Friday, September 28, 2007

Social Security At The Debate In New Hampshire

Here follows the text of the question(s), with all responses, regarding Social Security posed by Tim Russert at the Democratic Presidential debate at Dartmouth College. This is long, but it provides much insight into the thinking of the favorite to be the next President of the United States.


RUSSERT: And we’re back at Dartmouth College talking to the Democrats. I want to talk about Social Security and Medicare.
The chairman of the Federal Reserve, the head of the Government Accountability Office have both said that the number of people in America on Social Security and Medicare is going to double in the next 20 years—there are now 40 million; it’s going to go to 80 million -- and that if nothing is done, we’ll have to cut benefits in half or double the taxes. That is their testimony.
Senator Biden, in order to prevent that, would you be willing to consider certain steps? For example, back in 1983, Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill, Patrick Moynihan and Bob Dole got together and changed the retirement age. It’s going to be going up to 67 in a gradual increase.
Right now, you pay tax for Social Security on your first $97,500 worth of income.
RUSSERT: Why not tax the entire income of every American? And if you do that, you’ll guarantee the solvency of social security farther than I can see.

BIDEN: The answer is yes. I’m probably the only one up here who’s going to say that, but the truth of the matter is, you stated it. You’re either going to cut benefits, or you’re going to go ahead and raise taxes above the first $97,000.

And, by the way, I was in that room with Pat Moynihan. It was Joe Biden, Pat Moynihan, Bob Dole—it was also George Mitchell— when we made that deal. And I’ll never forget Bob Dole turning to Pat Moynihan and saying, “We all got to jump in this boat at the same time.”

So the bottom line here is, you can’t do it by growing the economy alone. So I would raise the cap.

RUSSERT: Would you also, considering now life expectancy is 78, considering—consider gradually raising the retirement age?

BIDEN: We did that one—I supported that; that’s what got it solvent to 2041. By simply going and taking—raising the cap, you can solve the problem.

RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, would you be in favor of saying to the American people, “I’m going to tax your income; I’m not going to cap at $97,500. Everyone, even if you are a millionaire is going to pay Social Security tax on every cent they make.”

CLINTON: Well, Tim, let me tell you what I think about this, because I know this is a particular concern of yours. But I want to make three points very briefly.

First, I do think that it is important to talk about fiscal responsibility. You know, when my husband left office after moving us toward a balanced budget and a surplus, we had a plan to make Social Security solvent until 2055.

Now, because of the return to deficits, we have lost 14 years of solvency. It’s now projected to be solvent until 2041. Getting back on a path to fiscal responsibility is absolutely essential.

Number two, I think we do need another bipartisan process.

CLINTON: You described what happened in ‘83. It took presidential leadership, and it took the relationships between the White House and Capitol Hill, to reach the kind of resolution that was discussed. And I think that has to be what happens again, but with a president who is dedicated to Social Security, unlike our current president, who has never liked Social Security. You can go back and see when he first ran for Congress, he was dissing Social Security.

So when I’m president, I will do everything to protect and preserve Social Security so we can have that kind of bipartisanship.

And, finally, then you can look in the context of fiscal responsibility and of a bipartisan compromise—what else might be done. But I think if you don’t put fiscal responsibility first, you’re going to really make a big mistake, because we demonstrated in the ‘90s, it had a lot to do with moving us toward solvency.

RUSSERT: But you would not take lifting the cap at $97,500 off the table?

CLINTON: Well, I’d take everything off the table until we move toward fiscal responsibility and before we have a bipartisan process. I don’t think I should be negotiating about what I would do as president. You know, I want to see what other people come to the table with.

RUSSERT: But Senator Biden said you can’t grow your way out of this. And, for the record, when the Clinton administration left office, Social Security was only guaranteed to 2038, not 2055.

CLINTON: There was a plan on the basis of the balanced budget and the surplus to take it all the way to 2055. And we know what happened: George Bush came in, went back to deficits, and has basically used the Social Security trust fund and borrowing from China and other countries to pay for the war.

RUSSERT: So, Senator, a simple question, a simple question:

What do you put on the table? What are you willing to look at to say, “We’re not going to double the taxes, we’re not going to cut benefits in half; I’m willing to put everything on the table, some things on the table, nothing on the table”?

CLINTON: I’m not putting anything on the proverbial table until we move toward fiscal responsibility. I think it’s a mistake to do that.

RUSSERT: Senator Obama?

OBAMA: I think that lifting the cap is probably going to be the best option.

OBAMA: Now, we’ve got to have a process that’s already been talked about. Joe participated back in 1983. We need another one. And I think—I’ve said before, everything should be on the table.

My personal view is that lifting the cap is much preferable than the other options that are available. But what’s critical is to recognize that there is a potential problem.

As I travel around Iowa and New Hampshire I meet young people who don’t think Social Security is going to be there for them. They don’t believe it’s going to be there for them.

And I think it’s important for us, in addition to getting our fiscal house in order, to acknowledge as Democrats that there may be a problem that we’ve got to take on.

And we should be willing to do anything that will strengthen the system to make sure that we are being true to the sake of trust of those who are already retired as well as young people in the future.

And we should reject things that will weaken the system, including privatization, which essentially is going to put people’s retirement at the whim of the stock market.

RUSSERT: Senator Dodd, tax all income?

DODD: I don’t think you have to go that far. I understand what Joe’s point is here, but you could raise that tax far less than all incomes here and achieve the same result by achieving solvency.

DODD: But beyond just the Social Security fix, Tim, there are a host of other issues related to this. Pension security is critically important for long-term security. Financial literacy is critically important to people as well. Prescription drug issues are critically important to that population. Preventive care.

We need to look at this in a wholistic way when it comes to our seniors.

Remember, it was only a few years ago, Tim, that the poorest sector of our population in this country were our elderly.

Because of Medicare, because of Social Security, because of leadership that stood up and fought for it here, we’ve been able to take the older Americans out of poverty and give them a sense of decency and a quality of life.

So, issues like privatization, as has been said here, have to be off the table. And I believe you can achieve that solvency here by doing simpler things, without the draconian measures that some have suggested.

But you need to also deal with these other issues on the table if you’re going to provide that kind of financial security and that quality of life for our older Americans.

RUSSERT: Governor Richardson, would you lift the cap and have taxes paid on income and not cap it at $97,500?

RICHARDSON: No, you don’t need to do that. That’s a 15 percent tax on small businesses, on the middle class, on family farms.

