Dover Bitch

Thursday, January 25, 2007

That was fast

Rod Dreher sets a record: From beginning to see the light to head jammed up where the sun don't shine in under a fortnight.

Seriously, how do you go from this:

Hadn't the hippies tried to tell my generation that? Why had we scorned them so blithely?

to this:
I probably have, re: fundamental morals, more in common with the first 500 people I'd meet in Cairo, Damascus or Tehran than the first 500 people I'd meet in Park City, UT, during festival time.

in just 10 days? The cynic in me would think he was just trying to prove his worth to Jonah Goldberg.

But who could be that pathetic?


Wednesday, January 24, 2007

'Wolf, you can come up with all kinds of what-ifs.'

DB doesn't have time for a good post on this right now, and it will doubtlessly be linked everywhere anyway... but this Dick Cheney interview is too incredible not to link here immediately.


Sen. Hagel confirms Dover Bitch

After President Bush upped the ante by threatening Iran and Syria while announcing his plans to escalate the war, DB pointed out that there was an earlier request for the AUMF that would have allowed the administration to expand the war to the entire region. DB noted that for this reason, the resolution was rejected without a vote.

Think Progress reports today that Senator Hagel confirms this to be true in an interview with GQ Magazine.

I'm just happy to hear that somebody in Congress remembers that. But Hagel actually made me even happier with this monologue today.

I knew the 2006 elections would have some excellent consequences, but I must say I never expected this kind of candor. It is quite refreshing.

UPDATE: Here is a part of what Hagel said to GQ:

But there was a decision whether to grant the president that authority or not.

Exactly right. And if you recall, the White House had announced that they didn't need that authority from Congress.

Which they seem to say about a lot of things.

That's right. Mr. [Alberto] Gonzales was the president's counsel at that time, and he wrote a memo to the president saying, "You have all the powers that you need." So I called Andy Card, who was then the chief of staff, and said, "Andy, I don't think you have a shred of ground to stand on, but more to the point, why would a president seriously consider taking a nation to war without Congress being with him?" So a few of us--Joe Biden, Dick Lugar, and I--were invited into discussions with the White House.

It's incredible that you had to ask for that.

It is incredible. That's what I said to Andy Card. Said it to Powell, said it to Rice. Might have even said it to the president. And finally, begrudgingly, they sent over a resolution for Congress to approve. Well, it was astounding. It said they could go anywhere in the region.

It wasn't specific to Iraq?

Oh no. It said the whole region! They could go into Greece or anywhere. Is central Asia in the region? I suppose! Sure as hell it was clear they meant the whole Middle East. It was anything. It was literally anything. No boundaries. No restrictions.

They expected Congress to let them start a war anywhere in the Middle East?

Yes. Yes. Wide open. We had to rewrite it. Joe Biden, Dick Lugar, and I stripped the language that the White House had set up and put our language in it.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

In it to fight

Yesterday, we got to read a dumbed-down version of a Dick Cheney speech in the Washington Post, courtesy of his daughter, Liz.

Josh Marshall remarked that it "read like it was written by someone in junior high." Indeed, Cheney implores non-Lieberman politicians to reflect on "basic facts" like "Beware the polls."

If you make it past the typical Cheney nonsense we've grown accustomed to reading over the past six years -- including an obligatory neocon tip of the hat to Winston Churchill -- you'll make it to this final and frightening line:

The writer is former principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs.

This is where the story gets interesting. As Financial Times reported in April:

The US and UK are working on a strategy to promote democratic change in Iran, according to officials who see the joint effort as the start of a new phase in the diplomatic campaign to counter the Islamic republic's nuclear programme without resorting to military intervention.

A newly created Iran Syria Operations Group [ISOG] inside the State Department is co-ordinating the work and reporting to Elizabeth Cheney, the senior US official leading democracy promotion in the broader Middle East.

"Democracy promotion is a rubric to get the Europeans behind a more robust policy without calling it regime change," a former Bush administration official commented.

After the ISOG's existence was denied by the administration, eventually it became clear the group had, in fact, been formed and that Cheney had over $80 million at her disposal.

Over at TNR, Lawrence Kaplan wrote:

Far from being beefed up, as The Washington Post reported last month the State Department's Iran desk continues to be manned by only two foreign service officers. At the same time, additional Iran analysts, several of them political appointees, have been brought into ISOG. Unsurprisingly, this has led to grumbling at NEA, with staffers complaining the Bush team has set up its own Iran shop and has been making end runs around the State Department's traditional bureaucracy. Does this mean that ISOG has emerged as the latest equivalent to the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans, a secretive cell to stir the imaginations of Paul Krugmans everywhere? Hardly. According to State Department and Pentagon officials, ISOG has no role to play on security issues, doesn't coordinate at all with White House efforts against Iran at the United Nations, and confines itself to promoting regime change from within.

Great, so no worries about another Office of Special Plans, cooking up bogus reasons to go to war, right? Well, Liz Cheney took some time off to have a child and write lousy op-eds, handing the reigns to the other neocons in the Cheney cabal. Laura Rozen wrote just last week (emphasis mine):

Sources close to the administration's Iran policy say the primary vehicle for U.S. government planning on Iran is the Iran-Syria Policy and Operations Group, an inter-agency body created in early 2006 that includes representatives and Iran specialists from the Office of the Vice President, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the State Department, the Treasury Department, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the National Security Council, and other agencies.

The overall group has four or five subgroups, including a recently combined one that focuses on "public diplomacy and promoting democracy" in Iran. That subgroup doled out some of the $85 million that Congress approved to support pro-democracy efforts in Iran. A second subgroup is devoted exclusively to Syria. A third focuses on counter-terrorism issues, and a fourth has a military agenda. Formally overseen by a steering committee headed by National Security Council Middle East adviser Elliott Abrams and James Jeffrey, the State Department's principal deputy assistant secretary for Near Eastern affairs, the so-called ISOG is managed day to day by David Denehy, a senior adviser at State's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs and a former official with the International Republican Institute. Denehy has recently told some associates that he plans to move sometime early this year to the Office of the Vice President, where he would continue to coordinate the Iran-Syria group.

In addition to the ISOG, the Pentagon last spring set up a six-person Iranian directorate in the Office of the Secretary of Defense that includes three former members of the Office of Special Plans, a controversial unit established by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that produced discredited intelligence analysis linking Saddam Hussein to Al Qaeda.

U.S. officials say that multiple inter-agency meetings on Iran are going on every day under the auspices of the Iran-Syria Policy and Operations Group, and that the pace of activity has quickened. "There are so many meetings; we're doing stuff, writing papers; actions are being taken," said one person involved with the group. "It's very intense."

