Friday, September 30, 2005
Take a good look at Nicholas V. Lampson. You're going to see and hear a lot more of him over the next 13 months. And why is he smiling? Because this is his week. The indictment of House Leader Tom Delay (TX) has created a monumental opportunity for Lampson, the Texas Democrat who's challenging Delay for the 22nd District seat in next year's midterm election. Lampson is no political novice. He has eight years of Congressional experience having served the 9th District, but lost his '04 re-election bid to Republican Ted Poe under Delay's redistricting scam. He'd like nothing more than to get payback, and we'd love to see him do it. And we'll do all we can to help.
Granted, at this stage, Lampson's got an uphill climb, but 13 months is an eternity in politics. Just ask former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) or former Illinois Rep. Dan Rostenkowski. Both were Congressional high flyers who ran aground and crashed hard. Gingrich was accused of unethical behavior over misuse of tax-exempt foundations for political purposes. Rostenkowski was hit with corruption and mail-fraud charges, was indicted, and served a 17-month sentence. With Tom Delay starting to face a similar fate, the door is wide open for Lampson.
The Republicans have held the controls now for over a decade, and that's a little too long. This grip on power is starting to unravel. Delay is damaged goods regardless of which way the case goes. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (TN) is on the SEC and Justice Department hotseat over questionable stock trades in family owned HCA Corp. GOP lobbyist, loyalist and fundraiser Jack Abramoff's been indicted on wire fraud and conspiracy charges. White House aide David H. Safavian, was charged with obstruction last week. Ohio Gov. Bob Taft (R) was indicted last month on criminal corruption charges. And President Bush's poll numbers, as well as Congress's approval ratings, have been receding faster than Karl Rove's hairline. It doesn't take a political genius to realize that the Democrats have a terrific opportunity to repeat what the GOP did in 1994 and kick an unpopular party out of power.
I wrote earlier this week about the race in PA between Sen. Rick Santorum and challenger Bob Casey Jr., who's held onto a commanding 15-point lead over the incumbent. With Lampson, the fight will be harder, but we're sure Tom Delay and his political chicanery will help propel the Democrat. But that's not enough. Lampson needs our support. He needs our time and our money. If we are to truly defeat these rabid ideologues we must together wage a state-by-state battle. Volunteer. Get involved in these critical campaigns. Go to Casey's and Lampson's websites and donate what you can. Let's strike while the proverbial iron is on fire. Andy
Thursday, September 29, 2005
House Majority Leader Tom Delay (TX) has been indicted on conspiracy charges. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (TN) is under SEC investigation for insider trading. Can Bush's chief advisor Karl Rove be next? Might this photo be a reality sometime soon? Rove, the scandal-ridden Republican operative, is a key figure in the Fed's grand jury investigation of the identity leak of former CIA agent Valerie Plame. The probe, led by special prosecutor Pat Fitzgerald, is scheduled to wrap up in a matter of weeks. With the heat on Bush over Iraq, Katrina and the economy, and with the Delay and Frist bombshells the talk of Washington, the GOP is finding itself increasingly on the political hotseat these days. There's a mounting chorus of disapproval of our leadership among Americans, and this is spilling over to Republicans as well. With its eye trained on next year's mid-term elections, the GOP is trying to take the high road in order to survive and maintain power. The climate in Washington lately seems to be gearing more towards investigation, prosecution and punishment. Polls are plummeting, and heads are starting to roll in ways unimaginable a year ago. The Bushies' unprecedented stronghold on power is crumbling as we speak. All of this does not bode very well for Rove. Just a few short months ago a perjury indictment, or worse, a criminal charge related to his treasonous leak, might have caused quite a stir and stood out like a sore thumb. But in view of the Delay and Frist scandals, along with Bush's pathetic approval ratings, it just very well may be viewed as another case of Washington cleansing itself of another piece of trash. Momentum is certainly not on Rove's side. Andy
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Embattled House Leader Tom Delay (TX) has been indicted on one-count of criminal conspiracy related to his campaign finance schemes. California Rep. David Dreier will step in to temporarily replace Delay in his leadership post. This is a wonderful day for America, as justice is being served. And, the indictment also serves as the official beginning of the end for the Republican Party's political control as we know it today. The 'party' is over, in more ways than one. Andy
The November '06 Senate and Congressional mid-term elections will be upon us in a heartbeat. While many including myself have been discussing the '08 presidential election with great excitement and passion, the first order of business is to defeat dangerous, ideological brutes like Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), Rep. Tom Delay (R-TX) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Ok). Santorum in particular is extremely vulnerable. He's being challenged by state Treasurer Bob Casey Jr., a pro-death penalty, pro-life, anti-gun control Democrat who's maintained a steady 13-15 point lead over Santorum in the polls. Another, less likely choice for the Democrats in the primary is Dr. Chuck Pennacchio , a solid progressive who's been active in the party and who, as a history professor, has a strong command of both national and international issues. But Casey's the man to beat. And don't let his stand on abortion scare you. Let's remember that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (NV) is also a pro-lifer, and has not let this personal view (key point here) influence his voting. Neither will Casey. As a Democrat, he is sure to support the overall party platform, and will almost certainly vote against extremist judges just as Reid has with John Roberts Jr. His personal views on abortion pose no threat to women and women's rights.
Casey shares most standard Democratic views on the key issues. He's pro-labor, pro-environment and anti-deficit, and has fought hard for the middle class, seniors, children, veterans, improved healthcare, childcare, public education. He's the right guy at the right time.
Getting rid of Santorum is a dream for Democrats and will be in the country's best interest. He's been front and center in dividing the nation along religious and party lines. His recent book, "It Takes a Family: Conservatism and the Common Good,", is chock full of derisive attacks on women, mothers, the poor, teachers, the media, liberals and anyone else he can think of who disagrees with his extremely myopic and ultra-conservative views. In the past, he's also compared homosexuality with pedophilia and bestiality.
To our Pennsylvania readers out there, let's do whatever we can to defeat Rick Santorum. He can beat beaten. Visit Casey's website and donate your time and money. To our readers across the country, Casey will gladly accept your dollars as well. Democrats everywhere must recognize the extreme vulnerability of our inept Republican leaders. Our day of reckoning is here. Together, state-by-state, we can change America. Andy
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
President Bush, the most vacationing president in U.S. history, is telling Americans to drive less and reduce vacation travel in order to conserve gasoline and help the country avert an economic downturn. Bush wants to see sacrifice for the good of the nation. "We can all pitch in," he said, and is asking citizens to avoid going "on a trip that's not essential." Once again, our president demonstrates just how insensitive and out of touch he is with mainstream America. Apparently it's ok for Bush to give $37 billion in tax breaks to the rich; to push for the elimination of the estate tax, which'll cost $60 billion per year starting 2010; to recklessly increase government spending and rack up historically high debt (currently $353 billion and projected at $520 billion by '08); to spend $25 billion on wasteful partisan pork in the new transportation/highway bill; to be gauged billions through big fat no-bid hurricane clean-up and reconstruction contracts from his/Cheney's cronies at companies like Halliburton, Bechtel and Shaw Group. None of that to Bush, of course, will negatively impact the economy. But the little guy should tell his kids that they won't be seeing Mickey Mouse this year because President Bush wants them to conserve gas and prop up the economy. I wonder, if under our new collective sacrificing, if Bush plans to pump less fuel into Air Force One and spend less time at the Crawford ranch. Andy
Friday, September 23, 2005
Yesterday I wrote about Al Gore possibly running for president in 2008. That touched quite a nerve. From the many comments I received, it's quite clear that Democrats are salivating at the prospect of a candidate like Gore rising up from the ashes to lead the country out of its current state of chaos and misery. Al Gore, whom many consider the president-in-exile, the true winner who got robbed of the White House in 2000 by Karl Rove, Jeb Bush and the GOP terror machine, is quickly becoming the underground frontrunner. And history is on his side...big time.
We've often heard young people, college students, lament that their parents had the turbulent 1960's to ignite their passion and take them to the streets in protest. That the 60's gave young people a sense of purpose and something to fight for. War, civil rights, political turmoil...sound familiar? Well guess what? The 60's are back, and people are taking to the streets once again.
The U.S. is embroiled in an extremely unpopular war in Iraq, just as we were in Vietnam. Two-thirds of the country now want an immediate pullout. Today in Washington there's a massive anti-war rally on the Mall. Demonstrations are taking place all over the country as well. Cindy Sheehan's become the face of the war, and the lightening rod for protest. People of all ages and party affiliation are part of this massive wave of discontent. This includes Republicans in the Senate and the House, with their eyes carefully trained on next year's mid-term elections, who are also demanding an exit strategy. And a growing chorus of Republican commentators and columnists including Bill O'Reilly, Michelle Malkin and Robert Novak have been highly critical of the president and his inept administration.
Just like the 60's, our country is embroiled in massive unrest. Besides Iraq, there's the chilling realization thanks to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita that we are woefully unprepared for natural disaster and major acts of terrorism. Then there's the struggling economy, with it's historically high national debt and gas and oil prices. Our leaders have been lying to us, and they've failed us miserably. Americans want change, and that's precisely why Al Gore could very well be our next president.
