Wednesday, November 30, 2005
"Terrorists...terrorists...terrorists. Gotta fight 'em in Iraq before they strike us again here." Sound like President Bush? Guess again. It's Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman (CT), this year's winner of the Zell Miller Republican Wannabe Award, whose Wall Street Journal Op-Ed this week will surely earn him a seat at the Friday night White House Iraq Group poker table.
The hawkish Lieberman seems more pro-war than the Bushies, if that seems possible. In his WSJ piece he used the term "terrorist" nine times and fires off Cheney-quality hyperbole and red flags concerning the war:
"I can report real progress in Iraq; progress is visible and practical"
"It is a war between 27 million people and 10,000 terrorists"
"If the terrorists win, they will be emboldened to strike us directly again"
"None of these remarkable changes would have happened without the coalition forces led by the U.S."
"I am disappointed by Democrats who are more focused on how President Bush took America into war in Iraq almost 3 years ago...than they are concerned about how we continue the progress in Iraq in the months and years ahead"
"Does America have a good plan for doing this, a strategy for victory in Iraq? Yes we do."
"Nationwide, American military leaders estimate that about one-third of the approximately 100,000 members of the Iraqi military are able to lead the fight themselves"
I'm not exactly sure what Lieberman's motivation is, and what he has to gain by vociferously promoting the Bush war message. But he appears wildly out of touch with reality, and out of synch with many of his Senate peers with stellar military expertise, including John Murtha (D-PA), Carl Levin (D-MI), Joe Biden (D-DE), Susan Collins (R-ME), Chuck Hagel (NEB) and Richard Lugar (D-IN), all of whom have been critical of the administration's planning and execution of the war, the absence of real progress, and the lack of a coherent exit strategy.
Lieberman also irresponsibly lobs the Bush/Cheney Weapon of Mass Deception by blatantly connecting the "terrorists" we're fighting in Iraq with those who attacked us on 9-11. Consider the president's own words in his Annapolis speech Wednesday in describing the significance of the various factions of the enemy: "The rejectionists are by far the largest group. These are ordinary Iraqis, mostly Sunni Arabs, who miss the privileged status they had under the regime of Saddam Hussein. And they reject an Iraq in which they're no longer the dominant group...The second group that makes up the enemy in Iraq is smaller but more determined. It contains former regime loyalists who held positions of power under Saddam Hussein, people who still harbor dreams of returning to power...The third group is the smallest but the most lethal: the terrorists affiliated with or inspired by al-Qaida."
But even his own analysis of the enemy doesn't stop him from regurgitating his standard alarm-sounding rhetoric: "Yet the terrorists have made it clear that Iraq is the central front in their war against humanity. And so we must recognize Iraq as the central front in the war on terror." What the Bushies, and now Zell Lieberman, have been shamelessly trying to convince America is that the war in Iraq is a war against our 9-11 enemies. And this clearly is not the case. It's both irresponsible and reprehensible for Lieberman to now be echoing the Bush lies.
As far as the alleged "progress" being made in Iraq, electricity and oil production is at pre-war levels, and unemployment stands at 60%. And regarding military progress, specifically in terms of independent Iraqi battalions, consider the September 29th testimony of Gen. John P. Abizaid, commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, before the Senate Armed Services Committee when pressed by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ):
McCAIN: General Abizaid, there was a report sent over, I think last June, that three of the hundred Iraqi battalions were fully trained and equipped, capable of operating independently. What is that number now?
ABIZAID: The number now is, if you're talking about level-one trained --
ABIZAID: It's one.
McCAIN: At one battalion?
So in Bushspeak, three becoming one equals progress. And Sen. Lieberman appears all too happy, for whatever reasons, to break party ranks, perpetuate the lies, and pound the table in support of Bush's war and the president himself.
Monday, November 28, 2005
Is Bush Set to Do an About-Face on His Misguided "Stay the Course" Policy By Withdrawing Troops In Time For '06 Midterms?
With political pressure mounting on President Bush from both Democrats and Republicans to create a viable and imminent exit strategy for the troops in Iraq, the key question is if the withdrawal will coincide with next year's midterm elections, and if so, will the Bushies and the GOP be reversing course, selling out Iraq in the process.
The latest Harris Poll reports that 63 percent of Americans want most of the troops home within the next year. A majority also no longer trust Bush, and believe the administration misused intelligence to make its case for war. With Bush's and Cheney's approval ratings at 35% and 28% respectively, none of this bodes well for Republican incumbents seeking re-election next November.
But where exactly does that leave Bush's repeated promise to "stay the course?" As the New York Times reports Monday, the Bushies are quietly reacting to the growing unpopularity of the war by privately laying the groundwork for an '06 draw-down. Administration and Pentagon officials have plans in place to reduce to under 100,000 by next Spring the amount of troops in the region. But simultaneous contingency plans also call for a possible speedier withdrawal to meet the demands of the new Iraqi government, as well as for a possible increase in troop strength should the insurgency gain momentum.
Many in Washington suspect that the Bushies will cave under the increasing political pressure, compromise its goal of fighting "until the mission is completed," and prematurely withdraw the troops. Many prominent lawmakers on both sides of the aisle including Sen. John Murtha (D-PA), Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) and Sen. Richard Lugar (D-IN) have been highly critical of the war and Bush's lack of an exit strategy, and have turned the screws, demanding such a plan. Whether or not Bush can stave off the pressure and stick to his original--albeit misguided and delusional--indefinite timetable or whether GOP survival-politics will win out remains to be seen. But if the recent week or two is any indication of which way the White House wind will blow, the easy money is on a Bush about-face.
The set-up will continue this Wednesday, when Bush will speak in Annapolis, MD about the military "progress" in Iraq and the ongoing war on terrorism. What we're sure to get then, and in the days, weeks and months to come, is more of the same lies and deception from the president and VP Cheney. All in the name of justifying what is soon to be their policy reversal regarding troop withdrawal.
Friday, November 25, 2005
What would Thanksgiving be without acknowledging the monumental accomplishments of President Bush, and to show our appreciation for all he's done to help tarnish America's great reputation and make our nation a most difficult place in which to live in 2005. So, without further adieu:
Thank you President Bush for:
-Allowing Osama bin Laden to remain free;
-Squandering America's post-911 currency;
-Lying about WMD, mushroom clouds, Uranium in Niger, and our need to invade Iraq;
-Lying about Saddam's Al Qaeda connection;
-Sending thousands of our men and women to die in an unjust war;
-Not adequately arming these brave soldiers;
-Alienating the U.S. from its most trusted allies;
-Turning the entire world against us;
-Firing Gen. Shinseki, who said we didn't have enough troops to fight the war;
-Not firing Donald Rumsfeld, whose strategy Shinseki proved wrong;
-Turning Iraq into a terrorist breeding ground;
-Lying about how you won't nation build;
-Opposing the 911 commission and the Dept. of Homeland Security;
-The torture and human rights abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo;
-Lining the pockets of Halliburton with fat no-bid contracts;
-Ignoring the nuclear build-up in Iran and N. Korea;
-Blowing off the Kyoto Treaty
-Lying about Social Security's insolvency;
-The huge tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% of America;
-Lying about the true cost of the health care bill;
-Being a real divider not a uniter;
-Stellar appointments like Michael "Brownie" Brown, Harriet Miers and other cronies;
-The record gas and oil prices;
-The largest debt in U.S. history;
-Failing miserably in the Hurricane Katrina rescue and relief effort;
-Fostering the most blatant culture of corruption in U.S. history;
Yes, thank you George for being such a wonderful president.
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
The war in Iraq has caused the death of 2100 U.S. soldiers and has maimed or wounded another 20,000. The financial cost has topped $400 billion, and our standing in the world has taken a huge blow since the invasion in March 2003. But the gravest consequence of all has been how the Bush/Cheney deception campaign over Iraq has sapped Americans' will to wage war on what is the real enemy, Al Qaeda, and the various terrorist cells hidden throughout the world. As Frank Rich pointed out Sunday in his NY Times column, polls show that the percentage of Americans who view fighting terrorism as a top priority have dropped precipitously to only single digits or low double digits. And that is one very scary statistic.
The Bushies' Wag the Dog strategy has backfired big time, and has put our nation at much greater risk than before the September 11 attacks. Americans have been running a political and military marathon, and they're exhausted. The Bush/Cheney cabal has shamelessly deceived them, sending 130,000 troops to fight an enemy that wasn't, and searching for WMD that didn't exist. They were duped into believing, albeit temporarily, that we were fighting terrorists; the same terrorists that attacked us on 9-11. This fairly tale that the Bushies concocted and perpetuated over the past four years was its own deadly WMD: weapon of mass distraction. While they were lying to us about Saddam and the imminent mushroom clouds, the sadistic murderer of 3000 Americans, Osama bin Laden, was making his getaway in the hills of Tora Bora, perhaps forever to elude our grasp.