Elliot Abrams is the PNAC member who was never to work in an administration again after George H.W. Bush pardoned him for lying to Congress:

Elliot Abrams is a felon. He was involved in stealing Pentagon weapons from US stockpiles, selling them to the Ayatollah Khomeini, and then stealing the Iranian funds so garnered to give to far-right Central American death squads, and then lying about all this to Congress. The Congress in the Constitution controls the budget. The Congress had cut off money to the rightwing death squads supported by Reagan and henchmen like Abrams. This elaborate criminal conspiracy inside the White House was the Right's response. They shredded the Constitution (and ever since have been calling their critics "unpatriotic.")

In 1991, Abrams pled guilty to two misdemeanor counts of lying to Congress under oath. Without the plea deal, he was facing felony charges, since what he did was in fact a felony.

Abrams worked for Likud Party Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for whom he co-authored a paper entitled "A Clean Break," which advocated war against Iran and Syria. Here's what Salon's Gary Kamiya wrote about him when he joined the administration in 2002:

Abrams fits right into the Bush White House, and not just because he almost went to jail for a scandal so much bigger and nastier than Whitewater it's embarrassing even to mention them in the same breath. Like the Big Three in the Bush Tetrarchy -- Rice, Rumsfeld and Cheney -- Abrams is a hawk, unabashed about using American power unilaterally. Like them, his worldview has been shaped by a black-and-white Cold War ideology in which stopping Communist or leftist expansion by any means necessary was America's top priority. If that meant looking away while sadistic thugs like El Salvador's Roberto D'Aubuisson killed lots of peasants who didn't know from Lenin but only wanted to be rid of their murderous, authoritarian (but not "totalitarian"!) regimes, well, better dead than red. As a key player in implementing Ronald Reagan's vicious "anti-Communist" Central American policies, he defended the savage regimes that slaughtered thousands of civilians, and denied that massacres carried out by U.S.-backed troops -- such as the infamous massacre at Mozote -- had taken place.

When Abrams is unavailable, his role is assumed by Michael Doran.

Michael S. Doran may have been destined to work for a Republican administration. During the 1972 presidential campaign, his father ran him around Carmel, Ind., to rip down posters of Democratic candidate George McGovern. His father was a Republican precinct committeeman.

"That was fun for a 10-year-old," Doran recalled recently.


"Mike's politics on the Middle East are pure neo-con," said the University of Vermont's F. Gregory Gause III.

James. F. Jeffrey is also considered a hawk. In fact, if there's anybody in this group with any experience focusing in making friends in the Middle East, it might be David Denehy. The bad news there is that the major diplomatic success story he'd have witnessed would be the work of Karen Hughes, for whom he was a senior advisor. He, too, is a neocon and he previously worked under L. Paul Bremer in the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. A close associate of Liz Cheney, Denehy used to work for the neocon-founded International Republican Institute, whose Chairman of the Board is none other than Senate hawk John McCain.

Is there any reason to think this group full of hawks, operating out of the Vice President's office, isn't gearing up for a military conflict? They're even following the smashing success formula that is Iraq:

ISOG was modeled after the Iraq Policy and Operations Group, set up in 2004 to shepherd information and coordinate US action in Iraq. ISOG has raised eyebrows within the State Department for hiring BearingPoint -- the same Washington-based private contracting firm used by the Iraq group -- to handle its administrative work, rather than State Department employees.

Some lower level State Department officials saw the decision to outsource responsibility for scheduling meetings, record keeping, and distributing reports as an effort to circumvent the normal diplomatic machinery and provide extra secrecy for the group.

But State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said BearingPoint was hired for its experience and good work on Iraq.

It's Iraq all over again, with the same cabal working to make it happen. Go ahead and laugh at the cheap facsimile of her father's schtick that's in Liz Cheney's op-ed. But remember that she's a key ingredient in a group of unaccountable war mongers with all the power in the world.

UPDATE: Over at HuffPo, Larisa Alexandrovna writes more about Cheney and ISOG.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

SOTU memories

It's been four years, but this one is still a favorite on this blog:

Let me give you an example of why this president truly is underrated, I think, politically. Tonight he's going to talk about hydrogen fuel cells. You can laugh about it. But it's actually a very promising alternative energy source.

It's the kind of thing, actually, that a Democrat, you would think would be behind. But they're not. -- Tucker Carlson, Jan. 28, 2003

It's one of DB's favorites, not just because Bush hasn't done jack to solve our energy problems, but because Tucker got to hear this while sitting in the same chair on the same set, just nine months earlier:

TUCKER CARLSON: Senator Kerry?

SEN. JOHN KERRY: The bottom line is that unless the United States of America recognizes our use curve is going up and up and up and we have a very limited pot of oil.

We can't by drilling in ANWAR solve the long-term problem in the country. So why not get about the business now of solving the long- term business of the country by becoming truly independent of oil itself.

Then, you know, even if you did ANWAR, you're still going to be importing 58 percent of America's oil from the Middle East. I want America to be independent so no terrorist, no cartel can bully us around. We grow it here at home with ethanol, with hydrogen fuel cells, with the technology of the future. And that is the only way America will be secure and independent. -- April 16, 2002

The hype is that Bush will be making a big environmental splash in tomorrow's speech. Forgive me if I don't shift to the edge of my seat. After all, we heard that the "surge" speech was going to center around sacrifice. Instead it centered around threatening Iran and Syria.

Anyway, talk is cheap and this is the same administration that brought us "Clear Skies" and "Healthy Forests."

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Daou and Legum on Clinton's team

Hillary Clinton pulled off quite a feat last June when she hired Peter Daou to be her Chief Blogger.

Today, Steve Clemons reports that she's also brought Think Progress' Judd Legum into the fold.

A formidable tandem.

UPDATE: It seems DB isn't the only one who noticed the constant panning of the camera during Hillary's announcement.

UPDATE II: Keith Olbermann just told us that the constant panning was for "Internet hipness." Consider this blogger unhip, because that tactic made the video almost unwatchable for me.

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Bernie Sanders on the American media

(update below)

On Democracy Now! today, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders lays out a case against the American media. Quite simply, it is a must-hear (or the transcript is a must-read).

This post is relatively lazy because I'm going to let Sen. Sanders do all the work. I just want to give this speech some more attention. Some highlights (emphasis mine)...

On the media in general, particularly the war:

If you are concerned, as been said, about healthcare, if you are concerned about foreign policy and Iraq, if you are concerned about the economy, if you are concerned about global warming, you are kidding yourselves if you are not concerned about corporate control over the media, because every one of these issues is directly controlled and directly relevant to the media.

Let me just talk about a few. Four years ago, George W. Bush told the American people that a third-rate military power country called Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and that they were about to attack the United States of America. That's what he told us. I can tell you, because I was there in the middle of that, in opposition to that -- that day after day, those of us who oppose the war, among many other things, would be holding national press conferences that you never saw. I can tell you, as you know, that hundreds of thousands of people in our country were so disgusted with the media simply acting as a megaphone for the President that they turned off American media, and they went to the BBC or the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

In terms of the war in Iraq, the American media failed, and failed grotesquely, in exposing the dishonest and misleading assertions of the Bush administration in the lead-up to that war, and they are as responsible as is President Bush for the disaster that now befalls us. Media plays a role. And the disintegration of Iraq, the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, of over 3,000 Americans, the cost of hundreds of billons of dollars out of our pockets -- directly related to the failure of the media.

