Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Reflections on the Debate (Philadelphia)- no. 3


If only it were so. Very early in the 10/31/07 Democratic Presidential debate sponsored by MSNBC, Senator Obama charged "and Senator Clinton, in her campaign, I think has been for NAFTA previously. Now she’s against it. She has taken one position on torture several months ago, and then most recently has taken a different position..."

Actually, although Senator Clinton, eager to have unions either endorse her or forego endorsing the more economically-progressive Obama or Edwards, has expressed some misgivings about the North American Free Trade Agreement, but has not opposed it. She still supports the NAFTA, negotiated in her husband's administration, despite the serious cost in American jobs.

But at least the Illinois Senator found his voice in criticizing the frontrunner. More aggressive, and effective, in doing so, was John Edwards. Soon after Obama's comments, Edwards explained


Let me talk a little bit about what I see as the choice the voters have. I think that from my perspective, President Bush over the last seven years has destroyed the trust relationship America and its president. In fact, I think he has destroyed the trust relationship between the president of the United States and the rest of the world.

I think it is crucial for Democratic voters and caucus-goers to determine who they can trust, who’s honest, who is sincere, who has integrity.

EDWARDS: And I think it’s fair in that regard to look at what people have said. Senator Clinton says that she believes she can be the candidate for change, but she defends a broken system that’s corrupt in Washington, D.C.

She says she will end the war, but she continues to say she’ll keep combat troops in Iraq and continue combat missions in Iraq.

To me, that’s not ending the war, that’s a continuation of the war.

She says she’ll stand up to George Bush on Iran. She just said it again. And, in fact, she voted to give George Bush the first step in moving militarily on Iran—and he’s taken it. Bush and Cheney have taken it. They have now declared the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization and a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction.

EDWARDS: I think we have to stand up to this president.

And then, finally, she said in our last debate that she was against any changes on Social Security—benefits, retirement aid, or raising the cap on the Social Security tax—but apparently, it’s been reported that she said privately something different than that.

And I think the American people, given this historic moment in our country’s history, deserve a president of the United States that they know will tell them the truth, and won’t say one thing one time and something different at a different time.

RUSSERT: You stand behind the word “doubletalk”?

EDWARDS: I do.


Later in the debate, without a hint of embarrassment, Governor Richardson actually stated "you know what I’m hearing here? I’m hearing this holier than thou attitude towards Senator Clinton that—it’s bothering me because it’s pretty close to personal attacks that we don’t need. Do we trust her? Do we—did she take money from special interests?"

What we "don't need," Senator, is a candidate loathe to give clear answers to penetrating questions. Nor a candidate basing her run on experience while discouraging release of papers which would help the Democratic electorate evaluate that experience. Nor for that matter do we need a dark-horse candidate whose comment suggests that he is more interested in being nominated for Vice-President or Secretary of State than for President.

What we do need, Governor, are challengers who question the frontrunner. Perhaps if Senator Edwards had done so 3-4 years ago, he would have been nominated, would have won the election, and would have spared us the Presidency of another man who believes that a leader should not be questioned.
Reflections on the Debate (Philadelphia)- no. 2

At the Democratic Presidential debate on 10/30/07 in Philadelphia, Senator Clinton demonstrated yet again that she has more insight than courage. Here is the exchange between Tim Russert and the contenders on Social Security (comments following):



RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, I want to clear something up which goes to the issue of credibility. You were asked at the AARP debate whether or not you would consider taxing, lifting the cap from $97,500, taxing that, raising more money for Social Security. You said, quote, “It’s a no.” I asked you the same question in New Hampshire, and you said “no.”

Then you went to Iowa and you went up to Tod Bowman, a teacher, and had a conversation with him saying, “I would consider lifting the cap perhaps above $200,000.” You were overheard by an Associated Press reporter saying that.

Why do you have one public position and one private position?

CLINTON: Well, Tim, I don’t. I have said consistently that my plan for Social Security is fiscal responsibility first, then to deal with any long-term challenges which I agree are ones that we are going to have to address.

CLINTON: We would have a bipartisan commission. In the context of that, I think all of these would be considered. But, personally, I do not want to balance Social Security on the backs of our seniors and middle-class families. That’s why I put fiscal responsibility first, because we have to change the Bush tax cuts, which I am committed to doing.

We have to move back toward a more fair and progressive tax system, and begin once again to move toward a balanced budget with a surplus. You know, part of the idea in the ‘90s was not just so Bill would have a check mark next to his name in history, but so that we would have the resources to deal with a lot of these entitlement problems.

George Bush understood that. The Republicans understood that. They wanted to decimate that balanced budget and a surplus because they knew that that would give them a free hand to try to privatize Social Security.

CLINTON: I am not going to be repeating Republican talking points. So when somebody asks me, would something like this be considered, well, anything could be considered when we get to a bipartisan commission. But personally, I am not going to be advocating any specific fix until I am seriously approaching fiscal responsibility.

RUSSERT: But you did raise it as a possibility with Tod Bowman?

CLINTON: Well, but everybody knows what the possibilities are, Tim. Everybody knows that. But I do not advocate it. I do not support it. I have laid out what I do believe, and I am going to continue to emphasize that.

I think, for us to act like Social Security is in crisis is a Republican trap. We’re playing on the Republican field. And I don’t intend to do that.

RUSSERT: You call it a Republican talking point. Georgetown University, February 9, 1998: “We are in a—heading to a looming fiscal crisis in Social Security. If nothing is done, it will require a huge tax increase in the payroll tax or a 25 percent in Social Security benefits,” Bill Clinton, 1998.

RUSSERT: That’s recent history. Only two years to go in his term. Is that a Republican talking point?

CLINTON: No, but what he did was to move us toward a balanced budget and a surplus. And, if you go back and you look at the numbers, they really took off starting in ‘98, ‘99, 2000, 2001.

And that would have given a president who actually believed in Social Security—which George Bush does not—the resources and the options to make decisions, but not the kind of draconian decisions, and certainly not the move toward privatization, which is what the Republicans have been advocating for as long as I can remember.

RUSSERT: Senator Obama, you said in May, that, quote, “Everything is on the table when it comes to Social Security.” You now have an ad up in Iowa which says that any benefit cuts are off and raising the retirement age are off.

Why have you changed your mind?

OBAMA: Well, what I say is that that is not my plan.

OBAMA: Now, I just want to go back to what Senator Clinton said, because I think it’s important for us not to engage in business as usual on Social Security and talk straight.

Everybody on this stage is against privatization and we all fought against it—everybody. I absolutely agree that Social Security is not in crisis; it is a fundamentally sound system, but it does have a problem, long-term.

Even if we deal with the issue of fiscal responsibility, the trust fund is no longer being rated—that’s something that all of us are in favor of.

We’ve got 78 million baby boomers who are going to be retiring over the next couple of decades. That means more retirees, fewer workers to support those retirees.

It is common sense that we are going to have to do something about it. That is not a Republican talking point. And if we don’t deal with it now, it will get harder to deal with later.

So what I’ve said, and I know some others on this stage have said, is that among the options that are available, the best one is to lift the cap on the payroll tax, potentially exempting folks in the middle—middle-class folks—but making sure that the wealthy are paying more of their fair share—a little bit more.

OBAMA: Now, it is important, if we are going to lead this country, to be clear to the American people about what our intentions are. And this is part of the politics that we have been playing, which is to try to muddle through, give convoluted answers. Ultimately, we then don’t have a mandate and we can’t bring about change, in part because we’re afraid to give Republicans talking points.

I’m not fearful, just as Joe isn’t, to have a debate about this with Rudy Giuliani because we’ve got the facts on our side. But we’ve got to be clear about those facts and not pretend that those facts don’t exist.

RUSSERT: But when asked by The New York Times whether Senator Clinton has been truthful, you said no.

OBAMA: What I said is that she has not been truthful and clear about this point that I just made, which is we can talk about fiscal responsibility and all of us agree with that. All of us oppose privatization.

OBAMA: But even after we deal with those issues, we are still going to have an actuarial gap that has to be dealt with. It is not going to vanish and if we have a moral responsibility to the next generation to make sure that Social Security is there, the most successful program to lift seniors out of poverty that we’ve ever devised, then we need to start acting now and having a serious conversation about it.

CLINTON: Tim, I don’t see any difference here. You know, my view is we go towards fiscal responsibility, which is hard. It’s not going to be easy inheriting what we’re going to inherit from Bush and the Republicans.

And there are some long-term challenges. I have no disagreement with that.

But I think the best way to handle them is within the context of a bipartisan commission. That’s what worked in 1983 when Social Security was on the ropes. Our colleagues in the Senate had a hearing today talking about how they could move toward a bipartisan commission.