We've reached a critical turning point in America, and the Bushies know it. Their approval ratings are in the toilet, and the administration's a sinking ship. Quite simply, they're done. The Democrats can score decisive victories in '06 and '08 if they play their cards right. Back in 2000, to many, Al Gore was an uptight, wonkish bore. But the events of the last 5 1/2 years have greatly enhanced Gore's image. What Al Gore represents today is honesty, integrity and a continuance of the peace and prosperity of the 1990's that he and Bill Clinton masterminded. Bush may still be the guy some want to have a beer with, but Gore's the guy you want running the country.
So why is the prospect of an Al Gore candidacy so much more exciting, say, than Sen. Hillary Clinton's? Because Al Gore can win. Hillary may excite some on the Left, but she cannot and will not go beyond that core base. To the contrary, Gore will unite Democrats and Independents, and will appeal to the legions of moderate Republicans who supported Clinton/Gore back in '92 and '96. Imagine him on a ticket with someone like Fmr. Gen. Wesley Clark or Sen. Barack Obama (IL), together with the campaign dream-team of James Carville, Paul Begala and George Stephanopoulos, and it's easy to understand the excitement this candidacy generates. It's the 60's all over again, and Gore's the New Nixon. Andy
Is former vice-president Al Gore gearing up for another run at the White House? Rumors are swirling in Washington that Gore plans to take on New York's Sen. Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination in 2008. He's recently launched his new television network, Current, and is back on the speaking circuit. In fact, he'll be the keynote in D.C. next week at a huge Democratic National Committee fundraiser.
He's got a real shot here folks. For one thing, he's been against the Iraq war from the get-go. Hillary Clinton voted for it, as did Senators Joe Biden (D-DE) and former 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry (D-MA). All three will surely vie for the '08 nomination. The latest polls show that a majority of Americans want the U.S. to bring home the troops now. This growing anti-war fervor will be a major factor in the next primary election, and can bode very well for the former veep.
Additionally, Gore is Mr. Environment, and has been preaching the global warming gospel for 20+ years. Most recently he preached to the proverbial choir at the World Environment Day conference in San Francisco, a five-day U.N. gathering to promote pro-environment practices. A growing chorus of scientists believe the recent frequency of strong Category 4 and 5 hurricanes such as Katrina and Rita may be linked to global warming. They believe that rising global temperatures warm the oceans, which in turn fuel hurricanes and intensify their power. On this issue, Gore just might have a groundswell of very interested listeners for a change.
Another strong factor is his underdog cult-hero status among many Democrats stemming from the highly controversial 2000 election against Bush. Let's not forget that he won the popular vote and, to many of us, the election (does anybody really still think Karl Rove and Jeb Bush didn't rig Florida?!). As a result, he could be dubbed The Comeback Kid and ride the momentum that goes with it. Remember, Nixon lost to Kennedy in 1960 then returned in '68 to squeak past VP Hubert Humphrey by a 43.2% to 42% margin (Alabama Governor George Wallace picked up 13.5%) to become president.
Since 2000, Gore's become an extremely passionate and rousing speaker. He's dropped the stiff wonkish routine and found his mojo. Plus, he's rested, he's confident and his prescience on a number of key issues and events is now clear. He's also squeaky-clean, with no skeletons in his closet, as 2000 proved.
Lastly, Americans are increasingly dissatisfied with the Republican-controlled Congress and with Bush, as the consistently plummeting polls indicate. Timing is everything they say, and 2008 may finally be the right time for Al Gore. Andy
Thursday, September 22, 2005
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
It's been three weeks since Hurricane Katrina unleashed her wrath on the Gulf, killing 1000 residents of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, as well as wreaking utter destruction on the region. Some call it the worst natural disaster ever, depending upon how one measures such things. Surely, it will remain--alongside the great San Francisco earthquake of 1908; Pearl Harbor; the Kennedy assassination; and the 9-11 terrorist attacks--as one of the most infamous, tragic and memorable events in modern American history. But its true legacy might just be how it's single-handedly changing the political landscape in our country today.
For example, can you name the author who made this statement following President Bush's address to the nation last Thursday where he outlined his reconstruction plan?: "I could not have been prouder of the president... Mr. President, I am ready for duty. Let's roll up our sleeves and get to work." That was Donna Brazile, crackerjack Democratic Strategist and campaign manager to Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election. Or how about the following quote regarding Bush's persistent naming of under-qualified cronies to major security posts: "The Bush administration has barely rebounded from the resignation of horse-show organizer Michael 'Heck of a job' Brown from FEMA, and yet is pushing forward with the nomination of another inexperienced bureaucrat to a key post at the Department of Homeland Security. If this is an example of Karl Rove's political genius, get him some stupid pills quick." James Carville you say? Guess again. Try conservative syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin. She was writing about Bush's imminent appointment of Julie Myers--daughter of Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Richard Myers and wife of Homeland Security head Michael Chertoff's chief of staff--to head the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE), an area in which she has no experience whatsoever.
What's more, Republicans on the hill are turning against Bush and each other over the administration's colossal planning, rescue and relief failures, as well as the subsequent out-of-control spending on reconstruction. Katrina has also served to quite effectively expose the Bushies' unprecedented ineptitude on a number of domestic fronts, as well as cast new light on the financial and military wastefulness of the Iraq war. Lastly, what the hurricane has also done is wake up the media, which has been asleep at the wheel since Bush took office in 2001. It's found its conscious and its spine, and is now relishing in vilifying Bush at every turn. The gloves are off, and the teflon has melted.
So what on earth is going on here? It's simple. The storm unleashed more than Mother Nature's fury. It's served to uncage 5 1/2 years of pent up passion, anger and frustration on both sides of the aisle. But more important, it's causing politicians and strategists to begin to think practically rather than engage in non-stop partisan chicanery. Donna Brazile? She's a New Orleans native, and the human suffering there clearly has taken her beyond party politics. Michelle Malkin? She's an American just like us, and perhaps she's sick and tired--and scared--of seeing how little this administration has done and is doing do truly protect us.
Furthermore, the GOP has come to the stark realization that Bush is a lame duck, and if it's ever going to retain power in the '06 mid-terms and in '08, it needs to begin distancing itself from the president, his plummeting poll numbers, and America's lack of faith in his leadership. The country is headed in the wrong direction, voters say, and Republican lawmakers don't want to get swept up in that potentially disastrous wave of negativity.
For Bush, Katrina's dubious distinction is that it's the one event that's forced him to finally accept responsibility--albeit half-heartedly and unconvincingly--for what's occurred on his watch. But it appears to be a little too late.
Perhaps the line between Left and Right is finally blurring a little, and we have Katrina to thank for that. Despite its destructive force in the Gulf, maybe it's helping to heal a divided nation. Now that would be a much better legacy I suspect. Andy
Following the government's woefully inadequate preparation for Hurricane Katrina and the response to its catastrophic aftermath, President Bush promised the nation a full investigation of the failures to "determine what went wrong and what went right." To that end, he's tapped homeland security adviser Frances Fragos Townsend to lead the White House inquiry into the administration's abysmal handling of the rescue and relief effort. The major problem with this is that the proverbial fox will be overseeing the chicken coop. Townsend is a party loyalist. A faithful Republican servant of both the GOP and Bush. And now she'll be reporting to Bush's uber-operative, Karl Rove. As Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) put it, Townsend "may be a very competent individual. But how in the world can we get to the truth of the question as to what went wrong with Hurricane Katrina -- how can we really hope to discover the incompetence that led to all this human suffering and devastation -- if the administration is going to investigate itself?" And as for Rove, Durbin added: "Putting Karl Rove in charge makes no sense whatsoever. He has no resume and no skills other than running political campaigns -- and if he is being put in place to protect the president politically, that decision does not serve the best interests of the American people, nor of the victims of Hurricane Katrina."
The Bushies are perhaps the most ideological, deceitful and secretive administration in American presidential history. It's all politics, all the time, even if it means compromising the security of the nation and its citizens. They lied to us about Iraq to quench their neo-con thirst for land, oil and power in Iraq and the middle east. They've lied to us about who attacked America on 9-11 so they could justify the invasion. They've lied to us about Uranium in Niger. They lied to us about the financial stability of Social Security. They lied to us about their involvement in the treasonous outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame. And most recently they lied to us about how they handled the devastation in the Gulf. So many lies, so little time to document them all.
So now we're being asked to put our collective faith in the team of Bush, Rove and Townsend to not only demand accountability for the Katrina fiasco, but to also reassure us that the government--the same government that doesn't seem to give a rat's tuchus about the poor and middle classes, or about shoring up America's infrastructure--will be prepared to handle the next natural disaster or significant terrorist attack. Let's be sure about something. This is an administration that only cares about one thing: protecting and preserving its unprecedented power. It's all about the power, folks. Power over the electorate, over the media, over our allies. Power over the House, Senate and the courts. Power which is highly concentrated in the hands of the Bushies, and power which benefits the wealthy and corporate America.