On the collapse of the middle class:

How did that happen? How did it happen today that a two-income family has less disposal income than a one-income family did thirty years ago? How does it happen that thirty years ago, one person working forty hours a week could earn enough money to take care of the family; now, you need two, and they're still not doing it? Now, one might think that this is an interesting story. One might think that globalization and disastrous trade policies, which have lowered the standard of living of millions of American workers, might be a story that should be covered.


People working long hours, people working for lower wages, they turn on the television set, they do not see that reality. What they see is the issue is personal responsibility. You can't afford healthcare? You're losing your pension? Then the problem is with you. Work a little bit harder. It is not a systemic problem. It is not a problem that can be solved by government. It is not a problem which asked you to be involved in the political process. You are the only person who can find a job that pays you a living wage. That's your fault! And you are the only person who can’t find a job that provides you with healthcare. That's your fault! And you're the only father who can't afford to send your kid to college. That's your fault! Don't get involved in the political process. It won't do any good. So people turn on the television -- they’re hurting, they're exhausted -- they do not see a reflection of their reality in the media. They do not understand that participation in the political process can bring about change, and that is not by accident.

When we wake up in the morning and we brush our teeth, for better or worse, we see our own reflections in the mirror. When we turn on the television, somebody is providing us a mirror to the world, and what we want is that mirror to reflect the reality of ordinary people and not the illusions of a few.

On health care:

But, you know, go out on the street and ask people how many major countries in the world do not have a national healthcare program, which guarantees healthcare to all people. And you know what? Most people do not know, because they have not seen it reflected in the media, that the United States of America is the only nation on earth that does not guarantee healthcare to all of its people. They do not know about the healthcare systems in Scandinavia. They do not know about European healthcare systems. And the only thing they will hear about the Canadian healthcare system are the problems that that system has. That's what they will hear.

On the environment:

In terms of the environment, if we are told over and over again that there is a serious scientific debate about the causation of global warming or whether global warming actually exists, it has an impact upon our consciousness. Why should we break our dependency on fossil fuels, why should we move to sustainable energy, if there is a debate among the scientific community? And that is, in fact, what you hear in the media. Well, you know what? There is no debate among the scientific community.

On the widening rift between the rich and poor in America:

Now, here's an issue that I’m sure you see on the TV almost every night -- it probably bores you, you see it so much -- and that is that the United States today has the most unfair distribution of wealth and income of any major country on earth. I was joking. You don't see that on television very often. Now, here is at issue, you know, which is of enormous significance from an economic point of view, as well as a political point of view, as well as a moral point of view. Richest 1% of the population in America owns more wealth than the bottom 90%. Richest 13,000 families earn more income than do the bottom 20 million families. In many ways, in my view, we are moving toward an oligarchic form of society. Do you think that maybe this is an issue that should be thrown out there on the table? Do we think it's a good idea that so few have so much and so many have so little? But that is an issue that is beyond the scope of what establishment media is literally allowed to discuss.

Now, I have been in politics for a long time. I have been asked a thousand questions by media. Not one member of the media has ever come up to me and said, "Bernie, what are you going to do to deal with the outrage of America having the most unfair distribution of wealth of any country on earth? What are you going to do about it?" Have you ever heard any political leader ever being asked that question? Why not? Why is that issue outside of the scope of what we are allowed to talk about?

The American people deserve much better than we are getting from our media. Sen. Sanders is absolutely correct and should get a tremendous amount of support from the blogosphere. The American people should take advantage of the fact that we have such a vocal advocate in the Senate.

UPDATE: I just want to point out that I don't endorse every single conclusion that Bernie Sanders has reached about policies, realities, etc. I just agree wholeheartedly that the American public deserves a media that is willing to honestly address these topics and allow our democracy to engage in substantive debates on these crucial issues.

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Kurtz stars in new satire on CNN

Howard Kurtz has a new comedy show on CNN called "Reliable Sources." Great title... I love when the irony starts with the opening credits.

I think the writing could be a little punchier, but they really did a good job making fun of the whole state of American media... at least from the clip I saw on Crooks & Liars.

Kurtz plays this "media watchdog" who has a couple bloggers on to talk about a radio station in San Francisco. The hysterical irony is that you think it's going to be this liberal station because it's in Nancy Pelosi's district (they even call the station KSFO... how mindless), but it turns out to be this nutball right-wing station. They really did a great job with that, too, because the people on the station are clearly insane, but the writers also nailed the stupid "comedy" that right-wingers try to pull off as if they're as funny as Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert.

So, in this episode, Kurtz runs a clip of these "KSFO" hosts making stupid noises as if they're frying the NY Times editor in an electric chair... and then the show gets really good. Kurtz talks about this blogger named "Spocko" (those bloggers really do have funny outer-space names, don't they?) and starts talking to these other bloggers.

Like I said, the writers of this show really understand how important irony is in satire. Right after Kurtz plays the clip of these guys calling for the NY Times editor to be fried to a crisp for publishing a newspaper, Kurtz gets in this guy Mike Stark's face for being against free speech! Hilarious!

And he has this right-winger on there to claim that these "KSFO" hosts were being "misrepresented" after the audio they themselves broadcasted was played. Genuis! The writers of "Reliable Sources" truly understand the Orwellian methods of the right. I mean, they nailed it!

Before you know it, Kurtz is claiming they called Barak Obama a "half-rican" and in an Alice-in-Wonderland moment, Kurtz asks if maybe it's satire. Like a play within a play. Brilliant!

I think the show kind of went downhill from there, to be honest. They start talking about killing millions of Muslims... I understand what they were trying to do, but I think they need to stick with the punchy humor. When they got back to the lefty guy, Stark, holding a sign saying "Hannity sucks ass," then it picked up again.

Not bad for a first episode (at least I think it was the first episode). Hopefully, they'll straighten out the problems and get into a rhythm. If they do, I think we will be watching one of the greatest satirical shows of all time. Kudos to CNN for having the guts to put this kind of comedy on the air!

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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Frank Luntz, concern troll

Terrific observations from Luntz:

  • A Republican governor becoming more popular by moving Left proves that Democrats should move Right and work across the aisle.
  • The ass-whooping the Democrats handed to the GOP last November proves America wants the parties to work together.
  • Barbara Boxer's claim that neither she nor Condoleezza Rice have a personal stake in the war is proof that she believes "a single woman without children is totally incapable of feeling emotional loss."