RICHARDSON: You don’t need to do that. This is what you do. One, you take privatization off the table. You don’t want Social Security in the stock market. Two, you stop raiding the Social Security Trust Fund, as the Congress and the president constantly do. Number three...

RUSSERT: You would then have a—excuse me. Excuse me. You would then have a deficit of over $300 billion...

RICHARDSON: No, no, Tim. No you don’t.

RUSSERT: Governor...

RICHARDSON: No, no, wait. Wait, because I know...

RUSSERT: It’s not funny money. It’s real money.

(LAUGHTER)

RICHARDSON: No, no, but what you do—I am the only candidate here who’s said I’m for a constitutional amendment to balance the budget. You have to have fiscal discipline. You’ve also got to grow the economy. You’ve have to have universal pensions. Here’s—you know, this estimate that you just talked about is based on the growth of the economy 1.3 percent. If it grows to 1.8, we don’t have this.

And if we balance the budget, restore our fiscal house, there will be economic growth—if we invest in education and have a stronger workforce, if we incentivize and have a pro-growth economy where we say we’re going to make America green, renewable energy, we’re going to bring new jobs.

RUSSERT: Governor, what you are saying that there is no pain in this. You can double the number of people on Social Security and Medicare and the life expectancy can go to 78. The reason Franklin Roosevelt set the age of eligibility at 65 -- that was life expectancy. You made it on the program for a month or two and that was it.

You’re going to have double the number of people on these programs for 15 years, and you can do it by growing the economy.

RICHARDSON: Tim, I have said I am for a constitutional amendment to balance the budget within five years. That is pain. You don’t do it in a recession. You don’t do it in a war. But if you also generate economic growth, this projection that you mentioned, by the year 2041 is based on 1.3 percent economic growth. That is pathetic.

RUSSERT: Senator Edwards?

RICHARDSON: You grow the economy...

RUSSERT: Can you grow your way out of this?

EDWARDS: No, sir. You cannot. I would say it is the single most important thing for anybody running for president is to be willing to be honest with America.

EDWARDS: You cannot solve this problem just by setting up a bipartisan commission—all of us are for that. You cannot solve this problem just by growing the economy—all of us are for that. But the American people deserve to hear the truth.

They have heard so much politician double-talk on this issue. That’s the reason young people don’t believe Social Security is going to be there for them. Why would you possibly trust a bunch of politicians who say the same thing over and over and over?

“We’re going to grow our way out of this,” but nothing changes. Nothing changes. The honest truth is: There are hard choices to make be made here. The choice I would make as president of the United States is on the very issue that you’ve asked about, which is the cap.

And I have to say, I have some difference with my friend, Chris Dodd, who I agree with a lot. But I don’t understand why somebody who makes $50 million a year pays Social Security tax on the first $97,000 and somebody—and not on the rest—while somebody who makes $85,000 a year pays Social Security tax on every dime of their income.

DODD: Well, John...

EDWARDS: I’m sorry, Chris, let me just finish. I’ll let you respond.

But I want to say one last thing about this. I do have some difference with some of my colleagues who I’ve heard talk about this. I think we have to be very careful to protect the middle class, so specifically—if I can be very specific—what I would do as president is I would create a protective zone between $97,000 up to around $200,000, because there are a lot of firefighter couples, for example, that make $100,000, $115,000 a year. We don’t want to raise taxes on them.

But I do believe that people who make $50, $75, $100 million a year ought to be paying Social Security taxes on that income.

KUCINICH: I think...

RUSSERT: Real fast.

KUCINICH: ... of course, we ought to be raising the cap in order to protect Social Security, which is solid to about 2040 without any changes whatsoever.

But what everyone should realize in this country is that Wall Street is very interested in privatization. And unless we have a president who states very clearly—no privatization, believes in economic growth—and I’m talking about a new WPA, a Works Green Administration, creating technologies for a green America.

KUCINICH: We have to believe in economic growth. We should raise the ceiling. And in addition to that, Tim, we should be thinking about lowering—lowering—the retirement age to 65. People’s bodies break down. There are people who are retiring early. They don’t have the kind of economic help they should get. We should be thinking: Raise the cap, lower the retirement age to 65, stop privatization, increase economic growth. That’s what a Kucinich presidency will mean.

RUSSERT: Senator Dodd, Senator Edwards invoked your name. You have 30 seconds.

DODD: And I thank you.

What I was suggesting here—Joe, I think, said tax everybody.

(CROSSTALK)

DODD: I think clearly that you don’t have to do that.

(LAUGHTER)

DODD: But you can do this by basically readjusting that tax so you don’t have to—doesn’t have to affect everyone in society.

So, John, I’m not suggesting...

RUSSERT: But you’d raise it to $500,000?

DODD: But you’ve got to raise it up, clearly, to do this.

Now, let me also say something. Look, because all of this comes down to one other issue, Tim, clearly.

Joe made the point earlier. We can all talk about this. No one political party is going to do this. It’s going to take people who can bring people together to get the job done.

And you need to demonstrate not just the experience but the proven ability to actually get results by bringing people together to do things that were difficult to accomplish. That’s what I’ve done for 26 years. I know how to do this.

And I think the American people are looking for leadership that not just makes promises about what they’re going to do but the ability to bring elements together, as you had happen with Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill and Bob Dole and Pat Moynihan. That kind of leadership is missing today. That’s what the American people want back.

CLINTON: Tim, I just have to insert something here. You know, the Democrats are against privatization. I fought against it. We all did. But in the interest of, I think, facts, we were on a pathway at the end of the Clinton administration, in the words of Alan Greenspan, of “eliminating the debt.”

CLINTON: That was one of the excuses he gave when he voted for those horrible tax cuts in 2001, that he was so worried that he would actually eliminate the debt. So I think it’s important that you cannot give away what you’re going to be negotiating over when it comes to Social Security until you make it clear that fiscal responsibility has got to be the premise of the negotiation.

And if you don’t lead with that, and if you don’t point to the fact that the Democrats are much better stewards of our country’s budget than the Republicans are—because, once again, we’re in a mess after this President Bush leaves office—then you’re going to be negotiating with yourself, and I think that’s a mistake.

RUSSERT: But Senator Clinton...

CLINTON: But fiscal responsibility first.

RUSSERT: Senator Clinton—Senator Clinton, you would acknowledge that the programs, as they are now constructed, will not exist unless significant changes are made in them for the next generation.