And now a rapidly growing majority of Americans not only are saying the war was a mistake and want a withdrawal of the troops, a majority of them also now believe that the Bushies misled them into battle by manipulating and exaggerating pre-war intelligence. Bush and Cheney lied, and everyone now knows it. But this entire ordeal has sadly taken its emotional, physical and financial toll on the populace. Americans have become apathetic and indifferent to the overall struggle against the terrorist threat. What the Bush and Cheney lie machine has accomplished is to desensitize and demoralize our citizenry. They want an end to the death in Iraq, but their will to fight terror has been shattered. We can only hope that the will of the terrorists, the real enemy, has been depleted as well.
The petition to draft Al Gore for president in the 2008 election is going strong, garnering over 2100 signatures since last month. To sign the petition, click here. AOL users should open the petition using Internet Explorer.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Cheney Can't Stop Lying and Distorting the Truth About Iraq War...Even as He's Lecturing Democrats About Honesty and Integrity
Vice president Dick Cheney is on a sanctimonious mission extolling the virtues of honest and responsible debate over the war in Iraq. He's highly criticized Democrats for their attacks on President Bush, declaring that those who accuse the president of lying about pre-war intelligence in order to justify the invasion are engaging in "revisionism of the most corrupt and shameless variety." Cheney's self-righteous lecturing on truth-telling gives new meaning to hypocrisy. After all, Cheney knows quite a few things about lying. He's been more 'corrupt and shameless' in perpetrating this unjust war than anyone.
What's more, Cheney can't stop the lying and distortion. In commenting early this week about Rep. Jack Murtha's (D-PA) proposal to immediately begin withdrawing our troops, Cheney said such an early exit would be a "terrible blow" to America's security and would empower the insurgents in Iraq:
"The terrorists believe that by controlling an entire country they will be able to target and overthrow other governments in the region, and to establish a radical Islamic empire that encompasses a region from Spain, across North Africa, through the Middle East and South Asia, all the way to Indonesia. They have made clear, as well, their ultimate ambitions: to arm themselves with weapons of mass destruction, to destroy Israel, to intimidate all Western countries and to cause mass death in the United States."
Can you believe Cheney's audacity and arrogance? Even as he's chastising the Democrats for a lack of honesty and integrity, even as his original reasons for invading Iraq have now been proven unfounded, he's still sounding the WMD alarm and the grave threat posed to the United States by the "terrorists." The last time Cheney lied to us about WMD we embarked on an unjust war that's now killed 2100 U.S. soldiers, maimed and wounded 20,000, and cost $400 billion. Perhaps if we stop listening to the lies we just might be able to get out of this quagmire.
Cheney lambasted the left as "dishonest and reprehensible" for claiming that the Bushies manipulated pre-war intelligence to make their case for war. But the laundry list of Bush's and Cheney's lies and deception over WMD and terrorists' ties to Saddam is well documented. This includes Bush's 2002 State of the Union claim about Iraq's Niger/uranium connections despite proof a year earlier by Joe Wilson to the contrary; and Cheney's claim that 9-11 hijacker Mohammed Atta met in Prague with officials of Al Qaeda and then lied about it when confronted by MSNBC reporter Gloria Borger.
Cheney's also steadfast in maintaining that the Democrats and Congress had access to the same pre-war intelligence documents as the White House. Leading Democrats including Ted Kennedy, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have refuted this assertion, as has Republican Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Said Kennedy: "It defies belief that the vice president can continue to say with a straight face that Congress had the same intelligence as the president and vice president had."
Monday, November 21, 2005
The strain of several failed policies and mounting scandals is starting to take its physical and emotional toll on the president and vice president, who lately seem more anxious for retirement than they do enthused about tackling the legion of domestic and foreign challenges facing America today.
Take Bush for example, who in this picture seems befuddled and totally embarrassed as he searched for an open door that doesn't exist after trying to escape a reporter's dogged war questioning following a press conference in China over the weekend. This is a guy who can't find a successful exit strategy out of a press room and we expect him to come up with one for Iraq? The look on Bush's face could fittingly have a caption above it that reads, "Yes, I am the leader of the free world, can ya believe it? Me neither!"
And how about Cheney, pictured here with Bush while holding onto a cane, the result of knee surgery. Between his knees, his heart and the perpetual scowl on his face, Cheney now seems more cold, disgusted and angrier than ever. When you throw in Bush's recent crustiness during a Latin America trip over having to eat dinner at 10pm and stay up until 2am, and his early exit from his summit the day next because of it, these two don't exactly exude confidence and capability. If they happen to look old, tired and sick of their jobs, it's because they are.
And it doesn't stop there. The fallout from the war, Katrina, Harriet Miers, PlameGate and other botched administration strategies has put a strain on the Bush/Cheney relationship as well. Are they drifting apart? As the NY Times' Elizabeth Bumiller wrote Monday, "Has the senior partner taken the junior partner to the woodshed?" And more importantly she asked, "who is the senior partner, anyway?"
Bush must be livid with "Vice," who, along with his own personal "Cheney,"
Scooter Libby, took it upon themselves to concoct an unjust war and then lied to cover their skeevy tracks, and in the process sent the president's popularity receding faster than Karl Rove's hairline (this is not to suggest Bush's innocence; he himself ultimately lied through his teeth to scare Americans into war). But what did we expect? Everyone joked for years how Cheney was the real president to Bush's veep--as evidenced on 9-11 and in the ensuing days and weeks, when the more important guy was sequestered in a safehouse where Osama bin Laden (remember him?) wouldn't find him. Well, Osama morphed into Saddam, Cheney came out of hiding, and the rest as they say is history. That's what happens when a totally inept, in-over-his-head president hands over the joystick to a war-mongering maniac.
As if they weren't already, the world's leaders must be looking at us and incredulously shaking their heads in amazement as to what's become of the greatest nation in the world.
Saturday, November 19, 2005
Many Democrats are running around today believing they actually stood up to the GOP last night and won a battle. Am I missing something? Perhaps I'm just too myopic to see and enjoy the spoils of this 'victory.' I guess I have a whole different take on what went down in the House last night.
The Republican-sponsored non-binding resolution was defeated 403-3 (just three Democrats voted for it). The measure was crafted as a means of proving that there's little support for Rep. John Murtha's (D-PA) call Thursday to quickly bring the troops home and end the war in Iraq. This is a huge Republican win.
Granted, the precise wording of the Republicans' bill was different than the exact plan Murtha outlined this week, but that's secondary to the main point. Is there really a difference in true government time between "immediately" and "six months?" And besides, the typical American will not read the fine print of either proposal. To them, it's simply an issue of ending the war or perpetuating it. Sadly, they'll see ours as a vote for the latter.
The real bravery, the real excitement, would've been with each and every Democrat taking the podium and giving a spirited, impassioned plea to their colleagues across the aisle to join them in a yes vote and heed the request of the American majority that now wants us out of this quagmire. They could've voted yes on this non-binding measure and demanded that Republicans work out the subsequent details with them. Put the pressure on the Republicans. Force them to respond to America. The Democrats could've used this unbelievable opportunity in the national spotlight to stress how it was more important for them last night to vote with America than to play political games with the GOP. It would've been a major public-relations coup for the left and a major embarrassment for the right had only Democrats voted for a Republican-sponsored bill. The Dem's would've shown character, integrity and resolve, while the Republicans would've looked like manipulating partisan thugs playing political games with the lives of America's sons and daughters. Instead, we took a seat at the game table. And the attack machine will use our votes against us in the future in the most underhanded way as always. And the war goes on. And that's my point.
Friday, November 18, 2005
Call it the "cover your ass" vote. Only three House Democrats have voted to support the resolution calling for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq, a measure which Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) controversially called for Thursday. Falling into the Republicans' crafty trap to force them to go on record in support of the war, the Democrats failed to back Murtha, who put his admirable bi-partisan hawkish reputation on the line (finally, a politician who's not afraid to speak the truth), for fear that doing so will hurt their re-election chances next year.