CLINTON: And, once there’s a bipartisan commission, then we can see what we need to do. But I don’t want these decisions to be made in a vacuum. I want it to be made in the face of moving back toward fiscal responsibility, because that will influence which choices are actually better.

And I certainly don’t want to impose a trillion-dollar tax increase on middle-class families, or any kind of additional burdens on our seniors.



Note that the New York Senator not only realizes that talk of Social Security being "in crisis is a Republican trap- we're playing on the Republican field" but also "the Republicans understood that (i.e., the need for resources to avert a crisis). They wanted to decimate that balanced budget and a surplus because they knew that that would give them a free hand to try to privatize Social Security."

Unfortunately, she still advocates a "bipartisan commission" to deal with the problem. Not only is that a way to avoid leadership, but is not likely to promote a progressive solution. A commission, like a task force, never concludes that the problem it has been asked to investigate and propose solutions for really was not as grave a problem as to warrant creation of the commission. A conclusion that the system is "in crisis" requiring "bold," "creative," or "courageous" action, such as increasing the payroll tax, raising the age of eligibility, or decreasing benefits would be likely. And a President Clinton would have clean hands and a claim to bipartisanship as the elderly are victimized.
Reflections on the Debate (Philadelphia)- no. 1


I'm sure you've heard this before: speculation before the Democratic Presidential debate centered on whether front-runner Hillary Clinton would be forcefully challenged by the other candidates, especially Barack Obama. (A.B. Stoddard of thehill.com commented earlier in the day that the Illinois Senator "wants to protect the Obama brand.")

As all know by now, it happened, though Obama was still a little timid compared to Dodd and Edwards. Here is the transcript, courtesy of MSNBC.com, of the exchange on the issue of illegal immigration (comments following), raised by co-host Tim Russert.



Senator Clinton, Governor of New York Eliot Spitzer has proposed giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. He told the Nashua, New Hampshire, Editorial Board it makes a lot of sense.

Why does it make a lot of sense to give an illegal immigrant a driver’s license?

CLINTON: Well, what Governor Spitzer is trying to do is fill the vacuum left by the failure of this administration to bring about comprehensive immigration reform. We know in New York we have several million at any one time who are in New York illegally. They are undocumented workers. They are driving on our roads. The possibility of them having an accident that harms themselves or others is just a matter of the odds. It’s probability.

So what Governor Spitzer is trying to do is to fill the vacuum. I believe we need to get back to comprehensive immigration reform because no state, no matter how well intentioned, can fill this gap. There needs to be federal action on immigration reform.

RUSSERT: Does anyone here believe an illegal immigrant should not have a driver’s license?

(UNKNOWN): Believe what?

RUSSERT: An illegal immigrant should not have a driver’s license.

DODD: This is a privilege. And, look, I’m as forthright and progressive on immigration policy as anyone here. But we’re dealing with a serious problem here, we need to have people come forward. The idea that we’re going to extend this privilege here of a driver’s license I think is troublesome, and I think the American people are reacting to it.

We need to deal with security on our borders. We need to deal with the attraction that draws people here. We need to deal fairly with those who are here.

But this is a privilege. Talk about health care, I have a different opinion. That affects the public health of all of us.

But a license is a privilege, and that ought not to be extended, in my view.

CLINTON: Well, I just want to add, I did not say that it should be done, but I certainly recognize why Governor Spitzer is trying to do...

(UNKNOWN): Wait a minute...

CLINTON: And we have failed. We have failed.

DODD: No, no, no. You said—you said yes...

CLINTON: No.

DODD: ... you thought it made sense to do it.

CLINTON: No, I didn’t, Chris. But the point is, what are we going to do with all these illegal immigrants who are driving...

DODD: That’s a legitimate issue. But driver’s license goes too far, in my view.

CLINTON: Well, you may say that, but what is the identification?

If somebody runs into you today who is an undocumented worker...

DODD: There’s ways of dealing with that.

CLINTON: Well...

DODD: This is a privilege, not a right.

CLINTON: Well, what Governor Spitzer has agreed to do is to have three different licenses, one that provides identification for actually going onto airplanes and other kinds of security issues, another which is another ordinary driver’s license, and then a special card that identifies the people who would be on the road, so...

DODD: That’s a bureaucratic nightmare.

CLINTON: ... it’s not the full privilege.

RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, I just want to make sure of what I heard. Do you, the New York senator, Hillary Clinton, support the New York governor’s plan to give illegal immigrants a driver’s license?

You told the New Hampshire paper that it made a lot of sense. Do you support his plan?

CLINTON: You know, Tim, this is where everybody plays “gotcha.” It makes a lot of sense. What is the governor supposed to do? He is dealing with a serious problems. We have failed. And George Bush has failed. Do I think this is the best thing for any governor to do? No. But do I understand the sense of real desperation, trying to get a handle on this? Remember, in New York, we want to know who’s in New York. We want people to come out of the shadows.

He’s making an honest effort to do it. We should have passed immigration reform.


Senator Clinton is wrong on several counts:

1)This was not a "gotcha-question" ("gotcha question" in the HRC Dictionary of the English Language, 1st edition: "question I'm going to have to answer.") Not only is illegal immigration an important issue, Mrs. Clinton had to have known, or at least suspected, that she would be asked a question about a hot-button issue occurring in her state.

2) She actually stated "I did not say that it should be done" after saying that it should be done- "what Governor Spitzer is trying to do is to fill the vacuum."

3) Just as the term "illegal alien" is emotionally charged and imprecise (are the aliens from Mars or Venus?) so is the term "undocumented worker" imprecise and misleading. There are two kinds of people, men and women; two races dominant in American life, white and black (not white and "colored" and not white and "Negro"); and there are two kinds of immigrants: legal and illegal.

4) The New York Senator is wrong on the issue. Giving illegal immigrants- from Mexico or Canada- a driver's license presents a security challenge, as Dodd hinted at. With Dodd noting (as I thought was settled principle, reflected in law) that possessing a driver's license is a "privilege, not a right" Clinton argued "but the point is, what are we going to do with all these illegal immigrants who are driving..."
Yes, Senator Clinton, with or without a legal license, many illegal immigrants will drive. But that is no reason to give them a license anymore than it is, say, sensible to give individuals convicted of drunk driving a license because we know that many of them drive without a license.

Monday, October 29, 2007

News flash: Barack Obama is opposed to reducing Social Security benefits.

To be fair, in his new radio ad (see it here in Dave Johnson's excellent blog on HuffingtonPost)in Iowa, the Illinois Senator, according to the Associated Press, also wants to eliminate "the tax exemption for the wealthy." This at least, separates himself from the Repub candidates for President, who recognize that doing so would only help the middle class at the expense of the wealthy, which they are loath to do. Still, Obama's comment that "if we have failed to have a real, honest conversation about Social Security, it will not get fixed," suggests that Obama believes there is a problem with Social Security, a myth of the Washington chattering class and rationale for GOP privatization efforts.

Voters under the age of, approximately, 30 have grown up hearing from the media, most Repub politicians, and even some Democratic politicians that there is a "problem" with Social Security. Here is the "problem"- the trust fund being robbed for general revenues, so that the progressive income tax need not be raised while Repub politicians and some DLC-style Democrats brag about not raising taxes and excoriate their opponents for allegedly doing so. And another problem: there is little recognition among youth about the collective responsibility of one generation to another in America. Obama's ad? not helpful.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Imagine my shock to learn that Mitt Romney is an opportunist. In this posting on talkingpointsmemo.com, we learn from the Associated Press that the former Massachusetts governor has welcomed an endorsement from Bob Jones III, chancellor of Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina.

There is only one problem- or at least you might think so. Bob Jones III believes the Mormon religion, of which Romney reportedly is a devout member, is an "erroneous faith" and "cult."

In his attempt to gain the Repub Presidential nomination by impressive opportunism, however, Romney has intense competition. Rudolph Giuliani is a former mayor of a city with millions of supporters of the New York Yankees, whose rivalry with the Boston Red Sox may be the most intense in the United State. Yet, he recently asserted during a campaign stop in Boston "I'm rooting for the Red Sox (in the World Series)" and at a later stop in Concord, New Hampshire "good luck to the Red Sox."

In the world of pandering, as in the world of demagoguery, there is only one king- and his name is Rudolph.
It is common among bloggers to criticize prominent members of the mainstream media, and I periodically have joined in that. so it's only fair for me to acknowledge instances in which two television journalists have done something admirable.

The recent Democratic Presidential debate at Dartmouth College was hosted in part by Tim Russert, Washington bureau chief of NBC News, who performed superbly, asking good questions and often following up on them with the candidates. And today, October 25, Wolf Blitzer, host of the Situation Room on CNN, made a laudable remark to Valerie Plame Wilson.