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How I (almost) met Jane Hamsher

DB doesn't reveal a great deal of personal information on this blog, but here's two nuggets of info:

1. I can really cook. Through the process of life, I've learned that I have many limitations, but cooking ain't one of them. I have been told on numerous occasions that my chocolate chip cookies are the best in the world. I can state -- with no doubt whatsoever -- that one of the people who has told me this is one of the most trusted people in America.

2. I have one irrational fear: hospitals. Some might say that there are many rational reasons to fear hospitals, and though I agree, there is something irrational about my fear of them. I do not fear guns, snakes, heights, small places, needles, blood, rats, spiders, homosexuals, foreigners... I'm really not afraid of anything. But I hate going to hospitals.

But after reading yesterday that Jane Hamsher would be in the hospital in my neighborhood for another day or two, I decided to put my fears aside and do what I do best. I baked a batch of 12 very large, extremely delicious, chocolate chip cookies and hiked down to St. John's to give them to Jane and any bloggers who might be paying her a visit.

But when I got to her room, there was a guy mopping the floors and an empty bed. I missed her by minutes! In fact, I think I might have seen her driving away as I was walking a few feet away from the building.

So the good news is that Jane is out! The bad news is that I'm stuck with a big batch of cookies (minus the two that Jane's nurses got). I made a batch on Friday for some friends who came to Santa Monica to join me for an Akira Kurasawa double feature at the Aero, so I've been eating them all weekend.

Well Jane, here are your cookies! Glad you're a free woman!


Saturday, January 20, 2007

Dramamine, please

DB is still digesting the video from Hillary Clinton today. But what is up with the cameraman? I got sea sick watching that thing. Did anybody else notice the pan-and-scan?


Prayers for Jane

This post is late -- overdue, really -- but DB would like to join in the public chorus wishing Jane Hamsher a speedy recovery as she battles breast cancer for the third time.

Sorry, it's so late, Jane. Get better!! (You couldn't hear it, but my local travels have taken me by St. John's and I've yelled hello as I passed by.)

Also, it cannot hurt to have one more blog pointing to Jane Hamsher's humble request for help.

UPDATE: Forgot to add Frank Black:

Once my dear is not enough
Let me tell you about Jane she's the queen of love
She’s the queen of love and she's the bane
Of we who know wherever she goes she will reign
She will reign (x2)
She reigns

Jane, she's the queen of love
Jane, she makes bumblebee love
You are the only one
Yeah that's just what you are

I've been so blue
Sleeping till noon, darling
Watching cartoons
But I could not ease the pain
I hear the phone line
And I hope that isn't you

Jane, she was my only love
Jane, and though our love is done
You are the only one
Yeah that's just what you are

Jane, she's the queen of love
Jane, she makes busybee love
You are the only one
Yeah that's just what you are

You are the only one
Yeah that's just what you are (x2)


Friday, January 19, 2007

Wrong now; never would have been right

According to Raw Story:

An ex-State Department speechwriter today told the Wall Street Journal that his former boss Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice lacked a clear understanding of modern Middle Eastern history.

The article by Neil King, Jr. takes up the tendency of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to analogize current US policy in the Middle East with America's experience during the Cold War.


"The administration's reservoir of historical analogies seems limited to the 1914-1991 period. And it's all about Europe," said Adam Garfinkle, a former Rice speechwriter who edits the foreign-policy journal The American Interest. "No one in a senior position in this administration seems to have even the vaguest notion of modern Middle Eastern history."

No doubt. And they attempted to fill the knowledge vacuum with "The Arab Mind." DB wrote about this very subject, with a specific eye on how the United States avoided a nuclear armageddon over Cuba... And why this administration would have led us directly into one.

It's not just that they're stuck in the past. They refuse to learn from it.


No line-item veto

DB went to bed last night thinking that the last post wasn't clear enough, so here is the point in a nutshell:

In the case of the signing statement regarding the opening of Americans' mail, Attorney General Gonzales claimed no Constitutional conflict. Not only did he claim the department never did an "analysis" of the president's Constitutional authority in this realm (a dubious claim, indeed), but he defended the statement by embracing other limits on the president's authority ("to preserve the authority we believe exists under FISA, under other statutes.")

So where does he get off claiming the power to accept certain grants of authority from Congress, but not further definitions of that same authority? Bush's only legitimate course of action would be to veto the entire bill. Instead, he's pretending that he has a line-item veto and instructing his subordinates to violate the law by ignoring specific parts of it.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007

Gonzales -- what a witness

DB continues to be slammed with work, but managed to catch some of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee today. It wasn't easy, though. Right from the get-go, the Attorney General was making a mockery of our legal traditions.

Other bloggers have captured the essence of the hearings, particularly the egregiousness of Gonzales' claim that the Constitution doesn't guarantee all citizens the right of Habeas Corpus. I never thought I would live to see the day when an Attorney General would say such a thing.

The highlights for this blogger were when Leahy let loose on Gonzales for shipping Canadian citizen Maher Arar to Syria to be tortured, and Sen. Feingold's entire dialog today.

But here's the first exchange between Leahy and Gonzales. This is the first of the hearing and it tells you all you need to know about the obfuscation that the Bush Administration embraces:

SEN. LEAHY: Does the president believe he has the inherent Constitutional authority to open Americans' mail without a warrant?

AG GONZALES: Sir, that... Now, you're asking me to get to an analysis, quite frankly, that the department has not done and what I would point you to is the Justice Jackson's analysis under Youngstown in terms of looking at the inherent authority of the president, looking at the inherent authority of Congress...

SEN LEAHY: But if you take...

AG GONZALES: ...and weighing those.

SEN LEAHY: If you take Youngstown, we laid out pretty clearly what the authority is following the Church Committee and FISA and everything else. Do you think the president has the authority under the AUMF, notwithstanding the requirements of the FISA Statute?

AG GONZALES: Sir, I'm not prepared to answer that question. I think for purposes of today's hearing, I think it's important for everyone to note that the pres... as far as I know... there is no ongoing physical searches of mail under the authorization...

SEN. LEAHY: So there hasn't been?

AG GONZALES: And there... to my knowledge, there hasn't been any kind of authorization to...

SEN. LEAHY: Would you know if there was?

AG GONZALES: I suspect that I would know, sir. Yes, sir.

SEN. LEAHY: Then why in heaven's name did the president feel he needed to issue this signing statement?

AG GONZALES: Sir, he issued that signing statement to preserve the authority we believe exists under FISA, under other statutes. So, when you've got the president signing a statute saying this is the only way you can engage in physical searches, the president wanted to preserve the authority you gave to him under the other statutes. That's the purpose of the signing statement.

Are we to believe that the Justice Department -- the same department that claimed the president had Constitutional and AUMF authority to tap phones -- looked at this statute, determined that it narrowed the authority Congress previously granted the president with regards to opening mail and recommended a signing statement without undertaking any analysis at all with regards to other sources of authority for the president?