This is going to backfire. House Democrats are now chained to this quagmire right alongside the Bushies, which is exactly what the GOP wanted. Once again, the left's been outmaneuvered by the right. Until this stops, until we stop being so politically calculating, until the Dem's grow some balls--and I'm not talking momentary tough-guy talk by Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer--we're going to be running uphill come election time. What do we stand for? When will we speak up for these beliefs like Murtha did? Why can't our party speak up for the majority of Americans who oppose and want out of this war?
I think the left made a very, very big mistake tonight.
Rep. Jack Murtha (PA) came out this week with a headline-grabbing stand which calls for the immediate withdrawal of our troops from Iraq. His statements resulted in a hailstorm of harsh criticism from the right. In fact, much of the reaction has been standard attack and smear tactics by a despicable bevy of Republican chickenhawks. The mud and sleaze that has become the Republican weapon of choice has been fully unleashed.
What's ironic is that Murtha's been one of those political untouchables. A hawkish Democrat war hero with a highly decorated 37-year career in the U.S. Marine Corps. He volunteered for Vietnam in '66-'67 and received two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star with Combat "V". Retired from the Marine Corps Reserve as a colonel in 1990. Awarded the Navy Distinguished Service Medal by the Marine Corps Commandant when he retired. Well-respected by both parties for his first-hand knowledge of military and defense issues, of which he has dutifully served and advised both Republican and Democratic presidents. One of the most effective advocates for a strong national defense. A ranking member and former chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. This rare combination of experience enables him to understand defense and military operations from every perspective. So when Murtha opens his mouth to speak, everyone listens intently.
Which is why Murtha's become the man of the week by saying "Our military's done everything that has been asked of them. The U.S. cannot accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily. It's time to bring the troops home." Murtha believes that the longer we stay in Iraq the worse we make the situation: "It is evident that continued military action in Iraq is not in the best interest of the United States of America, the Iraqi people, or the Persian Gulf region." Critical of Bush and Cheney, he claimed the war was "not going as advertised," and said the U.S. should make it clear to the transitional Iraqi government before the December 15 elections that our troops will be departing.
Murtha's been a key Bush ally on the Iraq war, serves as a de facto spokesman for the Pentagon, and has very close relationships with many top generals. One can only imagine what they've been telling him privately that they're too afraid to say directly to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
As expected, Murtha's comments have mobilized the sleazebags in the GOP to quickly begin its Rovian Swift Boat smear campaign, tearing Murtha down personally and attacking his patriotism. White House press secretary Scott McClellan said: "Congressman Murtha is a respected veteran and politician who has a record of supporting a strong America. So it is baffling that he is endorsing the policy positions of Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic party." (McClellan has never served in the military)
Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (Ill) essentially called Murtha a coward and said he was delivering "the highest insult" to the troops," and that "Murtha and other Democrats want us to retreat. They want us to wave the white flag of surrender to the terrorists of the world." (Hastert never served in the military)
VP Dick "Five-Deferments" Cheney said: "The president and I cannot prevent certain politicians from losing their memory or their backbone. But we are not going to sit by and let them rewrite history." (Cheney never served in the military)
Rep. David Dreier (R-CA): "It would be an absolute mistake and a real insult to the lives that have been lost." (Dreier never served in the military)
Majority Leader Roy Blunt (MS) said Murtha's views "only embolden our enemies." (Blunt never served in the military)
Rep. John Carter (TX) said Murtha wants to take "the cowardly way out and say we're going to surrender." (Carter never served in the military)
What Murtha has bravely done in Congress is simply voice what a majority of Americans feel about the military failure in Iraq and their desire to put an end to the death of U.S. soldiers. We hope his actions strongly urge Democrats to take his side, and convince some Republicans as well that it's time to start demanding of President Bush that he outline a coherent and imminent exit strategy. Perhaps this is the tipping point on Iraq that we've been waiting for.
And we also hope once and for all that the GOP's attack and smear tactics backfire and cause even further damage to an already struggling and scandal-scarred party in which voters have lost faith. It is reprehensible and bordering on treasonous to attack for political purposes the bravery, patriotism and military service of distinguished war heroes like John Kerry, Max Cleland, John McCain and John Murtha. It's even more despicable when it's done by a bunch of draft-dodging Republican cowards who've never stepped into a military uniform.
"I like guys who've never been there that criticize us who've been there," Murtha said. "I like that. I like guys who got five deferments and never been there and send people to war, and then don't like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done. I resent the fact, on Veterans Day, he (Bush) criticized Democrats for criticizing them."
The Bushies' bully-pulpit attack and smear campaign against anyone who disagrees with them is both un-American and ammoral. The tragic irony is that the neocons have our men and women dying in Iraq to spread Democracy and protect personal freedoms yet they are utterly clueless on how to promote the same liberties, freedom of speech, and right of dissent here at home.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
Christine Cegelis Got 44% Against Henry Hyde in '04; So Why is DCCC Head Rahm Emanuel Undermining Her '06 Campaign?
Rep. Henry Hyde, the 81-year-old hypocrite Republican blowhard who led the House impeachment effort against President Bill Clinton in the 1990's and subsequently faced humiliation and embarrassment when news of his 5-year adulterous affair became public, will be vacating the 6th Congressional District seat he's held for almost 30 years. In the '04 election, his Democratic challenger, Christine Cegelis, commanded 44% of the vote, more than any challenger since his first run for Congress in 1974. In their effort to hang onto Hyde's seat, the GOP is pushing state Sen. Peter Roskam (R-Wheaton), a Tom Delay protege, who'll likely face the winner of the Democratic primary to be held in March. Head-to-head against Roskam, you'd think Cegelis would stand a terrific shot of capturing another 7% and winning the election, right? Apparently, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (ILL), head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, doesn't think so.
Yesterday I wrote about Emanuel, his progress at the DCCC, and his rough and tumble qualities that the party desperately needs right now in battling the Republicans. But today I write about something quite puzzling about Emanuel. Rather than throw his political muscle and DCCC money behind Cegelis--a 51 year old single mother and businesswoman--Emanuel is instead recruiting Army Maj. Ladda "Tammy" Duckworth, a Hofffman Estates resident, who lost both her legs in Iraq. She has not yet accepted his invitation to run for Hyde's seat. "She expressed her interest. That's where it is," he said. Duckworth is undergoing physical therapy and faces many medical challenges as a result of her injuries. With no political experience, and having serious health issues, it's a mystery why Duckworth appeals more to Emanuel than the candidate who almost whipped Hyde's philandering ass last year.
One explanation is that Emanuel has not been happy with Cegelis's fundraising efforts. Between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, Cegelis raised $159,885 and has $48,973 cash on hand. That's not good enough for Emanuel, so he's begun looking for an alternative. What's troubling is that Emanuel's main function as DCCC head is to raise funds for viable candidates who are struggling financially, and Cegelis is about as viable as they come in the 6th District race. Again, she captured 44% against a 31-year, 16-term Republican legend; in my book that makes her the Democrats' best shot and Emanuel should embrace her with everything he's got.
Emanuel also seems hellbent on recruiting fantasy candidates who fit a certain high profile: military vets, law enforcement, athletes. In doing so, he seems to be chasing what he believes to be a winning Republican strategy. Is he onto something here? Perhaps. But these backgrounds don't in and of themselves make one fit for public service. It's quite possibly style over substance, and that would be a disaster for our side.
Winning Hyde's seat is very much within reach for the Democrats. Roskam, a former legislative assistant to scandal-plagued former House Leader Tom Delay, was himself investigated in 1992 by the Illinois Attorney general and the IRS for possible campaign finance abuses. Like his former boss, he's no pillar of morality. It's shouldn't be too hard to mount an effective campaign against him.
Let's hope that Emanuel, rather than possibly chasing down a fantasy, puts his immense clout and financial support behind candidates who have experience and can win, and not just those who look good in uniform. Until I see otherwise, Christine Cegelis, who was endorsed by Howard Dean and Sen. Richard Durbin (ILL) in her '04 bid, seems very worthy of that support.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
"People aren't happy with Washington! Look, we should be the party outside of Washington coming to goddamn kick ass out there." So says smack-talkin' Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the firebrand Illinois Congressman, former Clinton strategist and head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), a post he assumed last January. In his new role, it's Emanuel's responsibility, and his personal mission, to win back the House next November. And if history is any indicator, Emanuel will do anything, anything, to make this happen. But can he succeed?