Mrs. Wilson, as you all know, was a covert CIA agent, whose husband, career diplomat Joseph Wilson, ran afoul of the Bush Administration for reporting that he had found no evidence during his trip in February, 2002 to Niger that Sadaam Hussein's Iraq had tried to purchase uranium "yellowcake" from the African nation. In his February, 2003 State of the Union message, President Bush infamously proclaimed "the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." Six months later in his New York Times op-ed piece, "What I Didn't Find in Africa," Wilson wrote "I have little choice but to conclude that some of the intelligence related to Iraq's nuclear weapons program was twisted to exaggerate the Iraqi threat."

Soon afterward, after speaking to Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, syndicated columnist Robert Novak revealed Joseph Wilson's "wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction." Hence, Mr. Novak had "outed" Mrs. Wilson by revealing her status as a (covert) CIA agent. Karl Rove, Presidential Press Secretary Ari Fleisher, and the Vice-President's Chief of State, I. Lewis ("Scooter") Libby also revealed to reporters Ms. Plame's employment status, though classified information.

And now we know positively what the right wing had been vigorously denying for four years- that Valerie Plame was in fact "covert." Note this from the action brought against the government by Plame and her publisher, Simon & Shuster, in the United States District Court, Southern District Court of New York State:


Further, in connection with Mr. Libby’s sentencing, the CIA confirmed that at the time of the leak, Ms. Wilson was a covert CIA employee for whom the CIA was taking affirmative measures to conceal her intelligence relationship to the United States. As acknowledged by the government in connection with the sentencing phase of the criminal prosecution of I. Lewis Libby, in January 2002, Ms. Wilson was a CIA operations officer, assigned to the Counter Proliferation Division (“CPD”) at CIA Headquarters. In that capacity, she served as the chief of a CPD component with responsibility for weapons proliferation issues related to Iraq. Over the years, on numerous occasions Ms. Wilson traveled overseas, always under a cover identity, using an official or non-official cover, with no ostensible relationship to the CIA.


Valerie Plame was a covert CIA officer investigating the possible linkage between Saddam Hussein's government and "weapons of mass destruction," a major rationale for the war launched by President Bush. Her cover was blown by an Administration apparently unconcerned about the damage to the critical intelligence operation she was carrying out on behalf of that government and the American people. And so at the close of today's interview with Plame, Wolf Blitzer boldly uttered those words otherwise now so commonly, and appropriately, addressed to members of the Armed Services:

"Let me thank you on behalf of a lot of our viewers for your service to our country."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Quote of the Week

"I took a city that was known for pornography and licked it to a large extent."

-Rudolph Giuliani, as quoted by Keith Olbermann on MSNBC's Countdown on October 24, 2007
Bush Fib- no. 5

This is an old lie of George W. Bush, but combines the elements of nastiness, false machismo, and dishonesty. It's worth recalling.

Surely you remember Karla Faye Tucker. She was the drug-addled woman who joined her boyfriend in murdering a man and a woman with a pick axe in Texas in 1983. She was convicted, sentenced to death, and was executed in February 1994 after then-Governor George W. Bush denied her plea for clemency.

In 1999, Bush was interviewed by Tucker Carlson, then a reporter for Talk magazine. As dailykos.com noted on 6/28/04, Carlson asked Presidential candidate Bush about his reflections on the execution of K. Tucker, who apparently had become a Christian in prison and had gained the support of Newt Gingrich and other public figures in her bid to stay alive.


"He (Larry King) asked her real difficult questions, like, `What would you say to Governor Bush?'"
"What was her answer?" I (Tucker Carlson) wonder.
"`Please,' Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, `don't kill me.'"
I must look shocked - ridiculing the pleas of a condemned prisoner who has since been executed seems odd and cruel, even for someone as militantly anti-crime as Bush - because he immediately stops smirking. "It's tough stuff," Bush says, suddenly somber, "but my job is to enforce the law."



Bush later (as reported by Timothy Noah in slate.com) gave a statement meant to appear a denial, though, if you read it carefully, really landed short of denial:

Mr. Carlson misread, mischaracterized me. He's a good reporter, he just misunderstood about how serious that was. I take the death penalty very seriously. I take each case seriously. I just felt he misjudged me. I think he misinterpreted my feelings. I know he did.

Although I doubt Carlson "misread" the Governor or "misinterpreted (his) feelings," this certainly does not mean that Bush had not made the statement, only that it was interpreted in a manner, Bush argues, that is inaccurate. (Here Carlson in an inteview with Kelly Lauerman of salon.com in 9/03 addresses the remark.) And Bush might "take the death penalty very seriously," which does not mean that he is not enthusiastic about it or even giddy when it is imposed on someone who had committed a murder(s) as heinous as the ones Tucker committed.

But the lie involves another aspect of the statement: it never took place, at least not on Larry King Live, as this transcript of the program demonstrates. Maybe Mr. Bush was succumbing to pressure from supporters of the death penalty, or perhaps he needed to demonstrate that the man from Texas was not "all hat, and no cattle," and that the swagger was just part of Macho Man. (Perhaps this is a familial trait- remember his father: "Read my lips: no new taxes.") In either case, the man who famously would bellow "bring 'em on," apparently began his career of deception even before almost being elected President in November, 2000.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Debate Wrap-Up:

As pulled from nytimes.com which in turn credited Congressional Quarterly's transcript, these are the highlights (in chronological order) of the Repub Presidential debate held in Orlando, Florida on October 21, 2007 (skip to the end if you'd like):


Anything For A Buck Fred:
WALLACE: Senator -- Senator Thompson, have these two guys convinced you that you're wrong and that, in fact, they are both consistent conservatives?

THOMPSON: Well, we've got an hour and a half.

Maybe they can work on it.

(LAUGHTER)

But, they...

(APPLAUSE)

Actually, Mitt, I didn't know there was any room to the left of Ted Kennedy, but maybe there...

(LAUGHTER)

In fact, I didn't know there was any room to the right of him, either, but maybe...

(LAUGHTER)



Rudolph Giuliani:
He voted against $250,000 caps on damages, which they have in Texas. He voted against almost anything that would make our legal system fairer: loser pays rules, things that would prevent lawsuits like that $54 million lawsuit by that guy who lost his pants -- you know?

I did 210 weddings when I was mayor of New York City. So I have experience doing this. They were all men and women.

(LAUGHTER)

I hope.

(LAUGHTER)

(APPLAUSE)


GIULIANI: You got to give me a little slack here. It was New York City, you know, but it's not just a religious institution.
(LAUGHTER)


Mike Huckabee:
HUCKABEE: Let me begin by saying, for the first time in about nine debates, I'm kind of glad I wasn't in on the first few minutes because it was all about these guys fighting each other.

(LAUGHTER)

And I am more than content to let you let them fight all they want tonight, shed each other's blood and then I'll be ready to run for president because...

(LAUGHTER)


Duncan Hunter:
HUNTER: It's got to have, for example, fertility coverage. Well, what if you're 90 years old? We may appreciate Governor Romney's optimism...

(LAUGHTER)

Mike Huckabee:
And we've got a situation with 10,000 baby boomers a day signing up for Social Security, going into the Medicare system. And I just want to remind everybody when all the old hippies find out that they get free drugs, just wait until what that's going to cost out there.

(LAUGHTER) (APPLAUSE)


Tom Tancredo:
We should actually be debating that specific point, not what kind of government program. You know, Michael Moore went to Cuba not too long ago, and wrote this documentary about the greatness of the system, how wonderful it was to be in Cuba and have a socialized medical system.

You notice, however, that Michael Moore came back to the United States.

(LAUGHTER)


Mitt Romney:
... when Clinton hears about private sector, she thinks that that's a new recruit in the Army.

(LAUGHTER)



Rudolph Giuliani:
Governor Romney says the Republicans aren't going to beat Hillary Clinton by acting like Hillary Clinton. And the point seems to be that on a lot of the social issues, like abortion and gay rights and gun control, that there's not much difference between you and Clinton. Is there?

GIULIANI: You got to be kidding.

(LAUGHTER)

You have got to be kidding.

Wait a second. There is -- there are two things I agree with Hillary Clinton on. First of all, we're both Yankee fans.

(LAUGHTER)

Well, wait a second. I became a Yankee fan growing up in New York. She became a Yankee fan growing up in Chicago.

(LAUGHTER)

Do you believe that?

(LAUGHTER)

Second, she made a statement last week -- and I've been very critical of her, but I want to tell her I agree with this one. Quote, Hillary Clinton, I have a million ideas; America cannot afford them all.