CLINTON: Well, I think we have to make some significant changes. And I’ve told you where I would start from and what I would do. And I think it’s a mistake to be negotiating over what you will give away before you even get to the bipartisan process, because the fiscal responsibility is key here.


Several things jump out at you about Senator Clinton's response(s) to these questions.

1) She emphasizes "bipartisanship" and "fiscal responsibility," arguing "I'd take everything off the table until we move toward fiscal responsibility and before we have a bipartisan process."
2) She is cool to the idea of eliminating, or even increasing, the cap on the FICA tax from the current $97,500.
3) She seems to be approaching this issue defensively, stating "you know, I want to see what other people come to the table with."

There are a limited number of options for bolstering Social Security: increase the retirement age; cut benefits; increase the percentage at which income is taxed; increase the cap; privatize, at least partially, the system. Increasing the tax, given that it is a flat percentage of income, is inherently regressive; cutting benefits would reduce the income retired people, already reeling from a medicare prescription drug plan which is a boon to pharmaceutical companies, is unacceptable; increasing the retirement age is tantamount to a cut in benefits; and privatizing Social Security puts the nation on a slippery slope to destruction of the system. Clearly, progressives and main street liberals must support elimination of the cap. There is no reason that a man or woman earning just under $100,000 annually should pay as much of this tax as someone pulling down a million, five million, or twenty million, dollars.

Senator Clinton should understand this. Obviously, Senator Biden, Senator Obama, Representative Kucinich, and former Senator Edwards do. And there is one other thing the former First Lady should understand. "Fiscal responsibility" means something different to Republicans than to Democrats. To the Reagan Administration, the Bush 41 Administration, and now, presumably, the Bush 43 Administration, fiscal responsibility has meant the President spreads funding around to delighted constituencies- and cuts income taxes to delight taxpayers and run up the deficit. Then follows a "responsible" Democratic President to make the public take its medicine, the cod liver oil of increased taxes to move the budget closer to balance.

This Administration does not believe in "bipartisanship" and would erode Social Security if it could. If one of the Democratic aspirants is elected President (as assumed by the question), there will be a Democratic majority, larger than now, in both the House and the Senate. And an opportunity to do the right thing by America's elderly, present and future.
Clinton's Non-Answers

What do the following questions (herein quoted in relevant part) posed at the Democratic Presidential debate on 9/26/07 have in common (answer at end)?


1) If Israel concluded that Iran's nuclear capability threatened Israel's security, would Israel be justified in launching an attack on Iran?

2) Would you make a promise as a potential commander in chief that you will not allow Iran to become a nuclear power and will use any means to stop it?

3) Last year, some parents of second-graders in Lexington, Massachusetts were outraged to hear their children's teacher had read a story about same-sex marriage about a prince who marries another prince... Would you be comfortable having the story read to your children of part of their school curriculum?

4) Senator Clinton, would you be in favor of saying to the American people "I'm going to tax your income; I'm not going to cap it at $97,500. Everyone, even if you are a millionaire, is going to pay Social Security tax on every cent they make."

5) Is it healthy for a democracy to have a two-family political dynasty?

6) Senator Clinton, would you rule out expanding nuclear power?

7) Senator Clinton, this is the number three man in Al Qaida. We know there is a bomb about to go off and we have three days, and we know this guy knows where it is. Should there be a presidential exception to allow torture in that kind of situation?

8) Which foreign policy decison of the Clinton Administration were you involved in or did you advise?

9) Do you believe that the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton library shold publish all the donors who give contributions to these two entities?


That's right. All are questions which Senator Clinton did not directly answer.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Sanctuary Cities And The Rule Of Law

During last night's Democratic Presidential debate at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, New Mexico's Bill Richardson, in response to a question late in the debate, declared "I will also be a President who will bring back habeas corpus and the rule of law."

Richardson was right to remind us that not all Presidents must be contemptuous of the right to privacy, separation of powers, and the rule of law. Unfortunately, Governor, you- and most of your colleagues- want to uphold the rule of law only when it is a law you approve of.

Fairly early in the debate, Alison King of http://www.hearstcorp.com/entertainment/property/ent_cable_newengland.html asked the candidates a long, but revealing, question about sanctuary cities, which ended "would you allow these cities to ignore the federal law regarding the reporting of illegal immigrants and in fact provide sanctuary to these immigrants?" Host Tim Russert followed up on the question to elicit a specific answer from each candidate (though for whatever reason John Edwards was not directly queried and did not volunteer his opinion). The verdict- Richardson- yes; Dodd- yes; Kucinich- yes; Gravel- yes; Obama- yes; Clinton- yes. In response to the question, there was criticism of the "federal government," though we do know our current President is fond of the concept of amnesty (see Libby, I. Lewis).

The only candidate to respond, after a little prodding, "no" was Delaware's Senator Biden, who deserves considerable credit. But Representative Kucinich honestly, and dangerously, put it: "The federal law- there is a moral law, and the moral law here says the immigrants are being abused and mistreated." So, as President Bush apparently believes, we enforce the laws we agree with and not those we disagree with. And when we hear our Democratic candidates criticize this failed President, including his discomfort with the United States Constitution, remember this: for six Democratic candidates, the concept of the rule of law remains a concept.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Greenspan: Open The Borders!

On a recent episode of "Democracy Now," whose website bills itself as "a daily radio and TV news program on over 500 stations," host Amy Goodman and, primarily, investigative journalist Naomi Klein, recently interviewed former Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan, continuing his tour to promote his memoir "The Age of
Turbulence: Adventures in a New World." Although the questions covered a fairly wide range of economic issues (even the war in Iraq was viewed in part in this context), a portion of one of Greenspan's responses caught my eye- or ear, when I heard it:

And I also argue in the book that we ought to be opening up our borders to skilled labor from all sorts of -- from all parts of the world, because if we were to do that, we would increase the supply of skilled workers, which our schools have been unable to create, and as a consequence of that, we would lower the average wage of skills and reduce the degree of income inequality in this country.

There are several interesting arguments made here, each disturbing:

1) "Our schools have been unable to create" an adequate "supply of skilled workers," a claim refuted by evidence, and offensive to the hordes of men and women highly trained in technology upon graduating colleges and universities each year;

2) "Lower(ing) the average wage of skills" would "reduce the degree of income inequality in this country, an implication which suggests that reducing income of workers somehow decreases income inequality, a bizarre idea;

3) "We ought to be opening up our borders to skilled labor... from all parts of the world," although clearly the United States has done so.