The biggest challenge facing Democrats next year is the congressional redistricting pushed through by the Republican majority that, on the surface, will make it very difficult for the left to win an appreciable number of races. Out of 435 seats in the House, Democrats need just a net gain of 15 seats to regain control. Sound like a paltry sum? Sure. But the Republicans' craftiness in redrawing districts has reduced the number of seats in play to about 30, versus about 90 this same time before the 1994 election, according to the Cook Political Report, an independent campaign handicapper. In short, both Democratic and Republican districts were reinforced, but the all-important, highly coveted swing districts have all been erased. To say that winning 15 out of 30 seats is a fantasy would be an understatement. Emanuel certainly has his work cut out for him.
But there is hope. Emanuel has been getting lots of help from the right. The president's approval rating is at an abysmal 35%. A majority of Americans are dissatisfied with the Republican-controlled Congress. The GOP is weighed down by the quagmire in Iraq, the Katrina and Rita failures, a struggling economy racked with rising interest rates, massive debt and a possible bursting of the housing bubble, and mounting scandal. Bush looks and is tired and beaten. His political currency is depleted, and he's become a pariah to incumbents. The GOP is a party in trouble. And it only seems to be getting worse. History has shown that under such extraordinary circumstances, where the populace grows so unhappy with its leaders, the typical rules of thumb go out the window. That's when 30 seats in play could become 89 fairly quickly.
Emanuel is highly respected in Democratic circles for his tenacity and tireless work ethic. "I've known Rahm for more than 20 years and he has always been a fighter for Democratic values, even before he was first elected to Congress," said former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe earlier in the year. "With Rahm now using his talents to help Democratic candidates across the country, I know we will take back the House in 2006."
To get there, Emanuel's main task is to raise funds and build a bigger war chest than the GOP. He was a cash cow for Bill Clinton back in the early 90's when he was a young, brash, relentless fundraiser. He still has his mojo, and has already raised a record-breaking $32-million. But if the Democrats are going to win next year they'll need more than money. They need viable, engaging candidates and a solid platform with a clear message that will resonate well with voters, especially moderate Republicans and Independents. Emanuel leans toward the center, and favors a range of benefits to help the middle class such as college tax breaks; retirement savings incentives; and the importing of lower-cost prescription drugs.
But the Democrats need much more than that. We need to lay out a creative exit strategy for the war. We need to develop a universal health plan that makes good political, social and economic sense. We need to improve our educational system. We need an intelligent alternative energy and fuel plan. We need a sound economic policy designed to drastically reduce our national debt, create new jobs and stave off inflation. And, in what was the cornerstone of the Bushies' main political appeal, we need to demonstrate to voters that they can entrust us with national security and the protection of our borders. We need our version of the Contract With America, Newt Gingrich's and the GOP's very potent weapon used back in '94 to take control of Congress.
The dark tunnel that has been the Democratic Party for years has started to show some light. The Democrats have a true warrior in Emanuel, whose take-no-prisoners political muscling should bode well for the party between now and the midterms. He's a streetfighter, not afraid to pummel the enemy. He is someone the left desperately needs swinging in its corner. In case you haven't noticed, we don't have many tough guys in our party. And he's already making serious progress. He's put 41 districts in play and he's been recruiting uniquely exciting new candidates including military vets, FBI agents, a pastor, a sheriff and former NFL quarterback Heath Shuler. And the more the GOP struggles, the quicker Emanuel will pounce.
"This is about winning campaigns. I come from the Vince Lombardi school: 'Winning is everything,'" he said.
There's this myth that's been perpetuated for years in conservative Washington and among the right wing press that the Republican Party is the party of strong, courageous, heroic defenders of America, while the Democrats are namby-pamby sissy-boys that cannot and should not be entrusted with the nation's security. How and when this started--although I'll give much of the credit to Karl Rove--I'm not exactly sure. But a simple look into the military service, or lack thereof, of prominent politicians and spin monkeys offers a not so surprising revelation into who the real tough guys are in Washington:
* Richard Gephardt: Air National Guard, 1965-71.
* David Bonior: Staff Sgt., Air Force 1968-72.
* Tom Daschle: 1st Lt., Air Force SAC 1969-72.
* Al Gore: enlisted Aug. 1969; sent to Vietnam Jan. 1971 as an army journalist in 20th Engineer Brigade.
* Bob Kerrey: Lt. J.G. Navy 1966-69; Medal of Honor, Vietnam.
* Daniel Inouye: Army 1943-47; Medal of Honor, WWII.
* John Kerry: Lt., Navy 1966-70; Silver Star, Bronze Star with Combat V, Purple Hearts.
* Charles Rangel: Staff Sgt., Army 1948-52; Bronze Star, Korea.
* Max Cleland: Captain, Army 1965-68; Silver Star & Bronze Star, Vietnam.
* Ted Kennedy: Army, 1951-53.
* Tom Harkin: Lt., Navy, 1962-67; Naval Reserve, 1968-74.
* Jack Reed: Army Ranger, 1971-1979; Captain, Army Reserve 1979-91.
* Fritz Hollings: Army officer in WWII; Bronze Star and seven campaign ribbons.
* Leonard Boswell: Lt. Col., Army 1956-76; Vietnam, DFCs, Bronze Stars, and Soldier's Medal.
* Pete Peterson: Air Force Captain, POW. Purple Heart, Silver Star and Legion of Merit.
* Mike Thompson: Staff sergeant, 173rd Airborne, and Purple Heart.
* Bill McBride: Candidate for Fla. Governor. Marine in Vietnam; Bronze Star with Combat V.
* Gray Davis: Army Captain in Vietnam, Bronze Star.
* Pete Stark: Air Force 1955-57
* Chuck Robb: Vietnam
* Howell Heflin: Silver Star
* George McGovern: Silver Star & DFC during WWII.
* Bill Clinton: Did not serve. Student deferments. Entered draft but received #311.
* Jimmy Carter: Seven years in the Navy.
* Walter Mondale: Army 1951-1953
* John Glenn: WWII and Korea; six DFCs and AirMedal with 18 Clusters.
* Tom Lantos: Served in Hungarian underground in WWII. Saved by Raoul Wallenberg.
* Dick Cheney: did not serve. Several deferments, the last by marriage.
* Dennis Hastert: did not serve.
* Tom Delay: did not serve.
* Roy Blunt: did not serve.
* Bill Frist: did not serve.
* Mitch McConnell: did not serve.
* Rick Santorum: did not serve.
* Trent Lott: did not serve.
* John Ashcroft: did not serve. Seven deferments to teach business.
* Jeb Bush: did not serve.
* Karl Rove: did not serve.
* Saxby Chambliss: did not serve. "Bad knee." The man who attacked Max Cleland's patriotism.
* Paul Wolfowitz: did not serve.
* Vin Weber: did not serve.
* Richard Perle: did not serve.
* Douglas Feith: did not serve.
* Eliot Abrams: did not serve.
* Richard Shelby: did not serve.
* Jon Kyl: did not serve.
* Tim Hutchison: did not serve.
* Christopher Cox: did not serve.
* Newt Gingrich: did not serve.
* Don Rumsfeld: served in Navy (1954-57) as flight instructor.
* George W. Bush: failed to complete his six-year National Guard; got assigned to Alabama so he could campaign for family friend running for U.S. Senate; failed to show up for required medical exam, disappeared from duty.
* Ronald Reagan: due to poor eyesight, served in a non-combat role making movies.
* B-1 Bob Dornan: Consciously enlisted after fighting was over in Korea.
* Phil Gramm: did not serve.
* John McCain: Vietnam POW, Silver Star, Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross.
* Dana Rohrabacher: did not serve.
* John M. McHugh: did not serve.
* JC Watts: did not serve.
* Jack Kemp: did not serve. "Knee problem, " although continued in NFL for 8 years.
* Dan Quayle: Journalism unit of the Indiana National Guard.
* Rudy Giuliani: did not serve.
* George Pataki: did not serve.
* Spencer Abraham: did not serve.
* John Engler: did not serve.
* Lindsey Graham: National Guard lawyer.
* Arnold Schwarzenegger: AWOL from Austrian army base.
* Sean Hannity: did not serve.
* Rush Limbaugh: did not serve (4-F with a 'pilonidal cyst.')
* Bill O'Reilly: did not serve.
* Michael Savage: did not serve.
* George Will: did not serve.
* Chris Matthews: did not serve.
* Paul Gigot: did not serve.
* Bill Bennett: did not serve.
* Pat Buchanan: did not serve.
* John Wayne: did not serve.
* Bill Kristol: did not serve.
* Kenneth Starr: did not serve.
* Antonin Scalia: did not serve.
* Clarence Thomas: did not serve.
* Ralph Reed: did not serve.
Many of these conservatives did everything in their power--including using their family's wealth and political connections--to avoid military service. No wonder then that they over-compensate for this lack of bravery by attempting to tear down the real heroes at every turn.