And where did Gonzales get the idea that the president could "preserve" authority granted by Congress? How could he claim the president has the power to prevent a statute that says "this is the only way you can engage in physical searches" from superseding previous Congressional statutes? Unless he doesn't recognize Congress' authority to place those limits on the president. But they never did an analysis about that, right?

These signing statements are bullshit, anyway. But this tortured logic and evasiveness is just too much. And this is how the day got started.

It will take a lifetime to clean up the mess Bush has created in this country.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Prevent this

DB had a work crunch and missed all the fireworks kicked up by Jonathan Chait and Kevin Drum. But I'm still getting in on this action.


However, I also made a specific comment about preventive war: namely that the failure in Iraq doesn't especially vindicate the argument that preventive war is almost always wrong. It is almost always wrong, and the fact that Iraq was a preventive war was a good reason to oppose it. But the specific quagmire that we find ourselves in now has very little to do with the fact that the Iraq war was preventive.

First up, this argument is ridiculous because it completely eliminates the context. If a person got drunk, put on a blindfold and drove his or her car during an ice storm, it would be insane to ask if going to the store was a bad idea since there might have been a sale.

The biggest reason that the current predicament is a result of our undertaking of preventative war is that the rest of the world thought it was a bullshit reason to invade. Bush gave the world the finger when he kicked out Hans Blix and he continued to flip the world off when he said "Our people risked their lives. Friendly coalition folks risked their lives, and therefore the contracting is going to reflect that."

When the entire world thinks you are full of crap and unwilling to listen or cooperate, you're committing our fine troops to fight alone. That's what Bush did and he did it so that "the contracting" could go entirely to Halliburton and Bush's other family friends. To him, that seems "reflective" of our troops' sacrifices.

Not only are we bearing the costs and sacrifices alone, but we are missing the expertise other nations might have brought to the table. For example, we might have more than six fluent Arabic speakers in Baghdad. We might have involved at least one foreign leader who understood the difference between Shi'a Muslims and Sunnis. That might have been helpful.

With a real multinational force and the support of the world community, Iraq would not be a meat grinder and money pit for America. But then again, if Bush worked well with others, we wouldn't even be there. We'd be putting the finishing touches on a totally rebuilt Afghanistan while U.N. weapons inspectors were monitoring a WMD-free Iraq.

And hundreds of thousands of people would still be alive to see it.

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Running down a dream

Atrios writes:

Anyway, I don't really want to engage in a full argument about whether it was a "good" or "bad" war, I just find it puzzling that it's become universal conventional wisdom that it was a great and glorious thing and that anyone who disagrees obviously is a dirty fucking hippie. Through the narrow lens of American politics it's true that politicians didn't pay a price of supporting it, though I'm not really sure anyone paid the price for opposing it either, but that really has little to do with whether from a broader perspective it was a sensible thing to do, even without pointing out that maybe there was a way to stop Hussein from invading Kuwait before he did so which didn't involve military force.

DB will go on record right now saying the first Gulf War was a "bad" war because it was unnecessary and it was obvious to anybody with half a brain that Hussein was going to invade Kuwait. We did nothing to stop it.

It seems fitting today, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, to remember one more detail from the first Gulf War and how much the Bush family believes in Dr. King's message of peace. In 1990, the first Bush Administration led the United Nations to pass Security Council Resolution 678, which essentially authorized any member state to use force in Iraq if Saddam refused to leave Kuwait by a specific date. Resolution 678 is really the foundation of the authority to use force the current administration used in interpreting Resolution 1441, which led us into the current catastrophe.

They chose Jan. 15, 1991, as the deadline -- Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Clearer Than Truth

DB should probably be happy to see that conservatives are beginning to ask questions and are trying to learn lessons from the failures of their movement, which are abundant. It's probably too much to ask that they ask the right questions and learn the right lessons.

Once again, with thousands of lives lost, millions of families destroyed and billions of dollars down the drain, it's all about them. And hippies.

Rod Dreher is as conservative as it gets -- a contributor to National Review and the Corner, a current columnist for The Dallas Morning News, a self-described "practicing Christian and political conservative."

Today, Dreher has an extraordinary (oral) essay at NPR in which he recounts how the conduct of President Bush (for whom he voted twice) in the Iraq War (which he supported) is causing him to question, really to abandon, the core political beliefs he has held since childhood.


I had a heretical thought for a conservative - that I have got to teach my kids that they must never, ever take Presidents and Generals at their word - that their government will send them to kill and die for noble-sounding rot - that they have to question authority.

On the walk to the parking garage, it hit me. Hadn't the hippies tried to tell my generation that? Why had we scorned them so blithely?

Dreher's oral essay is highly commendable and I would encourage more like it. I certainly don't want to insult him for it.

But still... Is there any chance America's conservatives will stop soiling themselves over the Sixties? Really, what is wrong with these people? The problems facing America today are bigger than their personal hang-ups. It would be nice to see conservatives questioning something other than their playground social skills.

Lyndon Johnson famously and wrongly predicted "If we allow Vietnam to fall, tomorrow we'll be fighting in Hawaii, and next week in San Francisco."

John McCain says this time it will be different.

We left Vietnam, it was over, we just had to heal the wounds of war. We leave this place... and they'll follow us home," he said on a news show recently. "So there's a great deal more at stake."

It was bad enough that 30 years after it was made as clear as possible that the Domino Effect is a load of crap, the "grown-ups" running the country thought they could start tipping dominoes of their own in the Middle East. But now, with that total failure nearly complete, we have a fresh example, burning on our televisions in real time. And conservatives still think entire nations have the same properties as children's toys.

Johnson worried "what will happen to the other hundred little countries" if we didn't keep trying to prop up the South Vietnamese government. Yesterday, on KCRW's "Left, Right & Center," Tony Blankley responded to a question about what could go wrong if the U.S. pulled out of Iraq:

Nobody can predict. But an awful lot of experts who are not supporters of the president think there's a high likelihood that if civil war breaks out completely and were not there to contain it in any way, that Turkey will get sucked into Kurdistan, that Syria will be lapping over to support the Shias, that the Saudis, Egyptians and other Sunni countries will be giving more and more support to the beleaguered Sunni 20 percent. And in the middle of all this of course is little Israel, which according to the London Times last week, a paper of some repute having been in business for a few centuries, that they have a plan, not that they're necessarily planning to execute, they have a plan to use nuclear weapons to destroy Iran's nuclear capabilities. Now, you can't... you know, plus 19 million barrels of oil flowing through the Hormuz Straights, keeping the world's economy functioning, all in jeopardy, the Saudi oil fields, which are unfortunately for the Saudis or those Sunni country, the Shias happen to live on the Saudi oil, the danger there... so that is the most flammable possible setting.

Robert Scheer responded by asking what criminals running the country could have possibly thought it would be a good idea to set that in motion? He also pointed out that nobody is suggesting that we just pull out in 24 hours, screaming and running as fast as we can.