All in all, a worthwhile interview, for which Naomi Klein deserves credit- as does Alan Greenspan, whose argument here is seriously wrongheaded. He stuck with the interview even though he wasn't treated with the same reverence that he had come to expect from the American media.
Obama's Faith Initiative

CNN.com reports that the Obama campaign is organizing in
South Carolina "voter outreach through existing church Bible study programs" in an effort called "40 Days of Faith and Family" (40 days and 40 nights of rain, get it?). Although billed as "an opportunity for people of faith to come together across racial and denominational lines..." this article emphasizes the unavoidable, understandable racial (not racist) nature of Obama's bid in South Carolina. Note the phrases: "hoping to increase the candidate's profile among African-Americans;" "the candidate also has run radio ads here targeted at African-American voters;" "running neck and neck among black voters;" "two biographical entries that the campaign hopes will help the Senator appeal to black voters;" "a dead heat among African-Americans."

Response in the netroots to news of this faith-based effort seems primarily to fall along two lines: good that Democrats finally are recognizing the role of faith in the lives of American voters, or bad that Democrats are mimicking the Repub Party in dangerously entangling religion and politics. But here is the bottom line: roughly half of Democratic primary voters in South Carolina are black, which obviously presents Obama with a great opportunity. However, he is running against the spouse of "the first black President," as Toni Morrison famously described WTC. Even in the South, the role of religion generally plays a larger role among blacks than among whites. If Senator Obama truly is targeting both white and black voters (which I doubt) with the "40 Days of Faith and Family," he is making wasting valuable resources. If instead this is an effort to target black voters, which is highly likely, it is an intriguing, and probably worthwhile, approach.

Monday, September 24, 2007

An Implied Threat?

Suppose you are a father who has given his son money to go to the movies a couple of times. However, on both occasions he has misled you about the movie he has gone to see and has gotten into trouble. Now, he comes to you for a third time to fund his night out at the movies. But this time you refuse him, citing the problems he has caused your family with his behavior that you have funded.

And so it was that Chris Wallace, arguably the most objective of personalities on GOP TV, yesterday on Fox News Sunday asked of Hillary Clinton a variant of the question war opponents continually face: "But Senator, some of this money as you know goes to protect our troops against mines and IED's. No matter how you feel about the war, how can you vote to cut them off while they're still on the front lines?

Clinton, for her part, gave an excellent response. She began "I think, uh, the best way to protect our troops to to start bringing them home," then noted the body armor "the Bush Administration was not able or not willing to produce in the quantities that were necessary;" the armored vehicles which "needed additional protection in Iraq and they weren't getting it;" and "no-bid contracts and the cronyism" while Mr. Bush "keeps turning a blind eye to the abuses and the contracting process."

But I wonder about the question itself. Just as you expect that your son will not continue going to the movies now that you have denied him funding, why would you expect Mr. Bush to continue the war if he is denied funding? Could it be that the Administration which has denied soldiers superior body armor, as Lisa Myers of NBC reported here, or superior protection against rocket-propelled grenades (apparently the Trophy system, as the Israeli army now uses, according to Myers here) would leave soldiers out in the field unprotected? Could it be that the President who has always fought this war on the cheap, preferring tax cuts for the very wealthy to protection of soldiers and victory in war, would leave our fighting men and women vulnerable to attacks by insurgents bent on murder? I hope not.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Ideal Opponent

There have been two major impediments to the nomination, but especially the election, of Hillary Clinton. She has had to demonstrate that she is likeable and that a woman can be trusted to maintain the security of the United States. Although the string of Democratic debates and forums have proven little, the perception of Mrs. Clinton as the stereotypical woman, concerned about children and peace and unable to handle the reins of government, has been dispelled. Still, she is viewed by a sizeable portion of the American electorate as shrill and unfeeling, and distrusted as a political chameleon.

On the "Chris Matthews Show" Sunday, a video was shown of an appearance Mrs. Clinton made in front of an influential group, presumably in New York City, on February 6, 2000 as she was campaigning to become United States Senator. She stated "I may be new to the neighborhood but I'm not new to your concerns.... Now I know it's not always going to be an easy campaign (slight pause) but eh (hey?) this is New York."

Matthews and his panel of journalists understandably, justifiably, groaned. Clinton was corny, transparent, and, speaking with a slight New York accent, disingenuous.

And she was elected- not specifically because of this appearance, but I doubt that it hurt. The Senator understands better than most the importance of telling the voters that you're at one with their concerns ("I feel your pain") and of identifying with those voters. It's why, at least in part, Vice President George Herbert Walker Bush assured Repub primary voters that he was pro-life when anyone minimally aware knew that he was not and, at base, probably never would be. And why Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney obfuscate and distort their records and figuratively twist themselves into pretzels to explain that they are anti-abortion rights, anti- gay rights, and pro- gun rights. They need not convince- and probably not even persuade- likely primary voters, merely assure them that they are concerned about their opinion and anxious for their support.... which they demonstrate by renouncing, or reinterpreting, their prior views. (Notably, GHWB remembered culturally conservative voters were powerful enough to help get him into the White House and acted accordingly.)

And Mrs. Clinton knows how to identify with voters, whether they be her base of educated, largely upscale and single women or black voters, with whom she at least once discovered her Southern accent. And perhaps she can identify with more mainstream general election voters. Matthews noted "lately, she's been selling this thing: 'I'm a Midwestern daughter.'" Asked whether voters would prefer a Clinton "blended background" or a Giuliani "big-city background," the program's panel of journalists (most of whom are not on the air for that particular episode) insightfully had chosen "blended background" 11 to 1.

And make no mistake about it. If in the very unlikely event HRC's prayers are answered and she gets Rudy as an opponent next year (an outcome Giuliani has been boosting), Mrs. Clinton will not run as the Senator from New York but as the "midwestern daughter." She still will not be especially likeable but Giuliani, whom Matthews (approvingly, oddly) quoted as saying "either you like me or I hate you," will be, once the country gets to know him in early autumn of 2008, seen as charming as Bobby Knight after a loss. Against Rudy Giuliani, that would be enough.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Talk Of The Payroll Tax

As with virtually any forum this election season, last night's Democratic Presidential debate sponsored by AARP, hosted by Judy Woodruff of PBS, and held in Davenport, Iowa, produced few sparks but significant boredom (except to political junkies, but who else would be watching it?). Five candidates participated, with Gravel and Kucinich not invited and Obama having announced fairly recently that he would avoid any forum not sanctioned by the national party.


