It Is Time For Americans To Get Their Heads On Straight Even If The News Isn’t Great.
The media is doing America a great disservice in not “telling-it-like-it-is”. The Republicans and other Right Wing hate-filled, frighten racists lunatics are going to lose on the healthcare issue. We are watching a lot of political theater and posturing in Congress that has nothing to do with the final outcome, and everything to do with establishing sound bite records for re-election. The polls keep moving up behind reform and the public option and to weasel that fact around is simply media garbage.
When all is said and done Nancy Pelosi will have her day with the “Blue Dogs” simply because if they stay in a position that imperils the final bill she has the power and Chuck Schumer has the purse strings to take every one of them down. Their careers will be finished. That is the bottom line.
They will find spin lines to use for their constituencies and they will have financial support to offset any real damage they may incur.
Let’s face it; if healthcare reform fails, and no sane insider holds that out as a reality any longer, the Obama Presidency fails and any Democrat that contributes to that outcome is looking down into his/her political grave, including Max Baucus!
President Obama's campaign to rally support behind his health care plan appears to have done little to allay concerns about the proposal. Nonetheless a new poll showed that he "is in a decidedly more commanding position than Republicans on the issue." Read More
After a difficult summer for Democrats, which saw President Obama’s approval ratings return to earth and support for his signature health care reform falter, a new Democracy Corps survey conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, after the president’s joint-session address, shows Obama and his party’s position rebounding in a small but significant way.
As Obama and Democrats’ standing improves and stabilizes, the Republican brand remains severely tarnished and their party has lost ground on key measures over the last few weeks.
Democrats’ rebound, coupled with the stagnant and unimpressive standing of the Republican brand, has left an overall political landscape that still strongly favors the Democratic Party, even after what many pundits have proclaimed as the best month for Republicans in a long time. Democrats retain their lead on the named 2010 Congressional ballot and enjoy growing advantages on who voters trust to handle health care and the economy.
The president’s joint-session address also resulted in a small but real boost in support for his health care reform proposal, with support now back to statistical parity against the opposition in an uniformed test and rising to a 51 percent majority favoring (versus 43 percent opposition) after voters hear a description of the plan including how it will be paid for.
This analysis is based on a national survey of 1,200 2008 voters (1,011 reached via landline, 189 reached via cell phone), including 1,044 likely 2010 voters, conducted September 12-16, 2009.
After a difficult summer for Democrats, which saw President Obama’s approval ratings return to earth and support for his signature health care reform falter, a new Democracy Corps survey conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, after the president’s joint-session address, shows Obama and his party’s position rebounding in a small but significant way. Meanwhile, the Republican brand remains severely tarnished, and in fact, the party has lost major ground on key measures – just in the last few weeks. And, for the first time in months, voters show a glimmer of optimism.
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Published: September 25, 2009
WASHINGTON — President Obama scored a big victory on Thursday as the Senate Finance Committee rejected a proposal to require pharmaceutical companies to give bigger discounts toMedicare on drugs dispensed to older Americans with low incomes.
Luke Sharrett/The New York Times
Senator Max Baucus, left, chairman of the Finance Committee, with Senator Charles E. Grassley, the panel’s top Republican.
A blog from The New York Times that tracks the health care debate as it unfolds.
House Votes to Block Increase in Medicare Part B Premiums (September 25, 2009)
Luke Sharrett/The New York Times
Senator Bill Nelson of Florida proposed discounts for drugs dispensed to some older Americans.
The victory came at the expense of senators in Mr. Obama’s own party who had championed the proposal. The vote, in effect, upheld a deal reached in June by the White House and the drug industry, which saw the agreement as a possible way to avoid more onerous requirements that might be imposed by Congress.
The proposal, an amendment by Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida, would have required drug makers to provide Medicare with discounts in the form of rebates totaling more than $100 billion over 10 years.
Some of the money would have been used to close a gap in Medicare coverage of prescription drugs. In 2007, more than eight million Medicare beneficiaries fell into the gap, known as the doughnut hole.
Three Democratic senators — Max Baucus of Montana,Thomas R. Carper of Delaware and Robert Menendez of New Jersey — joined all the Republicans on the panel in defeating the amendment by a vote of 13 to 10.
The committee plodded through the health care legislation for a third day, as lawmakers debated the proper role of government in securing insurance coverage for all Americans. With many amendments still to be offered, Senator Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota, said it was highly unlikely that the panel could finish its work this week — the goal set by Mr. Baucus, the committee chairman.
Under the June agreement with the White House, drug makers pledged $80 billion over 10 years to help “reform our troubled health care system.” In the belief that their contribution was capped, drug companies have run advertisements in support of a health care overhaul.
The rebates proposed by Mr. Nelson would have more than doubled the amount of money to be given up by the industry.
Mr. Carper said the proposal to wring more rebate money out of the drug companies would “undermine our ability to pass comprehensive health care reform in this Congress,” because the drug industry would have opposed the legislation if it included mandatory rebates.
In arguing against the proposal, Mr. Carper said, White House officials told him that “a deal is a deal,” and he agreed.
Ken Johnson, senior vice president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said the Nelson proposal could have caused job losses in the drug industry.
“If our contribution to health care reform exceeds $80 billion, you reach a point where you risk sacrificing someone’s job for someone else’s health insurance,” Mr. Johnson said.
Drug makers already pay rebates on drugs dispensed to many Medicaid recipients. Mr. Nelson’s proposal would have required them to pay similar rebates on drugs prescribed for another group: low-income older Americans eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare. The group includes people taking numerous prescriptions for multiple chronic illnesses, so they account for a large share of drug spending.
When Congress added a drug benefit to Medicare in 2003, about six million older Americans who had been receiving drug coverage through Medicaid were shifted into the new Medicare drug program. As a result, Mr. Nelson said, “the government pays higher prices for drugs, and the pharmaceutical industry got a windfall.”
Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said he was “not at the table” when the White House and the pharmaceutical industry reached their deal, so he did not feel bound by it.
Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the senior Republican on the Finance Committee, said that mandatory rebates were equivalent to price controls.
“Over time,” he said, “drug manufacturers would partially offset the rebates by charging higher prices for new drugs. The middle class would end up paying for this.”
In the House, Democrats on Thursday discussed how to meld health care bills approved by three committees.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi affirmed her support for creating a government insurance plan to compete with private insurers. A public plan would increase competition, lower costs and “save enormous amounts of money” for families, businesses and taxpayers, Ms. Pelosi said.
She scorned the idea of using the public plan as a backup to the private market, in case insurers did not meet certain goals for making affordable coverage available.
Senator Olympia J. Snowe, Republican of Maine, and other centrists have proposed such a “trigger mechanism.”
But Ms. Pelosi said, “A trigger is an excuse for not doing anything.”
The timetable for bringing a measure to the House floor is uncertain, although Democrats said they were making steady progress. They said they hoped to finish writing their bill next week and submit it to the Congressional Budget Office for review, so the full House could begin debate in mid-October.
In the House, as in the Senate, Democrats are still trying to decide contentious questions like how to restrict the use of federal money for abortions and how to prevent illegal immigrants from gaining benefits under the legislation.
“We’re narrowing the areas that we have to bring to resolution,” Ms. Pelosi said.
Carl Hulse contributed reporting.
Forget all the drama with Republicans and President Obama. The most tumultuous relationship in Washington right now is playing out in the House, between the Blue Dog Democrats and Speaker Nancy Pelosi. On pretty much everything this year, the Blue Dogs have pushed back against Pelosi—the stimulus, energy, health care. This week there’s been a whole new round of anti-Nancy grumbling among conservative Dems, as Pelosi tries to finalize details of the House’s version of the health-care bill. Among other things, she’s still anglingfor the much-debated public option—even though, by the White House’s ownadmission, it will never pass the Senate—and this has the Blue Dogs up in arms.