(LAUGHTER)


Rudolph Giuliani:
If those polls are correct, we’d have Al Gore here to – I don’t know, it might be a little colder, I’m not sure. But I’m not sure we’d be any better off. Right, we’d be in a lot worse shape with Al Gore.

Thank, thank you Florida.

(LAUGHTER) (APPLAUSE)

GIULIANI: Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

You saved us in 2000. That was a big one.

(LAUGHTER)


John McCain:
In case you missed it, a few days ago, Senator Clinton tried to spend $1 million on the Woodstock Concert Museum. Now, my friends, I wasn't there. I'm sure it was a cultural and pharmaceutical event.

(LAUGHTER)

I was tied up at the time.

(LAUGHTER)



Mike Huckabee:
You know, it's interesting, the most, I guess, wonderful reaction we've had in this entire room is when Hillary's name is mentioned. It gets louder than an Aerosmith concert.

(LAUGHTER)



Mitt Romney:
And, you know, Democrats also love America. As Ronald Reagan used to say, it's not that liberals are ignorant. It's just that what they know is wrong.

(LAUGHTER)


Mike Huckabee:
Because the problem is the actuarial tables were designed so that people would retire at 65 and die at 67.

(LAUGHTER)

Well, I'm sorry, but folks aren't dying that early. And short of taking them out, which is not a good idea...

(LAUGHTER)


John McCain:
HUME: Senator McCain, you've grappled with this issue as long as anybody here. You've heard all the proposals and you heard what Senator Thompson offered.

Your thoughts?

MCCAIN: First of all, I'm glad they're not dying at 67, Governor.

(LAUGHTER)


Tom Tancredo:
But let me add one more thing, and Mr. Mayor quipped something to me during the break, and here's my chance, Mr. Mayor, to do what you were saying.

(LAUGHTER)



John McCain:
Vladimir Putin has announced just in the last 24 hours that he plans a new, quote, grandiose, nuclear weapons program to counter the U.S. missile defense system. President Bush just recently described President Putin as wily.

(LAUGHTER)

Are we headed back to a new Cold War, or has the Bush administration been naive in dealing with Mr. Putin?

MCCAIN: I don't know about naive, but I do know that when I looked into Mr. Putin's eyes, I saw three letters: a K, a G and a B.

(LAUGHTER) (APPLAUSE)


Anything For A Buck Fred:
The week after, though -- you took a week off after the last debate. Speech yesterday was about five minutes long. Some people say you're lazy, sir.

How do you deal with that?

(LAUGHTER)

THOMPSON: Well -- no, it's OK. Let me answer that.

I was a father at the age of 17 and a husband at the age of 17. I got started working in a factory. I borrowed and worked my way through. My folks did what they could to help. They were country folks -- came in off the farm.

I was able to be an assistant U.S. attorney when I was 28, prosecuting most of the major federal crimes in middle Tennessee -- most of the major ones.

THOMPSON: Howard Baker selected me to go to Washington and be his counsel on the Watergate Committee at the age of 30.

I came back, took on a corrupt state administration, and won against them. I went to the United States Senate, got elected twice by 20 points in a state that Bill Clinton carried twice.

Condoleezza Rice called upon me to head up an international security advisory board to advise her on international security matters. President Bush called me to help shepherd Chief Justice -- now-Chief Justice John Roberts' nomination through the Judiciary Committee.

If a man can do all that and be lazy, I recommend it to everybody.

(LAUGHTER) (APPLAUSE)


For those keeping score at home, that's Huckabee 4; McCain 3; Giuliani, Romney, Tancredo, and Thompson 2; Hunter 1; Paul 0. Huckabee was the winner of the debate.

But to consider only quantity, and not also quality, of the humor is superficial. In last place, other than the serious Paul and Hunter, obviously would be Tom Tancredo. He muffed one of his jokes- I don't think he meant to say "...and here's my chance, Mr. Mayor, to do what you're saying," rather "...and here's your chance, Mr. Mayor, to do what you're saying." Romney's lines were clearly scripted, and he appeared a little ill at ease going for the laughs. Thompson was passable, and making light of the girth of someone (Ted Kennedy) should work well with Repub activists.

But McCain, Huckabee, and Giuliani could quit their day jobs. I recall consider laughter at McCain's joke about Woodstock- a twofer, ridiculing both Hillary Clinton, and Woodstock as "a cultural phenomenon," sparking excitement among the high rollers and politicians present, most of whom probably no longer use pharmaceuticals, except those prescribed by their obliging doctors.

Huckabee's delivery was best- this guy is at ease with himself and actually looks like he made up these jokes himself, on the spot.


Giuliani's material was brilliant: "I became a Yankee fan growing up in New York. She became a Yankee fan growing up in Chicago" (I'm just an average guy, love sports; and by the way, Clinton is disloyal.). "You got to give me a little slack here. It was New York City..." (Otherwise, I wouldn't have dressed in drag.). And by reminding Florida that it was their votes (o.k., the votes from blacks that were ruthlessly discouraged, the votes from Jews that erroneously went to Pat Buchanan, and the votes that weren't counted) that determined the 2000 election, he flattered (always a good thing to do) his (Floridian) audience and strongly implied to a Repub audience that election of George W. Bush wasn't the unmitigated national and international disaster it has proven to be.

All in all, a pretty good night for a few of the contenders. And if I seem to be taking this debate as lightly as did some of the candidates, consider this: they were preaching to the Repub electorate, the same group that (almost) elected George W. Bush President in 2000 and elected him in 2004. And that was not comical, but a serious mistake.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

GOP Attack On The Middle Class

As I'm writing this, the House of Representatives is moments away from voting on the attempt to override President Bush's veto of the SCHIP bill. I think the debate has been impressive, including the arguments of Carol Shea-Porter, a Democrat from New Hampshire. Rep. Shea-Porter noted the irony implicit in her attendance at hearings regarding contractor abuse in Iraq, and here the Administration is striving to deny health care to children whose family is too poor to qualify for Medicaid. She also refuted claims by the Bushies that coverage under this bill would include affluent families, including the charge that children from households with incomes up to $83,000 would be covered in- what is it now, New Jersey or New York (in either case, states with extraordinarily high costs of living)?

The Representatives fighting hard to expand health coverage for children need to be lauded. However, there are two underlying issues which, understandably, politicians from neither side of the issue choose to give voice to.

There is a significant contingent of politician (note especially the Repub Presidential field) which wants as much money and control in the health care system to remain in private hands, notwithstanding the enormous cost to the public and the failure to provide adequate care to Americans generally. But something else is at work here.


Repub conservatives (excluding those wise enough to support override) really are concerned, as they claim to be, that more middle class (though they avoid this term) children would be helped by this bill. As they note, this is a program devised to assist children from families of modest means. Now some people, primarily, though not exclusively, Democrats, want to assist middle class families by the same legislation through the same mechanism. This is beyond a major problem for the Repub Party. The idea that the middle class- always, but especially now- has needs that the working poor traditionally have had is dangerous. The concept that the working poor are different from the rest of us- and that the interests of the middle class are those of the wealthy and of corporate special interests the Repub Party exists to serve- is fundamental to the health and prosperity of the GOP. Start to break that down, and there is trouble (eventually) ahead for the party.
Reflections on a Presidential press conference- No. 4

President Bush's remarks at his press conference of 10/17/07 about the threat of Iran have sparked considerable interest here in the U.S.A. and, especially, abroad. He stated " So I've told people that if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon. I take the threat of Iran with a nuclear weapon very seriously."

As reported by telegraph.co.u.k. of Great Britain, a spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry, Mohammad Ali Hosseini, said: "The expression by the U.S. president will eventually cause international insecurity. This sort of policy will jeopardize peace and security at the international level, and is a barrier for peace." But he was responding to what is fairly mild rhetoric for the head coach of the "mushroom cloud" crowd. As the issue of the appropriate U.S. response grows in importance, the overheated rhetoric by the Administration will intensify.

Whatever the wisdom of our policy toward Teheran, Mr. Bush's reference calls into mind remarks made recently to Time Magazine by country music legend Merle Haggard. This is the extraordinary singer whose sentence for Armed Robbery once was commuted by Governor Ronald Reagan, and whose career spans several decades, including "Fighting Side of Me," "Okie from Muskogee," and countless (well, actually, they can be counted) apolitical hit songs.