There was, however, a significant exchange about the FICA, the payroll tax which finances Social Security and Medicare. As Bloomberg News reports it, Mr. Edwards "said that the income cap is currently about $97,000, and advocated extending it for individuals earning more than $200,000 a year. ``These millionaires on Wall Street ought to be paying their Social Security taxes,'' he said." However, ever the advocate of the plutocracy, Mrs. Clinton "said she opposed this increase of the payroll tax and is focused instead on the budget deficit. ``We have a lot of work to do in Washington to clean up the fiscal mess we're going to inherit from President Bush,'' she said.

As described objectively here, the FICA is a classic example of a regressive tax. Worse than a "flat tax," which, presumably, would tax all income at the same rate, we finance these great, anti-poverty, pro- middle class programs with a rate up to a certain (ever-growing) level-at which point the Social Security aspect (the bulk of the fee) of the tax goes away. Thus, Social Security is not financed with any income above (currently) $97,000- whether possessed by M. Gibson, Trump, Gates, Bellichick, or Couric.

Addressing this is not "class warfare" (more often practiced by the Repub Party, anyway) but rather intrinsic to saving the program. The Repub Party rants about depletion of the Social Security trust fund, and the mainstream media take it as an article of faith that the money to support America's elderly is running out. That is alarmist, but continued solvency of the fund can only be enhanced by a)not raiding it in order to supplement the federal budget; and b)extending applicablility of the tax to all income, so that the privileged will pay their fair share and lifting much of the burden off the middle class. It is disappointing that Senator Clinton, who undoubtedly understands this need, will not acknowledge it and disturbing that if elected, might continue to skew the tax system for the scions of Wall Street and the glitterati of Hollywood, and against Main Street.
Two Resolutions

Two resolutions condemning the ad from MoveOn.org criticizing General Petraeus were approved by Congress' upper chamber on Thursday. The first, introduced by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D.-Cal.) sought, as the Senate's website described it, "to reaffirm strong support for all the men and women of the United States Armed Forces and to strongly condemn attacks on the honor, integrity, and patriotism of any individual who is serving or has served honorably in the United States Armed Forces, by any person or organization." It passed 51 to 47 with support from every Democrat/Independent present (except Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Biden of Delaware and Cantwell of Washington being absent) and the opposition of every Republican except Specter of Pennsylvania, Stevens of Alaska, and Hagel of Nebraska (Allard of Oregon being absent). The legislation cited a "reprehensible" attack in 2002 upon a "Senator from Georgia" (i.e., Max Cleland) and a 2004 "dishonest and dishonorable" attack upon a "Senator from Massachusetts" (i.e., John Kerry). (Note: Given that this legislation was all for show, Hagel's vote was consistent with that of a dove who otherwise is a right-winger; Specter's because he loves questioning the Bush Administration when it doesn't count and falling in line when it does; and Stevens probably needs all the friends he can get.)

Later that day, a resolution introduced by right-wing Republican John Cornyn of Texas sought "to express the sense of the Senate that General David H. Petraeus, Commanding General, Multi-National Force-Iraq, deserves the full support of the Senate and strongly condemn personal attacks on the honor and integrity of General Petraeus and all members of the United States Armed Forces." This gutless resolution passed 72-25 with every member of the Stepford Party and twenty-three (23) Democrats without intestinal fortitude voting in favor of it. (Most in the latter group are from Repub-leaning states- which does not account for Senators Mikulski and Cardin of Maryland; Feinstein of California; Klobuchar of Minnesota; Kohl of Wisconsin; Leahy of Vermont; and, arguably, Carper of Delaware. Lieberman was, well, Lieberman.)

One may wonder whether Democrats- especially a liberal (this is not an expletive or slur) like Barbara Boxer- should vote for a resolution which, if enforceable, would prohibit unkind criticism of (if this came about) Presidential nominee John McCain, he of the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, Purple Heart, Distinguished Flying Cross. Not to mention constitutional issues. However, given the circumstances, the move probably was intended to put Repubs on the spot and expose their hypocrisy. (Haven't we seen enough of that lately?) The twenty-five Democrats who voted "nay" included Hillary Rodham Clinton. Absent were three Democrats- Senator Biden, Senator Cantwell, and.... Senator Obama. Senator Obama? Wasn't he there earlier in the day for the less-controversial vote? Why, yes he was.

I was tempted, initially, to credit Clinton's vote, in contrast to Obama's abstention, as an act of courage. But then I came to my senses. Clinton's vote- though not without its risk and, thus somewhat courageous, was due largely to something else, which she has consistently demonstrated this campaign season- savviness. For the the slashing, partisan style- and her words themselves- of the New York Senator have exhibited that she understands what Obama doesn't. The Democratic nominee will be attacked, personally and repeatedly, by the Repub Party, its candidate, and its toadys. The nominee must be prepared to counterattack- promptly and repeatedly. So, if Clinton is nominated, she will be attacked for allegedly being unpatriotic because of this vote- and, if she had voted otherwise, attacked for allegedly being unpatriotic (see Captain Cleland, Lieutenant Kerry). Better to secure one's base and demonstrate at least a little integrity in the meantime.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The GOP- Against The Troops

Late this afternoon, by a vote of 56 to 44, the Senate failed to impose cloture in the debate over Virginia Senator Jim Webb's amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. The amendment would have mandated, for active duty units and soldiers, at least equal time at home as the length of their previous tour overseas and for National Guard and Reserve soldiers and units a minimum 1-to-3 year ratio.

Sixty votes were needed to force a vote on the measure, which gained the support of all Democrats except Connecticut's Joe Lieberman, who was elected as an Independent, proclaims himself an "Independent Democrat," and votes with the Democratic Party in caucus. (Independent Bernie Sanders, a Socialist who votes in caucus with the Democratic Party, voted "yea.")

Six(6) of fourty-nine(49) Republicans voted for the amendment. So, the next time you hear of a Democrat "not supporting the troops," remember: aside from Senators Snowe and Collins of Maine, Hagel of Nebraska, Smith of Oregon, Sununu of New Hampshire, and Coleman of Minnesota, the Rebub position in the Senate is: We support George Bush, not the troops.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Bush Fib- no. 4

In his September 13, 2007 speech on Iraq, President Bush said "now, because of the measure of success we are seeing in Iraq, we can begin seeing troops come home."

