Friday, March 26, 2010

Just What Are The Facts; Just What Is The Truth Today?

Just What Are The Facts; Just What Is The Truth Today?

There Are More Twists And Turns Of Spin Than A Corkscrew.

What's Really Behind the Health Care Hate?

Can it really be that health care reform in and of itself is the true cause of the massive vitriolic rage spewing from conservatives today? Is the Tea Party movement really about runaway government spending? Have the chilling faces of hate seen at protests across America truly been about apublic option? If you ask me, it has way more to do with an ugly truth that few are willing to acknowledge: it's about a bunch of angry, bigoted white racists who see reform as little more than a black president doling out more welfare to other blacks and minorities (as the photo above, which is all over the 'net, suggests).

It's shocking to me to witness this rage over health care reform when not a
peep's been uttered by these right-wing loons for the past seven years over an unjust war in Iraq that's killed thousands of U.S. soldiers, wounded and maimed tens of thousands of others, and squandered nearly a trillion dollars. Health care reform is what's heatedly brought these heretofore silent Americans into the political ring? I'm not buyin' it, sorry. Once again,racism is rearing its ugly head. Have you seen these protesters? The things they do and say? Shouting racial epithets and anti-gay slurs, and spitting at lawmakers. So angry that blood vessels are popping in their necks. Faces contorted in hatred. Screaming like animals and calling for the deaths of elected Democrats. All over health care? Really? Have we become so politically correct as a nation as to be so afraid to call this shameful behavior exactly what it is? Not me. This blatant racism makes me sick, and I'm not afraid to call it out. More…

The Horrible Prospect Of Supreme Court Justice Cass Sunstein


A media consensus has emerged that the retirement of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, the 90-year-old Ford-appointee who became the leader of the Court's so-called "liberal wing," is now imminent. The New York Times' Peter Baker has an article today on Obama's leading candidates to replace Stevens, in which one finds this strange passage:

The president’s base hopes he will name a full-throated champion to counter Justice Antonin Scalia, the most forceful conservative on the bench. . . . The candidates who would most excite the left include the constitutional scholars Harold Hongju Koh, Cass R. Sunstein and Pamela S. Karlan.

While that's probably true of Koh and Karlan, it's absolutely false with regard to Sunstein, who is currently Obama's Chief of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. From the beginning of the War on Terror, Cass Sunstein turned himself into the most reliable Democratic cheerleaders for Bush/Cheney radicalism and their assault on the Constitution and the rule of law.

In 2002, at the height of controversy over Bush's creation of military commissions without Congressional approval, Sunstein stepped forward to insist that "[u]nder existing law, President George W. Bush has the legal authority to use military commissions" and that "President Bush's choice stands on firm legal ground." Sunstein scorned as "ludicrous" the argument from Law Professor George Fletcher that the Supreme Court would find Bush's military commissions without any legal basis. Four years later -- in itsHamdan ruling -- the Supreme Court, with Justice Stevens in the majority, held that Bush lacked the legal authority to create military commissions without approval from Congress, i.e., the Court (and Stevens) found Bush lacked exactly the "legal authority" which Sunstein vehemently insisted he possessed. Had Sunstein been on the Court then instead of Stevens, that decision presumably would have come out the opposite way: in favor of Bush's sweeping claims of executive authority.

Worse still, in 2005, Sunstein became the hero of the Bush-following Right when, in the wake of revelations that the Bush administration was illegally eavesdropping on Americans, he quickly proclaimed that Bush was within his legal rights to spy without warrants in violation of FISA. Sunstein defended Bush's NSA program by embracing the two extremist arguments at the core of Bush/Cheney lawlessness: that (1) the AUMF silently authorized warrantless eavesdropping in violation of FISA and, worse, (2) the President may have a plausible claim that Article II "inherently" authorizeswarrantless eavesdropping regardless of what a statute says.

In a March, 2006 Washington Post article, Sunstein solidified his credential as Leading Democratic-Law-Professor/Bush-Defender by mocking the notion that Bush had committed crimes while in office:

[Harvard Law Professor Laurence] Tribe wrote [Rep. John] Conyers, dismissing Bush's defense of warrantless surveillance as "poppycock." It constituted, Tribe concluded, "as grave an abuse of executive authority as I can recall ever having studied."

But posed against this bill of aggrievement are legal and practical realities. Not all scholars, even of a liberal bent, agree that Bush has committed "high crimes and misdemeanors." Bush's legal advice may be wrong, they say, but still reside within the bounds of reason.