The main complaint: that Pelosi is leading the House so far to the left that she’s not giving moderate and conservative Democrats cover for what looks to be a tough 2010 election. It’s not just health care. A lot of Blue Dogs, as well as Democrats in pivotal Rust Belt districts, are upset that Pelosi pushed the House to take up a contentious vote on climate change—even though, as Katie wroteyesterday, the Senate bill looks stalled. A few weeks ago your Gaggler was chatting with one Blue Dog Dem who owned up (without attribution, of course) to some serious misty water-colored memories of Rahm Emanuel’s time in the House, when he was viewed as a key emissary between the centrists and Pelosi. Emanuel, who oversaw the House Democrats' political committee, is credited with pushing Pelosi to protect potentially vulnerable members—especially conservative Dems whom he personally recruited. “He knows what we’re facing out there,” this lawmaker told NEWSWEEK. “I’m not sure the speaker does.” Yesterday, The Hill printed some very similar sentiments. “They are seriously endangering the majority,” an unnamed Blue Dog told the paper.
But is Pelosi getting a fair shake here? There is no doubt that 2010 could potentially be a rough year for Democrats. History suggests losses will happen—just ask Democrats who were around when the Republicans took control of Congress in 1994, the first midterm election of Bill Clinton’s presidency. And recent polls haven’t given much sign of hope either. Yet here’s one interesting stat: of the 28 Democratic seats that veteran election-predictor Charlie Cookrates as a “lean” or “tossup,” only seven are those of members of the Blue Dog coalition—and most of those lawmakers already have a serious fundraising advantage on their GOP opponents. That list includes Parker Griffith, a freshman Democrat whose Alabama district went for John McCain in 2008. Griffith has already raised more than $500,000 for his reelection bid—almost 10 times what his Republican challenger, Lee Phillip, a GOP official, reports in the bank. Some don’t have a declared opponent at all, including Rep. Michael Arcuri, who represents a swing district in upstate New York.
Granted, not every vulnerable moderate or centrist Democrat in 2010 is a member of the Blue Dogs. But Blue Dogs are the most vocal when it comes to being worried about how Pelosi could harm their reelection chances next year. And they are the most high-profile when it comes to challenging the Democratic leadership—particularly on health-care reform. One thing is clear: as much trouble as Democrats might face in 2010, they are being helped by the huge fundraising advantage that comes with being an incumbent member of Congress, and, in some districts, the GOP’s struggle to recruit strong candidates. Still, we’ve got more than a year before Election Day. Back in 1994, the political tide against Democrats turned so quickly that nobody saw it coming. No current Dems—liberal or centrist or conservative—want to repeat that mistake.
Political discourse is no longer about policy—it's a psychological power struggle predicated upon insider-versus-outsider tension. In his bid for the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama's selling point was a keen interest in change and a passion for social justice, portraying himself as a Washington newbie looking to reshuffle the deck of inside-the-Beltway political structures. To liberals, this honest sense of difference was a refreshing change to the good ol' boy antics of George W. Bush. To many conservatives, on the other hand, he was a bit too different. A foreign name, a preference for arugula and Dijon mustard, and black skin gave Obama outsider status—although perhaps not the cache he was looking for.
Obama's struggles to pass a universal health care bill are thrown into sharp relief when one considers whether or not he would experience the same difficulties were he a white man with a name like Bill Clinton. Even during Clinton's failed attempt at health care reform, our 42nd president was never subjected to such insulting and despicable insults as Obama, who has been called Stalin, Hitler and Satan. Most political observers have been reluctant to qualify the radical behavior at town hall meetings and rallies, although it has certainly received more attention than actual discussion of the intricacies of policy.
Obama has been far too accommodating to right-wing extremists. While everyone in this country is guaranteed the right to express his or her opinion, not all opinions are equally valid. South Carolina Congressman Joe Wilson's now-infamous outburst on national television illustrates something fundamental about this: he justified his shouting by explaining his extreme emotion at the president's words that no illegal immigrants would be covered under the proposed health care bill.
He went on to apologize to Obama for his interruption, but still maintained that he disagreed with the president on this account. However, the bill states unequivocally which groups of people will receive insurance coverage and which will not: for reference, see Section 246 of the bill, entitled "No Federal Payment for Undocumented Aliens." It is actually impossible to argue about a fact such as this; either the bill proposes something, or it doesn't.
When the rules of politics make it easier to spread lies about opponents or policies than to tell the truth, it's time to change the game. There needs to be real consequences for politicians who purposefully disseminate misinformation to the public—and they all have a duty to be informed to an extent that the spread of accidental falsehoods is virtually impossible.
In the September 18 issue of the Orient, in the piece, "Screaming at the president: effective, but ill-advised," contributor Jose Cespedes stated that Joe Wilson was really disagreeing with the fact that the bill included no enforcement measures to prevent illegal immigrants from bypassing the system and buying into national health coverage. The above-mentioned Section 246 prevents illegal immigrants from receiving tax credits to help them buy insurance since, as undocumented migrants, they do not pay taxes.
Nor do they, as a group, have the economic means to buy into the government-run insurance plan, due to unregulated wages and low-paying jobs. Americans currently subsidize health care for illegal immigrants at a much higher cost than they would under the proposed system, since care is guaranteed in emergency rooms regardless of whether or not the patient can pay for it.
Interestingly enough, many of the people who follow the gospel of Palin and believe Obama to be the Devil incarnate are the same ones who question the legitimacy of his citizenship. Because of his Kenyan father, the Birthers believe that the president was not born in Hawaii, but in Kenya. The logic—or rather, non-logic—of such claims is fallacious at best. But there are actual U.S. Representatives who subscribe to this nonsense, despite the smoking gun of a Hawaiian birth certificate.
In reasonable circles, Obama's citizenship is not at issue. But xenophobic attitudes towards him affect his policy-making, despite the fact that they are baseless. There is no legitimate foundation for xenophobia in this country (if there actually is anywhere). The fact is, the United States of America is the only country in the world built by and for immigrants. The "Land of Opportunity" and the American Dream should mean something, but they do not if we prohibit anything that is not like us.
It is time, in this technologically advanced age of easily accessible information, to employ critical thinking skills. It is almost laughable to suggest that the very individuals responsible for drafting a health care overhaul and voting it into law can propagate misinformation about their policies in Congress, but it is a very real danger. Obama is proposing a policy that shifts quite dramatically from the status quo.
By tarring his character and questioning his legitimacy as President of the United States, the right wing is desperately trying to undermine his attempts at reasonable policymaking, in order to maintain their status as the Washington aristocracy. The inconvenient truth? In order to pass, the bill has no more need of their votes than this country does of their fact fabrication.
Caitlin Hurwit is a member of the Class of 2012.
Schumer, Rockefeller to Challenge Baucus on Health-Care Plan
25 (Bloomberg) -- Democrats will step up their challenge to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus's health-care-overhaul plan today, ...
To the editor:
The caricatures of Barack Obama as some sort of Nazi-like figure are as appalling as those that were used against Bush. I know since I characterized the far right wing as fanatically nationalistic, obdurately patriotic, and hatefully rigid. That Obama is lying is, however, even more ridiculous considering what is now proven: Bush and his right-wing militants knowingly lied us into more death and destruction in Iraq than we care to know.
Unless one is utterly blinded by ideology, our entry into Iraq destabilized the region. But that story is now facing oblivion and forgotten since the right wing tends to have the attention span of a young child.
Daily bombings go on in Iraq, there will never be our brand of democracy there, religious wars will continue and, every so often, another poor young American will die for no apparent beneficial reason to America.
The war we should have fought against the Taliban in Afghanistan is, for practical purposes, impossible to win now. First, Americans have no stomach after Iraq to fight anywhere again for another generation. Second, Afghanistan is mostly impossible terrain to fight in. But I really don't blame Bush, Cheney and that bunch: I blame the idiots who "goose-stepped" to the beat of the right-wing drums.
The Democratic Party is not without its sins, but I'll always toss my hat in with it. The Democrats are always sure to include those the right has no use for except, maybe, to fight their wars. Just don't ask their kids to go war. In fact, you want to stop these unnecessary wars, reinstitute the draft. Parents, the very same who jumped aboard the Bush war wagon, will look for dispensations for their kids.