There have been various efforts, by CNN and others, to determine as accurately as possible the number of soldiers whom the President will be ordering withdrawn from Iraq. In any case, it appears to be no more than the number of soldiers constituting the escalation- er, the "surge"- 30,000. Although her prescription for ending the war, I believe, is off-base, Trudy Rubin in today's Philadelphia Inquirer correctly states:

What Bush failed to tell you is where things really stand in Iraq and what must be done to avoid future disasters. The president didn't mention that the force reductions he announced are not "a return on success," as he claims. They are happening because the military has run out of troops.

Ever since the surge began, top military commanders made clear that the 30,000 extra soldiers were dangerously overstretching the Army and Marines. When I was in Baghdad in June, every senior officer I spoke to said those troops would have to start leaving by March or April of 2008. Otherwise, the military could not maintain its already onerous rotation schedule.

There is heavy and open debate among top military brass about maintaining even post-surge levels. So the president insults the public by pretending the cuts are due to military success.

And commenting on MSNBC, retired General Jack Jacobs- hardly a dove- stated that the decision to cut troop level already had been made because the U.S.A. "can't sustain this level of military deployment."

Thus, the decision to remove soldiers has been, notwithstanding the President's remark, not made "because of the measure of success we're seeing in Iraq." And that's assuming we believe that Mr. Bush would determine that the best time to remove soldiers is when those soldiers are demonstrating success, a strange tactical policy.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Bush Cowering

I'm not always negative. Chris Matthews can be infuriating, disingenuous and, to some guests, obsequious, but often insightful, and on Tuesday night he was at his best. As host, with Keith Olbermann, of MSNBC's coverage of President Bush's speech on Iraq, Matthews pounded on the relationship of Mr. Bush to General Petraeus. He noted "this President has tried to make him (Petraeus) the chief salesman for the policy" and "it's not the job of a military man to sell the policy. It's the job of the commander-in-chief." When guest Mike Huckabee made the usual, dishonest comment about politicians inserting their beliefs for those of the "guys getting shot at," Matthews shot back, noting the President is a "politican" and asserting "they should be calling the shots in Iraq, not asking the military to set the policy. They should be setting the policy and defending it. It's their policy." And Matthews, who before the speech reminded us that the Administration's best argument is "the critics were right- we're stuck," ended the evening by maintaining that the American people will find it "very frustrating" if they believe "the only reason we're in Iraq is we're afraid to leave."

We have a President lacking the courage to present his policy as his policy, instead cowering behind a General whose statement reportedly was reviewed by Mr. Bush's astute political strategist, Ed Gillespie. And we have a President who, having made it clear that he wants to leave this war to his successor, seems willing to sacrifice American lives for the sake of his legacy.
Quote(s) Of The Week:

both from MSNBC's coverage following President Bush's Iraq speech tonight-

by Keith Olbermann, to Patrick Buchanan, regarding Mr. Bush's plan for a U.S. presence in Iraq well beyond January, 2009:

"Did we all know that this was not a date, but a wedding, five years ago?"


by Rachel Maddow of Air America:

"There's almost nothing really weirder than hearing George Bush, of all people, warn ominously about people who want to topple Iraq's government."
Exploiting September 11

He just couldn't stop himself. Like a junkie who (as the theory goes) cannot curb his addiction, the President seems unable to curb his behavior. Yet again he exploits the memory of September 11. In this case, approximately 75% into his speech on Iraq tonight, Mr. Bush stated "and as we saw on September the 11th, 2001, those dangers can reach our cities and kill our people." Trying to link the terrorist attacks and the secular regime of Saddam Hussein (which distrusted and disliked al-Qaeda) would make an honorable man a little uncomfortable, but for Mr. Bush it is now second nature.
Bush fib- no. 3

Amidst all the distorted and misleading remarks made by President Bush in his speech on Iraq tonight, there is one statement which is clearly, unambiguously, inaccurate. I find it difficult to believe the President would be unaware his comment is false, though if we later find that he has fired the individual who placed this inaccuracy in his speech, I will retract my assertion that it is a falsehood. Approximately 80% through his statement, Mr. Bush said "we thank the 36 nations who have troops on the ground in Iraq and the many others who are helping that young democracy."

According to globalsecurity.org, however, as of February, 2007 "there were 21 non-U.S. military forces committing armed forces to the coalition in Iraq." This is not an inconsequential error, and probably not unintentional.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

GOP Distorts MoveOn Ad

The following was posted yesterday, Tuesday, September 11, 2007 on the Huckabee for President website:


The disgraceful act of the leftist organization, moveon.org, has marked a new low watermark in American discourse. To accuse a patriotic, honorable, and highly decorated soldier like General David Petraeus of treason by intimating that he had betrayed his duty, his honor, and his country is appalling.

The full page ad in the New York Times run by this organization is an attack on our entire military – and George Soros should spend an equal amount of his vast wealth for another full page ad apologizing to General Petraeus and to every American who has served or who is serving in the military.

The very people who Soros savaged with his vile, despicable, and cowardly attack are the ones who have earned Mr. Soros and people of his ilk the right to display their pathetic hatred of this nation's military in a public forum.

While an apology to General Petraeus would be in order, one can’t expect it from the caliber of people who are devoid of dignity.

I call on every candidate for President, whether Democrat or Republican, to join in a condemnation of this outrageous insult to our military. The fact that such an abuse of free speech is legal doesn’t make it right or responsible. Surely everyone who wishes to be Commander in Chief of our Armed Forces can agree that the attack on the character of a General currently directing our troops in battle deserves condemnation. I hope that Democratic and Republican candidates alike will take a stand and denounce this dishonorable act."

So much wrong with this statement and so little time to point it out.... but I'll start by noting that the ad in question is "no attack on our entire military" nor is it "an outrageous insult to our military." The former Arkansas governor deserves credit for referring to the "Commander in Chief of our Armed Forces" rather than, as the current President does, the "Commander in Chief". (This may reflect more than a semantic difference, Mr. Bush's nomenclature unsurprising in a man who believes that he is not to be questioned by anyone or anything, least of all the two other branches of the federal government.)