Mr. Haggard, a self-described "born-again Christian" who drives a Hummer and assured Joe Klein "I'm not exactly a liberal," criticized "these religious groups that have so much influence on the Republicans and want to tell us how to live our lives." But Klein writes also

"The thing that gets under my skin most about George W. is his intention to install (sic) fear in people," he said, after walking me down a hallway lined with gold and platinum records. "This is America. We're proud. We're not afraid of a bunch of terrorists. But this government is all about terror alerts and scaring us at airports. We're changing the Constitution out of fear. We spend all our time looking up each other's dresses. Fear's the only issue the Republican Party has. Vote for them, or the terrorists will win."

Spoken before the President's press conference, this nonetheless says a lot about what the GOP has become in this era of Bush 43.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Reflections on a Presidential press conference- No. 3

Asked in his press conference of October 17, 2007 about "Al Qaeda in Iraq," President Bush responded in part:



Al Qaeda is still dangerous. They're dangerous in Iraq, they're dangerous elsewhere. Al Qaeda is not going to go away anytime soon. That's why it's important for us to be finding out what their intentions are, and what are their plans, so we can respond to them. This is a -- this war against al Qaeda requires actionable intelligence. That's why this FISA bill is important. And they still want to do us harm, Elaine, and they're still active. Yeah, we've hurt them bad in Iraq. We've hurt them bad elsewhere. If you're the number three person in al Qaeda, you've had some rough goes -- you've either been captured or killed. And we're keeping the pressure on them, all the time.


Note Mr. Bush saying "Al Qaeda is still dangerous. They're dangerous in Iraq, they're dangerous elsewhere," "this war against Al Qaeda requires actionable intelligence," and "we've hurt them bad in Iraq. we've hurt them bad elsewhere." He never stops conflating Al Qaeda with Al Qaeda in Iraq ("they're dangerous elsewhere," "actionable intelligence," "hurt them bad in Iraq (and) elsewhere"). Yet one more pathetic instance of this fellow trying to manipulate the media and the American people.
Reflections on a Presidential press conference- No. 2


O.K., enough praising the President. The question following the question about the Dalai Lama and mainland China was posed by NBC's David Gregory about the Israeli air attack upon a partly-constructed nuclear reactor in Syria, which was criticized by exactly two countries- Syria and North Korea. Here was the exchange:


Q There's a report today from Israel Army Radio indicating that the Syrians have confirmed that the Israelis struck a nuclear site in their country. You wouldn't comment on that before, and I'm wondering if now, on the general question, you think it's appropriate for Israel to take such action if it feels that there is mortal danger being posed to the state?

THE PRESIDENT: David, my position hadn't changed. You can ask me another question.

Q Can I ask you whether -- did you support Israel's strike in 1981 on the Iraqi reactor outside Baghdad?

THE PRESIDENT: You know, Dave, I don't remember what I was doing in 1980 -- let's see, I was living in Midland, Texas; I don't remember my reaction that far back.

Q Well, but as you look at it as President now --

THE PRESIDENT: -- private citizen back there in 1981 in Midland, Texas, trying to make a living for my family and --

Q But you're a careful -- someone who studies history --

THE PRESIDENT: Student of history? I do, yes. No, I don't remember my reaction, to be frank with you.

Q But I'm asking you now, as you look back at it, do you think it was the right action for Israel to take?

THE PRESIDENT: David, I'm not going to comment on the subject that you're trying to get me to comment on.

Q Why won't you? But isn't it a fair question to say, is it -- given all the talk about Iran and the potential threat, whether it would be appropriate for Israel to act --

THE PRESIDENT: Hey, Dave -- Dave --

Q -- in self-defense --

THE PRESIDENT: I understand --

Q -- if Iran were to --

THE PRESIDENT: -- I understand where you're trying to take --

Q -- develop nuclear weapons?

THE PRESIDENT: I understand where you're trying to take. It's a clever ruse to get me to comment on it, but I'm not going to. Thank you.

Q Well, I'm just wondering why you think it's not appropriate to make that judgment, when it's a -- it is a real-world scenario, as we know, since they apparently took this action against Syria --

THE PRESIDENT: Dave. Welcome back. (Laughter.)


Several comments are in order:

- "David, my position hasn't changed. You can ask me another question." Leaving aside the obvious arrogance, what of "my position hasn't changed?" What is his position and why isn't the President letting us in on the secret?

- David Gregory could have asked the President, "Do you support an air attack without explanation by one nation upon another sovereign nation?" Sure, ascribing such legitimacy to inarguably one (Syria) of the world's foremost terrorist states of the late 20th and early 21st century would be ludicrous. but it would have boxed Mr. Bush into a corner. Instead, Gregory asked whether it would be "appropriate for Israel to take such action if it feels that there is mortal danger being posed to the state?" Wordly thusly, this is a softball. The answer can only be: "yes."

- The President said that he "didn't remember what I was doing in 1980." Yes, we know about Mr. Bush and the 1980's. This may have been uncharacteristic honesty.

- David asks "given all the talk about Iran and the potential threat, whether it would be appropriate for Israel to act..." Yes, it's appropriate, especially because the President has been eager to tout this threat, at this very press conference and elsewhere.

- Another softball: whether Mr. Bush supports "Israel's strike in 1981 on the Iraqi reactor outside Baghdad." Since then, we have fought two wars against Saddam Hussein's Iraq, one in response to his invasion of an independent nation (Kuwait) and the other in part because of his alleged possession of "weapons of mass destruction." The only true weapon of "mass destruction" currently is nuclear, raising the specter of the "mushroom cloud" which Bush, Cheney, and Rice would invoke. No nuclear program, no mushroom cloud- except without the Israeli attack in 1981 there may have been an active nuclear program established by Saddam Hussein. Yet, the President was unable to answer the question in the only way possible: "yes."

Reflections on a Presidential press conference- No. 1

As if to verify the adage "even a stopped clock is right twice a day," President Bush was right in response to the second/third question(s) he was posed at his press conference on October 17, 2007. It was about Tibet/mainland China. This was the exchange:



Q Why are going to attend the Congressional Award Ceremony for the Dalai Lama today --

THE PRESIDENT: Why -- when am I, or why am I?

Q Why are you going to, when China has expressed outrage about it? And what, if any, potential damage do you see to U.S.-China relations, considering that you need their support in dealing with Iran and North Korean nuclear issues?

THE PRESIDENT: One, I admire the Dalai Lama a lot. Two, I support religious freedom; he supports religious freedom. Thirdly, I like going to the Gold Medal ceremonies. I think it's a good thing for the President to do, to recognize those who Congress has honored. And I'm looking forward to going.

I told the Chinese President, President Hu that I was going to go to the ceremony. In other words, I brought it up. And I said I'm going because I want to honor this man. I have consistently told the Chinese that religious freedom is in their nation's interest. I've also told them that I think it's in their interest to meet with the Dalai Lama, and will say so at the ceremony today in Congress. If they were to sit down with the Dalai Lama they would find him to be a man of peace and reconciliation. And I think it's in the country's interest to allow him to come to China and meet with him.

So my visit today is not new to the Chinese leadership. As I told you, I brought it up with him. I wanted to make sure he understood exactly why I was going. And they didn't like it, of course, but I don't think it's going to damage -- severely damage relations. Matter of fact, I don't think it ever damages relations when the American President talks about religious tolerance and religious freedom is good for a nation. I do this every time I meet with him.


Currency manipulation, arms buildup, nuclear technology to terrorist states, flooding our markets with dangerous products- and now we have to worry about offending this totalitarian state. President Bush is right that honoring the Dalai Lama will not "severely damage relations" -and mainland China will act in its own best interests when intervening on the issues of Iran and North Korea.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Quote of the Week:

"On Monday, the Supreme Court is going to order Al Gore to turn over the Nobel Peace Prize to George Bush."

-Paul Begala, appearing with J.C. Watts on CNN's The Situation Room (with Wolf Blitzer) on October 12, 2007

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Debate Reflections- No. 4

Is there any limit to the ignorance? In the Repub Presidential debate in Dearborn, Michigan on 10/9/07, Rudolph Giuliani was asked about the national debt. Here are Chris Matthews' question and Giuliani's response:



MR. MATTHEWS: Mr. Mayor, Hillary Clinton says that one of our biggest economic threats right now is how much of our federal debt is owned by foreigners, owned overseas. Do you agree?

MR. GIULIANI: Actually, the concern there should be the way to balance that is to sell more things overseas. That's the usual Democratic pessimistic approach to -- you know, how bad things are and how terrible things are. How about we try an optimistic approach? The way to balance the books is sell more overseas. Sell energy independence. Sell health care. Let's do it like a -- in a positive way.


Normally, a nation, like an individual, can sell what it has the most of. Giuliani apparently believes we can "sell energy independence," something we don't have and desperately need. And he believes we can "sell health care," though that would be easier if the United States, according to the World Health Organization, did not have the 37th finest health care system in the world. Of course, how a nation sells concepts like "energy independence" and "health care", rather than goods and services, to reduce its debt is something apparently only Rudolph understands.