Obama's attempt to provide health care to everyone has been attacked by the rabid right. We know the ones: they bring guns into town hall meetings as an implied threat. They seem to imply, "Do it my way or I'll kill ya!" These are the very same poor saps who desperately need financial help. Not only can't they afford insurance but they can't get quality care.
These right-wing, so-called rebels against government, are often those who are the most misinformed and most easily manipulated. Again, just look at how easily duped they were with regard to the Bush years, so easily forgotten by these people.
The irony of our age will be that those most able to be in a win situation will be those who yell the loudest against what will benefit them the most: affordable, accessible, quality health care. Don't look for the debate to be any less informed than it has been.
If you believe the nonsense being spread about from the likes of a Sean Hannity or rabble-rouser Glenn Beck, if you believe that Iraq is a noble endeavor, if you believe that Obama is a liar out to make your life even more miserable, if you believe that the Bush years brought about an America to be proud of, then by all means continue to fight against our own best interests. But maybe, just maybe, you might want to look at a few facts before deciding.
Anthony D. Romero: Law & Order Tackles Accountability for Torture ...
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Last month, Attorney General Eric Holder appointed a special prosecutor to conduct a preliminary review into whether federal laws were violated in connection with the interrogation of some specific detainees. ...
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Meet the Afghan Army
ANN JONES | Whatever the debate in Washington, Congressional and military scenarios for training a vast Afghan Army will never come true.
26 Sep 2009 President Obama and the leaders of Britain and France will accuse Iran Friday of building a secret underground plant to manufacture nuclear fuel, saying it has hidden the covert operation from international weapons inspectors for years, according to senior administration officials. The revelation, which the three leaders will make before the opening of the Group of 20 economic summit, appears bound to add urgency to the diplomatic confrontation with Iran over its suspected ambitions to build a nuclear weapons capability.
San Francisco Sentinel » Blog Archives » HAVE YOU NO SHAME, NO ...
By The San Francisco Sentinel
Netanyahu opened up his address - which dealt more with Ahmadinejad and the UN Human Rights Council's Goldstone Report accusing Israel of war crimes than with the diplomatic process with the Palestinians - by saying that the UN had been ...
San Francisco Sentinel - http://www.sanfranciscosentinel.com/
See Part I of the Andy Worthington’s interview with Col. Lawrence Wilkerson here.
Col. Lawrence Wilkerson served in the US military for 31 years and was Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell from August 2002 until January 2005, two months after Powell’s resignation, when he left the State Department. He is now the chairman of the New America Foundation’s US-Cuba 21st Century Policy Initiative.
In the first part of this interview, Col. Wilkerson discussed fears within the State Department that war crimes were taking place in Afghanistan, how he suspected that the British Overseas Territory of Diego Garcia (leased to the US) was used to hold prisoners in the “War on Terror,” and, perhaps most significantly, how he had recently become convinced that the administration’s fear of another terrorist attack (which was, essentially, used to justify the implementation of “extraordinary rendition” and torture) subsided more rapidly than has been previously acknowledged, as the drive for war in Iraq took over.
The second part of the interview begins with further discussion of the significance of Col. Wilkerson’s statement that no more than a couple of dozen of the prisoners at Guantánamo had any serious intelligence value, and also includes reflections on how former Vice President Dick Cheney is “crazy,” how the Democrats have no spine and the mainstream media has no principles, and how the US had no Arabic experts at the time of the 9/11 attacks except a handful in the FBI who were promptly sidelined.
Col. Wilkerson also spoke about how the investigation into the CIA’s destruction of 92 videotapes recording the interrogations of “high-value detainees”, which is being conducted by federal prosecutor John Durham (who was recently appointed by Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate the abuse of prisoners held by the CIA) could be explosive, described the crucial role played by Cheney’s closest advisors, his legal counsel David Addington and I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby (whoresigned as Chief of Staff in October 2005 after being indicted in the Valerie Plame scandal; he was convicted but had his sentence dismissed by President Bush in July 2007), and concluded by admitting that, until January 2004, he had no idea of the extent to which the State Department had been excluded from the machinations of Cheney’s “war cabinet.”
Andy Worthington: I’ve watched these figures over the years — suggesting that only somewhere between two dozen and 40 of the prisoners had any connection with terrorism — so it was great for me when you raised that issue in March, in your article for The Washington Note, and I wondered what you thought about what’s happening with the Obama administration. They seem to be listening to a certain amount of scaremongering — as when Robert Gates suddenly popped up in April and started talking about legislating for a new preventive detention policyfor 50 to 100 of the prisoners. Now to me, even the notion of introducing preventive detention legally, if you like — the Bush administration having done it illegally, as I regard it — is a terrifying prospect, having to think that they should even be contemplating doing that, but it also suggests that they’re reading too much into the significance of the prisoners, and I wondered what your thoughts were on that.
Lawrence Wilkerson: Well, to keep it brief, I think the problem is that this is a national security issue, and there are so many more challenging issues — as one official put it to me the other day — on which the President has already shown some ankle, whether it’s about talking to Iran or whether it’s his rather pronounced silence vis-à-vis North Korea, or whether it’s something as minuscule as lifting some travel restrictions on Cuban Americans for Cuba. They don’t believe they can show another square centimeter of ankle on national security, because the Republicans will eat their lunch, and every time I’m told this I die laughing. I say, your guys are captured by the Sith Lord, Dick Cheney, you’re captured by Rush Limbaugh, whose real radio audience is about 2.2 million, and whose employer, Clear Channel, lost $3.7 billion in the second quarter of this year. I said, when are you gonna wake up? These are kooks. And Cheney is the kook leader. But [Nancy] Pelosi and [Harry] Reid are such feckless leaders they haven’t got any spine. We have no leadership in the legislative branch on either side of the aisle.
Andy Worthington: I agree with you absolutely there …
Lawrence Wilkerson: I become exasperated. There’s just no courage, there’s no moral courage whatsoever in the Democratic Party.
Andy Worthington: Unfortunately, when it comes to getting rid of Guantánamo after all these long years, somebody’s going to have to come up with some courage at some point, because this question of the prisoners’ significance is the crucial issue to me. The hardest thing should be coming up with countries to take some of the men, not still sitting around discussing whether it’s still worth holding them. We should be focusing on the — whatever it is, two dozen, three dozen, four dozen at most — and doing everything in our power to get the rest of those guys out of there, to close the place down.
Lawrence Wilkerson: I agree, and from what my diplomatic colleagues tell me now, it’s difficult to get countries to accept them because we’ve taken such a hard stance with the Congress not approving the money and not wanting anyone even imprisoned in our maximum-security prisons in this country, which is preposterous.
Andy Worthington: Yes, exactly. I mean, how safe do you think your prisons have to be?
Lawrence Wilkerson: Another part of this that I discovered — it shouldn’t have shocked me, but it did surprise me — was that when 9/11 went down there was no interrogation capability in the United States, other than in the Federal Bureau of Investigation. There was none. Everything the military had was geared still to the Cold War, everything the CIA had had been dismantled, and the FBI had maybe — the best figures I’ve been able to get my hands on of people who were fluent in Arabic or Farsi or maybe both, and they also were culturally sensitive, knew something about the region from which the detainee might come, knew something about his tribal affiliations and so forth — there were maybe two dozen. Here we have this attack, and then we captured people, and we had no interrogation capability other than a small contingent in the Bureau.
Andy Worthington: And they were sidelined …
Lawrence Wilkerson: Yes, after they proved their worth, they were sidelined.
Andy Worthington: To me that’s still the biggest shock about the whole story, and it’s the clearest example of why disregarding that experience in the FBI was such a disaster.
Lawrence Wilkerson: But it was something this administration almost made a cult of doing — not just on interrogation, but on almost everything, whether it was Iraq, whether it was the Middle East in general, whether it was North Korea. The attitude was: Don’t talk to me from a position of expertise, talk to me from a position of fixed religious adamancy, you know.