More disturbing, though, is that Huckabee- and the other Republicans who have leapt onto the ad without questioning its veracity- have embraced a double standard. Yesterday, on September 11, Rudy Giuliani saw fit to take center stage at the 9/11 commemoration in lower Manhattan. But appearing were other notables- including the right-wing author Ann Coulter, who in "Godless: The Church of Liberalism" wrote of widows who formed a group after their husbands were killed in the terrorist attacks "I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much." She called them "self-obsessessed women" (who) "believed the entire country was required to marinate in their exquisite personal agony." CBS News reported that she dubbed them "The Witches of East Brunswick.", referring to the town in New Jersey in which two of them then lived.

Given that Rudy Giuliani's campaign theme is "I was there at 9/11, Elect Me," it would be especially appropriate for a rival for the nomination, such as Huckabee, to question Giuliani's involvement with Coulter. We await such statements by Mr. Huckabee, Mitch McConnell, and others so exorcised by MoveOn.org's ad.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Rudy Giuliani, Failure Of 9/11

When Time Magazine named Rudy Giuliani its "Man of the Year" for 2001, it gushed "a hero to many, an icon of steadfastness in the midst of chaos, for his surprisingly subtle touch, for his many real tears and for reluctantly taking center stage." On May 17, 2007, the former mayor was portrayed by The New York Times as having "created a narrative around his candidacy that presents him as a powerful symbol of national security by stressing his leadership of New York City after the attacks."

More accurately: failure to provide workable radios for firefighters, contributing to approximately 200 losing their lives; placement of the city's command center at the only site in the U.S.A. which had been attacked by Islamic terrorists (and one which they had vowed to return to)- an idea criticized by his Director of Emergency Management; according to the International Association of Fire Fighters, calling off the rescue mission once $200 million in gold bullion was recovered; and appearing at the site of the attacks without a respirator-mask and proclaiming "no significant problems" with the air at the World Trade Center (As Rolling Stone points out, "since the cleanup ended, police and firefighters have reported a host of serious illnesses -- respiratory ailments like sarcoidosis; leukemia and lymphoma and other cancers; and immune-system problems.")

The "hero of 9/11?" That sounds a lot like the worn-out and tired, but applicable, cliche: a man kills his parents and begs the jury for foregiveness because he is an orphan. Except that the defendant in this case is neither humble nor contrite, and has had the mainstream media pushing his message for six years.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Kerry Attacks MoveOn

The criticism of Massachusetts Senator John Kerry of MoveOn.org's ad criticizing the Congressional testimony of General Petraeus was particularly interesting. According to CNN, Kerry called the ad:

"over the top." "I don't like any kind of characterizations in our politics that call into question any active duty, distinguished general who I think under any circumstances serves with the best interests of our country," said Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate and a decorated veteran.

"I think there are a lot of legitimate questions that need to be asked, a lot of probing that ought to take place; there's a lot of legitimate accountability that needs to be achieved. It ought to be done without casting any aspersions on anyone's character or motives," he added.

These comments are extraordinary. This is an Administration which consistently implies that its critics do not support American soldiers. As reported by MSNBC, the President in a speech in Pennsylvania on 11/11/05: “As our troops fight a ruthless enemy determined to destroy our way of life, they deserve to know that their elected leaders who voted to send them to war continue to stand behind them...” In his speech last month in Kansas City, Mo. to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Bush charged that his critics "would pull the rug out from under U.S.troops." And The Washington Post reported on November 17, 2005:

Speaking before a Washington dinner of the Frontiers of Freedom Institute, a conservative research organization, Cheney said last night that Democrats who say they were misled by the administration are "making a play for political advantage in the middle of a war." The criticism, Cheney said, threatens to undermine the morale of U.S. troops while "a few opportunists are suggesting they were sent into battle for a lie.

Kerry's comments also call into question the proper role of a United States Congressman in confronting an important issue. No Senator or Representative should be intimidated by any witness offering testimony to Congress. And that includes anyone in uniform.

At least now we understand better how pre-war claims made by the President and his supporters escaped scrutiny. And how Kerry remained passive in the face of Swift Boat claims about his war service while his opportunity to be President sailed away.

MoveOn Ad

MoveOn.org is receiving a lot of criticism for the ad, "General Petraeus or General Betray Us?", it posted in today's New York Times. Subtitled "Cooking the Books for the White House," it charged "General Petraeus is a military man constantly at war with the facts."

Predictably, as ABC reports, White House spokesman Tony Snow called it a "boorish, childish, unworthy attack." CNN notes a letter distributed "among Senators" and sent to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid charging "the ad is distasteful and frankly, below the level of respect that America's commanding general in Iraq has earned." House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio contended "Democratic leaders must make a choice today: either embrace the character assassination tactics MoveOn.org has leveled against the four-star general leading our troops against al Qaeda, or denounce it as disgraceful." (emphasis mine- without our knowledge, Petraeus apparently has been commanding American soldiers in the Khyber pass.) Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, according to Politico.com, intoned "these childish attacks are an insult to everyone fighting for our freedom in Iraq" (our freedom?). Never one to miss an opportunity for demagoguery, Senator Joseph Lieberman (I.-Ct.) urged Democratic leaders to "denounce MoveOn.org's attack on General Petraeus." Even Democratic Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts joined in with "I don't like any kind of characterizations in our politics that calls into question any active duty, distinguished general..."

So what is lacking in all the criticism? That would be any description, claim, or allegation that anything asserted in the ad is inaccurate. For good reason- MoveOn broke it down into nine different claims and cited reference(s) for each. The organization's critics, however, wisely adopted the characteristic style of this White House and avoided any uncomfortable association with the facts.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

The Offensive John McCain

We all knew that John McCain was out of touch about the Iraq war, but this is ridiculous. At a Concord, New Hampshire high school on September 4, 2007, the 71-year-old Arizona Senator was asked "If elected, you'd be older than Ronald Reagan, making you the oldest President. Do you ever worry that, like, you might die in office or get Alzheimer's or some other disease that might affect your judgement?"

CNN reports that after making a self-deprecating joke and describing himself as a "24/7 worker," McCain ended by asserting "thanks for the question you little jerk, you're drafted."
Doesn't this guy know there is no draft? (And wasn't this in some form a predictable question, which the elderly McCain has been asked before?) Really, if we had a draft, the response still would be inappropriate to the question, obnoxious, and offensive, but also almost somewhat amusing. With none, the comment is merely inappropriate, obnoxious, and offensive, and not remotely amusing.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Quote Of The Week:

"Somebody besides corporate America has to start making policy in this country."