But Rudolph's ignorance about the source of our debt is astonishing. Leaving aside the impact of the income tax cuts which Giuliani adores, the ex-mayor could have noted that, which economyincrisis.org has the U.S. Treasury indicating, as of July, 2007, mainland China held $4.7 billion of United States Federal Government Public Debt. (Only Japan holds more.) Yes, this is the same China:

-which, according to testimony to the U.S. Senate on 3/29/07 (reported by missiledefenseadvocacy.org) by the commander of U.S. Strategic Forces, is "developing an 'impressive' array of space weapons, including missiles and jammers, and is moving toward placing nuclear weapons in space to attack U.S. satellites";

-whose military hacked into Pentagon computers in July, 2007;

-which likely will gain access to U.S. defense-network technology under a proposed merger of Huawei Technology and Massachusetts-based 3Com network equipment manufacturer; and

-which, according to the Washington Times: FBI director Mueller on July 26, 2007 told the House Judiciary Committee "is stealing our secrets in an effort to leap ahead in terms of its military technology;" whose recent successes a former national counterintelligence executive told the same committee "include design information on all of the most advanced U.S. nuclear weapons, U.S. missile design and guidance technology, electromagnetic weapons and space-launch capabilities"; whose government has been involved in at least three major espionage cases- Katrina Leung, accused of secretly working for China's intelligence service; Chi Mak, convicted of passing embargoed U.S. defense technology to Beijing; and Nashir Gowadia, indicted on charges of selling weapons technology to China.

So the "Mayor of 9/11," whom we are told "owns 9/11," is unaware not only of economic issues but also of critical national security concerns. It's one thing to be ignorant. It's a whole different thing to be dangerous.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Debate Reflections- No. 3

I don't mean to be an advocate for Fred Thompson, but what was Chris Matthews thinking when he objected to Thompson's response to a question about domestic automakers? It appears that he was offended that Thompson added some detail to his answer. As indicated in this transcript, the exchange began with Maria Bartimoro:


MS. BARTIROMO: Senator Thompson, quick follow-up there. Thirty seconds, please. (Applause.) Chrysler is facing a possible walkout on Wednesday. Should the government step in and help Chrysler and the other automakers?

MR. THOMPSON: No.

MS. BARTIROMO: Why?

MR. THOMPSON: Well, I think the government has to have a good reason to step in. I think it has to be something that drastically affects our economy. It might a little bit later on -- you'd have to cross that bridge when you came to it -- as something that affects our economy or our national security.

But I don't think the government ought to step in and have people know that the government will step in if they walk out an create that kind of situation.

MS. BARTIROMO: Even if they say that they are at a disadvantage to foreign automakers.

MR. THOMPSON: Well, of course, they are. But that has nothing to do with the government stepping in. The government ought to relieve that disdavantage that we've got as far as foreign automakers are concerned, make them open up their markets and make certain markets quit devaluing their currency. That's where the pressure needs to be applied.

MR. MATTHEWS: It took a long time. He said no; he should've stopped there. (Laughs.)

What prompted Matthews' laughter? That nations should open their markets to U.S. goods? That nations (such as mainland China) should stop devaluing their currency?


Or perhaps Matthews was engaged in an effort to demonstrate his tireless wit. Here, he has another chit-chat with Giuliani:

MR. GIULIANI: Sure, I think unions have made a positive contribution. My grandmother was an early member of the United Ladies Garment Workers Union, and I don't know that our family would have gotten out of poverty without that. So I have a great appreciation --

MR. MATTHEWS: Can you sing that song, Mr. Mayor?

MR. GIULIANI: However -- pardon me?

MR. MATTHEWS: Can you sing that song?

MR. GIULIANI: Can I sing the song? You don't want me to --

MS. BARTIROMO: (Laughs.)

MR. GIULIANI: -- you don't want me to sing --

MR. MATTHEWS: Work for the union label.

MS. BARTIROMO: (Laughs.)

MR. GIULIANI: You do not want me to sing a song. Everybody will run out of this auditorium if I begin singing a song. I have a terrible voice.


Given his earlier repartee with Giuliani over Yankees' manager Joe Torre and this effort to get Giuliani to sing, it appears we have a member of the media striving mightily to humanize
Debate Reflections- No. 2


I might seem to dislike Rudolph Giuliani. So in the interest of fair play, I'll try to help him here- by answering one of his questions at the 10/09/07 Repub Presidential debate in Dearborn, Michigan. Asked by co-host Maria Bartiromo of CNBC about drilling for oil off the coasts of Florida and of California, Rudolph replied in part "why the heck haven't we licensed a nuclear plant in thirty years?"

We haven't licensed a nuclear plant in thirty years, mayor, because there has been no application in thirty years. And why is that? Because when it comes to sucking up (money), the nuclear industry is better than Hoover. According to the Christian Science Monitor, Doug Koplow, president of Earth Track,a Massachusetts firm that analyzes subsidies for all forms of energy, estimates the nuclear energy industry receives approximately $9 billion annually in federal subsidies. Major cost overruns were common for nuclear facilities and nuclear power plants are far more expensive to build than coal- or gas- powered facilities.

Add energy policy to the list of subjects about which Rudolph Giuliani is defiantly ignorant.
Debate Reflections- no. 1

Notwithstanding whatever accomplishments Rudolph Giuliani had as a mayor (and he'll be glad to exaggerate them for you), virtually anyone following New York City politics realizes that Rudolph is confrontational, abrasive, and divisive. Thus it should come as no surprise that Chris Matthews, co-host of the Repub Presidential debate on 10/9/07 (and who has made no secret of his fondness for Giuliani) engaged in some friendly chit-chat in Dearborn, MI. with his favorite candidate. Here it is from the transcript the New York Times has made available online:


MR. MATTHEWS: Just to test your forecasting ability, Mr. Mayor, will Torre keep his job?

MR. GIULIANI: (Laughs, laughter.) God willing.

MR. MATTHEWS: Okay. Thanks.

MR. GIULIANI: Joe Torre is the best manager in the history of the Yankees, at least in the modern era, so -- and he's my friend. (Laughs.)


So now we know: Giuliani likes the American pastime, has a sense of humor, has friends (Joe Torre), and believes in God. Nice job, Chris!
Celebrity Justice, Kiefer Sutherland Edition

Kiefer Sutherland, who plays counter-terrorism agent Jack Bauer on Fox Television's "24," had three alcohol-related offenses on his record, including one for which he has been on probation.

That was until last month, when Sutherland was arrested in southern California for Driving Under the Influence. Although the deal can be rejected by the sentencing judge, latimes.com reports " The Los Angeles city attorney's office, as part of a plea deal with Sutherland, recommended that he be sentenced to 48 days in jail. The sentence would reflect 30 days for the misdemeanor charge and 18 days for violating probation on a separate 2004 DUI case."

We'll wait in vain for conservatives to decry, apparently justifiably, this as another example of a lenient criminal justice system. But we shouldn't hesitate as main street liberals to see this as another example of the benefits of privilege. Yet again, a wealthy celebrity gets special treatment from the justice system because he/she can afford an excellent attorney, because the individual is popular, or perhaps because a campaign contribution from the offender would be helpful in the judge's next election. (Judges in California are elected, according to answers.com here.)

A progressive position on crime ought not to include a reflexively punitive response to any offender. However, at the least, it must maintain that the famous and/or wealthy must be treated with no special privileges unavailable to the middle class or the poor.

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Republican Media- No. 8

On CNN's "Reliable Sources" on October 7, 2007, Howie Kurtz discussed the Rush Limbaugh "phony soldiers" comment with three panelists- New York Times columnist Frank Rich, Callie Crossley of WGBH's "Beat the Press," and conservative radio talk show host Michael Medved. Kurtz began by saying "all right, let's play what Rush Limbaugh said on the air and then cut to his explanation after it became a controversy a day or two later." Then the video in its entirety:


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's really funny is they never talk to real soldiers. They like to pull these soldiers that come up out of the blue.

RUSH LIMBAUGH, EIB RADIO: The phony soldiers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The phony soldiers. If you talk to a real soldier, they're proud to serve. They want to be over in Iraq. They understand their sacrifice and they're willing to sacrifice for the country.

LIMBAUGH: They joined to be in Iraq. Morning update on Wednesday of this program dealt with a soldier, a fake, phony soldier, by the name of Jesse MacBeth who never served in Iraq, was never an army ranger. They love phony soldiers and they prop them up.