Andy Worthington: Exactly. And again, that was the story that impressed me in Jane Mayer’s book, The Dark Side, when, after understanding that there were so many “Mickey Mouse prisoners,” as General Dunlavey called them, John Bellinger, who, at the time, was the National Security Council’s Legal Advisor, went to try and have a meeting with Alberto Gonzales, when he was still Bush’s Counsel, and found David Addington there, and Addington said, we’re not bothered about what you’ve got to say about innocence and guilt. The President has said they’re all guilty on capture, that’s the end of the story, nobody’s reviewing it. You know, it’s an example of justifying actions on the basis of executive power, and as you said as well, if you’re going to get into the details of why on earth are you doing it, it’s because they thought they could very slowly build this “mosaic” of intelligence that would take forever, of every terrorist movement, every insurgent movement ever, and who knows how many people that would involve? I think the number of people in US custody throughout the Bush years is over 80,000, isn’t it?
Lawrence Wilkerson: The figures I came across for Iraq, Afghanistan, secret prisons, Guantánamo, people who were being held in prisons in other countries on our behalf — the highest figure I ever came to was about 65,000, but it could have well been more than that.
Andy Worthington: And I get the feeling that they would just have gone on forever if they could …
Lawrence Wilkerson: Well, I mean, that was it, it’s a hard slog, it’s war, and therefore, if we say it’s never over then they’re always detained. I remember [Colin] Powell and Taft — Taft was his legal advisor, Will Taft — asking a question, something to the effect of, “What’s final disposition?” and [Donald] Rumsfeld’s response was something like, “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”
Andy Worthington: That’s another thing, really, is that at no point did they ever seem to have any concept of how something might end. They started things and had no idea what their ultimate plan was. What, you really intend to hold people forever without charging them with anything? You really want to kidnap people on an industrial scale and have secret prisons and — you don’t know what you’re going to do at the end of this, do you? Everything was started with no thought for how it might possibly be concluded.
Lawrence Wilkerson: I think the principal figure in this — Vice President Cheney — would say, in response to what you’ve just said, “So what?” I mean, I really do. I wouldn’t have said that a couple of years ago, but now I’ve come to the conclusion that the man truly is — whether he was that way when I knew him before, when he was Secretary of Defense, I don’t know, that’s not at issue with me any more — the man now is just crazy.
Andy Worthington: Yes, well, I’m glad you said that. In March you called him evil. Crazy is — you know, he just seems to be a deranged man, I’m surprised he’s been getting so much air time.
Lawrence Wilkerson: It’s our media. Our media loves to keep it going. They love to throw him out there and, you know, stoke the fires. I asked a couple of people fairly high up in our media world, “Why in the world do you continue to give him and Limbaugh an audience? Why? Why do you even put them on the same plane as the President of the United States? Why do you have these dueling speeches? You guys made them dueling speeches, not the two principals.” Well, you know, they’re running out of business. People are canceling their newspaper subscriptions every day. They want news.
Andy Worthington: And they’re more interested in hearing this than they are in hearing that this madman was the driver of manufacturing false intelligence through torture to justify the invasion of Iraq.
Lawrence Wilkerson: Well, they helped in that.
Andy Worthington: Of course, that’s why they don’t want to talk about it.
Lawrence Wilkerson: With the exception of Knight Ridder, now McClatchy, they just about all helped.
Andy Worthington: Yes, it’s true, but I’m still shocked at how that’s underreported in the Cheney story, because he’s just been allowed too much time to carry on trying to sell his own version of it: that torture saved us from some attack that we’re not allowed to find out about, that nobody can seem to find any evidence for, but maybe the more it goes on — I mean, he really does seem like a crazy man. He had the chance to relax and he doesn’t know how to do it.
Lawrence Wilkerson: Yep. He even got his family out there.
Andy Worthington: Well, how else would you deal with him, I suppose, if you were related to him?
Lawrence Wilkerson: I do think there’s some fear in it too. I think there’s some folks realizing that there may be, at a minimum, some problems with traveling, and at a maximum, there may even be — I just don’t think there’s a political will in this country to do anything truly dramatic to bring some accountability to this, but I do think that these people, much the way that military people do still, count their reputation and their legacy and how the history books are going to look at them as something significant, and as they grow older it grows in importance, so that, you know, they don’t want to be tarnished, and I think Cheney’s seriously concerned about where he’s going to go in the history books.
Andy Worthington: Well, I understand that. I think it ought to be more serious than that, but I’ve felt all along that, although prosecutions ought to happen because, you know, torture statutes have been broken, but apparently nobody is going to be held ultimately responsible, that’s really not an acceptable position. The position taken by Obama, it seems, is to say, well, OK, we’re going to clean up our act but we’re not going to hold these people to account, but whichever way you look at it, it certainly doesn’t leave Cheney in the clear …
Lawrence Wilkerson: No. My wife thinks that ultimately there’s going to be something. I’m a little more cynical than she, but she’s convinced that this investigation that’s been going on [by John Durham] — very low-key, the guy’s very persistent, he’s very determined, he reminds me of [Patrick] Fitzgerald on the Valerie Plame case, and his starting point is the destruction of the videotapes, and I’m told he’s got a plan, and he’s following that plan, and I’m told that plan is bigger than I think.
Andy Worthington: Well, I’m quite encouraged by that, because I’ve not heard too much about that investigation. I’ve heard more about the long-awaited Justice Department investigation into the lawyers at the Office of Legal Counsel who wrotethe torture memos, and from what I’ve heard about that investigation, it seemed to involve establishing concrete, irrefutable connections between Dick Cheney’s office and the Office of Legal Counsel, because the torture memos have come out, and somehow still it’s as if the lawyers did it themselves …
Lawrence Wilkerson: Yep.
Andy Worthington: And what’s needed is: no, the lawyers were told what to do, they agreed that they would not think independently, and they would make the advice what was required, and if a chain leads infallibly up to that particular office, then how can they wriggle out of it? I understand that Dick Cheney was, I think, driven mad after 9/11 by his fear and his paranoia, and a lot of his unsavory impulses took over what may have been left of his humanity, and he became consumed by it, and I don’t think anybody doubts that in some ways they were motivated by the fear of another attack, but when you break the law, which is what they did, is it enough to be able to leave office and your crimes go with you? Is that enough?
Lawrence Wilkerson: Well, you know, I’ve read some of the language in the International Convention Against Torture, and in the document that President Clinton had to submit finally to the Senate, and I’ve read the Senate’s qualification of that document too, but, you know, this is in order to become a signatory to the treaty, to promise to the treaty holder that you will do as necessary, to make your domestic law conform to the law encased in the treaty, and it’s pretty clear that there is no national emergency “out,” there’s no exit.
Andy Worthington: No, there isn’t. It’s Article 2.2 of the Convention, which says, “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”
Lawrence Wilkerson: And that’s not something we qualified, that’s not something where we said, “Oh, that’s a little part of it we don’t agree with, but we’ll still be a signatory.”
Andy Worthington: And that, of course, explains why it was crucial in the OLC memos to redefine torture so that torture wasn’t happening.
Lawrence Wilkerson: Right.
Andy Worthington: I mean, why would you do that unless you know that it was illegal?
Lawrence Wilkerson: Yes, and to me that’s why so many people kept saying, “We don’t torture.” They had to get that on the record that this is what they believed, because that was the legal opinion that they had. Now the man who, to me, brings all of this together more than Cheney himself, because he has one foot in the legal camp — and I must admit it’s a fairly brilliant foot — and he has one foot in the operator camp, that’s David Addington. That is to say, Addington was very influential, maybe to the point of maximally influential with that idiot Gonzales, and everything that flowed from Gonzales, both when he was Bush’s Counsel and when he was Attorney General, and was also influential through his connection with Libby, and Libby’s ability to coordinate the interagency group that essentially worked for the Vice President — not for the President but for the Vice President. Addington was both the Zawahiri and the bin Laden.
Andy Worthington: What a fabulous analogy that is.