To be sure, Townsend will be nothing more that a cog in an extremely partisan wheel. Is there anybody out there who honestly believes she will ultimately return a guilty verdict on the Bushies? That her "investigation" will conclude that Bush himself was slow to respond; that the administration embarrassed America through its utterly lame handling of Katrina? Or that she will recommend that certain key administration heads should roll? Take a good look at former FEMA head Michael "Brownie" Brown, because he's going to be the only head to roll in this inept administration.
As expected, Democrats anticipate a whitewash of the administration's failures in the Gulf crisis. Former presidential candidate and Massachusetts Senator John Kerry said the Hurricane "stripped away any image of competence and exposed to all the true heart and nature of this administration. The truth is that for four and a half years, real life choices have been replaced by ideological agenda, substance replaced by spin, governance second place always to politics." That we should expect an open, honest and meaningful investigation from the most dishonest administration in history is an insult to our collective intelligence.
In launching Bush's White House inquiry, chief of staff Andrew Card wants one senior official from each cabinet to work with Townsend. They've been directed to give this effort "their full attention and highest priority." Don't hold your breath. Andy
Monday, September 19, 2005
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina's devastation, President Bush seems to have come to the conclusion that $200 billion of reckless spending may go an awfully long way towards bolstering his sinking popularity. "Why, if we can't earn their approval the old fashioned way through performance, we'll just buy it" I can hear Karl Rove telling him. Let's look at the numbers for a second as an important backdrop to Bush's New Deal. According to the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, Bush's job approval is just 40%, the lowest of his presidency. On the foreign policy front, the poll also finds that only 37% of respondents approve of his handling of the Iraq war, 55% want to reduce the number of troops, and 75% now believe the U.S. is unprepared for a nuclear, biological or chemical attack. Domestically, polls show just 38% approve of his handling of the economy, and 53% think the country's headed in the wrong direction. And regarding the crisis in the Gulf, since his address to the nation last week, just 35% approve of Bush's response to Hurricane Katrina, and 37% of blacks believe that the administration would have acted with greater urgency had the affected areas been mostly white suburban communities. And to pay for the reconstruction, 45% believe we should cut Iraq war spending, followed by 27% who want to repeal tax cuts, 12% who want to cut federal spending in other areas, 8% who want to increase the deficit and 7% who want to raise income taxes.
At his speech last week, Bush declared "it'll cost what it costs" to rebuild the region, adding it'd have to come at least in part from cuts of other government budgets (i.e. health, education, transportation). But in the days since, it's become quite clear to frustrated lawmakers on both sides of the aisle that saying he'll cut and actually cutting are two very different things. Remember, this is a president who never met a spending measure he didn't like. And now he's got delusions of being FDR, complete with his own New Deal and WPA, helping the poor and displaced in the Gulf. It's a very thinly-veiled ruse to stem the ratings tide and demonstrate leadership. But nobody's buying it. In fact, his ratings are lower since the speech.
Bush has got to start making some hard choices. His new Medicare benefits program will cost $1.2 trillion over ten years. Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) believes the government can save $40 billion if the program is delayed just one year. Or what about the bi-partisan proposal to cut parts of the new highway/transportation bill that could save $25 billion? Bush could also reverse the tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% of America and save another $37 billion. Or how about retaining the estate tax, which would keep $280 in the Fed's coffers from 2010-2015? And let's not forget the war, which is burning about $1 billion per day.
We're at an economic crossroads here. The current budget deficit is at $353 billion, and should rise to an historically high $520 billion by 2008, according to the very conservative Heritage Foundation. Such reckless spending--for national disaster recovery, public works or just plain pork--without the appropriate offsets from other budgets, is both irresponsible and dangerous to America. How much debt can we rack up before the bubble bursts and sends the economy spiraling into full-blown recession? And is there a limit to the amount of debt we should saddle future generations of children with? I don't normally agree with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), but he's 100% correct when he says: "It is inexcusable for the White House and Congress to not even make the effort to find at least some offsets to this new spending." And Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) criticized Bush for his lack of "presidential leadership" in being able to make difficult economic choices. These are Republicans talking! And with great cause. The GOP has its eye trained on the mid-terms next year, and will fight tooth and nail not to go down with a sinking ship. Bush, for the very first time in his presidency, is lost in a political Bermuda Triangle trying to stay afloat amid the Perfect Political Storm. And this time I think he's going down. Andy
Sunday, September 18, 2005
The Senate confirmation hearings last week of Chief Justice nominee John G. Roberts Jr. have thrust the abortion issue firmly back into the forefront of America's consciousness. For over 32 years, Democrats, liberals and an untold majority of moderate Republicans have been waiting for the judicial hammer to fall on Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark Supreme Court case that legalized abortion in America. Roe has become the most controversial Court decision in our nation's history. In 1970, at the suggestion of a young Austin lawyer named Sarah Weddington, Norma McCorvey, unmarried, pregnant and destitute, filed a class action suit as "Jane Roe" against defendant Henry Wade, Dallas County DA, seeking to overturn the Texas anti-abortion law. The case was won by McCorvey and after three years of appeals found its way to the Supreme Court of the United States.
On January 22, 1973, the High Court upheld the lower court's ruling with a 7-2 majority voting to strike down the Texas law (Justice Byron White and Justice William Rehnquist dissented) on the grounds that laws against abortion violate a constitutional right to privacy. The court was quite busy that day. It also overturned a lesser-known abortion law case out of Georgia, Doe v. Bolton. The court's actions effectively overturned all state laws which restricted and/or banned abortion, permitting the procedure during the first trimester of pregnancy....thus setting the stage for three decades of a contentious, often violent social, moral and religious battleground.
Since 1973 we've witnessed the extremes that the "pro-life" movement has gone to in an effort to circumvent the law and prevent abortion. This includes aggressive protests; bombings of clinics; and the murder of doctors who perform the procedure. The late 1970's and 1980's saw the birth of Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority and militant anti-abortion groups such as Operation Rescue that used violence and intimidation, as well as derisive corporate boycotts, to drive home its message. And incredulously, as recently as last year, rookie Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), an obstetrician, in an insanely ironic pro-life twist, advocated the death penalty for doctors who perform abortions. The pro-choicers have remained on the winning side of the issue, although it's been an ugly, divisive battle.
In 1992, in another major ruling, Casey v. Planned Parenthood, the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision upheld Roe v. Wade, and prohibited states from outlawing the procedure in most cases, but said the states could impose restrictions that do not impose an "undue burden" on women.
In September 2005, the case is once again the subject of heated discussion and bitter divide. And with great reason. President Bush has been afforded an opportunity that few presidents ever experience: a chance to shift the leanings of the highest court in the land. With two vacancies so far--the recently deceased Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and the retiring swing vote, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor--Bush's dream of a staunchly conservative court may soon to be a reality. The president might even get a third shot at it should 85-year-old John Paul Stevens decide that bingo and two or three holes of golf a day beats sitting on the bench.
The $64,000 question all last week, as Senators from both sides of the aisle including Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Joe Biden (D-DE) grilled Roberts, was and continues to be how the soon-to-be Chief views Roe and what if anything might he do to overturn it. A brilliant legal mind and one of the most effortlessly masterful speakers (he blew through the entire week without notes), Roberts, in saying very little, might have said an awful lot. After last week, the term "stare decisis" has become part of America's lexicon. Translated to "to stand by things decided," it's the written code among jurists who respect the precedents set in the prior opinions and rulings of other judges and courts. And this is where Roberts may have tipped his hat. In his 2003 federal appeals court confirmation hearings, Roberts said of Roe "it's a little more than settled. It was reaffirmed in the face of a challenge that it should be overruled in the Casey decision." The majority opinion in Casey stated that to overrule Roe "under fire in the absence of the most compelling reason to re-examine a watershed decision would subvert the court's legitimacy beyond any serious question." And it is in referring to Casey where Roberts shows some key cards: "considerations of the court's legitimacy are terribly important." He added that Casey "reaffirmed the central holding in Roe."
Roberts last week also firmly reinforced the primacy of legal precedent: "I do think that it is a jolt to the legal system when you overrule a precedent. Precedent plays an important role in promoting stability and evenhandedness." And when asked directly by Specter if he believed the Constitution provides for the right to privacy--the foundation of the Roe case--Roberts replied "I do." In the landmark 1965 case Griswold v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution protects the right of marital privacy against state restrictions on a couple's ability to be counseled in the use of contraceptives. Roberts also believes that decided law which becomes part of the nation's social fabric--"settled expectations" as he calls it--should perhaps be left undisturbed. For example, today's 30 year-old-women have lived their entire lives under legalized abortion. They've known nothing else. Overturning Roe therefore would change the expectations of an entire generation of people.
So where do we go from here? How will Roberts approach this controversial issue as abortion-related cases come before the court? It's no litmus test, but believing in the Constitutional right of privacy; the weight of stare decisis/precedent; settled expectations; and belief in the court's legitimacy could be tell-tale signs that Roberts is content with leaving Roe untouched. Signs that last week left many ultra-conservative and religious leaders wondering if Roberts, the Republican appointee, will follow in the footsteps of O'Connor, Souter and others who ultimately disappointed those who put them on the bench. Andy
Saturday, September 17, 2005
President Bush this week announced that it'll "cost whatever it costs" the U.S. government to rebuild the Gulf in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina's unprecedented destruction. On the surface this massive effort, estimated to reach between $200-$300 billion--roughly the same as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq--is sure to send the nation into an economic tizzy. We're already operating at a $353 billion deficit, yet Bush is still intent on pushing through permanent tax cuts for America's wealthiest income-earners which will extract $1.4 trillion over 10 years from the Fed's pocketbook. The Bushies are also determined to repeal the estate tax as well, which would reduce government revenues by about $280 billion from 2011 to 2015, with the bulk of this windfall remaining in the 500 wealthiest estates.