Except that as MediaMatters.org explains here, this was not the original conversation or the original transcript but rather the amended transcript issued once the controversy arose. Note that after stating "they joined to be in Iraq,. They joined-" Limbaugh was interrupted by the caller, continued the conversation, and did not refer to Jesse MacBeth until one minute, fifty seconds after first mentioning "phony sodiers."


CALLER 2: No, it's not, and what's really funny is, they never talk to real soldiers. They like to pull these soldiers that come up out of the blue and talk to the media.

LIMBAUGH: The phony soldiers.

CALLER 2: The phony soldiers. If you talk to a real soldier, they are proud to serve. They want to be over in Iraq. They understand their sacrifice, and they're willing to sacrifice for their country.

LIMBAUGH: They joined to be in Iraq. They joined --

CALLER 2: A lot of them -- the new kids, yeah.

LIMBAUGH: Well, you know where you're going these days, the last four years, if you signed up. The odds are you're going there or Afghanistan or somewhere.

CALLER 2: Exactly, sir.


So Kurtz/CNN played the amended transcript as if it were a true rendition of the discussion on the 0/26/07 broadcast. This enabled all three guests to criticize the Democratic response, as in:

Rich: "I don't know what the big fuss is."

Medved: "...when you have the U.S. Senate actually talking about a resolution condemning Rush Limbaugh for this expression of opinion, we've really gone too far."

Crossley: "Once the General "Betray Us" ad got as much attention as it got, then people were looking on the other side for something to jump on."


Of course, they were criticizing the Democratic response to remarks which here were ignored by CNN. And, typically, in the interests of moral equivalence and inaccurate "balance," we have Rich claiming "it's a game we play where someone on the left and someone on the right makes some outrageous statement..." and Crossley imagining "tit for tat." Of course, the General "Betray Us" ad was carefully sourced, its accuracy never questioned. Rush Limbaugh then asserted that anti-war soldiers are "phony." Now, without a vote posted by the party in control of Congress to condemn a comment made by a commonly bombastic talk show host, the National Republican Congressional Committee, with a link to their donations page, is using the Limbaugh controversy to raise money. That's right- Congressional Republicans are not condemning Limbaugh, they're embracing him. Greg Sargent of talkingpointsmemo.com/horsesmouth here explains, and reprints, the e-mail sent by Deputy Minority Whip Eric Cantor of Virginia:


NRCC Raising Money Off Rush's "Phony Soldiers" Remark
October 4, 2007 -- 6:01 PM EST // //
Here's an amusing postscript to the whole Rush Limbaugh flap: Far from conceding that there's anything wrong with Rush's remark that troops who don't agree with Bush are "phony soldiers," Republicans in D.C. are now raising money off of Rush's sliming of antiwar troops.

The National Republican Congressional Committee has just sent out a blast email to supporters asking them to sign a petition protesting the Dem persecution of Rush. At the top of the email is a link back to the NRCC's donations page where you can contribute money. The petition -- sent our way by a D.C. pal -- was written by GOP Rep. Eric Cantor, a leading Rush defender. It says, in part:

It is at moments like these when we need to band together as conservatives and fight back.

This issue is bigger than you or me, it is bigger than Rush Limbaugh. With the recent liberal effort to resurrect the "fairness doctrine," we have to recognize that free speech -- conservative free speech is under direct attack. These are issues that speak directly to the core of the modern conservative movement – are we going to allow ourselves to be pushed around by liberal extremists, or are we going to fight back?

I want to send Washington Democrats a message that their attempts to distract aren't working – I stand with Rush Limbaugh against liberal attacks.



This is not both parties sinking to a new level. Only one party.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Stop The (New England) Patriots!

Calling on all patriots to renounce Patriots....

Yes, it is time for all American patriots to declare their opposition to the New England Patriots. The Patriots videotaped defensive signals being sent onto the field by New York Jets coaches in a game earlier this year, a blatant violation of league rules that probably has been going on for a much longer period of time, and head coach Bill Bellichick escaped any suspension by the league.

The Patriots have started the season an impressive 4-0, and Fred Rogin, sportscaster for the NBC affiliate in Los Angeles, stated on August 4, 2007 on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that apparently the Patriots did not need those signals. But as anyone who follows the National Foootball League even marginally knows, the league is so balanced (some even call it "parity") that the smallest advantage any team gets is crucial. This cheating should throw into doubt the legitimacy of the three Super Bowls (in 2002, 2004, and 2005) recently won by New England, and all patriots must hope these guys are stopped before they win another championship.
Attack On SCHIP

Expansion of the State Childrens' Health Insurance Program has been vetoed by President Bush, who decried the cost of the program and, in an appearance before the Lancaster (Pa.) Chamber of Commerce and Industry, declared "the intent of the program was to focus on poor children, not adults and families earning $83,000 a year. That doesn't sound poor to me." The bill had passed in the Senate with a vote of 67 to 29, a veto-proof margin. However, it passed the House only by 265 to 159, with the switch of approximately 18 Representatives needed to override a Presidential veto.

There is a chance the veto of the SCHIP Reauthorization Act will be upended. The President's action is extremely unpopular with the nation's governors and the states of California, New York, and New Jersey have announced plans to file suit. Republican legislators are keenly aware of the political danger they face if the President's veto is allowed to stand.

Hopefully, the bill will pass over Mr. Bush's veto and several million more children whose parents are unable to obtain health insurance for them through employment or Medicaid will be covered. If not, however, supporters of the President's values should face attack ads whose potential is unlimited. Certainly, the lack of concern for children will be emphasized, but MainStreetLiberal would suggest that Democrats add something else, such as...

"(insert name of member of Congress) agrees with President Bush that we don't have to provide 8,000,000 uninsured children with the health care they so desperately need. (Member of Congress) says that we don't need to provide health care to children from middle-class families. But (insert name of member of Congress) doesn't agree. He (or she) knows that middle-class isn't rich, and that middle-class children, as well as poor children, deserve to be healthy."
Rush Limbaugh, Anti-Soldier

MediaMatters.org has carefully documented the entire Limbaugh-phony soldiers escapade. As indicated by the original transcript, on September 26, 2007 Rush Limbaugh discussed with a caller a call he had taken moments earlier. Speaking of soldiers who publicly have criticized the war in Iraq, the talk show host and his listener from Olympia, Washington stated:


CALLER 2: And, you know, I'm one of the few that joined the Army to serve my country, I'm proud to say, not for the money or anything like that. What I would like to retort to is that, if we pull -- what these people don't understand is if we pull out of Iraq right now, which is about impossible because of all the stuff that's over there, it'd take us at least a year to pull everything back out of Iraq, then Iraq itself would collapse, and we'd have to go right back over there within a year or so. And --

LIMBAUGH: There's a lot more than that that they don't understand. They can't even -- if -- the next guy that calls here, I'm gonna ask him: Why should we pull -- what is the imperative for pulling out? What's in it for the United States to pull out? They can't -- I don't think they have an answer for that other than, "Well, we just gotta bring the troops home."

CALLER 2: Yeah, and, you know what --

LIMBAUGH: "Save the -- keep the troops safe" or whatever. I -- it's not possible, intellectually, to follow these people.

CALLER 2: No, it's not, and what's really funny is, they never talk to real soldiers. They like to pull these soldiers that come up out of the blue and talk to the media.

LIMBAUGH: The phony soldiers.

CALLER 2: The phony soldiers. If you talk to a real soldier, they are proud to serve. They want to be over in Iraq. They understand their sacrifice, and they're willing to sacrifice for their country.

LIMBAUGH: They joined to be in Iraq. They joined --


Limbaugh and his dittohead apparently were responding in part to an 8/17/07 op-ed in the New York Times written by seven members of the 82nd Airborne Division in which the soldiers criticized American policy in Iraq and concluded by asserting:


In a lawless environment where men with guns rule the streets, engaging in the banalities of life has become a death-defying act. Four years into our occupation, we have failed on every promise, while we have substituted Baath Party tyranny with a tyranny of Islamist, militia and criminal violence. When the primary preoccupation of average Iraqis is when and how they are likely to be killed, we can hardly feel smug as we hand out care packages. As an Iraqi man told us a few days ago with deep resignation, “We need security, not free food.”

In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are — an army of occupation — and force our withdrawal.

Until that happens, it would be prudent for us to increasingly let Iraqis take center stage in all matters, to come up with a nuanced policy in which we assist them from the margins but let them resolve their differences as they see fit. This suggestion is not meant to be defeatist, but rather to highlight our pursuit of incompatible policies to absurd ends without recognizing the incongruities.

We need not talk about our morale. As committed soldiers, we will see this mission through.