Lawrence Wilkerson: David’s a strange person. When he was working for Cheney, when Cheney was Secretary of Defense, we in the uniformed military used to refer to him as “Weird David.”
Andy Worthington: Yes, well he was just in the right place to push everything where it shouldn’t have gone after 9/11,wasn’t he?
Lawrence Wilkerson: He was perfectly placed. He and Libby both. They were perfectly placed.
Andy Worthington: But it is extraordinary the lack of public accountability and the absolute significance of Addington’s role in all those years. I mean, I can’t think of another period in American history when somebody who was working for the Vice President so often actually seemed to be running the show.
Lawrence Wilkerson: It is extraordinary with regard to the Office of the Vice President. I mean, it’s hard to go back and find anybody ever in that position who gathered to himself as much power as Dick Cheney did.
Andy Worthington: Sure.
Lawrence Wilkerson: I mean, I can find places where Alexander Hamilton as aide-de-camp to George Washington was as influential as George Washington was during a specific instance at a specific time or a specific date, but it wasn’t something that pertained throughout Washington’s command of the continental armies or his Presidency.
Andy Worthington: And I think earlier, when you were saying about Colin Powell telling the President in January 2005 –
Lawrence Wilkerson: January 13, 2005.
Andy Worthington: — that he had no idea of the scale of what was going on, that was an insight for me into how the President really didn’t know who was actually running the show.
Lawrence Wilkerson: The sad thing is that, until early January 2004, I’m not sure we did either. I understood that there was a team, I understood it was highly placed and probably under the Vice President, I understood that it was membered in almost every aspect of the interagency group that dealt with national security, I understood they had a strategy, I understood they were ruthless in carrying out that strategy, and I understood that I was a day late and a dollar short, because they’d beaten me to the marketplace. But it took me a while to figure that out. I even figured out that they were reading my emails, but I wasn’t reading theirs.
Andy Worthington: Well, I’m sure, but I suppose why wouldn’t it when they were so obsessively secretive? And on that note, I guess I’ll let you get on. It’s been a real pleasure meeting you here on the phone and talking to you, and I’m sure those who read this interview will be grateful that you took the time to do so.
On the heels of ACORN filing a lawsuit against conservative activists Hannah Giles, James O'Keefe, and Breitbart.com LLC, Sean Hannity, Andrew Breitbart, HotAir.com's Allahpundit, and NewsBusters have offered to -- in the words of Hannity -- "put out the word" to "help" Giles and O'Keefe raise money for their legal defense. Conservative media figures -- led by Glenn Beck -- helped Breitbart strategically release and aggressively promote the undercover videos that sparked ACORN's lawsuit.
ACORN files lawsuit against O'Keefe, Giles, Breitbart.com
Suit filed after alleged "illegal videotaping" seeks "injunction against further distribution" of a hidden-camera tape. From a September 23 Washington Post "44" blog post:
The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) announced Thursday it had filed a lawsuit against James O'Keefe, Hannah Giles and Breitbart.com LLC for what it alleged was "illegal videotaping" of ACORN employees in Baltimore.
The group filed its suit in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City and is seeking "a preliminary and permanent injunction against further distribution" of a hidden-camera tape made by O'Keefe and Giles that aired on BigGovernment.com, a Web project of Andrew Breitbart's Breitbart.com company, along with compensatory and punitive damages. [WashingtonPost.com, 9/23/09]
Conservative media rush to launch virtual telethon for O'Keefe, Giles
Hannity: "Hannah, if you get in trouble ... we can help you. We'll put out the word." After interviewing Giles and her attorney about the lawsuit, Sean Hannity stated, "Well, listen, Hannah, if you get in trouble and you need the lawyer, I'll tell you what, we can help you. We'll put out the word. I'm sure there's a lot of people that may want to help you with a legal defense fund. And if you get to that point, let us know, and we'll be glad to bring you back on." [Hannity, 9/24/09]
Breitbart on O'Reilly: "We will be advertising Hannah and James' legal defense fund."After Bill O'Reilly asked, "[D]o you have lawyers helping you with it because, you know, this is expensive," Breitbart stated, "We're -- we're working on that right now. And I want everybody to know that we will be advertising Hannah and James' legal defense fund at BigGovernment.com. The amount of -- the responses so far in e-mail form are overwhelming." [The O'Reilly Factor,9/24/09]
HotAir's Allahpundit: "Dig deep: Hannah Giles defense fund launches." In a September 24 HotAir.com blog post titled, "Dig deep: Hannah Giles defense fund launches," Allahpundit wrote that Giles' father -- conservative activist Doug Giles -- "sent out a blast e-mail about it a little while ago and I'm told the link's posted on his Facebook page, so fire away. Not that she'll need the money: The lawsuit's weak, the jury will be on her side, and apparently Hannity's set to beam this link out to America on tonight's show, which means she'll be swimming in dough come morning." Allahpundit further promised, "I'll post the info for O'Keefe's defense fund once it's available." [HotAir.com, 9/24/09]
NewsBusters: Breitbart "Reveals Defense Fund Initiative." Promoting Breitbart's O'Reilly Factor appearance, NewsBusters quoted Breitbart's promotion of the legal defense fund and included a link to Breitbart's BigGovernment.com. [NewsBusters.com, 9/24/09]
Conservative media strategically leaked, aggressively promoted secretly recorded tapes
Breitbart, Beck distributed secretly taped ACORN videos. O'Keefe first posted his secretly recorded video on Breitbart's BigGovernment.com in an effort to engage in -- in the words of Breitbart -- "a multimedia, multiplatform strategy" that included Fox News. Fox News, led by Glenn Beck, went on to facilitate Breitbart's "strategy" of releasing the videos."
For the third time in the past two weeks, The Washington Times has allowed Glenn Beck to dictate its coverage by presenting his attacks on progressives as news. A September 25 article was premised entirely on Beck's opinion that ACORN's internal ethics investigation is "bogus" because its advisory board members are "the worst of the worst," without providing any actual evidence that would undermine the investigation's integrity.
When Glenn Beck speaks, The Washington Times amplifies
Washington Times: Glenn Beck said that ACORN's investigation is "bogus." In a September 25 Washington Times article, headlined, "Glenn Beck: Probe of ACORN 'bogus,' " Joseph Weber reported that "[c]onservative commentator Glenn Beck said Thursday the ethics investigation into the community activist group ACORN will yield no meaningful findings unless it reaches into the top levels of the organization or the White House gets involved." He then quoted Beck saying the investigation is "bogus" and "a show." The article later reported:
Mr. Beck noted that ACORN's advisory board includes Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, daughter of Robert F. Kennedy and former Maryland lieutenant governor; John Podesta, a Clinton administration chief of staff; and Henry G. Cisneros, secretary of Housing and Urban Development during the Clinton administration.
"How could you possibly clean up ACORN with these people on the board," Mr. Beck said. "You have the worst of the worst sitting on this board making decisions." [The Washington Times, 9/25/09]
The article provided no actual evidence that would undermine the legitimacy of the investigation.
Washington Times enlists in Beck's crusade against "diversity czar" over "provocative comments" that have been "discussed on cable television." In a front-page September 23Times article, Amanda Carpenter promoted Beck-led right-wing attacks on Mark Lloyd, the chief diversity officer at the Federal Communications Commission, by reporting that Beck, Andrew Breitbart, and conservative websites "unearthed" and "discussed" purported "provocative comments" Lloyd made about Hugo Chavez, freedom of speech, minorities' access to leadership positions, and ways to promote liberal radio. Carpenter wrote that Beck had "aired" a clip in which Lloyd "seems be siding with the anti-American leader [Chavez] against independent media outlets in his own country, some of which supported a short-lived coup against Mr. Chavez in 2002." [The Washington Times, 9/23/09]
Washington Times chonicles Beck-led "hunt for next Van Jones." In a September 15article, headlined, "Conservatives hunt for next Van Jones," Matthew Mosk reported that conservatives, "[e]mboldened by the ouster of presidential adviser Van Jones," had also targeted Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) chief David Michaels and Director for the Office of Regulatory Affairs Cass Sunstein. Mosk wrote that "[c]olorful samples from Mr. Sunstein's large body of academic work -- including those suggesting his strong views on animal rights and organ donation -- became fodder for critical commentaries on conservative Op-Ed pages and then arose during right-leaning television and radio talk shows." Mosk further noted that "Fox News personality Glenn Beck dispatched a message on Twitter seeking more information about Mr. Sunstein." [The Washington Times, 9/15/09]
Beck increasingly sets media's agenda with Fox News crusade against "czars," ACORN
Beck increasingly sets media's agenda. Beck has made no secret of his desire to influence the stories other news outlets cover, at one point boasting that a story on his program about ACORN would divert the media's attention from health care reform. In recent months, Beck hassuccessfully pushed into the mainstream stories about ACORN; the April 15 and September 12 tea parties; White House "czars"; and the National Endowment for the Arts. At one point, Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, pointing to the ACORN and Van Jones stories, declared that "Fox News and talk radio are now setting the [national] conversation."