Entrust our security to these jokers? Puhleeeeze. I'll jump in a trench with Kerry, Cleland, Kennedy, Daschle and Gore any day of the week over Bush, Cheney, DeLay, Frist and Limbaugh. At least our guys don't have to play dress up.
Fresh on the heels of his devastating loss last week to Jon Corzine in New Jersey's gubernatorial race, Douglas Forrester knows where the blame lies: squarely with President Bush and his abysmal approval rating (Republican incumbents take note). In comments made to the Newark Star Ledger, the nine-point loser believes he'd be the state's new governor-elect had he not nosedived off of Bush's coattails.
"If Bush's numbers were where they were a year ago, or even six months ago, I think we would have won on Tuesday," Forrester said. "I don't think that there's any candidate that has ever received such a pounding...Election night was emotionally much more difficult because we came in quite confident we were going to win."
With the economy sagging, the war spiraling our of control, the embarrassment over Hurricane Katrina and the mounting GOP scandals, the best Bush can do these days to shore up support in an attempt to get the party back on track is to blame Democrats for the debacle in Iraq. If that's all he's got, the GOP's in serious trouble, and there'll be many more Forrester's blaming the president this time next year.
Monday, November 14, 2005
Over the past several years and through two presidential elections we've heard prominent conservative lawmakers and spin monkeys such as Tom Delay, Ken Mehlman, Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly lament the mighty powers of the so-called left wing media. To hear it from them, the liberal media machine is a giant behemoth which dominates the mainstream press. Of course, those of us on the left know the truth; that it is the right wing that has a chokehold on the media. The Republicans have never been afraid of classic psychological projection. They're quite good at accusing us of everything they're blatantly guilty of.
Which is why it's so surprising to learn that MSNBC conservative talking head Tucker Carlson, while interviewing his boss, NBC Universal President Bob Wright, at a symposium last week, admitted the absence of the mythical dreaded lefty media beast. Speaking at a media gathering in New York City, Wright said he longed for the days when networks offered more balanced, "down the middle,” news coverage, and cited the over-the-top tone increasingly embraced by the cable-news channels, in particular Fox News. Rather than don his conservative hat and take his boss to task, Carlson suggested that Wright start a channel devoted to the left. "There’s tons of liberals out there," Carlson said. Obviously, Carlson believes this is an untapped market.
Targeting liberals would prove futile, Wright said. “For some strange, probably genetic, reasons (whatever the heck that means), they don’t listen to a lot of radio and they don’t watch a lot of television.”
So much for the big bad left wing media beast.
Saturday, November 12, 2005
With his approval rating an anemic 35% and a majority of Americans believing he misled the nation in his rush to war with Iraq, President Bush, propped up by a re-energized Karl Rove, is blasting Democrats for their "baseless attacks" amid charges that his administration misused pre-war intelligence. With the familiar swagger reminiscent of his 2004 campaign days, Bush came out swinging at a Veteran's Day speech at an army base in Tobyhanna, Pa, blaming Democrats for undermining the war effort. Yet the president consistently chooses to ignore his and VP Dick Cheney's lengthy trail of lies and deception which support the left's accusations.
Despite the obvious--that the war has been a colossal failure and that the country, according to every major poll, believes he was duplicitous in his march to Baghdad--Bush still believes the best path to political resurgence is to blame others and maintain that the pre-war planning was judicious; that the invasion was justified; and that significant progress is being made. I'm not sure what's worse: if he actually believes his own rhetoric and is thus delusional, or if he's blatantly lying.
On the central charge of whether Bush and his administration lied about the need to go to war, about WMD, and if they twisted and manipulated pre-war intelligence, we only need look at the statements made by Bush and VP Dick Cheney in the months, weeks and days leading up to the invasion. It paints a clear picture of a calculated campaign to mislead the nation.
Let's start with the president's statements:
To the United Nations, Sept. 12, 2002: "Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons."
Radio Address, Oct. 5, 2002: "Iraq has stockpiled biological and chemical weapons, and is rebuilding the facilities used to make more of those weapons. We have sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons -- the very weapons the dictator tells us he does not have."
Cincinnati, Ohio Speech, Oct. 7, 2002: "The Iraqi regime... possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons. We know that the regime has produced thousands of tons of chemical agents, including mustard gas, sarin nerve gas, VX nerve gas....The evidence indicates that Iraq is reconstituting its nuclear weapons program. Iraq has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes and other equipment needed for gas centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons....The Iraqi dictator must not be permitted to threaten America and the world with horrible poisons and diseases and gases and atomic weapons....We've learned that Iraq has trained al-Qaeda members in bomb-making and poisons and deadly gases ... Alliance with terrorists could allow the Iraqi regime to attack America without leaving any fingerprints."
State of the Union Address, Jan. 28, 3003: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." (the infamous "16 words" Bush chose to speak despite the fact he knew for a year that they weren't true. Fmr. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, after a CIA-sponsored Feb. 2002 trip to Niger to investigate the allegation, reported finding no such uranium connection between Saddam and Africa).
State of the Union Address, Jan. 28, 2003: "Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent."
Address to the Nation, March 17, 2003: "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised."
Remarks made in Poland, June 1, 2003: "Yes, we found a biological laboratory in Iraq which the UN prohibited."
The vice president was just as deceptive when describing Saddam's WMD build-up on NBC's Meet the Press March 16, 2003: "We know that based on intelligence that he has been very, very good at hiding these kinds of efforts. He's had years to get good at it and we know he has been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons. And we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons."
And Cheney's lies get even bolder. In '01, discussing the alleged connection between 9-11 and Saddam, Cheney said of highjack leader Mohammed Atta on the Meet The Press: "It's been pretty well confirmed that he did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in Czechoslovakia last April. "
But three years later, June 19, 2004 speaking to reporter Gloria Borger on CNBC, Cheney blatantly lied.
BORGER: You have said in the past that it was, quote, pretty well confirmed.
CHENEY: No, I never said that.
CHENEY: I never said that.
BORGER: I think that is...
CHENEY: Absolutely not.
Bush also roped Secretary of State Colin Powell into the act. Powell, on Feb. 5, 2003, presented a very compelling case for war before the U.N. Security Council: "Our conservative estimate is that Iraq today has a stockpile of between 100 and 500 tons of chemical weapons agent. That is enough to fill 16,000 battlefield rockets."
And who can forget the incredulously over-confident declaration made on March 30, 2003 by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld: "We know where [Iraq's WMD] are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south, and north somewhat."
Now, 2 1/2 years and 2000 dead U.S. soldiers later, rather than accept responsibility and offer a mea culpa as so many presidents before him have done in the face of failure, Bush's strategy is to keep lying and shifting blame even though evidence such as Britain's Downing Street Memo proves that the Bushies manipulated intelligence to support its case for war.
"The stakes in the global war on terror are too high, and the national interest is too important, for politicians to throw out false charges," Bush said. "These baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America's will. As our troops fight a ruthless enemy determined to destroy our way of life, they deserve to know that their elected leaders who voted to send them to war continue to stand behind them."
Sorry George, you don't get to lie to Congress and then attack lawmakers as unpatriotic once the lies are eventually exposed and they subsequently oppose your unjust war. The failure of this war rests squarely on your shoulders and your over-zealous, war-mongering cabinet, not the Democrats, the media or anyone else.
The other GOP talking point being regurgitated ad infinitum is that 'everyone including the Clinton administration, our European allies and the U.N. believed Saddam had WMD.' True. But the key difference here is that none of them believed the intelligence was actionable. Which is why they chose not to go to war. Only someone with the supreme arrogance of President Bush would attempt to blame his irresponsibility and poor judgment on the responsibility and good judgment of others.
Friday, November 11, 2005
If it were a movie it could be called "A Southern Star is Born." The most significant thing to happen following Tuesday's elections was the sudden emergence of what many excited Democrats are calling their new 2008 presidential frontrunner, a guy who just happens to be leaving office, not running for it. Departing Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, with an astounding 75% approval rating, ushered fellow Democrat Lt. Gov. Timothy Kaine to victory, and in the process propelled himself into the national spotlight as a very credible threat to New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, the heretofore early favorite.
So just who is Mark Warner? If you're from Virginia, he's your wildly popular governor, elected just three years ago and already, under the state's constitutional term-limits, just a year away from vacating office. But to the rest of the country, he's a relative no-name with little national juice. That is until Tuesday. Now he's the newly anointed Golden Child; the great Democratic hope; the one to watch. But at the same time, to many on the left, he appears as "Republican light" given his conservative positions on the death penalty, gun control, immigration, the economy and abortion.