Finally, Scheer noted that smart people think the answer is, as the Iraq Study Group suggested, to "stop demonizing" all these other countries and start trying to work with them.

Yesterday, DB wrote about Dean Acheson, the Cold War and the neocon's dangerous and ridiculous belief that "Arabs only understand force." It's clear that the Cheney Administration is incapable of seeing the world as anything other than full of demons. But getting the public to stop thinking like Cheney is going to be a tall order.

Acheson is famous for a lot of things he did and said, but one of his quotes stands out above most -- Acheson said he advised Harry Truman, during the Cold War, to paint a picture of the world that was "clearer than truth."

Clearer than truth is a concept that our current government has embraced more than any other. Dreher is wise to be reconsidering the blind faith with which he has accepted Bush and Cheney's pronouncements. It is obvious that other conservatives aren't even ready to get as far as he has. But DB has serious doubts about the extent of his and others' epiphanies.

When I was a teenager, I was stunned to hear my grandmother explain to me that she "would never buy a Japanese car because of the war." Even though my grandfather was in the Pacific, I never heard a single pronouncement like that. No sentiments like that about any group of people from any member of my family. Ever. To this day, that statement is singular in my recollections of all my conversations with her or any of my relatives, which is probably why it has stuck with me.

In his excellent book, "War Without Mercy," historian John Dower writes about the demonization of the Japanese during WWII. Calling them "Japs," cartooning them as monkeys with thick glasses, treating them as sub-human... It was all part of the war machine. And when the war ended, so did all the institutionalized hatred, just like that (finger snap). But decades later, you still wouldn't see my grandmother piloting a Toyota.

I wonder if even the conservatives who get as far as questioning their leaders will ever get to the point where they can consider having a civil conversation with the countries we fear the most. In a never-ending war on terror, orchestrated by a cabal that thinks that Arabs can uniformly be defeated with sexual shame, I wonder if the American public will ever have a chance to think more clearly than "clearer than truth" as we interact with the rest of the world.

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Friday, January 12, 2007

The Neocon Mind

DB has never been an enormous fan of former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, but he deserves credit for one immeasurably large contribution to all mankind. If he didn't have a level head for at least a few days in October 1962, there's a pretty good chance that the world might have ended. McNamara was the main proponent of the U.S. blockade of Cuba during the Missile Crisis.

When it was discovered that the Soviet Union was delivering nuclear weapons to Cuba, President Kennedy called his closest advisors to a series of meetings. In his Executive Committee (EXCOMM) meetings, Kennedy discussed the options. If you want to hear what it sounds like when the President of the United States is considering "trading Berlin" during a "nuclear exchange" (and if you have time to download a 130MB MP3), click here. It's fairly disquieting.

Attorney General Robert Kennedy wrote in "Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis" that the Russians were a week away from having the ability to kill 80 million Americans within minutes. What Kennedy did not know at the time was that there were already operational nuclear weapons installed there (and that Cuban President Fidel Castro would implore Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to launch them during the crisis).

On Oct. 18, the EXCOMM met to come up with their plan:

The members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were unanimous in calling for immediate military action. They forcefully presented their view that the blockade would not be effective. General Curtis LeMay, Air Force Chief of Staff, argued strongly with the President that a military attack was essential. When the President questioned what the response of the Russians might be, General LeMay assured him there would be no reaction. President Kennedy was skeptical. "They, no more than we, can let these things go by without doing something. They can't, after all their statements, permit us to take out their missiles, kill a lot of Russians, and then do nothing. If they don't take action in Cuba, they certainly will in Berlin."


Former Secretary of State Dean Acheson began attending our meetings, and he was strongly in favor an air attack. I was a great admirer of his. In 1961, President Kennedy asked him to prepare a report for the National Security Council recommending a course of action to deal with the Russian threat to Berlin. Listening to his presentation then, I had thought to myself that I had never heard anyone so lucid and convincing and would never wish to be on the other side of an argument with him. Now he made his arguments that an air attack and invasion represented our only alternative in the same clear and brilliant way. He said that the President of the United States had the responsibility for the security of the people of the United States and of the whole free world, that it was his obligation to take the only action which could protect that security, and that that meant destroying the missiles.

There are apparently no tapes or transcripts of the meetings with Dean Acheson, only an extremely lonely-sounding JFK describing Acheson's position (6MB MP3).

[INTERESTING SIDE NOTE: If there is anybody on earth who could brag to know the most about these tapes and transcripts, it might be Philip Zelikow, whose recent departure from the State Department figures prominently in Sidney Blumenthal's important story about the irrelevancy of Condoleezza Rice this week. Zelikow was co-editor of "The Presidential Recordings: John F. Kennedy: The Great Crises", the official transcriptions of the EXCOMM meetings.]

Though there are no tapes of what Acheson said to Kennedy, the film "Thirteen Days" portrays the meeting like this:

Dean Acheson: Gentlemen, for the last fifteen years, I've fought at this table alongside your predecessors in the struggle against the Soviet. Now I do not wish to seem melodramatic, but I do wish to impress upon you a lesson I learned with bitter tears and great sacrifice. The Soviet understands only one language: action. Respects only one word: force.

It's not entirely unfair to put those words in Acheson's mouth. Acheson was Harry Truman's Secretary of State and was an important player in the administration during the Korean War, about which Truman later commented "The conclusion that I had come to was that force was the only language that the Russian dictatorship could understand."

Fortunately, Acheson and the Joint Chiefs did not win the debate over Cuba. If they had, the human race today would probably consist of a handful of mutants in mineshafts.

When Seymour Hersh wrote his stunning article about Abu Ghraib in 2004, it contained this disturbing passage (among many):

The notion that Arabs are particularly vulnerable to sexual humiliation became a talking point among pro-war Washington conservatives in the months before the March, 2003, invasion of Iraq. One book that was frequently cited was "The Arab Mind," a study of Arab culture and psychology, first published in 1973, by Raphael Patai, a cultural anthropologist who taught at, among other universities, Columbia and Princeton, and who died in 1996. The book includes a twenty-five-page chapter on Arabs and sex, depicting sex as a taboo vested with shame and repression. "The segregation of the sexes, the veiling of the women... and all the other minute rules that govern and restrict contact between men and women, have the effect of making sex a prime mental preoccupation in the Arab world," Patai wrote. Homosexual activity, "or any indication of homosexual leanings, as with all other expressions of sexuality, is never given any publicity. These are private affairs and remain in private." The Patai book, an academic told me, was "the bible of the neocons on Arab behavior." In their discussions, he said, two themes emerged- "one, that Arabs only understand force and, two, that the biggest weakness of Arabs is shame and humiliation."

Much has been written already to discredit "The Arab Mind." Its absurd reduction of millions of people to a cartoon stereotype has already led to Americans building naked pyramids of Iraqis. But even though Bush called Abu Ghraib the biggest mistake of the war last June, as Dibgy notes, the U.S. Marines are still encouraged to read this garbage.