Following Beck's instruction, Fox aggressively promoted secretly recorded ACORN videos. On September 9, Beck -- who has, in recent weeks, repeatedly attacked ACORN -- saidthat while the media "says they're going to be talking about health care" the next day, he didn't "think so," later suggesting that a video of Baltimore ACORN employees would instead be the top story. Apparently taking cues from Beck, through 7 p.m. the following day, Fox News devoted at least 17 segments on six programs to airing and discussing portions of the video. Later, Beck complained about other media outlets' lack of coverage of his "huge" "ACORN scandal."
Beck, Fox on a witch hunt for Obama "czars." Fox News personalities, following Beck, haveled the charge against the Obama administration's advisers, including Jones, Sunstein, John Holdren, and other officials and nominees it has described as "czars" -- often by unearthing and criticizing statements the officials had made in the past rather than critiquing their job performance or credentials for those positions. Sean Hannity, for example, declared that "my job starting tomorrow night is to get rid of every other ['czar']." On September 3, Beck urged "watchdogs" through his Twitter feed to "find everything you can on Cass Sunstein, Mark Lloyd, and Carol Browner. Do not link before burning to disc."
In recent days, Fox News' Sean Hannity and Charles Krauthammer have criticized President Obama for not immediately following the advice of Gen. Stanley McChrystal's reported request for additional combat troops in Afghanistan, with Hannity stating, "Just listen to what the generals on the ground want to be successful." But Fox News strategic analyst Lt. Col. Ralph Peters (Ret.) contradicted this criticism, arguing that a larger force "will not make a difference" and that "a smaller, compact, lethal force is the way to go."
Hannity, Krauthammer criticize Obama for not increasing military presence in Afghanistan
Hannity: "Just listen to what the generals on the ground want to be successful."Discussing the reported request of McChrystal, U.S. commander in Afghanistan, for additional military forces in that country, Hannity stated, "But isn't it simple? Just listen to what the generals on the ground want to be successful. I mean, it's not for President Obama sitting in the comfort of the Oval Office." [Hannity, 9/22/09]
Krauthammer: "Who are you going to believe, a commander on the ground or Biden?"Krauthammer said of the request, "What's happening here is we have on the one hand advice from our commander on the ground who wants more troops and who sees a strategy which is the only strategy he thinks will work. On the other hand, advice of the vice president, the sage of Wilmington, the man who proposed splitting Iraq into three, who wants a minimalist strategy of attacks by drones and kind of half -- hands-off warfare." Krauthammer subsequently asked, "Who are you going to believe, a commander on the ground or Biden?" [Special Report, 9/23/09]
Fox News strategic analyst contradicts claim that larger force is the answer
Peters: "If he sends them, it will not make a difference." During a discussion of Afghanistan Bill O'Reilly stated that "Obama's going to send those troops," and asked Fox News strategic analyst Lt. Col. Ralph Peters, "[I]f you send them, is it going to make a difference?" Peters responded, "If he sends them, it will not make a difference. We cannot turn Afghanistan into Disney World. And this is killing American troops for nothing. We need to get back to the basic reason we went to Afghanistan in 2001: to kill our enemies and kill those who support our enemies. I absolutely agree with Colonel Hunt, who's a great experienced soldier, that a smaller, compact, lethal force is the way to go. Kill the bad guys."
From the September 22 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
ALLEN: It's not going to be a Jeffersonian democracy but a stable country that is not a haven for terrorists who want to kill as many Americans as possible, as well as destabilize Pakistan. And if you destabilize Pakistan, it also could have an impact on India.
So this is much bigger than the tactics of whether or not the government takes over health insurance.
JUDITH MILLER (Fox News contributor): But even conservatives have raised questions about whether or not this is a mission impossible, no matter how many troops you send in there. I mean, I think they have to do some pretty cold, hard calculations about what it is exactly we wish to accomplish and how much blood and sweat we're willing to expend on it.
DOUG SCHOEN (Democratic strategist): We've set a strategy in place. It's a clear strategy. We have to act upon it. Even people like Les Gelb, the former head of the Council on Foreign Relations, who's actually against the war in Afghanistan, says if we pull out now, it will cause irreparable harm to the U.S.
From the September 23 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier:
KRAUTHAMMER: I think the Obama administration announcing that it's trying to change its strategy because it has just discovered corruption in Afghanistan is almost comical. Everybody has known. It's been around all along. It's not a new fact.
Look, what's happening here is we have on the one hand advice from our commander on the ground who wants more troops and who sees a strategy which is the only strategy he thinks will work.
On the other hand, advice of the vice president, the sage of Wilmington, the man who proposed splitting Iraq into three, who wants a minimalist strategy of attacks by drones and kind of half -- hands-off warfare.
Well, it's exactly the minimalist strategy that got us into the dire circumstance we now have in Afghanistan. It's the minimalist strategy that the Democrats attacked and demagogued year after year and said it was inadequate, and it's the minimalist strategy that McCaskill [sic], who is the world's expert on the kind of hands-off drone attack, which he did in Iraq, has said has zero chance of succeeding in Afghanistan.
Who are you going to believe, a commander on the ground or Biden?
From the September 24 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
BILL O'REILLY (host): Let's go to Afghanistan, Colonel Hunt. You and I were over there a couple years ago. And we got a pretty good report from the NATO commander saying things were OK. Now they're not OK. Why are -- what happened in the two years that we were there? What happened? Why are things not OK now?
HUNT: One, first of all, you -- they did not give us the straight story, as you remember.
O'REILLY: So [Gen. Dan] McNeil lied to us? McNeil, the NATO commander lied to us?
HUNT: I don't -- I know Dan personally. He's not a liar. I don't think he's very competent. Didn't think so at the time. And I commanded with the guy.
I -- they believe that they -- all we've done for seven years is throw military at this. As Ralph knows, in a counterinsurgency, there's got to be so many other things, teachers building some kind of -- unfortunately nation building is as important as Marines and Army guys. We have not been willing to do that. And we're still not. And if we're not going to be willing to do the nation-building counterinsurgency stuff, stop what we're doing, leave an Army division there, some Special Ops guys and chase bad guys any where they are in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
O'REILLY: All right, do you see the -- more troops going in there, Colonel Peters, number one? I think Obama's going to send those troops. He's pretty much in a box. He almost has to. OK? And number, two, if you send them, is it going to make a difference?
PETERS: If he sends them, it will not make a difference. We cannot turn Afghanistan into Disney World. And this is killing American troops for nothing. We need to get back to the basic reason we went to Afghanistan in 2001: to kill our enemies and kill those who support our enemies. I absolutely agree with Colonel Hunt, who's a great experienced soldier, that a smaller, compact, lethal force is the way to go. Kill the bad guys.
O'REILLY: All right, and then you hire Afghan ruffians, like the Northern Alliance.
O'REILLY: You hire them to do the dirty work. So it's a merc war: Afghan against Afghan. And then you leave American Special Forces there to make sure things don't get out of control. You both concur with that?
PETERS: More than just Special Forces.