To his credit, the 51-year-old multimillionaire venture capitalist graduate of Harvard Law School has an impressive fiscal track record as Virginia's governor. Since his election in 2001, state revenue has increased significantly from $19 billion in FY99 to nearly $30 billion in FY05. Warner has also successfully crossed the aisle to work with moderate Republican state legislators to reform the tax code, lowering food and income taxes, and increasing the sales and cigarette taxes in 2004. He's also been lauded for progressive positions on health care and education.
Virginia is a red state which Bush carried in 2004 with 54% of the vote, yet Warner was able to grab the governor's mansion by winning over solidly Republican rural voters. He did so by sponsoring a NASCAR team, supporting gun owners and hunters, by supporting certain restrictions on abortion such as parental notification, and by using a bluegrass song as his campaign theme. He crossed over successfully, and more importantly, as a genuine country boy.
"People in rural America may speak a little slower, but they can spot a phony a mile away," Warner said. "You see other candidates who say, 'Let's just do the optics.' But unless you feel as comfortable hanging out at a country fair or having a beer and eatin' some barbecue as you do at your high-end, high-tech reception, people are going to see through that."
Regarding his chances in '08, as Newsweek's Howard Fineman wrote this Summer, Warner has terrific selling points: he's a governor; he has money and access to more; he has a strong, loyal base; he's a Southerner; he has a worthy cross-over message; and he has time to craft all this into a winning campaign strategy.
And he's not Hillary Clinton, yet he feels a little like Bill, which Democrats love. Sure, prior to Tuesday, and likely still, national polls show Sen. Clinton soundly ahead of the pack. In fact, in a Marist poll just 2 weeks ago Warner was pulling just 1% to Hillary's 41%. But what Democrats will tell you privately is that they fear she's little more than a polarizing North Eastern lefty with as much of a chance of appealing to Southerners and moderate Republicans as Tom DeLay would to Manhattan liberals. And, many Democrats tell me while she might very well sprint through the primary primary, it's unlikely she could win the general election.
If Warner is to mount a serious bid for the White House he'll have to overcome the big challenge of being just a one-term governor. Some believe that will translate to a run for Sen. George Allen's GOP seat in next year's midterms. Recent polls show he would handily beat Allen, yet a head-to-head battle would likely force Warner to emphasize his more liberal pedigree in order to draw sharp contrasts with his Republican opponent. But that could throw a wrench into his presidential aspirations as a moderate challenger to Clinton.
The hullabaloo over Warner aside, we still prefer to see Al Gore return to the national political scene and seek the presidency. Until proven otherwise, he appears to have the best shot at winning...again.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Much was said before Tuesday's bellwether gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey that Republican losses there would be a huge blow to President Bush and a wake up call to the GOP that the president's political capital is depleted. There is no greater evidence of that than today's apparent snub of Bush by No.3 Senate Republican Rick Santorum (PA), who's facing a tough 2006 re-election campaign against Democratic challenger Bob Casey Jr., the state's treasurer, who's held a steady double-digit lead in the polls.
The president will be in Wilkes-Barre today to give one his patented cheerleading speeches on the war on terror, no doubt linking Saddam and Iraq within the first five minutes as usual. But Santorum has other plans. Due to a "scheduling conflict," he'll be 16 miles away in Philadelphia speaking before the American legion.
It took some time, but Bush has become the black plague to Republican incumbents. Tuesday's victories by Va's Tim Kaine and NJ's Jon Corzine is an early barometer into voters' dissatisfaction with the status quo. Bush's sagging popularity--a historically low 35% approval rating--combined with the quagmire in Iraq, mounting policy failures and multiple scandals has become a drain and a liability to those GOPers seeking reelection next year. Case in point is Bush's 11th-hour visit to Richmond earlier this week to stump for Kilgore, which likely pushed many more Democrats and independents to the polls to send a message of their dissatisfaction with the current leadership.
"Republicans have every reason to be concerned," said Terry Madonna, a political analyst and pollster based at Franklin and Marshall College. "Santorum needs a degree of separation, to establish independence from the President so voters believe he represents their interests."
Santorum's spokesman Robert Traynham denies the Senator has calculatingly distanced himself from the president, and insists it's nothing more than a scheduling conflict. I suspect we'll be seeing many more "scheduling conflicts" between now and next November.
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Score another victory for the sane. Voters gave Democrats the governor's seats in Virginia and New Jersey, beat back all four of Gov. Schwarzenegger's ballot initiatives in California, defeated key measures in Maine and Ohio, and sent a loud message to school board members in Dover, PA, telling them there's no place for intelligent design in the classroom while ousting eight Republicans and replacing them with Democrats who want the concept stripped from the science curriculum.
The creationism/intelligent design vs. Evolution battle is nothing new. Religious zealots would love to see the bible's view of creation be taught to students nationwide. In October 2004, Republicans on the Dover school board adopted a policy requiring ninth-graders to hear a prepared statement about intelligent design before learning about Evolution in biology class. Citing church and state violations, eight local families sued to prevent conservatives from forcing it into the curriculum.
The trial ended last week, with a ruling expected by January. Both sides had been expected to appeal a loss, but that is not likely after Tuesday's election.
The election results were a repudiation of the first school district in the nation to order the introduction of intelligent design in a science class curriculum.
Tuesday's elections were expected to be a barometer into the current political climate, with voters growing frustrated over endless scandal and mounting policy failures of the current Republican leadership. It's time for Bush, Frist, DeLay & Company to start getting very, very worried.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
It's official. New Jersey Sen. John Corzine and Virginia Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine, both Democrats, have won their states' hotly contested gubernatorial elections Tuesday, sending a loud message to President Bush that his political currency is depleted, and that his self-proclaimed "mandate" has come to an end. The victories over Doug Forrester and Jerry Kilgore in NJ and Virginia respectively are widely considered an important barometer into the current political climate and the future election prospects of the Republican Party and its leadership, which has been embroiled in controversy, scandal and policy failure. In short, Bush is now the political plague.
Bush appeared Monday and Tuesday with Kilgore, who earlier in the month kept his distance from the embattled president. "You know where he stands, and you know he can get the job done," Bush said this week. The two men campaigned together on the heels of Kilgore's attack ads that painted the Democrat as an anti-death penalty liberal who condones murder. Kaine has stated his religious opposition to capitol punishment, yet has said he'd enforce Virginia's death penalty laws if elected.
Virginia is a red state which Bush carried in 2004 with 54% of the vote, though no Democratic presidential candidate has won Virginia since Lyndon Johnson in 1964. However, Virginia's voters often put a Democrat in the Governor's mansion. Kaine is the 5th Democrat in the past 25 years to be elected to the state's highest office. His victory is significant in terms of what it represents on a national scale and what it could mean for both the Democrats and the GOP in next year's midterms. It also showcases the enormous popularity and influence of Gov. Mark Warner, who is a likely candidate for president in 2008. In helping Kaine win, his national currency has increased appreciably.
Over in New Jersey, Corzine managed to fend off a last-minute attack ad from the Republican challenger, businessman Doug Forrester, which featured Corzine's ex-wife saying he "let his family down, and he'll probably let New Jersey down, too." Right down to the wire the candidates, both multi-millionaires, duked it out over taxes, government waste and charges of corruption.
Tuesday's victories affirm what many pundits have been suspecting, and many within the GOP itself have been fearing, that the current Republican leadership is in serious trouble. That President Bush, once an important asset to incumbents seeking re-election, is now a huge political liability. After Tuesday's deflating losses to Democratic opponents, it's almost certain that Republicans will increasingly be finding themselves "out of town" and/or "attending to prior commitments" the next time Bush shows up.
Poor President Bush. Over the weekend he was an American fish out of water trapped in an Argentinean nightmare. During the first-leg of his four-day Latin America trip for a trade summit with Western Hemisphere leaders, Bush, normally fed by 7 and in his Doctor Dentons by 9pm and in dreamland shortly thereafter, was at the mercy of his foreign hosts who kept him out till--get this--12:40am Saturday. As is the culture in Latin America and Europe, for example, dinner isn't typically served until at least 10pm. To say Bush was a bit miffed would be an understatement. As such, his aides announced that he'd of course be attending the next day's session, but would miss the scheduled two-hour lunch with these same leaders because of "time served" the night before. An early exit was planned to get Bush on Air Force One by 4:05 to get to his next destination, Brazil.