At his address to the nation this week from New Orleans he also said he will not raise taxes to pay for the recovery; will provide generous corporate tax breaks to Gulf businesses; and will partially offset the recontruction expense by slashing other programs, though he did not elaborate on which budgets would be cut. More fuzzy math from the prez: 1+1=3. Republicans on the hill are growing leery of Bush's spending without a rational plan to fund it all. Even the venerable conservative think-tank, The Heritage Foundation, has projected massive increases in the deficit, to $520 billion by 2008, precisely the same time when the Bushies' had previously predicted they'd be cutting the deficit in half to about $200 billion. According to HF's budget analyst Brian M. Riedl, there's an economic perfect storm consisting of the spiraling cost of the Iraq war; the Gulf reconstruction; and the Medicaid drug program. Additionally, Bush's $286 billion transportation bill, which includes tons of self-serving pork, will appreciably tax the economy. And, given what we now know about how woefully unprepared we are for national disaster and/or a catastrophic act of terrorism, Bush will likely fatten Homeland Security's budget as well. If the first 5 1/2 years of the Bush presidency is any indicator of the next 2 1/2, the rich will keep getting generous tax breaks as we continue to saddle future generations with historically high debt. Andy
Friday, September 16, 2005
One week ago in my 9/16 blog I wrote the following about the subtle racism that took place in the rescue and relief effort down in the Gulf:
The main point concerning the race issue is not whether Bush intentionally withheld critical rescue and relief resources because of the victims' skin color. That is a ludicrous supposition. However, I do believe the tepid, anemic initial government response was rooted more in the subconscious. To illustrate the point, had the National Weather Service forecast a tsunami to hit Malibu, CA, I suspect both California and the federal government would've called out the cavalry to perform a sweeping evacuation prior to the waves hitting shore, and would've subsequently been Johnny-on-the-spot with rescue and relief assets aplenty.
Well, as I awake in my Los Angeles hotel room this morning, the TV news reports of the "largest swell to hit Malibu Colony this year" is the major story of the morning. Ok, big waves in LA. Not terribly exciting news, you'd think, except to surfers. But this swell is different. It's not even fully here yet and its already damaged--get this--three beachfront homes! But that's not even the most incredible part of this story. News choppers hovering above, with floodlights shining down on the effected multi-million dollar retreats, shows firemen and rescue teams removing furniture from the patios and decks back into the houses! In Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama officials left towns and cities, and hundreds of thousands of victims stranded and decimated. Left to die without food and water and shelter. In Malibu, they're saving deck furniture. Former Sen. John Edwards is proven right once again. There are "two Americas" in our country. Out here in LA, it's hard to actually witness it. Andy
Thursday, September 15, 2005
It’s a great time to be an FOB (Friend of Bush). The president’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are still lining the pockets of his fat-cat corporate pals, and he’s now bestowing on them additional no-bid contracts for the rebuilding of the Gulf in the wake of Hurricane Katrina’s devastating destruction. So much so, reports the NY Times, that the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security, Richard L. Skinner, prompted by Democrats, will investigate charges of government waste and fraud involving billions given to Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR); the Fluor Corporation of California; the Shaw Group, of Baton Rouge, La; Bechtel Corporation; and others. Halliburton, helmed in the mid 1990’s by VP Dick Cheney, has been one of the biggest benefactors of the U.S. occupation of Iraq. To date, it and various subsidiaries including KBR have received about $20 billion in contracts---many of them no-bid---for services that include engineering, construction, fuel, mail, food and shelter. It has also been the target of investigation into overcharging and fraud to the tune of $212 million and has returned millions, stating that cost disputes “are part of the normal contracting process” despite what former employees have said is widespread, intentional gauging. Fluor Corp. is a major GOP donor. And, the cronyism and political patronage deepens with Shaw Group, a consulting client of former FEMA head and 2000 Bush campaign manager Joe Allbaugh, whose major contribution to society unfortunately is his ’03 appointment of college roommate---the under-qualified, over-hyped, super-sized dunce Michael Brown---as his 2nd in command. “Brownie,” as Bush fondly called him four days into the catastrophe despite his incredulous ignorance of the inhumane conditions victims were living under in the Convention Center and Superdome....well, we all know what happened to him.
At issue is the hundreds of billions in federal and private funds that will eventually go towards victims’ aid and the rebuilding of the area. This includes the $37-billion Congress approved last week (out of a total of $51.8-billion) that will go directly to FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to finance the recovery in the flood-ravaged region. Bush is expected to request an additional $50-billion+ in his address tonight from the flood zone. To prevent misuse and abuse, Skinner is sending 30 inspectors and auditors to Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi to oversee the dispensing of the funds. “We’re going to be looking at all of the contracting, the decision-making that was used to determine a sole-source contract. We want validation and we want documentation to show that it was rational to go one way or the other” in awarding no-bid contracts.
FEMA, which was merged into Homeland Security in ’03 under Michael Chertoff, has been gutted and restructured since then, which critics directly attribute to its abysmal performance before, during and after Katrina, as well its mismanagement of relief funds post-Hurricane Andrew last year. The Agency is now a sad shell of its former self. Once viewed as a highly effective first-responder during the Clinton administration (when it became a cabinet-level agency)under the leadership of James Lee Witt, it’s been pillaged of most of its funding, which has been diverted to the war on terrorism.
We finally saw a half-hearted mea culpa this week from Bush, though it’s taken him almost six years into his presidency and 2 weeks after Katrina to even remotely take responsibility for what occurred on his watch. Yet true to form, the new no-bid contracts demonstrate the president’s greatest strength: his loyalty to his rich pals, no matter how corrupt, unethical or inept they may be. Andy
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
The Senate curtain on the John G. Roberts Jr. show officially opened yesterday with a Tony Award-worthy script. President Bush's nominee to the Supreme Court--originally the replacement for the retiring Sandra Day O'Connor and re-nominated as Chief Justice after the death Sept. 3rd of William H. Rehnquist--delivered his lines to the Judiciary Committee in a manner that would make any great stage actor proud. Despite the fact that the White House has yet to release documents which Democrats
have requested pertaining to Roberts' years as young lawyer in the Bush 41 administration--papers that might shed some further insight into Roberts' positions on several controversial issues--it was a day of superficial cordiality and, unfortunately, benign resignation. Roberts' confirmation is all but assured, which reduces these hearings to nothing more than a sad formality. Democrats, in the minority, lack the votes to block the appointment, and have opted not to filibuster, instead targeting the next Bush nominee, the O'Connor replacement, for the main event.
Give Bush credit. On paper, Roberts appears to be the perfect choice for a
president with an aggressive conservative agenda. He's a young, handsome, charismatic guy who just also happens to be a brilliant lawyer and, most
important, level-headed and even-tempered. The latter of which is not often
found among Bush officials. But make no mistake about it: Roberts is a
wolf in sheep's clothing. From documents made public, and from snippets
of interviews over the years, Roberts' has taken a radical conservative stand
on key issues such as abortion, civil rights, voting rights, school prayer,
church and state, big business, employee rights, school integration/busing
and the environment. According to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), co-chair of the committee leading the hearings, Roberts' views were "among the most
radical being offered by a cadre intent on reversing decades of policies on
civil rights, voting rights, women's rights, privacy and access to justice." The chorus of opposition includes Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA), who said the Roberts documents "show he was on or beyond the outer fringe of that extreme group eager to take our law and society back in time on a wide range of issues of individual rights and liberties, and on broad issues of government responsiveness to public needs."
At the hearing yesterday, Democrats did their level best to grill the nominee. Sen Richard J. Durbin (IL) drove home the main point: "The basic question is this: Will you restrict the personal freedoms we enjoy as Americans or will you expand them?" Additionally, New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer voiced what is one of the biggest concerns: "We have seen maybe 10 percent of you, just the visible tip of the iceberg. And we all know that it is the ice beneath the surface that can sink the ship." And California's Sen. Diane Feinstein reiterated to Roberts what she had recently told him privately, that she cannot vote for someone intent on overturning Roe v. Wade. "I remember what it was like when abortion was illegal in America," she said, recalling horror stories about "back alley" abortions and suicide.
