out for the real Fox News and Bill O'Reilly, now, apparently, they have to beware of the fake one as well...
The Senate's Republican minority beats back yet another attempt to craft an Iraq pullout plan, thanks to the Bush-backing votes of Democratoc Sematprs Nelson (Nebraska) and Pryor (Arkansas) and the perennial Bushophile, Joe Lieberman. On an up note, Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon voted with the Dems. Maybe we could do a trade -- give us Smith and hand "Shuck 'n Joe" over to the GOP.
Meanwhile, the Senate, by an 86-16 vote, passed a resolution pledging not to cut off funds for the war. Only 16 Senators voted against the resolution.
Clearly, despite the big win last November, the Dems simply do not have the votes to stop this surge, let alone the war. The answer: get rid of more Republican Senators next election day (a Lieberman recall wouldn't hurt, either...)
Senate Republicans (Joe Lieberman) blocked Democratic attempts to bring the House resolution opposing the president's Iraq surge to the floor today, choosing to continue watching George W. Bush's back, rather than the backs of American troops. AP calls it gridlock ... I call it shilling. The vote was 56-34, four short of the 60 needed to end debate and bring the resolution to the floor. Seven Republicans broke party lines to vote for cloture: John Warner of Virginia, Chuck Hagel, Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Arlen Specter, Gordon Smith of Oregon and Norm Coleman. As for the rest, including that weasel John McCain, who couldn't be bothered to show up and vote, and the Senate's biggest villain in my opinion, neocon Joe Lieberman, today, I'm christening them the Rubber Stamp Republicans, also to be known as Dubya's court jesters.
Meanwhile, the plot on which Iraqi leaders are "with us" and which are "with the terrorists" thickens:
US and Iraqi forces in Baghdad have arrested the deputy health minister during a raid at his offices. The minister, Hakim al-Zamili, is a key member of the political group led by radical Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr.
He is accused of aiding Shia militiamen and using ambulances to move weapons, a ministry source told the BBC.
Back in Washington, Chuck Hagel, John Warner and five other GOP Senators who earlier this week voted with their party leadership to stop debate over a non-binding resolution, only to see debate on all resolutions stop entirely, have now jumped ship. And Iran is issuing threats.
In a letter distributed yesterday evening to Senate leaders, John W. Warner (Va.), Chuck Hagel (Neb.) and five other GOP supporters of the resolution threatened to attach their measure to any bill sent to the floor in the coming weeks. Noting that the war is the "most pressing issue of our time," the senators declared: "We will explore all of our options under the Senate procedures and practices to ensure a full and open debate."
The letter sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was not more specific about the Republican senators' strategy for reviving the war debate. But under the chamber's rules, senators have wide latitude in slowing the progress of legislation and in offering amendments, regardless of whether they have anything to do with the bill.
The letter began circulating yesterday evening after it became apparent the Senate was deadlocked over the war resolution and Reid was prepared to move on to other matters. McConnell and many in his party have aggressively defended their decision to block the bipartisan resolution as an issue of fairness because Democrats would not agree to GOP procedural demands.
But some Republicans were uneasy about appearing to have stymied the debate. The letter appeared so suddenly that, although it was addressed to Reid, the Democratic leader had not seen his copy before Warner read the text on the Senate floor.
"Monday's procedural vote should not be interpreted as any lessening of our resolve to go forward advocating the concepts" of the resolution, the letter said. "The current stalemate is unacceptable to us and to the people of this country."
And as for the argument that such a resolution, if passed, would harm troop morale, let's hear from General Peter Pace:
"There's no doubt in my mind that the dialogue here in Washington strengthens our democracy. Period," Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before the House Armed Services Committee. He added that potential enemies may take some comfort from the rancor but said they "don't have a clue how democracy works."
And neither, apparently, do Mitch McConnell and the other Republicans who are continuing to provide a human shield for the president on Iraq.
This morning on the radio show, James T (our host) came up with a modest, but great, proposal. If the Republicans (and Joe Lieberman...) insist on backing Bush to the hilt on his war escalation, Democrats should call their bluff, step aside, and let them have it: the votes, the escalation, the whole kit and kaboodle. But then, we should begin keeping track, both of who stands where on Iraq, and on how many lives are lost, how much money is spent, and how many American troops are maimed, as this policy grinds on. And then we should hold the GOPer lackeys (Lieberman included), personally accountable for every single limb, life and dollar.
Let's start counting from January 10, when Bush began shipping his escalation troops into Baghdad.
Between January 10 and today (February 6), here's the count:
U.S. troop deaths (since January 10) -- 88
U.S. troops injured -- 294
U.S. $ spent (based on CBO estimates of approximately $195 million per day, times 28 days) -- $5.46 billion.