But again, poor Bush. The summit was a bit contentious and the talks ran three hours later than planned, and event organizers decided to cancel lunch. So there was the president, at 3:30pm, no lunch, stomach gurgling, miffed again, abruptly leaving to make his flight and leaving an aide behind to represent the U.S. And, leaving the rest of the gathered dignitaries wondering if the leader of the free world was simply a grumpy, hungry and tired old man. Remember the famed Clinton all-nighters? Now there was a president.
Sunday, November 06, 2005
What would you say if you knew that Senators and Congressmen, when it came to picking stocks, somehow managed as a collective group to beat the market by 12%? Would you suspect that insider trading might have anything to do with it? Well, that was the question put to former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle Friday by HBO's "Real Time" host Bill Maher.
How else do you explain the fact that our elected officials' portfolios are appreciably outperforming that of the average American? Yes, these are the same elected officials who are responsible for monitoring, regulating and often investigating U.S. commerce, and are courted and greased by lobbyists daily.
Responding to Maher, Daschle smiled coyly and said the Senate and House are full of millionaires who likely have very good investment advisors. Thanks for the insight, Tom.
President Bush's approval rating, at 35%, is the lowest in his presidency and substantially lower than any second-term president since Richard Nixon. With this kind of job disapproval, the scandal-plagued Bush is likely to be a major liability to the Republican candidates in this Tuesday's key New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial elections, and, barring a series of political miracles, could cause the GOP to lose control of either the House and/or the Senate in next year's midterms.
In Virginia's hotly contested race, Jerry Kilgore, a former state attorney general, is looking to take the seat being vacated by the very popular Democratic Governor Mark Warner. He's running against Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine, who's gained about 10 points in the polls recently. Kilgore, following the recent strategy of California Gov. Schwarzenegger, avoided a public appearance last week with Bush in a clear sign he was distancing himself from the president and his troubles. In New Jersey, Democrat John Corzine is running against businessman Douglas Forrester to replace acting Gov. Richard Codey, who took over for Governor Jim McGreevey last year after McGreevey was forced to leave office over a scandalous homosexual affair with a high-level aide.
The elections on Tuesday serve as the first barometer into what effect Bush's dismally low popularity and failed policies will have on the Republican Party in its efforts to maintain statewide power and retain control of the House and Senate. Several key GOP lawmakers face re-election next year in what could be very close races, among them: Tom DeLay (TX), Rick Santorum (PA), Jim Talent (MS), Jon Kyl (AZ); Conrad Burns (MT); Mike DeWine (OH); George Allen (VA), and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (TN).
Speaking on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich expressed serious concerns about his party's chances in next year's midterms after Stephanopoulos cited a new ABC News/Washington Post poll in which Americans, 55%-37%, said they'd prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress next year.
"I've been trying to tell everybody I can find on Capitol Hill and in the White House, if they don't have substantial change by the State of the Union, and if they don't convince the country that they've gotten the message, I think they're in big trouble." Stephanopoulos pressed for examples of voter dissatisfaction:
"We're the natural party of reform, and the Democrats are the natural party of pork. The fact that the president has sent up no rescissions, vetoed no bills, there's no fiscal control in Congress. I think there's a very serious problem. Everywhere I travel around the country, traditional conservative Republicans say, why would I vote for a majority that spends this kind of money?" He added that border-control and illegal immigration are priority issues to Americans today. Gingrich suggested that voters are dissatisfied with the status quo, and becoming increasingly disenfranchised, which could spell disaster for the GOP.
"There's a sense that they are not getting the kind of change and they're not getting the kind of direction they want. And we are historically the party that wants to change Washington not the one that wants to run Washington as it is. I think this is a very significant problem."
Let's hope Tuesday's Virginia and New Jersey elections begin to prove Gingrich right.
Friday, November 04, 2005
Former House Leader Tom DeLay (TX) might surely be missed around town if his indictment over illegal fundraising schemes should ultimately land him in jail. Who can forget the pearls of wit and wisdom that have left The Hammer's mouth over the years. Here's a Top 10 list collected by Daniel Kurtzman:
1. "So many minority youths had volunteered, that there was literally no room for patriotic folks like myself." (explaining at the 1988 GOP convention why he and vice presidential nominee Dan Quayle did not fight in the Vietnam War).
2. "Now tell me the truth boys, is this kind of fun?" (to three young hurricane evacuees from New Orleans at the Astrodome in Houston, Sept.9,2005).
3. "I AM the federal government." (to the owner of Ruth's Chris Steak House, when told to extinguish his cigar because of federal laws banning smoking in the building, May 14, 2003).
4. "We're no longer a superpower. We're a super-duper power." (explaining to Fox News why America must overthrow Saddam Hussein in 2002).
5. "Nothing is more important in the face of a war than cutting taxes." (March 12, 2003).
6. "Guns have little or nothing to do with juvenile violence. The causes of youth violence are working parents who put their kids into daycare, the teaching of evolution in the schools, and working mothers who take birth control pills." (explaining the causes of the Columbine High School massacre, 1999).
7. "A woman can take care of the family. It takes a man to provide structure. To provide stability. Not that a woman can't provide stability, I'm not saying that... It does take a father, though." (Feb. 10, 2004).
8. "I don't believe there is a separation of church and state. I think the Constitution is very clear. The only separation is that there will not be a government church."
9. "Emotional appeals about working families trying to get by on $4.25 an hour [the minimum wage in 1996] are hard to resist. Fortunately, such families do not exist." (during a debate in Congress on increasing the minimum wage, April 23, 1996).
10. "I am not a federal employee. I am a constitutional officer. My job is the Constitution of the United States, I am not a government employee. I am in the Constitution." (in a CNN interview, Dec. 19, 1995).
With such profound prose as this, Bush actually seems intelligent by comparison.
Thursday, November 03, 2005
In the wake of last Friday's grand jury indictment of "Cheney's Cheney" Scooter Libby, the Republican Party and its spin machine have experienced the first two phases of a three-phase process when faced with scandal. According to Democratic strategist Bob Shrum, the first phase is denial, when the party flat out refuses to acknowledge the charges against it as if they don't exist. This was the case leading up to the indictment, when administration officials, conservative pundits and talking heads claimed that Rove, Libby and others have little to worry about because special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's 22-month investigation was nothing more than a partisan witch-hunt lacking any evidence of wrongdoing.
Shrum, speaking on MSNBC's Hardball Thursday, said the second phase, rationalization, is when the embattled party acknowledges the existence of the charges and the potential legal troubles it faces, but attempts to minimize the significance of these charges and justify them at the same time. This phase can be evidenced by the spinners' claim that the underlying crime--exposing a covert CIA agent's identity--was never committed because "Plame was not a covert agent," as both the NY Post's Deborah Orin and GOP strategist Ed Rogers declared on Hardball. Therefore, they claim, the "mushier" charges of perjury, falsifying statements, and obstruction are essentially baseless.
But as Fitzgerald said in his post-indictment press conference last week, he could not make a case for the central crime of outing Plame because Libby repeatedly lied to the FBI, to investigators and to the grand jury, and obstructed the investigation.
That brings us to the last phase, change. This is when the administration under fire recognizes it's in a losing legal, political and or public-relations battle and sweeps house. As Ronald Reagan did after the Iran-Contra scandal, presidents often replace cabinet members and key advisors in an effort to put its troubles behind it. A such, the Washington Post reported Thursday that Bush is considering the fate of Deputy Chief of Staff and top political advisor Karl Rove, who remains under grand jury investigation. Rove lied to Press Secretary Scott McClellan two years ago; probably lied to Bush; and has lied to the American people. Is this a person who should be in one of the administration's highest positions? Even staunch conservative Sen. Trent Lott (Miss) asked, "should he be the deputy chief of staff for policy under the current circumstances?"
"I'm not sure the standard of employment in the White House should be that you're not yet indicted," Shrum said. "There ought to be a higher standard than that."
As we wait to see just what Fitzgerald has up his sleeve, four key questions remain: what was Libby's motive to lie and obstruct (was he covering for his boss Cheney?); why would Libby falsify statements, lie under oath and impede the investigation if he was truly innocent;? is PlameGate a narrow crime committed by just one individual, or is it the opening into a much wider scandal involving VP Dick Cheney and others;? and will Libby "turn" evidence to escape 30 years in jail. Only time will tell.
David Brooks' Op-ed piece in Today's NY Times is so absurd and misguided that the only way we could adequately address it was to parody it......