But there is something disturbing on that reading list, which is that the top recomendation for staff sergeants and first lieutenants --- the leaders who generally have the most face to face contact with the locals --- is that piece of trash "The Arab Mind." I had thought that it was only considered a bible by the senior brass. I didn't know they were having the troops read it too. No wonder things have gone so badly.

This is another in a long line of errors, but it points to one of the biggest motivations for this invasion and occupation --- racism. There were far too many people who were willing to believe that when it came to teaching the world who's boss, any arab would do. This book helped create the sense that arabs are all alike and that they are just a little bit less evolved than we purebred (hah!) Americans.

They're still encouraged to read it because the people running America still think it's the bible. To Dick Cheney and his cabal, Arabs only understand force.

So here we are today, on the brink of a war with Iran. Our nation (and Israel) considering using tactical nukes. An administration convinced the enemy only understands force and we must escalate and expand a war we are losing because any sign of weakness will "embolden" them.

A regional conflict which some in Washington have described as having the potential to become a "miniature Armageddon" or "potential World War III" and an administration comprised entirely of neocons.

There's nobody even as level-headed as Robert Freaking McNamara, nor is George W. Bush remotely as smart as John F. Kennedy.

God help us all.

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

The AUMF that never was

While Mitch McConnell continues to whine about "micromanagement" and the Bush Administration moves closer to war with Iran and Syria, DB once again feels it is time to remember an essential part of the Iraq story.

Despite the Administration's claims that the Authorization to Use Military Force in Iraq gives them the justification to expand the war throughout the region, the truth is that Bush already asked Congress for that authority and was totally rejected.

Sec. Rice told Congress today, as she did back on Oct. 19, 2005, that the administration basically has the authority to fight in other countries in the region. In 2005, she did not want to "circumscribe" the president's Constitutional authority. Today, she did not want to "abridge" his authority. Biden stated as clearly as he could that he was certain Bush was never authorized to attack Syria or Iran.

While most Americans will recall that in 2002*, just as then-NSA Rice was falsely telling the American people that Iraq was helping al-Qaeda with chemical weapons, the Bush Administration asked Congress to authorize military action in Iraq.

But that's not the entire story. What has been largely forgotten by the media is that that particular request sent to Congress was the second draft. The first draft was sent to the Hill a week earlier and never even made it as far as a vote.

Why was the first attempt to get permission to go to war rejected so quickly? Well, for starters, it didn't even ask Bush to pretend like he cared about getting U.N. weapons inspectors into Iraq. The second draft did, and Bush operated on his usual level of bad faith, kicking those weapons inspectors out to rush us into this unfortunate disaster.

But there was another, crucial reason why the first go at an AUMF didn't stand a chance: It was not limited to Iraq.

Even U.S. lawmakers who support authorization of use of force said they do not like the last line of the draft resolution, which says that "force" should be used against "the threat posed by Iraq, and restore international peace and security in the region."

That line, say some members of Congress, is too vague and could allow the president to use force in other Mideast nations beyond Iraq.

"That is probably a bit ambitious," said Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Indiana. "Would this authorize an invasion of Iran? Or how about Syria? They're in the region. I think we ought to stay focused here, and that is staying focused on Iraq."

The language could lead to a "miniature Armageddon" or "potential World War III," claimed Democratic Rep. Alcee Hastings, who said he will write an alternative resolution with fellow liberal Rep. Barney Frank, D-Massachusetts, that would place more pre-conditions on Bush before he could use force in Iraq.

The Bush Administration recognized that they were not going to be authorized to use force wherever they wanted and they conceded in the draft that actually passed.

Here's what John Kerry, for example, had to say about the AUMF as he explained, on the floor of the Senate, why he would vote for it:

I am pleased that our pressure, and the questions we have asked, and the criticisms that have been raised publicly, the debate in our democracy has pushed this administration to adopt important changes, both in language as well as in the promises that they make.

The revised White House text, which we will vote on, limits the grant of authority to the President to the use of force only with respect to Iraq. It does not empower him to use force throughout the Persian Gulf region.

And sure enough, the AUMF allows Bush to take action against Iraq and "international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations or persons who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorists attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001."

Is Rice going to start telling us that Iran was behind 9/11? It's amazing how often this administration asks for something, is denied, and then just pretends that they had the authority all along.

* Corrected typo in date (originally typed 2005)

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Dick Cheney's Hideaway

Billy Crystal (the man who likes to make people laugh, not the Bill Kristol who likes to see people kill each other) used to do an impression of Fernando Lamas on Saturday Night Live:

Saludos, my friends. How are you, darlings? It is so lovely to be back, here in the Hideaway. And, as you know, my friends... as you can see, the booth is empty, and I am very upset. I don't feel marvelous. I look marvelous, but I don't feel marvelous. Which is hokie-dokie for me, because, as you know, my credo is "It is better to look good than to feel good." You know what I am saying, and you know who you are.

This could pretty much sum up Bush's foreign policy. It doesn't matter how much of our money is lost in Iraq, how many limbs and souls are left there, how many problems at home are ignored while we focus on that bloodbath... It's just important to look strong to our enemies. We don't want to "embolden" them.

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Who cares what anybody thinks?

All day long, John McCain has been praised by pundits for his "courageous" position on the surge. DB agrees with Glenn Greenwald, that supporting this escalation is the only option he has left. But to take it a step further, it seems that the reason he is universally lauded by the media is that he is doing what he thinks is right, despite what other people think.

McCain could find a job in a heartbeat at a conservative think tank or with some lobbying group that feels the same way. But he's a representative in a democratic republic. Which means he's doing a crappy job.

But the contradiction that is largely ignored is this: The current policy is largely based upon how its supporters believe "the terrorists" will view our leaving "defeat in" Iraq. You cannot claim it is courageous to ignore what Americans think but appropriate to base your actions on what a bunch of fanatics half-way around the world might think.

And the worst part of that is that all the evidence in the world tells us that there's really no point in trying to influence the way they think about us. On Sept. 10, 2001, no nation in the history of the universe appeared more powerful than the United States and that didn't stop these radicals from picking a fight with us. Five years later, we've only demonstrated that there are limits to what we can accomplish. An additional 20,000 or so soldiers in Baghdad are going to finally convince the terrorists that they should learn not to mess with us? It's absurd.

This post isn't to suggest that we give up combating terror and working to make the world and our country safer. I'm just saying there's no point trying to model our behavior in a way that is intended to send some sort of message. We have a president that has essentially refused to admit obvious mistakes because of the way that would look, and yet this same administration expects to thwart our enemies' efforts to declare victories?

In the meantime, if our representative government feels like worrying about what somebody thinks about its actions, shouldn't it be our concerns that guide it?