And here are the Republicans to watch, based on their cloture vote:
Lamar Alexander, Wayne Allard, Robert Bennett, Kit Bond, Sam Brownback, Jim Bunning, Richard Burr, Saxby Chambliss, Tom Coburn, Thad Cochran, Bob Corker, John Cornyn, Larry Craig, Michael Crapo, Jim DeMint, Elizabeth Dole, Pete Domenici, John Ensign, Michael Enzi, Lindsey Graham, Charles Grassley, Judd Gregg, Chuck Hagel, Orrin Hatch, Kay Bailey Hutchison, James Inhofe, Johnny Isakson, Jon Kyl, Trent Lott, Richard Lugar, Mitch McConnell, Lisa Murkowski, Pat Roberts, Jeff Sessions, Richard Shelby, Gordon Smith, Olympia Snowe, Arlen Specter, Ted Stevens, John Sununu, Craig Thomas, John Thune, David Vitter, George Voinovich, John Warner
oh, and Joe Lieberman (henceforth to be known, as the Lorax...) I'm personally giving Chuck Hagel and John Warner a pass on the cloture vote, because Hagel and Warner have put themselves on the line to sponsor resolutions opposing the surge. Gordon Smith is also OK by me, because he's already put himself on record. (BTW, did you notice that Harry Reid voted no, too???? What's up with that???) ...
Courtesy of TPM I've bolded the GOP Senators who are up for reelection in 2008 and a handy guide to where they stand on the escalation. I've bolded the names in the list above. Feel free to email your Senator daily if you'd like to give them an update. Norm Coleman and Susan Collins are inoculating themselves, Collins I think because she lives in a blue, anti-war state (Maine) and she wouldn't want to become the latest former Blue state Republican (to be fair, she has voiced deep skepticism on the escalation) ... and Coleman, I think, because he's facing a reelection challenge in 2008 (from Al Franken.) Sorry to be so cynical ... Unfortunately, there's nothing that Connecticut voters can do about Lieberman until 2012. They made their bed, now they've got to let Joe lie in it with George W. Bush.
Meanwhile, Mel Martinez, from my state, didn't vote at all. Neither did Mary Landrieu, who is always teetering on the brink of extinction in the red state of Louisiana, or Senator Johnson of South Dakota, who's ill, and ... interestingly enough, neither did that brave maverick, John McCain... Hm...
Wake up and smell the politics. Are these GOPers really down for the escalation, or are they worried about getting reelected in red states where Bush love still exists, even if in smaller -- though still less vociferous -- numbers? Witness Judd Gregg, who is the author of the most toxic of the GOP alternative resolutions, which supports Bush's policy. He is on record in his home state of voicing "deep frustration" over the Iraq war, and yet he's pushing for a vote pinning Democrats down on continuing to fund it. Political courage, anyone? Anyone???
Meanwhile, the total price tag for Bush's war could eventually top $2 trillion, when you factor in healthcare costs for veterans.
Senator Chuck Hagel went OFF yesterday during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on a non-binding resolution on Bush's Iraq escalation strategy. Hagel was the only Republican on the panel to vote the resolution through to the full Senate, and he's not feeling his colleague's duplicity on the issue. Of the nine Republicans, I count six, including Hagel, who have expressed serious doubts about the Bush plan, and yet none would go on the record. Shameful. Watch Hagel's plow-down of his weak-kneed colleagues for yourself:
Do you wish you’d voted differently in October of 2002, when Congress had a chance to authorize or not authorize the invasion? Have you read that resolution?
I have. It’s not quite the way it’s been framed by a lot of people, as a resolution to go to war. That’s not quite what the resolution said.
It said, “to authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against Iraq.” In the event that all other options failed. So it’s not as simple as “I voted for the war.” That wasn’t the resolution.
But there was a decision whether to grant the president that authority or not. Exactly right. And if you recall, the White House had announced that they didn’t need that authority from Congress.
Which they seem to say about a lot of things. That’s right. Mr. [Alberto] Gonzales was the president’s counsel at that time, and he wrote a memo to the president saying, “You have all the powers that you need.” So I called Andy Card, who was then the chief of staff, and said, “Andy, I don’t think you have a shred of ground to stand on, but more to the point, why would a president seriously consider taking a nation to war without Congress being with him?” So a few of us—Joe Biden, Dick Lugar, and I—were invited into discussions with the White House.
It’s incredible that you had to ask for that. It is incredible. That’s what I said to Andy Card. Said it to Powell, said it to Rice. Might have even said it to the president. And finally, begrudgingly, they sent over a resolution for Congress to approve. Well, it was astounding. It said they could go anywhere in the region.