Roberts opening remarks were an attempt to quell these and other concerns: "I will be open to the considered views of my colleagues on the bench...and I will decide every case based on the record, according to the rule of law, without fear or favor, to the best of my ability. And it's my job to call balls and strikes, and not to pitch or bat." Just what we expected him to say. However the wolf, when confirmed, will unfortunately have about 35+ years to howl. Andy
Monday, September 12, 2005
It seems like Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice may be one of the only African-Americans these days still enamored with President Bush. One of the more brilliant successes of the 2004 presidential election was how the GOP attracted a significant amount of the black, Latino, poor, middle class and blue-collar vote. Led by boy-genius Karl Rove, the Bushies, using a campaign smorgasbord of smoke and mirrors, deception and lies, convinced a critical amount of these traditionally Democratic voters that their fate--despite a hundred years of history to the contrary--lies better in the hands of Republicans. To illustrate the point, Bush captured 11% of the black vote, 11% of Latinos, 36% of income under $15,000, 49% of incomes $30,000-$50,000, and 40% of the union-member vote. These gains have been a major source of pride for the Bush administration. And in riding Bush's coattails, the GOP has been able to capture the House, the Senate and work through much of its aggressive conservative agenda. Mind-boggling as it is, these voters were masterfully lured to the polls over objections to gay marriage, and on the perceived strength of the president in leading the war on terror. Unfortunately, they were brainwashed into putting food, housing, education, health care, public works programs (read: levee upgrades ), privacy and other life essentials second.
But the love affair finally seems to be over. The government's colossal failure to orchestrate a timely, organized and effective rescue and relief effort in the critical hours and days after Hurricane Katrina struck, and the president's tepid, inept and stiff response during this period, have turned these voters against him. The New York Times reports today that African-Americans across the nation are outraged at how the mostly black and poor victims of the storm went days without food and water and were left to die in their flood-ravaged homes, in the streets, in the Superdome and in the Convention Center before the government could mobilize an effective rescue effort. A poll last week by the non-partisan Pew Research Center shows that two-thirds of blacks believe the government's response would've been faster if the majority of the victims were white. Bush's back is definitely up against a wall here. He's been skewered by wildly popular rap star Kanye West, who publicly claimed "George Bush doesn't care about black people." And he's been heavily criticized for a series of personal mishaps, miscalculations and ill-timed photo-ops. These include his first visit to the region, where he avoided the hardest hit areas and its mostly black victims who were exisiting under the most horrific, inhumane conditions; his now infamous and incredulous statement to FEMA head Michael Brown on Sept 2 that "Brownie, you've done a heck of a job" despite a mound of evidence (which he himself had learned the day before according to Sunday's NY Times) to the contrary; his praise of white Republican Governors Haley Barbour and Bob Riley of Mississippi and Alabama respectively; and his gratuitous use of black preachers as damage-control props in Baton Rouge during his second trip to the Gulf.
Let's remember that Louisiana (57%), Mississippi (60%) and Alabama (62%) were Republican strongholds in '04, with the states, and much of the effected counties, solid Bush country. You can bet your bottom dollar that the White House, and more so the GOP with its eye keenly focused on next November's mid-term elections, is in a state of panic over the effect of African-American's likely abandonment of its party not only in the Gulf, but nationwide. The result would be politically catastrophic. Andy
Saturday, September 10, 2005
The always irreverent political satirist Bill Maher was especially biting during his HBO show "Real Time" Friday night, calling for a "California-style recall" of President Bush, "complete with Gary Coleman, porno stars and action film heroes." Aided by legendary comedian-turned-political-humorist George Carlin and Atlanta Journal-Constitution editorial page editor Cynthia Tucker, Maher spent much of his program going for Bush's jugular on everything from the government's embarrassingly inept rescue and relief effort in the post-Hurricane Gulf, to the quagmire in Iraq. Holding up the Right was conservative journalist and entrepreneur James K. Glassman, who did his best to defend Bush, the administration and the government's response in the critical initial hours and days after the storm struck. While most of America feels ashamed of how we left our citizens for days to die in the flooded streets, on rooftops, in attics and in wheelchairs under horrifically inhumane conditions at the Convention Center and Superdome, Glassman does not. Ya gotta give these guys credit. They really do stay on message.
But the real fun came during the show's closing minutes, following the "New Rules" segment. Maher turned it into a hilarious Message to the President bit. Even though Bush believes there's still much to do, like "eliminating the sales tax on yachts," or "giving embryos the right to vote," Maher suggested the president pack it in and head back to Crawford, especially since there's nothing left to spend and no more wars to fight because the Fed's depleted both financially and militarily from record deficits and Iraq. Maher said quitting comes naturally to Bush, who typically gets bored with one job and moves on to the next, and cited the oil company and the Texas Rangers baseball team as examples. He suggested the president "find another fantasy job...like Cowboy or spaceman."
He then went 'nucular' on Bush for being a dreadful president: "Mr. President, you govern like Billy Joel drives!...On your watch, we've lost almost all of our allies, the surplus, four airliners, two trade centers, a piece of the Pentagon, and, the city of New Orleans!" He continued amid huge howls from the heavily left wing audience: "I'm not saying you don't love this country. I'm just wondering how much worse in can be if you were on the other side. And yes, God does speak to you, and what he's saying is...take a hint!"
Oh, if only Dubya would take his advice...
Friday, September 09, 2005
It's been an unusually vocal week for the Bush women. First, it was Barbara Bush, the president's mother, who made the most asinine comments on Monday while touring the Houston Astrodome, new home to some 25,000 Hurricane Katrina evacuees. And, "disgusting" is how First Lady Laura Bush today referred to accusations that racism played a part in her husband's dreadful rescue and relief effort in the Gulf.
It's time Bush stops suckling at the bosom of his mommy and hiding under his wife's skirt. But he has little choice. He's not only inept at running the country, he's the most inarticulate, stammering president in modern history, incapable of conveying a logical, coherent explanation and/or defense of his policies and actions. So, time to wheel out Barb and Laura. To put a nice gloss on the evacuees' saga in Texas, his mom said: "What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them." These statements are so out of touch with reality one can almost imagine her next comment being "I like cheese" (picture Jerry Lewis's face as he yells..."Lady!" ). How come every time I see the Astrodome evacuees being interviewed on TV they all say they can't wait to get out to go back to New Orleans? Sure does sound like they love their plush new surroundings.
And Laura went on the warpath today, staunchly defending Dubya from the racism claims made by rapper Kanye West and DNC Chairman and Liberal firebrand Howard Dean: "I think all of those remarks are disgusting, to be perfectly frank, because of course President Bush cares about everyone in our country. And I know that. I mean, I'm the person who lives with him. I know what he's like and I know what he thinks and I know how he cares about people." Well, judging from his actions the day after Katrina struck, what we do know is that he cares an awful lot about his 9-iron.
The main point concerning the race issue is not whether Bush intentionally withheld critical rescue and relief resources because of the victims' skin color. That is a ludicrous supposition. However, I do believe the tepid, anemic initial government response was rooted more in the subconscious. To illustrate the point, had the National Weather Service forecast a tsunami to hit Malibu, CA, I suspect both California and the federal government would've called out the cavalry to perform a sweeping evacuation prior to the waves hitting shore, and would've subsequently been Johnny-on-the-spot with rescue and relief assets aplenty. Anyone who thinks otherwise is in denial of the realities of what former Sen. John Edwards calls "the two Americas."
One thing's for certain, whenever Dubya rolls out the Bush women, it's a sure sign that he's running scared. Andy
Bravo to the Democrats. They've bailed on the new Republican-controlled House-Senate Committee that'll be investigating the colossal failures of the pre/post Hurricane Katrina rescue and relief effort. Expecting massive partisan stonewalling and whitewashing to protect President Bush, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA) and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (NV) are instead seeking a 9-11 type independent inquiry. The new Committee, formed by Senate Majority leader Bill Frist (TN) and House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (IL), gives Republicans control over the process in terms of setting rules and selecting witnesses. Pelosi and Reid said Democrats were not consulted on the Committee's formation, and doubt that the Bush White House will ultimately be held accountable for its role in the failure in the Gulf.
From Pelosi: "Despite all the talk of bipartisanship, they have just on their own, unilaterally, put forth a proposal that will result in a whitewash of what is going on here....If we are ever going to truly protect the American people, now it is clear to me that we must have an outside independent commission, as we finally arrived at on 9/11."
Under the Committee's current structure, Reid said Senate Democrats would not participate, adding that "the only way to ensure that all levels of our government are held accountable to the people is to take this process out of the hands of politicians with a vested interest in the outcome."
So you think this has influenced Frist and Hastert? Fat chance. "It looks like the Democrats want to play partisan political games at an important time," said Hastert spokesman Ron Bonjean, vowing to move forward without the Democrats if necessary. Great. The fabled Fox will be guarding the Henhouse. Isn't "vowing to move forward without Democrats" the biggest "partisan political game" of all? Can anyone honestly expect objectivity from a 100% Republican panel? Are they seriously going to try to convince America that that's in our best interest? That this stacked jury could conceivably convict Bush on any level?
In order to join the House-Senate Committee, Pelosi and Reid are demanding an equal number of Democrats and Republicans. They're also asking Congress to appoint a panel of non-lawmakers similar to the Sept. 11 commission that investigated the 2001 terrorist attacks. That commission handed up a detailed summary with critical suggestions for shoring up homeland security, although it fell short of finger-pointing.