HUNT: An Army or Marine division -- an Army or Marine division to back them up and Special Forces, but you don't just stay in Afghanistan. You go anywhere they are into Pakistan.
HUNT: And that's been the mistake -- unwillingness to do this.
Special Report with Bret Baier-http://twitter.com/specialreport
The Century Foundation has launched insideIRAN, a special project taking readers inside the political crisis in Iran. TCF fellow and Iran analyst Geneive Abdo leads the project web site, which features articles, analysis, and the latest media reports from some of the world's most prominent Iranian scholars, journalists, and bloggers. As Iran's internal crisis continues and information from inside the country becomes scarcer, insideIRAN will be a critical resource, providing news analysis and provocative thinking that cannot be found elsewhere. Despite the Iranian government's attempts to impose a technological blockade, insideIRAN will tap into the networks of commentators who have managed to find innovative ways to get their voices heard outside the country. View the press release.
Taking Note Blog
Between Mubaraks and a Hard Place
Michael Wahid Hanna | Sept. 25, 2009
The Obama administration has sought to revitalize the U.S.-Egyptian relationship, which had drifted under the Bush administration. Despite its diminished status, Egypt has emerged as a key regional player as the United States attempts to revitalize the peace process and reorient its policies in the Arab world. This has come at a time when speculation over who will succeed Egypt’s longtime leader, 81-year old president Hosni Mubarak, has increased in the Egyptian, regional, and international media. Much of the focus has rightly been placed on the president’s influential son, Gamal Mubarak. Continue Reading on the Taking Note Blog.
Taking Note Blog
The Snapshot: Public Views of Obama Remain Favorable
Ruy Texieira | Sept. 24, 2009
The conservative narrative about President Barack Obama is that he is rushing down the road to socialism and the public is rising up against his big government schemes. So the florid anti-Obama rhetoric of the “tea party” activists and Joe Wilsons of the world is not extreme, but rather an expression of underlying public sentiment. Continue Reading on the Taking Note Blog.
Taking Note Blog
The Misleading Attack on the Dartmouth Research
Maggie Mahar | Sept. 23, 2009
“It’s like whack-a-mole,” a Dartmouth researcher commented in a recent e-mail. He was referring to that fact that, as Congress moves closer to the day when it will reconcile House and Senate versions of health-care reform legislation, critics seem to be popping up everywhere to question more than two decades of Dartmouth University research that exposes the waste in our health care system. Dartmouth’s researchers can barely keep up. No sooner have they responded to one op-ed than another mole appears, attempting to undermine the credibility of the research. Continue Reading on the Taking Note Blog.
Taking Note Blog
Obama Week on the World's Premier Stage
Jeffrey Laurenti | Sept. 21, 2009
As secretary of state for President Reagan, George Shultz rebuked fire-breathing conservatives who wanted to slash American dues payments to the United Nations, asserting that just having every foreign minister in the world he might want to see on hand in New York for a week every year made U.N. dues a bargain investment for U.S. diplomacy. By Shultz's standard, Barack Obama is reaping treble returns for America this week as he makes his first appearance as president at the United Nations. Never has an American president been greeted on the U.N.'s unique global stage with such giddy anticipation, or undertaken so extensive and substantive a schedule there. Continue Reading on the Taking Note Blog.
Taking Note Blog
Afghan Fallout from the Italian Job
Jeffrey Laurenti | Sept. 19, 2009
The near panic gripping the Italian government in the wake of Thursday's suicide bombing that killed six Italian soldiers in Afghanistan is not a hopeful omen for President Obama's strategy to stabilize that country. Conservative prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, long a stalwart ally of former president George Bush, Friday sounded almost like Democratic critics of Obama's policy in calling urgently for "a transition strategy to transfer more responsibility to the government of Hamid Karzai" and speed the withdrawal of NATO troops. Continue Reading on the Taking Note Blog.
Taking Note Blog
Bernard Wasow | Sept. 18, 2009
It is no accident that civility broke down in Congress when President Obama was discussing the access of immigrants to subsidized health care. The most persistent and entrenched reason for opposing progressive change in America has been that “the undeserving” might benefit. With health care reform, too, much of the opposition, at its core, comes from those who would rather have nobody benefit than to see benefits extended to groups they despise. Continue Reading on the Taking Note Blog.
Baucus’s Insurance Bill Is a Dose of Bad Medicine
Maggie Mahar | Sept. 21, 2009
After months of work, Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus has come up with a health bill that pleases neither Republicans nor many Democrats, but insurers must be smiling broadly.Continue Reading.
Posted: Friday, September 25, 2009 9:32 AM by firstread
From Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Ali Weinberg
*** Iran’s secret facility: You can now add one more pressing problem that the Obama White House must deal with: Iran building a secret plan to make nuclear fuel. Just moments ago, President Obama, surrounded by British Prime Minister Brown and French President Sarkozy, said while the international community remains open to working with Iran, that country must show its intentions or "be held accountable." He added that Iran is not living up to its "international responsibilities," that the size of this facility is inconsistent with a peaceful program, and that there's a "sense of urgency" about the upcoming Oct. 1 meeting with Iran and that it must be prepared to cooperate and "take concrete steps." The New York Times broke the news on this story, with lots of senior administration quotes in it: “The revelation … appears bound to add urgency to the diplomatic confrontation with Iran over its suspected ambitions to build a nuclear weapons capability.” Indeed, this news today will overshadow a G-20 summit that had already become something of an afterthought. The president’s news conference at 4:40 pm ET in Pittsburgh will probably be two-thirds about Iran, one-third about Afghanistan. When is the last time that has happened?
*** We’ve known about this for a year: Per NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, officials say it was U.S. intelligence that learned of the secret plant more than a year ago -- before President Obama's election; Israel also knew about it, too. They most likely would not have gone public if Iran had not discovered that the U.S. was onto them and had it not notified the U.N.'s international inspection agency on Monday. By the way, Mitchell adds, the site is 30 kilometers outside of Qum, Iran’s holy city. That means that any military strike would be very difficult politically, because it would around huge reaction throughout the Muslim world. Also today, watch for Russian and Chinese reaction. Yes, they were notified of our intelligence this week, but their reaction is unknown.
*** Gitmo and money woes? The Washington Post has today’s other big news. First, it reports that the White House is going to be “hard-pressed” to meet its goal to close Gitmo within a year. “Even before the inauguration, President Obama's top advisers settled on a course of action they were counseled against: announcing that they would close the facility within one year. Today, officials are acknowledging that they will be hard-pressed to meet that goal.” (How numbered are Greg Craig's days? He clearly fell on his sword on this, so he's being given plenty of running room to make his own exit timetable.) Here’s the other buzz-worthy Post story: “Democratic political committees have seen a decline in their fundraising fortunes this year, a result of complacency among their rank-and-file donors and a de facto boycott by many of their wealthiest givers, who have been put off by the party's harsh rhetoric about big business.” Dem sources tell us to expect to see the president step up fundraising for individual candidates later this year. He can be an effective draw for, say, a Senate candidate in Missouri or Colorado, as opposed to trying to do it in DC for the DSCC.
*** Sticking up for Goliath? Here’s the latest back-and-forth in the fight over health-care, per the AP: "The Senate's top Republicans said Thursday they wouldn't allow President Barack Obama to fill health posts until his administration stops barring insurers from telling the elderly how Democrats' health overhaul could affect their benefits.” At issue is the GOP’s anger after the HHS Department asked private insurer Humana to cease sending mailers to seniors that were critical of the health-care reform efforts moving through Congress. Honest question: Are Republicans explicitly sending the message that they’re sticking up for the big guy (Humana’s PAC has given lawmakers nearly $150,000 so far this cycle) over the little guy in this debate? A Senate GOP aide disagrees: “It’s about free speech and big government intimidating people with an alternative point of view. And this is a perfect of example of why big government scares the hell out of people.”