It wasn’t specific to Iraq? Oh no. It said the whole region! They could go into Greece or anywhere. I mean, is Central Asia in the region? I suppose! Sure as hell it was clear they meant the whole Middle East. It was anything they wanted. It was literally anything. No boundaries. No restrictions.
They expected Congress to let them start a war anywhere they wanted in the Middle East? Yes. Yes. Wide open. We had to rewrite it. Joe Biden, Dick Lugar, and I stripped the language that the White House had set up, and put our language in it.
But that should also have triggered alarm bells about what they really wanted to do. Well, it did. I’m not defending our votes; I’m just giving a little history of how this happened. You have to remember the context of when that resolution was passed. This was about a year after September 11. The country was still truly off balance. So the president comes out talking about “weapons of mass destruction” that this “madman dictator” Saddam Hussein has, and “our intelligence shows he’s got it,” and “he’s capable of weaponizing,” and so on.
And producing a National Intelligence Estimate that turned out to be doctored. Oh yeah. All this stuff was doctored. Absolutely. But that’s what we were presented with. And I’m not dismissing our responsibility to look into the thing, because there were senators who said, “I don’t believe them.” But I was told by the president—we all were—that he would exhaust every diplomatic effort.
You were told that personally? I remember specifically bringing it up with the president. I said, “This has to be like your father did it in 1991. We had every Middle East nation except one with us in 1991. The United Nations was with us.”
Did he give you that assurance, that he would do the same thing as his father? Yep. He said, “That’s what we’re going to do.” But the more I look back on this, the more I think that the administration knew there was some real hard question whether he really had any WMD. In January of 2003, if you recall, the inspectors at the IAEA, who knew more about what Saddam had than anybody, said, “Give us two more months before you go to war, because we don’t think there’s anything in there.” They were the only ones in Iraq. We hadn’t been in there. We didn’t know what the hell was in there. And the president wouldn’t do it! So to answer your question—Do I regret that vote? Yes, I do regret that vote.
I've said this before, but if this man does run for president, and if by some miracle he were to make it to the general, I would have serious thoughts about voting for a Republican for the first time ever.
Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, is the REAL maverick in the Republican Party. I haven't caught the CSPAN replay yet, but CNN just played back a portion of Hagel's grilling of Condi Rice at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, and he told Condi to her face that in his opinion, Bush's speech last night was "dangerous," and that his escalation strategy, if implemented, would constititute "the most dangerous foreign policy blunder since Vietnam." Damn. Here's the link.
Apparently, Senator Voinovich of Ohio, who has been known to lose spine from time to time, is with Hagel.
A majority of Americans oppose sending additional troops to Iraq as outlined by President Bush in his nationally televised address Wednesday night, and just one-in-three Americans said the plan for more troops and a stepped up combat efforts by Iraqi forces make victory there more likely, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
The findings of the survey, conducted after Bush's primetime speech, represent an initial rebuke to the White House goal of generating additional public support for the mission in Iraq. The poll found that 61 percent of Americans oppose sending more than 20,000 additional troops to Iraq, with 52 percent saying they strongly oppose the plan. Just 36 percent said they back the president's new proposal.
Bush fared better among the 42 percent of Americans who actually watched the speech. Among that group, 47 percent support sending more troops, while 51 percent oppose. But the President's supporters were disproportionately represented among the audience. ...
...The poll found sharp partisan divisions on nearly every question relating to Iraq, which grows out of the political polarization that has occurred during Bush's presidency. On the question of whether congressional Democrats should cut off funds for additional forces, 83 percent of Democrats said yes and 81 percent of Republicans said no. Among independents, 51 percent support a cutoff in funding while 47 percent oppose it.
Democrats almost universally oppose Bush's plan. In the poll, 94 percent of Democrats said they were against sending more troops. Republicans were far more supportive, with 73 percent supporting Bush's plan. But nearly a quarter of Republicans in the poll said they opposed more troops, and those signs of dissent with the president's party are being echoed by some Republican lawmakers.
Although majorities of men and women oppose sending more troops to Iraq, there is a gender gap on that issue. Fifty-six percent of men oppose the president's plan while 66 percent of women oppose it. Women also are more likely to support efforts in Congress to cut off funding, with 57 percent saying they would back Democratic moves to do so compared to 48 percent of men.
Sixty percent of Americans between ages 18 and 39 support cutting off funding, compared to 51 percent of those between 40 and 59 and 43 percent of Americans over age 60.
This Washington Post-ABC News poll was conducted by telephone Jan. 10, among a random national sample of 502 adults. The results have a 4.5-point error margin.