With perhaps 10,000+ dead, a major U.S. city decimated, and an estimated $200+ billion rescue, relief and rebuilding tab ahead, Americans deserve answers, accountability, and a plan; a plan not only for revitalizing the Gulf, but to assure that a catastrophically inept government response like we saw last week can never happen again. If history is any indicator, GOP lawmakers will do whatever necessary to compromise these goals with more smoke and mirrors. Andy
Thursday, September 08, 2005
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina's unprecedented death and destruction, Washington's Democrats are fired up. The party's been effective in launching an orchestrated attack on President Bush and administration officials over the government's dreadful rescue and relief efforts and its overall lack of disaster preparedness.
To stanch the onslaught, the GOP has unleashed its own "Blame Game" campaign, hatched no doubt by Karl Rove and Dan Bartlett and hammered home by Press Secretary Scott McClellan (who used the term "Blame Game" eight times during yesterday's press briefing), to deflect the criticism and instead accuse the Democrats of politicizing the tragedy. But Democrats, for the first time in the Bush presidency, are winning the war of words. On the Hill this week, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA) raised the intensity level: "Instead of unconscionably blaming others, President Bush must take charge and take responsibility, and must get it right, and that is my concern and the message that I will bring to the President: 'Mr. President, you should have taken charge and you should have taken responsibility.' And yesterday Pelosi racheted it up another notch in describing Bush's overall leadership this past week: "Oblivious. In denial. Dangerous. Americans should now harbor no illusions about the government's ability to respond effectively to disasters."
Joining the chorus were several other key Democrats including Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, who said this week: "The controlling philosophy in Washington now is to dismiss community and place all the responsibility on the individual."
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (NV), in a letter this week to Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joe Liebermann (D-CT), Homeland Security Committee Chairman and ranking member respectively, heading a sub-committee on government oversight, highlighted several failings of the Bushies during the initial hours and days of the catastrophe in the Gulf, among them: "Absence from Washington of the President and key officials. How much time did the President spend dealing with this emerging crisis while he was on vacation? Did the fact that he was outside of Washington, D.C. have any effect on the federal government's response? When it became apparent a major hurricane was days away from striking the Gulf Coast, why didn'tt President Bush immediately return to Washington from his vacation and why didn't he recall key officials and staff members back from their vacations? Would the presence of key officials in Washington have improved the response?"
From former and future presidential John Kerry (D-MA): "It's a summary of all that this administration is not in touch with and has faked and ducked and bobbed over the past four years. What you see here is a harvest of four years of complete avoidance of real problem solving and real governance in favor of spin and ideology."
And the media has been no less dogged in its pursuit of answers accountability. The Democrats' new hero, NBC's David Gregory, who scored no points with the White House earlier this Summer with relentless questioning of McClellan over the Rove/Plame scandal, was equally harsh during yesterday's briefing, at which he sparred with McClellan over Bush's support of FEMA head Michael "Brownie" Brown and Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff. The actual exchange is riveting:
Q Scott, does the President retain confidence in his FEMA Director and
Secretary of Homeland Security?
MR. McCLELLAN: And again, David, see, this is where some people want to
look at the blame game issue, and finger-point. We're focused on solving
problems, and we're doing everything we can --
Q What about the question?
MR. McCLELLAN: We're doing everything we can in support --
Q We know all that.
MR. McCLELLAN: -- of the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA.
Q Does he retain complete confidence --
MR. McCLELLAN: We're going to continue. We appreciate the great effort
that all of those at FEMA, including the head of FEMA, are doing to
help the people in the region. And I'm just not going to engage in the
blame game or finger-pointing that you're trying to get me to engage.
Q Okay, but that's not at all what I was asking.
MR. McCLELLAN: Sure it is. It's exactly what you're trying to play.
Q You have your same point you want to make about the blame game, which
you've said enough now. I'm asking you a direct question, which you're
MR. McCLELLAN: No --
Q Does the President retain complete confidence in his Director of FEMA
and Secretary of Homeland Security, yes or no?
MR. McCLELLAN: I just answered the question.
Q Is the answer "yes" on both?
MR. McCLELLAN: And what you're doing is trying to engage in a game of
Q There's a lot of criticism. I'm just wondering if he still has
MR. McCLELLAN: -- and blame-gaming. What we're trying to do is solve
problems, David. And that's where we're going to keep our focus.
Q So you're not -- you won't answer that question directly?
McCLELLAN: I did. I just did.
Q No, you didn't. Yes or no? Does he have complete confidence or
McCLELLAN: No, if you want to continue to engage in finger-pointing
and blame-gaming, that's fine --
Q Scott, that's ridiculous. I'm not engaging in any of that.
McCLELLAN: It's not ridiculous.
Q Don't try to accuse me of that. I'm asking you a direct question and
you should answer it. Does he retain complete confidence in his FEMA
Director and Secretary of Homeland Security, yes or no?
McCLELLAN: Like I said -- that's exactly what you're engaging in.
Q I'm not engaging in anything. I'm asking you a question about what the
President's views are --
McCLELLAN: Absolutely -- absolutely --
Q -- under pretty substantial criticism of members of his administration.
Okay? And you know that, and everybody watching knows that, as well.
McCLELLAN: No, everybody watching this knows, David, that you're trying to
engage in a blame game.
Q I'm trying to engage?
Q I am trying to engage?
McCLELLAN: That's correct.
Q That's a dodge. I have a follow-up question since you dodged that one.
Does the White House feel like it missed opportunities to alleviate or head
off some of the damage in the New Orleans area, flood damage? Did it miss an opportunity to head any of that off?
McCLELLAN: In what way?
Q In responding to requests to make structural improvements, or other
improvements to alleviate flood damage, and so forth?
McCLELLAN: Maybe you ought to look at what General Strock said, because
General Strock briefed on this the other day and he talked about the design
issues relating to the levees and how that was a design issue. And he talked
about that. And we provided, I think it was some $300 million in additional
funding over the course of the administration for flood control in the
Southeast Louisiana area. But General Strock talked about that and he talked
about some of those issues. And any suggestion that it would have prevented something, that there could have been action that would have prevented
something, I think he dismissed because of those reasons.
Q So if the President still has confidence in the FEMA Director, how is
it that the FEMA Director is suddenly invisible? No briefings, nowhere
out front, it's all gone to Secretary Chertoff.
McCLELLAN: I think he's going to brief later today. I think he's briefing
Q Brown is?
McCLELLAN: Yes. And, again, that's clearly now just an attempt to try to
engage in this finger-pointing, and we're going to continue focusing on
Q He's been the focus of an enormous amount of criticism. You know that,
and yet, you choose not to respond.
McCLELLAN: I just talked about how there are over 75 -- no, that's not
true. There are over 75,000 people that are involved in all the response
and recovery and law enforcement when it comes to Katrina. And we
appreciate the efforts of everyone. We appreciate the efforts of Secretary
Chertoff and Undersecretary Brown and all those at FEMA who continue to
work round-the-clock to get things done and to identify problems and fix
Wow. I've got chills. It's great to see the media's spine returning and
the Democrats' passions ignited. While the Bushies can play the blame
game, or call us obstructionists, or call us anti-American, in the end
it's all about accountability. This is starting to look like Democracy's
finest hour. Andy
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
George W. Bush, the biggest buck-passer in U.S. presidential history, has announced that he's going to lead an investigation into the government's failure in the rescue and relief effort in Hurricane Katrina's devastating and deadly aftermath. "What I intend to do is lead a--to lead an investigation to find out what went right and what went wrong," Bush said yesterday (yawn). This is the same president who earlier in the week, under Karl Rove and Dan Bartlett's damage-control plan, has been attempting to spin the blame towards New Orleans Mayor Roy Nagin and Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, both Democrats. This is the same president who's bestowed nothing but praise on officials such as FEMA head Michael D. Brown and Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff who, according to most sane observers, demonstrated gross negligence and ineptitude during the initial, most critical moments of the catastrophe. This is the same president who's doggedly enlisted his own public praise, and that of the administration's, from partisan cronies such as Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, Secretary of State Condi Rice, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, Joint Chiefs Chairman Richard Meyers, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and countless others. This is the same president whose been regurgitating "progress" talking points, just as he's relentlessly been doing on the Iraq war front. And in a last-minute coup de grace,, he's dispatching that other bastion of compassionate conservativism, VP Dick Cheney, down to the region to take charge, "cut through the bureaucracy," and be the administration's formal face of the recovery effort. Is Cheney truly the best we've got for this colossal mission? No, but he's the president's guy, and that's all that ever seems to matter in this administration.
If it's anything like the 9-11 investigation, Bush's "analysis" of the events before, during and after the storm hit and the now-infamous levees broke, will be nothing but smoke and mirrors; mere lip-service designed to distract and deflect accountability away from the Bushies. Aren't we still waiting for the 9-11 heads to roll? Given the resounding chorus of praise from the Bush camp and the prez himself, should we expect anything different this time around? Can a president who is himself infallible, and is fiercely loyal to his team, be an objective critic regarding the government's response? Can we trust him to do the job and do it right? If history is any indicator, the answer is no way.