Lou Dobbs
"Lou Dobbs Tonight"
September 6, 2007
The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that a federal immigration judge in New York City on Tuesday, September 4, 2007 ruled that 33-year-old Zhen Xing Jian, formerly of mainland China and now of Philadelphia, Pa. will be allowed to remain in the U.S.A. Ms. Jian entered the United States illegally in 1995 and helped her husband run a restaurant they owned. Arrested unexpectedly by immigration authorities on February 7, 2006, Jian suffered a miscarriage in the process of being deported but has two sons who were born in the U.S.A. and therefore are American citizens. Less significant than the decision was the context: Jian and her husband (whose case is pending) had applied for political asylum because they feared repercussions, because of the Communist dictatorship's "one child" birth-control policy, if they returned to the mainland.

So the next time a politician, corporate mogul, or economist attacks opponents of the U.S. trade policy with our "partner," remember the mainland's great social experiment in controlling their population: in the words of one geographer, "abortion, neglect, abandonment and even infanticide" of female infants. And that democratic China sits just across the Taiwan Strait.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Just when you thought Mike Huckabee was starting to make sense or at least show some compassion, he pulled us back to reality when the discussion turned to Iraq at last night's Repub Presidential debate, sponsored by GOP TV. Recalling the political hay Rudy G. made when he faced off at an earlier debate and ridiculed Ron Paul's views on Iraq, Huckabee himself provoked Representative Paul on the war:


HUCKABEE: Senator McCain made a great point -- and let me make this clear: If there's anybody on this stage that understands the word honor, I've got to say Senator McCain understands that word...

(APPLAUSE)

... because he has given his country a sacrifice the rest of us don't even comprehend.

And on this issue, when he says we can't leave until we've left with honor, I 100 percent agree with him because, Congressman, whether or not we should have gone to Iraq is a discussion the historians can have, but we're there.

We bought it because we broke it. We've got a responsibility to the honor of this country and to the honor of every man and woman who has served in Iraq and ever served in our military to not leave them with anything less than the honor that they deserve.

PAUL: Can I respond...

(APPLAUSE)

HUME (?): Go ahead. You wanted to respond. He just addressed you. You go ahead and respond.

PAUL: The American people didn't go in. A few people advising this administration, a small number of people called the neoconservatives hijacked our foreign policy. They're responsible, not the American people. They're not responsible. We shouldn't punish them.

(APPLAUSE)

HUCKABEE: Congressman, we are one nation. We can't be divided. We have to be one nation, under God. That means if we make a mistake, we make it as a single country: the United States of America, not the divided states of America.

(APPLAUSE)

PAUL: No, when we make a mistake -- when we make a mistake, it is the obligation of the people, through their representatives, to correct the mistake, not to continue the mistake.

(APPLAUSE)

So there you have it. We must remain in Iraq. Not because of national security, freedom of the Iraqis, nor (with apologies to delusional non-Zionists) because of Israel. No, more Americans must lose their lives as a sacrifice "to the honor of this country and to the honor of every man and woman who has served in Iraq and ever served in our military."

This is one of the arguments George W. Bush has trotted out to rationalize his war policy and was described originally in the Washington Post, and here reprinted in Slate.com, by Swarthmore College psychology professor Barry Schwartz as the "sunk-cost fallacy." Schwartz offers these "trivial" examples of the sunk-cost fallacy:
a)You have good tickets to a basketball game an hour drive away. There's a blizzard raging outside and the game is being televised. You can sit warm and safe at home by a roaring fire and watch it on TV, or yo can bundle up, dig out from your car, and go to the game. What do you do?
b)You've ordered too much food at the restaurant and there you are, completely stuffed, with a pile of pasta sitting on your plate. Do you clean your plate or not?

Psychologists and economists, Schwartz states, believe that the "right way to approach questions like these is only by looking to the future" and determining "what will give you more satisfaction." And in Iraq, he deduces, "the best way to show how much we respect and value (those who have died or been injured) is by refraining from sacrificing other lives in their name unless future prospects fully justify putting more people in harm's way."

But- and I don't say this often- credit must go to Mitt Romney. A few moments after the former Massachusetts governor stated "the surge apparently is working," John McCain argued "governor, the surge is working. The surge is working,sir." Romney shot back, "that's just what I said," to which McCain retorted "it is working. No, not 'apparently'; it's working."
It tells you something about the Repub Party, the Repub primary voters in New Hampshire, and, finally, Senator McCain himself, that a politician actually saying (with a straight face) "the surge is working" is deemed insufficiently hawkish. Eventually we'll find whether Romney, who was suggesting that we should approach General Petraeus' upcoming report with an open mind, is regarded as too thoughful by the Pepub electorate.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Senator Arlen Specter (R.-Pa.) deserves credit for one thing. He was, as far as I can tell, the first individual publicly to note that Senator Larry Craig (R.-Id.) did not announce his resignation on Saturday, September 1, 2007, but merely his intent to resign. So on Fox News Sunday, Senator Craig stated "I'd still like to see Senator Craig fight this case... to go back to court, withdraw this guilty plea and fight this case."

If Specter had argued that Craig should not have been forced to resign because the people he represents- the people of the state of Idaho- should have been given the opportunity (at, say, an election, perhaps the upcoming one in November, 2008) to decide his fate, I would have agreed with him. Instead, the Pennsylvania Senator, citing his experience (years ago as District Attorney of the City of Philadelphia), contended "on the evidence Senator Craig wouldn't be found guilty of anything." What Specter left out- which he would understand better than most- was that if Craig were to have been found not guilty, it would not have been based on the evidence, but because Craig could have afforded an expensive and skilled lawyer who would have committed himself to his client. Not so most of the individuals, disproportionately poor, prosecuted by Specter's office in his previous life.

And while the former prosecutor is at it, perhaps he shouldn't claim Craig's "life is on the line." Some of the defendants facing serious felony charges pressed by Specter's office may have had their lives on the line, but not so his colleague- who at worst, will lose his job and face the ignominy of life as a well-paid lobbyist for the drug, insurance, or gun industries he has so vigorously carried water for in the United States Congress.

Presidential Failure

Asked on the Overtime segment on Bill Maher's Real Time, "so, Van, Steve, do you think the media should change the way it co...