On his radio program of 9/28/07, Limbaugh claimed "I was talking about one soldier with that phony soldier comment, Jesse MacBeth." However, given that he said phony soldiers (not soldier) and the remark about MacBeth followed the phony soldiers comment by 1 minute, 50 seconds, Limbaugh's claim is as believable as a blizzard in Phoenix in August.

And Limbaugh dug deeper, as the BaltimoreSun.com reports here, extending his description of phony soldiers to Representative Jack Murtha (D.- Pa.) by contending, as Media Matters reported, "and by the way, Jesse MacBeth's not the only one. How about this guy Scott Thomas who was writing fraudulent, phony things in The New Republic about atrocities he saw that never happened? How about Jack Murtha blanketly accepting the notion that Marines at Haditha engaged in wanton murder of innocent children and civilians?"

If the Democratic Party truly "controls" the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate- rather than merely holding a statistical majority- the leader in each chamber will post a resolution condemning Rush Limbaugh. Repub legislators would face an uncomfortable choice- condemn the influential talk show host and risk his ire- or be exposed as being anti-soldier. And what an ad that would make.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The GOP Problem With SCHIP

So of what relevance is Rachel Maddow commenting of the SCHIP "George Bush discovering fiscal conservatism on this issue would be like you telling me Pat Buchanan discovered multiculturalism?" Because Pat Buchanan, appearing with Maddow on MSNBC's "Hardball," really was crediting George Bush with standing up to Democrats "doubling the size of an entitlement program."

Put aside for a moment the farcical notion that George W. Bush, who took the Clinton budget surplus and turned it into a record budget deficit, cares any more about the size of the deficit* than you and I do about, say, tomorrow's weather in Madagascar. And ignore Chris Matthews saying of Democrats- yes, Democrats- "once again, they're borrowing money saying they're going to some day pay for it." And disregard Pat Buchanan, asked by Maddow "who is paying right now for the 8,000,000 kids who don't have health insurance?" contending families are "paying for it themselves, or getting it free" (sort of like paying for a Persian Gulf War off-budget with a tax cut for the wealthy).

Buchanan inadvertently hinted at the real issue when he complained about "doubling the size of one entitlement program" and railed against the increasing cost of Medicare and Social Security. The problem is this: the State Children's Health Insurance Program works. And it is a government program. And the raison d'etre of the Repub Party is to convince the American people that they should distrust government and instead entrust the private sector government with its functions. So like Medicare and Social Security, the SCHIP program is successful and popular. And it cannot be expanded.


*Yes, he does care about the size of the deficit. He wants it larger, for reason(s) you may already understand.
Quote of the Week:

"George Bush discovering fiscal conservatism on this issue would be like you telling me Pat Buchanan discovered multiculturalism."


-Rachel Maddow of Air America to Chris Matthews on "Hardball" during a debate on expansion of the SCHIP Program, 10/3/07

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Caving In

Recently, the United States Senate passed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal 2008. Dubbed the Kyl-Lieberman resolution, it aimed to "express the sense of the Senate regarding Iran." In its final version, the most significant, and controversial, passage read:

that the Unites States should designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a foreign terrorist orguanization under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act and place the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps on the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists, as established under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and initiated under Executive Order 13224.

Potentially a huge mistake. It is true, as Joshua Micah Marshall noted on 9/26/07 in TalkingPointsMemo, that the State Department already has designated the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist organization. But it is not true that such a designation renders its placement in legislation irrelevant. Ever since the Iraq war, sometime after the declaration of Mission Accomplished, started to turn sour, Republican hawks have derided Democrats who voted for the Iraqi war resolution and since turned against the war. It is not unlike the "but you started it" cry of children on the playground (back when children were on playgrounds). This strategy has worked politically as the mainstream media generally have spread the Repub disinformation that Democrats who voted for the resolution actually voted for the war itself. Bush's efforts to gin up public support for a strike against Iran because of a nuclear program have been for naught; it may be time for him to play the terrorist/9-11 card.

As you can see here (and if you're reading this, you probably already know), Senators Dodd and Biden voted against, and Senator Clinton voted for, Kyl-Lieberman. (Although I'm tempted to suggest that Clinton was motivated by a desire to have the authority waiting for her as she is inaugurated, there is a report that she will be co-sponsoring an anti-Iran war bill to be introduced by Virginia Senator Webb.) Obama was not present, a repetition of his disappearing act from the Republican resolution condemning MoveOn for its anti-Petraeus ad. Still, the resolution passed 76-22 and 20 of 22 Senators voting "nay" were Democrats (including Vermont's Bernie Sanders, from the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party). The only two Republicans voting "nay" were, not surprisingly, Nebraska's Chuck Hagel and, surprisingly but significantly, Richard Lugar, a leader on foreign policy hailing from the Republican state of Indiana.

As the Iraq war has demonstrated, Congress needs to reassert its interest in foreign policy and not cede to the Executive Branch powers the Founding Fathers did not give it nor intend it to have.
"The Cackle"

Perhaps you caught Senator Hillary Clinton's bemused response to two of Chris Wallace's questions on the September 23, 2007 telecast of Fox News Sunday. Clinton responded with laughter at least twice: "Senator, talk about conservative hit jobs, right-wing conspiracies- why do you and the President have such a hyper-partisan view of politics?" and "Senator Clinton, we're going to have to leave it there. We want to thank you so much for joining us today. Don't be a stranger, and please send my best to the President."

Theories abound as to the reason for the Senator's unprofessional, almost bizarre, response. Perhaps Clinton was laughing at Wallace, given that GOP TV gives a decent imitation of a faux news operation. It also has been suggested that it may have been a nervous laugh or perhaps an attempt to show her lighter, more agreeable, side, so that people hesitate to describe her with a word that rhymes with "switch."

All plausible, and the valid explanation may even be a combination. But the first laugh may have been partially motivated by something else. Clinton is nothing if not thoughtful, given to considering all sides of an issue (and sometimes coming out on each). And consider this: in the last Presidential debate, host Tim Russert (who did an excellent job of probing the candidates' views) asked the Democrats a hypothetical question about torturing a terrorist with vital intelligence information. After the Senator said in part "I think it's dangerous to go down this path," Russert shot back "The guest who laid this scenario out for me with that proposed solution was William Jefferson Clinton last year." Now (although, the transcript does not so indicate) Russert stopped a moment, while Clinton understandably was stumped. Then, unfortunately, the host inadvertently bailed her out, continuning "and he disagrees with you." Clinton then, decisively and authoritatively, replied "well, he's not standing here right now."

No one is going to accuse the New York Senator of excessive spontaneity. She responds effectively when she deliberates, as she typically does, and laughter can fill a few seconds of air time as she ponders a statement she is confident will not show up in a 30-second sound bite next autumn.

Monday, October 01, 2007

O'Reilly And Sharpton: Perfect Together

Bill O'Reilly has been considerably criticized for the race- related remarks he made on the Radio Factor on September 19, 2007.. As ABC News.com explained the genesis of the controversy, the television and radio host said of his visit at a famous restaurant in Harlem:


"I couldn't get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia's restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City," said O'Reilly on the Sept. 19 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show.

There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who [was] screaming,'M-Fer was, I want more iced tea," he told National Public Radio's Juan Williams. "[It] was like going into an Italian restaurant in an all-white suburb in the sense of people were sitting there, and they were ordering and having fun. And there wasn't any kind of craziness at all.


Some critics remarked that O'Reilly seemed surprised that "blacks eat with knives and forks," or that "we do use table napkins," as a black law professor at the University of Pennsylvania put it.

But there was something that gnawed at me, and apparently few others, about O'Reilly's remarks. CNN.com reports O'Reilly commented "this is what white America doesn't know, particularly people who don't have a lot of interaction with black Americans. They think the culture is dominated by Twista, Ludacris, and Snoop Dogg." The appeal of rap music is probably more age- (and possibly class-)than race-dependent, Twista, Ludacris, and Snoop Dogg, and rap entertainers generally having more appeal to young white people than to middle-aged blacks. And it's condescending- O'Reilly's appointed mission to educate "white America" about "black America" because white people- including his listeners- "don't have a lot of interaction with black Americans." Perhaps we're sheltered, ignorant, or even racist- clearly inadequate in a way that he is not. We know only that he is a conservative, a Republican, and an elitist.


And let us not forget Reverend Sharpton, who at the time of the incident was dining with Mr. O'Reilly for the second time and later said "I'm not defending him. But I'm not going to OD on O'Reilly." Not, say, like he did on Don Imus. Sharpton brings to mind an old line, something like: "We know what you are. Now we're just discussing the price."

False Reality, False Hope

On Friday's episode of " The View ," host Caryn Elaine Johnson , known professionally as Whoopi Goldberg, took exception ...