It is going to be extremely difficult to move off of the public stance he's already taken on the performance of administration officials. Brown was told by Bush last Thursday at a nationally televised photo op in Mobile, Ala..."Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job." We've now learned that Brown waited five hours until after the storm hit to ask Chertoff for 1,000 Homeland Security employees to be dispatched to the region, giving them 48 hours to arrive, and requesting that they "convey a positive image" about the government's response for victims. Brown also admitted late last week to CNN's Paula Zahn and ABC's Ted Koppel that he was unaware until late Thursday that 20,000 evacuees were trapped in the New Orleans Convention Center, and living under profoundly inhumane, horrific conditions. Still, he received Bush's high praise.
Chertoff, who under Bush had FEMA folded into DHS, was embarrassingly ineffectual as well. As Newt Gingrich said,"As a test of the homeland security system, this was a failure." Still, he received Bush's high praise.
Further, Gen. Myers said about the initial military response: "Not only was there no delay, I think we anticipated, in most cases--not in all cases but in most cases--the support that was required." Oh really? I guess that's why five and six days after the storm New Orleans was under complete siege from marauding bands of violent thugs who were looting, carjacking, raping and beating defenseless victims, and firing at rescue choppers and Army Corps workers. Still, he received Bush's high praise.
Regarding Bush's investigation plans, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan stated: "We're going to have a thorough analysis of the response efforts," yet offered nothing in the way of specifics, timetable and ultimate accountability, and implied that the investigation would not start for quite some time. Don't hold your breath.
Why bother investigating? The Bushies have already made it clear where the blame lies, and more importantly, where it does not. This administration has never erred...and with the all-important mid-term elections coming in the blink of an eye next year, I doubt they're going to start now. The relentless spinning will continue, and so will the deception and the lies. That's what the Bushies do best. As Bush's mother Barbara incredulously said yesterday about the fate of the thousands of Hurricane victims now stranded in Houston: "What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underpriveledged anyway so this is working very well for them." Can you believe this??!! I guess the out-of-touch-with-reality apple doesn't fall far from the tree. You want to talk "scary?" What's scary is that her son is president. That's what keeps me up at night. Andy
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
As reported by the BBC yesterday, President Bush is finally seeing an American media that seems to have recovered its long lost spine. Ever since Bush took office five years ago, the media has treated him with kid gloves, lavishing on him the longest honeymoon in White House history. Despite political scandals, intelligence failures and an ill-conceived war, Bush has been the teflon president, slithering away unscathed where many others before have taken a beating. The reason for this is unclear, although it might be that the Bushies are terribly feared by the American press. No administration has ever been so political, so secretive and as vindictive to those it deems disloyal and who are not drunk on the proverbial Kool-Aid. And Bush never hesitated to publicly humiliate any reporter whose tough line of questioning got under his skin. But all that changed last week amid the horror and chaos of Hurricane Katrina's aftermath. The gloves are officially off. The media went from standard Bush complacency mode to moral indignation in zero to sixty. What we all saw was shell-shocked outrage from journalists who became part of the story instead of merely reporting it. The catastrophic scenes of utter panic, mass death, unprecedented destruction and monumental despair in places like New Orleans and Biloxi, Miss was the stuff nightmares are made of, and assaulted journalists right down to their emotional core.
From CNN's Anderson Cooper to NBC's Tim Russert, to NPR's Robert Siegel, to even the unabashedly partisan Fox News, journalists expressed an outrage towards the Bush administration, and to state and local officials, for failing miserably in the rescue and relief effort. They're also highly critical of Bush himself, especially for his lack of leadership in the initial hours and days of the crisis. He was characteristically slow in responding, seemed bizarrely out of touch with the gravity of the situation, and was emotionally vacant. Last week Cooper, interviewing Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu (D), bristled at her political filibustering about what Congress is doing to help: "Excuse me, Senator, I'm sorry for interrupting...because, for the last four days, I've been seeing dead bodies in the streets here in Mississippi. And to listen to politicians thanking each other and complimenting each other, you know, I got to tell you, there are a lot of people here who are very upset, and very angry, and very frustrated. And when they hear politicians slap, you know, thanking one another, it just, you know, it kind of cuts them the wrong way right now, because literally there was a body on the streets of this town yesterday being eaten by rats because this woman had been laying in the street for 48 hours. And there's not enough facilities to take her up. Do you get the anger that is out here? I mean, I know you say there's a time and a place for, kind of, you know, looking back, but this seems to be the time and the place. I mean, there are people who want answers, and there are people who want someone to stand up and say, "You know what? We should have done more. Are all the assets being brought to bear?"
On "Meet the Press" Sunday, Russert slammed Homeland Security head Michael Chertoff's attempts to duck accountability and defend the administration: "People were stunned by a comment the president of the United States made on Wednesday, Mr. Secretary. He said, "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees." How could the president be so wrong, be so misinformed?.....I want to stay on this because this is very important. You said you were surprised by the levee being broken. In 2002, The Times-Picayune did story after story--and this is eerie; this is what they wrote and how they predicted what was going to happen. It said, and I'll read it very carefully: "...A major hurricane could decimate the region, but flooding from even a moderate storm could kill thousands. It's just a matter of time. ... The scene's been played out for years in computer models or emergency operations simulations... New Orleans has hurricane levees that create a bowl with the bottom dipping lower than the bottom of Lake Pontchartrain. ...the levees would trap any water that gets inside-- by breach, overtopping or torrential downpour--catastrophic storm. ... The estimated 200,000 or more people left behind in an evacuation will be struggling to survive. Some will be housed at the Superdome, the designated shelter for people too sick or inform to leave the city. ...But many will simply be on their own, in homes or looking for high ground. Thousands will drown while trapped in homes or cars by rising water. Other will be washed away or crushed by debris. Survivors will end up trapped on roofs, in buildings or on high ground surrounded by water, with no means of escape and little food or fresh water, perhaps for several days." That was four years ago. And last summer FEMA, who reports to you, and the LSU Hurricane Center, and local and state officials did a simulated Hurricane Pam in which the levees broke. The levees broke, Mr. Secretary, and people--thousands drowned..."
CNN reporter Miles O'Brien also unleashed the fury on Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, repeatedly invited the governor to agree that the federal government had "dropped the ball." And CNN's Jack Cafferty, as well as usual Bush softees Shepard Smith of Fox, MSNBC's Joe Scarborough of MSNBC, and NY Times columnist David Brooks, all aggressively commented on the colossally ineffective and embarrassing government response to the tragedy. Bush has also been harshly criticized by the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, NY Times and others. It's a resounding chorus of disapproval.