*** Public option vote: Meanwhile, the Senate Finance Committee begins its fourth day of marking up its health-care bill. Per NBC’s Ken Strickland, the committee today will consider amendments to install a public option to the legislation -- which will likely fail. In a conference call with reporters yesterday, Democratic Sens. Jay Rockefeller and Chuck Schumer were effusive in their belief that a public option will eventually become law, and each said he would offer his own amendment on it. "[Friday] is the opening day in our big fight," Schumer said, "but it's going to be a fight that goes down all the way to the wire." If moderate Democrats on the committee like Max Baucus, Kent Conrad, and Blanche Lincoln vote in line with their public statements against the public option, the amendments should fail. They prefer the non-profit cooperative model which is already included in the bill. Strickland says that it’s unclear when the Finance Committee will finish its work marking up the legislation. It could very well be pushed into Monday or Tuesday or next week. Also, the Congressional Budget Office might report on its findings about the bill today or tomorrow.
*** Bucking up the Blue Dogs: A Democratic source has sent First Read a poll conducted by Anzalone Liszt (D) for the liberal group Health Care for America Now (HCAN), which argues that there’s still plenty of appetite for health-care reform in 91 Blue Dog/conservative/swing congressional districts. Excerpts from the poll’s analysis: “With 58% of voters believing the healthcare system requires either major reform or a total overhaul and 59% concerned that Congress won’t pass reform this year, supporting the status quo is a risky proposition for swing district Dems.” Also: “[W]hen voters hear a paragraph of information about what the plan supports (including a public option, mandates for individuals and businesses, and higher taxes on high-income households), a majority in these districts support it (53% favor/41% oppose).” And it also argues that, despite the media’s attention to the contentious town-hall meetings over the summer, polling in Blue Dog districts has remained relatively stable from June to September.
*** Ginsburg taken to hospital: According to NBC’s Pete Williams, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was taken to the Washington Hospital Center last night after feeling ill in her chambers earlier in the day. She felt ill after receiving an iron sucrose infusion to treat an iron deficiency anemia that was administered at the Office of the Attending Physician. Williams updates that Ginsburg stayed overnight at the hospital as a precautionary measure, and it’s expected that she will be released from the hospital today. In short, her illness yesterday isn’t thought to be serious.
*** A lack of muscle? Yesterday’s decision by former Democratic Virginia Gov. Doug Wilder NOT to endorse Creigh Deeds (D) in Virginia’s gubernatorial race -- even though the Obama White House had leaned on Wilder to back the Democrat -- spurred one GOP operative to remind us how unsuccessful the White House has been when flexing its political muscles. Other examples: The inability to get Lisa Madigan to run for the Senate in Illinois, the failure to convince North Carolina AG Roy Cooper to challenge Richard Burr, and the fact that New York Gov. David Paterson has yet to bow out for 2010. What’s more, the source said, Senate Democrats have primaries in CO, PA, and IL. To be fair, however, the White House WAS able to essentially clear the field for Kirsten Gillibrand, it got Arlen Specter to switch parties, and the Paterson story has yet to fully play out (does anyone really think he sticks it out?). Also, while not desirable having primaries in CO and PA actually provides a silver lining for the White House, because it forces Specter and Michael Bennet to be more reliable votes.
*** Today’s sked: Elsewhere today, Vice President Biden travels to Georgia (the state, not the country) to survey the flood damage there. And at 3:15 pm ET, Paul Kirk gets sworn in as temporary senator replacing Ted Kennedy. GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said this about the Kirk appointment: "What the . . . totally Democratic-controlled Massachusetts state government should have done is just be honest about it. They should have written a law this way: If there's a Republican governor, there's no appointment. And if there's a Democratic governor, there is an appointment."
'Capitalism' as Comedy and Tragedy Now Playing in NY and L.A.
Friday, September 25th, 2009
The time has arrived for, as Time magazine called it, my "magnum opus." I only had a year of Latin when I was in high school, so I'm not quite sure what that means, but I think it's good.
I've spent nearly two years on this new movie, "Capitalism: A Love Story," and have poured my heart and soul into this project. Many early critics and viewers have called it my "best film yet." That's a hard call for me to make as I'm proud of all of my films -- but I will tell you this: What you are about to see in "Capitalism" is going to stun you. It's going to make some of you angry and I believe it's going to give most of you a new sense of hope that we are going to turn the sick and twisted mess made by the last president around. Oh, and you're going to have a good laugh at the expense of all the banking and corporate criminals who've made out like bandits in the past year.
I'm gonna show you the stuff the nightly news will rarely show you. Ever meet a pilot for American Airlines on food stamps because his pay's been cut so low? Ever meet a judge who gets kickbacks for sending innocent kids to a private prison? Ever meet someone from the Wall Street Journal who bluntly states on camera that he doesn't much care for democracy and that capitalism should be our only ruling concern?
You'll meet all these guys in "Capitalism." You'll also meet a whistleblower who, with documents in hand, tells us about the million-dollar-plus sweetheart loans he approved for the head of Senate Banking Committee -- the very committee that was supposed to be regulating his lending institution! You'll hear from a bank regulator why Timothy Geithner has no business being our Treasury Secretary. And you'll learn, from the woman who heads up the congressional commission charged with keeping an eye on the bailout money, how Alan Greenspan & Co. schemed and connived the public into putting up their inflated valued homes as collateral -- thus causing the biggest foreclosure epidemic in our history.
There is now a foreclosure filed in the U.S. once every seven-and-half SECONDS.
None of this is an accident, and I name the names others seem to be afraid to name, the men who have ransacked the pensions of working people and plundered the future of our kids and grandkids. Somehow they thought they were going to get away with this, that we'd believe their Big Lie that this crash was caused by a bunch of low-income people who took out loans they couldn't afford. Much of the mainstream media bought this storyline. No wonder Wall Street thought they could pull this off.
Jeez, I guess they forgot about me and my crew. You'd think we would've made a better impression on these wealthy thieves by now. Guess not.
So here we come! It's all there, up on the silver screen, two hours of a tragicomedy crime story starring a bunch of vampires who just weren't satisfied with simply destroying Flint, Michigan -- they had to try and see if they could take down the whole damn country. So come see this cops and robbers movie! The robbers this time wear suits and ties, and the cops -- well, if you're willing to accept a guy in a ballcap with a high school education as a stand-in until the real deal shows up to haul 'em away, then I humbly request your presence at your local cinema this weekend in New York and Los Angeles (and next Friday, October 2nd, all across America).
In the meantime, you can catch us on some of the TV shows that have been brave enough to let me on in the past week or so:
- Nightline (as we take a stroll down Wall Street to Goldman Sachs)
- Good Morning America (where they let me talk about Disney employees who don't get medical benefits)
- The View (where the Republican co-host told everyone to go see it! Whoa!)
- The Colbert Report (this guy is a genius, seriously)
- Larry King (where a spokesperson for the Senator who got the sweetheart loans responds for the first time)
- Keith Olberman (where we both wonder just how long these media corps are going to let us get away with what we do)
- Wolf Blitzer (yes, he's back for more abuse - and lovin' it)
... And the amazing Jay Leno. This man called me after seeing the movie and asked me to be his only in-studio guest on the second night of his new prime-time show. I said, "Jay, shouldn't you be thinking of your ratings in the first week of the show? Are you sure you didn't misdial Tom Hanks' number (the area code where I live is 231; 213 is LA)?" He told me he was profoundly moved by this film. So I was the guest on his second show, and he told all of America it was my "best film" and to please go see "Capitalism: A Love Story." That was Jay Leno saying that, not Noam Chomsky or Jane Fonda (both of whom I love dearly). The audience responded enthusiastically and, after 20 years of filmmaking, it was a moment where I crossed over deep into the mainstream of middle America. Jay's bosses at General Electric musta been... well, let's just say I hope they didn't place a reprimand in his permanent record. He's one helluva guy (and following the example he set with his free concerts for the unemployed in Michigan and Ohio last spring, I've gotten permission from the studio to do the same with my film in ten of the hardest-hit cities in the U.S. next week).
Oh, and he made me sing! Prepare yourself!
Thanks everyone -- and see you at the movies!