"The Clinton impeachment was plainly unconstitutional, and a Bush impeachment would be nearly as bad," said Cass R. Sunstein, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Chicago. "There is a very good argument that the president had it wrong on WMD in Iraq but that he was acting in complete good faith."

Sunstein argues that Bush's decision to conduct surveillance of Americans without court approval flowed from Congress's vote to allow an armed struggle against al-Qaeda. "If you can kill them, why can't you spy on them?" Sunstein said, adding that this is a minority view.

In 2008, Sunstein became the leading proponent of the Bush/Cheney-sponsored bill to legalize Bush's warrantless eavesdropping program and to immunize lawbreaking telecoms, a bill which Obama -- advised by Sunstein -- ended up voting for in violation of his pledge to filibuster. The same year, Sunstein provoked widespread anger among progressives by insisting (again) that investigations and prosecutions of Bush officials would be inappropriate and harmful. As summarized by Talk Left's Armando, a long-time lawyer: "Cass Sunstein has been defending the Bush Administration's illegal actions and the Bush Administration's preposterous claims for many many years now. This is who he is." Hey, Left: doesn't the thought of Supreme Court Justice Cass Sunstein make you tingle with "excitement," just as Peter Baker said?

Even in domestic policy, Sunstein is far away from "the Left." As Matt Yglesias put it last April after Obama nominated him to be head of White House regulatory policy: his "views on regulation are, if anything, somewhat more conservative than those of most Democrats." In reviewing Sunstein's domestic policy book, Nudge,Matt Stoller pointed out that several of his ideas are "exactly 100% out of the conventional wisdom from the 1960s conservative movement," that he steadfastly exempts the Pentagon and the Surveillance State from claims that the Government is too large, and even holds up Rahm Emanuel as a "liberal," just to give a sense of how Sunstein views the political spectrum. As I discussed earlier this year, Sunstein also proposed a consummately creepy plan for the government to "cognitively infiltrate" online discussions which spout views that Sunstein deems false.

Along with TNR's Jeffrey Rosen, it was Sunstein who took a leading role in telling Democrats that John Roberts was a good choice for the Court. While Rosen has acknowledged he was wrong in his assessment -- because Roberts turned out to be exactly the judicial radical which liberals said he was (while Rosen/Sunstein derided liberals for saying so) -- Sunstein continued to praise Roberts and Sam Alito for their rulings. A former student of Sunstein's at Chicago Law School, the very smart liberal blogger Kathy G, detailed Sunstein's record in a comprehensive post, including his expressed affection and admiration for the executive-power-loving radicals of the Federalist Society which, among other things, produced John Yoo (she also notes Sunstein's view that Roe v. Wade was "wrongly decided," though he doesn't favor its overruling). As she aptly put it:

I think Sunstein is an extremely ambitious man who basically would run over his own grandmother for a seat on the Supreme Court (well, he'd think seriously about doing so, anyway). Seeing how powerful the right wing has been in this country (at least until recently), especially regarding the courts, Sunstein must know that if he wants to be a Supreme Court justice, it would help if he were cozy with the right and accepted many of their basic ideas (such as judicial "minimalism," which he has advocated), albeit with a more centrist spin. It obviously would also help his popularity with the right if he were to refrain from bruising conservatives' tender feelings by pointing out such inconvenient truths as the fact that the current administration is a pack of dangerous, despotic war criminals.

Indeed, for all of these reasons, Sunstein has been praised by the Rightas one of Obama's best picks while consistently opposed by "the Left."

Given all this, I have no idea what would possibly lead Baker to claim that Sunstein would be a favorite choice of the Left for the Court, though I can guess: the fact that the incoherent Glenn Beck -- for some inexplicable reason -- has made Sunstein a prime target of his deranged rantings about The Imminent Takeover of Leninism leads Baker to believe that Sunstein must be beloved by the Left. He most assuredly is not. Ironically, with this administration and in our political culture, the perception that a Sunstein appointment would "excite the Left" is probably the best way to ensure he is not chosen for the Court, as nothing is more fatal in Washington than being viewed as Liked by the Left. Just ask Dawn Johnsen about that, if you can find her (indeed, reflecting How Washington Works, Baker immediately says of the candidates he identifies as The Left's Favorites: "insiders doubt Mr. Obama would pick any of them now"). So it's arguably productive to let this view of Sunstein stand, as false as it is.