It's been a full week since Katrina first struck land, and there's still people needing rescue and evacuation. Further, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who estimates the city's death toll at 10,000, now reports that the flood waters are contaminated with e.coli. The task ahead is monumental, to say the least. The Bush administration will keep spinning, keep trying to place blame on Nagin and Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D), and be relentless in trying to minimize the political fallout. But you can bet that in the days, weeks and months to come the focus on Bush's inept handling of the crisis will intensify, especially as Congress starts to investigate just how the greatest nation on earth could've so miserably failed to save its citizens from catastrophe. And I suspect the normally sedate media will be front and center leading the charge. Can you say, tipping point? Andy
Monday, September 05, 2005
Make no mistake about it. We can only partially blame President Bush's tepid and ineffectual response to the Gulf Coast tragedy on him being an inept and unqualified leader. The fact is, the president and his cabinet have been preoccupied with the war in Iraq, diverting much of our country's much-needed financial and military resources to what has clearly become a quagmire. The financial cost to-date is now over $200-billion, with a burn rate of almost $6-billion per week. On the military front, we've lost almost 2000 U.S. soldiers, with the death toll increasing with each passing month. Much of the equipment needed to have helped in the initial hours and days down South--choppers, amphi-trucks, Guardsmen, troops, etc--are not on U.S. soil. Roughly 40% of the Louisiana and Mississippi National Guard units are deployed in Iraq, and the guard itself, as well as our armed services overall, are grossly under-manned and facing unprecedented recruitment challenges. It's clear the war is spiraling out of control. It's clear our agenda for the mission--finding WMD, breaking the alleged Saddam/Al Qaeda ties, installing a U.S.-style Democracy, and leaving the country's security tasks to the Iraq police and army--have not, and cannot, be met. Our goals have failed, and the situation is worsening. The Constitution is a sham, and the country is rapidly on track to becoming a radical Islamic state with civil war on the horizon. Many have said to cut and run would be a disaster for the U.S., for Iraq and for the Middle East overall. But the horrific events this week call for a new paradigm. What's the alternative to leaving? Like we did in Vietnam, should we spend the next ten years watching another 50,000 troops killed while we squander trillions, only to end up with another enemy like the North Vietnamese? This is honor? This is practical? This is finishing the job? In business, there's a phrase "cut your losses and move on." It's time the U.S. government stops the hemorrhaging in Iraq and do the same. The images we all saw this week coming from the Gulf prove that we are sitting ducks for disaster in this country. The lesson to be learned from Katrina's horrific wrath is that our government, based on its embarrassing, inadequate response, rescue, evacuation and relief efforts this week, has left us extremely vulnerable and highly unprepared to deal with a major terrorist attack or even another natural disaster. Until we can keep our own citizens safe, until we can protect our own borders, we have no business wasting precious funds and military resources in Iraq, especially when the overall mission is an unequivocal failure. Andy
Saturday, September 03, 2005
It's been six days since hurricane Katrina unleashed its wrath, turning Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama into a living hell. As we now know, the U.S. government failed miserably by slashing funding to safeguard the region with adequate Hurricane protection systems, and then compounded this with an embarrassing and shameful inability to rescue, evacuate, shelter, feed and care for its citizens once disaster struck. The government's response and relief effort was utterly disorganized, woefully inadequate and incredibly late. As former Speaker Newt Gingrich said, "As a test of the homeland security system, this was a failure." Much of the blame lies with the president and his top officials for an unprecedented lack of leadership and planning. Let's begin with Bush. Often criticized for his handling of national crises, his initial reaction in Katrina's aftermath was no surprise. He was slow to respond, lacked the gravity of the situation, and was emotionally detached. He actually played golf the day after the storm hit. In just the last couple of years, Bush has cut virtually all of the funding for the Army Corps of Engineers' SELA projects to upgrade Louisiana's levee systems and conduct critical research studies despite dire warnings from the Corps about the vulnerability of the levees and the need to bolster them. Yet Bush, to ABC's Diane Sawyer this week, claimed "I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees." He's also neutered FEMA--the Federal Emergency Management Agency--by stripping it of much of its disaster assistance grants, and merging it with 21 other agencies into the newly formed Department of Homeland Security under Michael Chertoff, with much of the former FEMA money earmarked to fight terrorism. FEMA, led by Michael D. Brown since 2003, was an embarrassment this week, a shell of its former self under the leadership of Clinton appointee James Lee Witt. Unlike Bush, who has reduced FEMA to a shell of what it once was, Clinton made it a cabinet-level agency. Witt is hailed as being an efficient, organized leader who strengthened the agency's proactive planning mechanisms as well as its response and relief execution. Conversely, the inept Brown late Thursday evening admitted to CNN's Paul Zahn, and later to ABC Nightline's Ted Koppel, that he and the agency had just learned that day that 20,000 evacuees were trapped in the New Orleans Convention Center, and barely existing under unfathomable inhumane conditions. Said an incredulous Zahn: "Sir, you aren't just telling me you just learned that the folks at the convention center didn't have food and water until today, are you? You had no idea they were completely cut off?" And then from Koppel in disbelief: "Don't you guys watch television? Our reporters have been reporting about it for more than just today." But that didn't stop Bush the next day from handing out undeserved accolades at his ill-timed Mobile, Ala photo-op: "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job." Even in this time of national catastrophe, Bush chooses to spin and deceive, and inappropriately toss folksy nicknames. Let's also not forget his imperialist flight over the devastated areas earlier in the week, after he was forced to end his mammoth vacation, rather than land the plane and lead the victims. Or the fact that, when he finally did make it into the ravaged streets four days after the storm struck, it was curiously timed to coincide with the first military convoys of relief supplies (apparently Karl Rove's still pulling the presidential strings). Or what about the Mobile "briefing" where he lavished praise on Republican Governors Bob Riley of Alabama and Haley Barbour of Mississippi, who in turn told Bush what a great job he was doing. Or how about his lame comments at this briefing about Sen. Trent Lott's destroyed vacation home, and America's need to send in "cash money" for the Hurricane relief effort to help the people in "that part of the world." And most of all, let's not forget for one second the quagmire in Iraq; the unjust, elective war that Bush got us into, and how the draining of our financial and military resources there was abundantly clear here this week.
The next question that begs to be asked is, "Where the hell is VP Dick Cheney?" Rumor is, he's still vacationing in Wyoming, if you can actually believe that. The U.S. is grappling with the worst natural disaster in its history and our vice president is AWOL (runs in the White House, I guess). We have not seen or heard from Cheney all week. Not once. Can he really still be on vacation? Is he that indifferent to the catastrophic human suffering that's going on? Is he holed up in a bunker again for some reason? Is he...dead?. The American people deserve to know.
Lastly, as if all this wasn't enough, it's good to know our Secretary of State Condi Rice was safe from the death and destruction and out of harm's way, holed up here in New York City in the shelter of various high-end retail stores and in Broadway theatres. I guess when the going gets tough, the tough head to shoe stores and "Spamalot."
Friday, September 02, 2005
We came across this heartfelt and extremely moving email from a friend
who received it from a family friend. It's about their son Josh, a
reporter living in Biloxi, Miss, a Columbia graduate who was formerly
in the Peace Corps in West Africa. There are thousands of personal
accounts such as this that have chronicled the chaos and devastation,
sorrow and despair, and the living hell around them. It's important
to hear their stories and admire their courage, determination and will
to survive. Our thoughts and prayers and messages of hope go out to all
of them, and to everyone in the horrifically affected regions:
Family, friends, neighbors, (We have put together a list only of the
people who have called to inquire about Josh).
We spoke with Joshua last night and we have thrice been on the phone with
the Knight-Rider Corporation in Washington, the company that owns the
Sun Herald in Biloxi, Josh's paper.
First, re, Joshua. He's okay, exhausted, hungry, discomfited, but okay.
The first floor of his two-story apartment building was ruined by the
storm surge, some five feet of water, but the building is structurally
sound, and the residents of the second floor, including Joshua, have
returned. For the first time last night he slept there; a fellow reporter
joined him. The have been working round the clock on two hours sleep,
and you can hear the deprivation in their voices.
The Situation At The Paper: half the staff, some fifteen reporters and
an equal number of editors and staff people, have lost their homes. The
newspaper building is a kind of shelter in and of itself: Knight Rider,
using a military model of organization, has established a kind of rear
area command post and supply depot in Georgia, and from there they are
ferrying in by convoy food and water to the people at the paper. Other
KR reporters have been sent in on a rotating basis. The company puts
them in RV's and heavy-duty SUV's, loads the vehicles with supplies and
dispatches the reporter. Most of these vehicles are being left behind
for the newspaper staff. Driving is difficult; debris is everywhere and
it is impossible to go a quarter mile without getting a flat or finding
a road that is simply impassable. KR is offering the staff low interest
loans, emergency cash, help with FEMA reimbursement. Am employee assistance counselor has been sent to the paper as well. Knight Rider is also in the process of establishing a fund to help the paper's staff; they promise to match dollar for dollar up to half a million (we guess this will go much higher). As soon as we have details of the fund we will pass them on.
The Situation in General. It's bad, Josh said. The TV images you are
seeing do not begin to show the level of devastation. There are bands
of wasteland in Biloxi, swaths of ground where nothing exists -- nothing...
The scene is war-like, he said, in its devastation. He walked into a house
in Pass Christian, a community Southeast of Biloxi and found a mother with
a dead two-year-old wrapped in a sheet lying on a couch. Rot and physical
corruption are beginning already; if you have lived or worked in the
tropics you know it does not take long. The stench, he says, is overpowering, and everyone is very afraid of disease. With no running water or electricity, they have immediate sewage problems as well. I'll spare you his personal details; in general human effluent is compounding the problem.
The Salvation Army ran out of food two days ago. There has been no sign
of the Red Cross. Army troops occasionally pass through the area, headed
to who knows where to do who knows what. People are begging for water and food and clothing and help. And they are very, very, angry at the complete lack of response from the government, the outrageous indifference inherentin the government statements, most of all the complete lack of preparedness for a storm everyone knew was coming. This anger, of course, gives way to depression when they calm down and look around and see, to paraphrase Gertrude Stein, that there is no there, there.
He begged us not to try to get to him. If effect, he said, they have
no choice but to wait for the government relief columns to arrive. We
think his anger, rage really, is being compounded by what he sees every
day as he makes his way up and down what is left of the coast to gather
reports. His appeal was NOT personal -- if he survived two years in the
pesthole of West Africa, he can handle this. Rather he was reflecting what
he has been covering -- utter destruction, a shell-shocked population, a
modern American community without shelter or food or water...yet, a
government that clearly is failing its citizens, a sense of dislocation and
loss so powerful, most people can not express it.
This is no trial by fire, no rite of passage, no adventure. Much of Biloxi
Beach -- the Mississippi Coast -- was simply wiped out. And they are waiting...waiting...waiting...
To the journalists reading this note, I will say this: this is one gutsy
little newspaper. E&P filed this
When this is over, and God knows when that will be, we -- former reporters
and editors and journalism professors -- should do something to recognize
their spirit and grit. Yes, sure, it's a great story, the story of their
lives, but the staffers are also victims (half, half of them have lost
everything.) They go to work everyday because they know that "information"
is a kind of tonic to people in distress. They go to work because they are reporters, because it's their job.
We are proud of Joshua; he stayed through the storm and hit the streets
before the winds had died down. He works, sleeps, works. He said he was
grateful to have a job, a task, a mission, in the middle of all this.
Most folks, he said, sit around on piles of rubble, wide-eyed, reeling.
Finally, he asked us to thank all of you. We told him of your calls,
dozens and dozens of them, of your best wishes, your offers of support.
He said to say this: he is doing his job, he is being a reporter. Those
of you who have spent a lifetime in the business will understand what
Michael and Beth and Ben