David Brooks sits alone at his kitchen table at 4 am writing notes to himself. He, like his Republican brethren in the Fourth Estate, is still aghast that anyone, let alone Democrats, would demand accountability from the Bush administration over its failed war in Iraq, its manipulation of intelligence to justify the invasion, and its subsequent conspiracy to cover up the truth. He ponders how his party and its inept leaders can spin their way out of what is an obvious colossal policy screw up and breach of the nation's trust. Two words immediately come to mind: Bill Clinton. "That's it! We'll blame it on Bill like we always do!"
What Brooks and the rest of the conservative spinmeisters know that the rest of us don't is that Bill Clinton is at the head of a large conspiratorial organization--a top-secret group of highly trained covert operatives--that are responsible for every Bush administration failure. Take Iraq for example, the highly unjust, ill-advised and ill-fated quagmire that to-date has killed over 2000 American soldiers, wounded and maimed 20,000, and cost U.S. taxpayers over $200 billion. And let's not forget the tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis who've lost their lives. You may not know this, but the Iraq war is all Bill Clinton's fault. It's true, as Brooks points out today, that former Clinton officials William Cohen, Madeleine Albright, Sandy Berger, Al Gore and even Bill himself all sounded the "Saddam has massive stockpiles of WMD" alarm. Of course they did. It was all part of the master plan to set up the Bushies years later.
The Clintonistas, despite this public posturing of Saddam's alleged grave threat to America, knew damn well that his WMD stockpiles were non-existent. In fact, according to one insider, this group, known as WHIGTUB (White House Iraq Group to Undermine Bush), would sit around the Oval Office, smoking cigars and drinking Bud Lights, joking about Saddam's "arsenal," which they all knew consisted of nothing more than "firecrakers and cherry bombs." The Clintons knew that years later the Bushies would run with this "intelligence," manipulating it to justify their war. In short, it was Clinton, not Bush, who manufactured evidence, and then purposefully held off pulling the trigger on any sort of military action against Iraq because he knew Bush would. Worse, he knew Bush would ultimately fail, and face political and public humiliation and embarrassment when the real truth--no WMD--came out.
And what about the serious challenges we face with the economy these days? Yup, you got it. Bill Clinton strikes again. Those seven years of unprecedented prosperity back in the 90's? All a ruse by the Clintonistas to yet again set up Bush for failure and undermine future economies. How politically calculating, how devious, how self-serving it was for former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and the Clinton administration to orchestrate such economic success; to set the bar so high that no future president could match this prosperity.
David Brooks sits alone at his kitchen table at 4 am and scribbles more inane, paranoid notes to himself. He's trying to reconcile how anyone could actually blame Bush, for Bush's failed policies, which he, like millions of other Republicans, believes is not only unfair, but blatantly partisan. Bush has only been in office five years! That's not even two full terms, and certainly not enough time to see his policies through successfully.
Brooks realizes there is only one solution: Clinton, Clinton, Clinton, Clinton...... "Must keep blaming Clinton for every screw-up our dunce of a president commits. Must divert attention away from Iraq, the economy, Social Security, Tom DeLay, Bill Frist, Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, Plamegate, Katrina, and tax cuts for the wealthy by reminding America of Bill's sexual indiscretions. Must expose Democrats' self-serving partisan intent to undermine our great president by incessently demanding accountability for his alleged mistakes and ethical transgressions."
David Brooks sits alone at his kitchen table at 4 am.
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
Sen. Minority Leader Harry Reid (NV) issued a loud wake-up call to Republicans Tuesday by suddenly and surprisingly invoking the Senate's little known and rarely used Rule 21, which forced lawmakers to close off the Senate chamber to staffers, the public and reporters, the first time in over 25 years that one party had demanded a closed session without forewarning the other party. Ok Harry, you've got our attention.
Reid's maneuvering is significant for several reasons. First, it was in direct response to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s "Phase II" promise back in July 2004 at the conclusion of its first phase, to investigate the administration's possible misuse of intelligence on Iraq's WMD programs in order to present its case for war back in 2002 and 2003. Led by Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS), the committee staved off the Democrats' demands for accountability by agreeing to fully explore Phase 2 right after the '04 election. But that never happened, and the Bushies have gotten a free pass. Until Tuesday. I'm just wild about Harry!
"Finally, after months and months and months of begging, cajoling, writing letters, we're finally going to be able to have phase two of the investigation regarding how the intelligence was used to lead us into the intractable war in Iraq," Reid said about the Democrats' success in forcing Majority Leader Bill Frist (TN) to agree to a six-senator bipartisan task force that will report by Nov. 14 on the committee's progress.
Next, what Reid's move also serves to accomplish is to get the Samuel Alito nomination off the headlines and get the Scooter Libby indictment and the Iraq scandal back instead. For once, we've seemed to trump the Bushies, who always manage to have some diversionary news to announce every time they're at their lowest point. This time, we diverted.
And lastly, Tuesday's maneuver signifies that the Democrats are recapturing their mojo; beginning to feel the confidence necessary to stand up to the administration and to the GOP leadership. How ridiculous was it to see Frist, Rick Santorum, Trent Lott and others whining like babies outside the chamber about how the Dem's action was a "slap" to the GOP and to Frist in particular? You want to talk slaps? How about how the Bush administration has slapped every American with its lying about WMD, its rush to war, the 2000 soldiers it killed, and its treasonous cover-up of the truth?
The outcome of the November 14 report is questionable. Ultimately, there may be little the Democrats can do while handcuffed in a Republican-controlled Senate. But more importantly it's a bold message to the GOP that we'll no longer lie down and let it run the country recklessly and without accountability and public scrutiny.
Now let's hope Harry and & Co. can harness the same mojo and aggressiveness when fighting the Alito nomination. There's way too much at stake for America not to. Give 'em hell, Harry!
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Rewind, if you will, back to the 2000 presidential election. Al Gore vs George W. Bush. Oh, and Ralph Nader, remember him? You know, the one who pulled all those votes away from Gore, especially in Florida, and in the process prevented him from becoming president and sent Bush to Washington instead. The guy who refused to drop out of the race despite desperate pleas from the Left that his spoiler act could change America in ways unthinkable. Well, his colossal ego and supreme narcissism won out and he stayed the course. And the rest, as they say, is history.
But it's the naive, "message-sending" followers of this selfish fool who we now have to thank for the past five disastrous years of Bush, and worse, for the nomination Monday of staunch conservative jurist Samuel "Scalito" Alito to replace the retiring Sandra Day O'Connor on the U.S. Supreme Court. For those of you still in the dark, that's "Scalito," as in, "little Scalia." Alito's nomination has sent the far right wing of the Republican Party into a euphoric state over this solid pro-lifer who's record strongly indicates he'll jump through hoops to overturn Roe V. Wade. The Rehnquist-for-Roberts swap had little consequence. The O'Connor-for-Alito trade, however, has the potential to dramatically and dangerously shift the high court to the far right. The Democrats must come out in full body-armor on this one and fight to the death if we ever intend to preserve personal freedoms; the right to privacy; separation of church and state; and other constitutional bedrocks.
This nightmarish scare is the work of those misguided Nader-ites who, back in 2000, said there was "no difference" between Gore and Bush; who said they felt disappointed and betrayed by the Democratic Party; who said they needed to "send a message" of this frustration through their "protest vote" for Nader. They sent a message alright, and that message was..."Welcome to the White House, Mr. Bush." Want to talk betrayal? How about how the Nader-ites now feel having lived through five years of the Bush betrayal on humanity? Their unfortunate protest vote just might result in the conservative Taliban of this country setting back judicial progress 30+ years.
Oh how it was so clear to the rest of us what the stakes were. Why couldn't these reckless folks see it too? Did they really think Bush would serve their interests and ideals as well as Gore? Could they have been that naive? Many on the left even desperately tried to "swap" votes with Nader supporters through web sites that were set up in an attempt to minimize the impact of his candidacy. I am proud to say I was one of them. But that effort failed as well. The Nader-ites were on some sort of sanctimonious, self-righteous mission to prove they were more worthy of the political process than the rest of us who were simply trying to keep a dangerous, unqualified moron out of the White House.
If I sound angry, I am. Damn angry. Punch my fist into a wall angry. You don't play games with people's lives. With people's freedoms. With constitutional rights. Nader's supporters knowingly and willfully rolled out the red carpet for Bush through their wasteful protest vote. Funny how there are no more Nader-ites. The 2004 election proved that. Sadly, they've learned their lesson in the most unfortunate way. Let's just hope that for the rest of us, there's still time to wage a holy war on these religious fanatics who've highjacked the country from the founding fathers.