The person who many believe is the leading candidate to replace Stevens -- Obama's Solicitor General Elena Kagan -- has a record that isalmost as bad as Sunstein's when it comes to executive power abuses,civil liberties, and "War on Terror" radicalism. Unlike the Sotomayor-for-Souter substitution, which essentially maintained the Court's balance, replacing Stevens with the likes of Cass Sunstein or Elena Kagan would move the Court dramatically to the Right, especially in the areas of executive power and civil liberties, where a fragile 5-4 majority has provided at least some minimal safeguards over the last decade. Whatever else one might want to say about Cass Sunstein -- or, for that matter, Elena Kagan -- it is simply false to claim that they would fit within the so-called "liberal" wing of the Court on matters of executive power and civil liberties. The replacement of John Paul Stevens could have a very radical impact on the Supreme Court, and it's certainly not too early to begin combating pernicious myths about the leading candidates.

Karl Rove: I Did Not Want Dick Cheney To Be Vice President (VIDEO ...

By Nick Wing
Cheney, himself, seemed reluctant to take the position, according to Rove's book released earlier this month. In Rove's memoir, "Courage and Consequence," he wrote that he had seen Cheney "squirm as Bush pressed him to accept" the ... -

Karl Rove: I Thought Cheney As VP 'Was A Bad Idea' (VIDEO)

TPM LiveWire (blog) - Jillian Rayfield - 1 hour ago

On CNN last night, Karl Rove told a little story about how he initially thought the choice of Dick Cheney for Vice President was a "bad idea," but that ...

The GOP Response to the Intimidation Campaign Against Democrats

Posted by ALEX ALTMAN Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 12:58 pm


In a press conference Thursday morning, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi addressed the spate of threats Democrats have faced over the past few days. Pressed by reporters on whether Republican lawmakers had incited some of those threats, Pelosi offered a measured response. “Words have power. They weigh a ton,” she said. But she also cautioned that crackdowns against such behavior could not impede free speech, and stressed that she didn't want “to paint everyone who was part of the free expression that happened here with the same brush.”

It was a measured response to an intimidation campaign that has been nothing short of appalling. Death threats have poured in to the offices of Louise Slaughter and Bart Stupak. (You can hear what Stupak's dealing with here. It ain't pretty.) A propane line at the home of Virginia Democrat Tom Perriello's brother was slashed, and in a gesture with less-than-subtle symbolism, a coffin was placed on Democratic Rep. Russ Carnahan's lawn. More than 100 House Democrats met with representatives from the Capitol Police and FBI on Wednesday, and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said at least 10 Democrats have been given enhanced protection.

Tea Partyers are scrambling to dissociate themselves with the fanatical responses to Sunday's vote. The Tea Party Movement of Florida issued a press release Thursday that repudiated “any person using derogatory characterizations, threats of violence, or disparaging terms towards members of Congress or the President.” Leaders of the Virginia Tea Party group that posted Perriello's brother's address, meanwhile, stated that they did not endorse what had happened.

Republican leaders have taken a different approach. On Wednesday, House Minority Leader John Boehner issued a perfunctory denunciation of the threats: “I know many Americans are angry over this health care bill, and that Washington Democrats just aren't listening,” Boehner said. “But, as I've said, violence and threats are unacceptable.” The comment infuriated Perrello. “I thought it his statement was fairly outrageous,” he said. “Every right-thinking person knows this is over the line. These things have to be called out.”

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor also denounced the threats at a news conference on Thursday. "Let me be clear: I do not condone violence. There are no leaders in this building, no rank and file members in this building that condone violence -- period," Cantor said, noting that his own office had been shot at as well. But then he pivoted, excoriating DNC Chair Tim Kaine and Rep. Chris Van Hollen and arguing it was "reckless to use these incidents as media vehicles for political gain." The tactic, he said, was "reprehensible." And in an interview with MSNBC, Republican Sen. John Barrasso flashed the same sort of political pirouette: issuing a strenuous denunciation before lapsing into talking points. "There no cause for this. This is not something that's acceptable," Barrasso said, before launching into an explanation of how Democrats had betrayed Americans by ignoring the will of the majority.

To be fair, no Republican ever endorsed violence as a way to express opposition to health-care reform, and they undoubtedly regret what's happened. On the other hand, many stoked anger over the past few months by employing staggering hyperbole over a document they cast as tyrannical and totalitarian. Boehner, for example, called the vote on the bill “Armageddon,” and said Ohio Rep. Steve Driehaus could be a “dead man” in his largely red Cincinnati district. I can understand if he and other Republicans are upset about being grouped with the extremists chucking bricks through windows. But by condemning violence and blasting Democrats in the same breath, Republican leaders implicitly validate the anger spurring these incidents. Instead of defusing the situation, this sort of response escalates it.

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