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Joke Lyin'

So Joe Klein fixed the broken link in his sophomoric challenge to the "illiberal leftists" on the blog-o-sphere. He linked to that article to prove he was against the war since 2002.

Other bloggers, like BooMan have noted that Klein had many opportunities to come out passionately against the war when it would have counted, but instead chose to call it the "right decision."

DB has nothing to add except this: That article is not even close to an example of war opposition. It just says there are (were) enough question marks to justify a debate and that politicians should be obligated to express whatever doubts they have, as Al Gore did.

If DB writes "Joe Klein's books should be in the library," that in no way means this blogger thinks anybody ought to read them.

Because I don't.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

It's about time

Congrats to the House (and America) for passing a bill to enact the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. Readers of this blog will know there is one particular area DB is particularly happy to see improved: Interoperable communications systems for our first responders.

When Republicans like Sen. Ted Stevens were in charge, it looked like first responders were going to risk their lives in dangerous situations without the right equipment until at least 2009, probably 2012... Eleven years after 9/11 and 16 years after Congress was explicitly warned that communications were inadequate at the Federal Building in OK City and the World Trade Center, bombed in 1993.

Well, the jury is still out on when that equipment will arrive and our first responders will be trained to use it, but at least there's some motion today. It looks like the ball is now in DHS' court, so we'll see how that works out.

Relevant text from the bill follows:


(a) Establishment- Title V of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (6 U.S.C. 311 et seq.) is amended by adding at the end the following new section:


`(a) Establishment- The Secretary, acting through the Director of the Office of Grants and Training and in coordination with the Director for Emergency Communications, shall establish the Improve Communications for Emergency Response Grant Program to make grants to States and regions to carry out initiatives to improve interoperable emergency communications, including initiatives to achieve solutions to statewide, regional, national, and, where appropriate, international interoperability.

`(b) Use of Grant Funds- A State or region receiving a grant under this section may use the grant for short-term or long-term goals for improving interoperable emergency communications, including interoperability within that State or region, and to assist with--

`(1) statewide or regional communications planning;

`(2) design and engineering for interoperable emergency communications systems;

`(3) procurement and installation of interoperable emergency communications equipment;

`(4) interoperable emergency communications exercises;

`(5) modeling and simulation exercises for operational command and control functions;

`(6) technical assistance and training for interoperable emergency communications; and

`(7) other activities determined by the Secretary to be integral to interoperable emergency communications.

`(c) Region Defined- For the purposes of this section, the term `region' means any combination of contiguous local government units, including such a combination established by law or mutual aid agreement between two or more local governments or governmental agencies.'.

(b) Authorization of Appropriations- There is authorized to be appropriated to the Secretary of Homeland Security for grants under section 522 of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, as added by subsection (a)--

(1) such sums as may be necessary for the first fiscal year that begins after the later of--

(A) the date on which the Secretary of Homeland Security completes and submits to Congress the National Emergency Communications Plan required under section 1802 of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (6 U.S.C. 572);

(B) the date on which the Secretary of Homeland Security completes and submits to Congress the first baseline interoperability assessment required under section 1803 of such Act (6 U.S.C. 573); or

(C) the date on which the Secretary of Homeland Security, after consultation with the Director of Emergency Communications, determines and notifies Congress that substantial progress has been made towards the development and promulgation of voluntary consensus-based interoperable communications standards pursuant to section 1801(c)(11) of such Act (6 U.S.C. 571(c)(11)); and

(2) such sums as may be necessary for each subsequent fiscal year.

(c) Clerical Amendment- The table of contents in section 1(b) of that Act is amended by inserting after the item relating to section 521 the following:

`Sec. 522. Improve Communications for Emergency Response Grant Program.'.

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More 'micromanaging' rhetoric

After reading the ridiculous comment by Sen. Joe Biden, regarding the "micromanaging" of the war by Congress, DB set out to find other Congress members willing to use that lame excuse to abdicate their Constitutional obligations. At HuffPo, Paul Abrams also points out how bankrupt this idea really is:

In order to explain this nonsense, Biden-Snow abuse the meaning of the word, "micromanage". The President is Commander-in-Chief, so the doctrine goes, and thus anything to do with the war is the President's bailawick, and to enact restrictions would be to micromanage.

Consider another area where the President had broad authority, the conduct of foreign policy. Can Congress not determine how much money will be spent on an embassy in a particular country? Can Congress not determine whether to spend any money at all on an embassy in that country? Can the President just authorize an embassy to be built without getting the money appropriated by Congress?

It's worth noting that the use of the word "micromanaging" in relation to a war is usually directed at the civilian leadership (the President and Secretary of Defense) when critics believe the military leadership is being hindered by interference from Washington. Here we have a case of President Bush replacing his military leaders with generals who will be willing to follow his unpopular decisions... And the only people talking about micromanagement are the representatives asked by the American people to end this madness.

So which senators and representatives, in addition to Biden, are bailing completely on their responsibilities this way?

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell used the word three times while talking to Brit Hume on Sunday.

The Boot Full of Hammers representing Texas, Senator John Cornyn, also chimes in: "We can't have 535 members of Congress micromanaging the war."

Lyndsey Graham gets in on the action, too:

"I think it would be a monumental mistake if the Congress of the United States tries to micromanage this war, said Graham. "Any effort by Congress to control troops levels and cut off funding for those in harms way, I think would run again the advice of the new military leadership on the ground.

"One thing I know for sure is that you'll never win any war with 535 commanders in chief, he said.

On the other side of the issue, in the NY Times, Rep. John Murtha doesn't simply reject the idea that a refusal to fund an escalation is micromanaging:
"They will say we're micromanaging the Defense Department. Well they need to be micromanaged, he said. "What we decide is the direction of the country on this war."

In a recent CBS poll, Americans were asked "Who[m] do you trust to do a better job handling the situation in Iraq: Bush or the Democrats in Congress?" The results were a lopsided 56-32 in favor of Congress. CNN just reported that 61 percent of Americans oppose this escalation.

Perhaps these realities aren't enough to convince Biden and Co. to take an active lead in most important issue of the day. But are there really no circumstances in which the co-equal legislative branch of the U.S. government would assert itself to reign in a disastrous policy?

UPDATE Via Glenn Greenwald, DB discovered that a much smarter blogger than I, Marty Lederman, made essentially the same points I made in the post below... and a day earlier:

There is nothing in the Constitution about "micromanagement;" there is no reason in the world why a Democrat in Congress (Biden) should be arguing for Bush's plenary power; there are clearly circumstance when Congress would have no choice but to use its powers to limit the president's reckless actions; the idea that the founders would devise a system of checks and balances, but secretly aspire to create an unstoppable Commander in Chief is really, really stupid.

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Biden, take away Bush's credit cards

Over at TPM, Josh Marshall ends an excellent post with the following:

And yet, with all this, the president has ignored the Congress, not consulted the 110th Congress in any real way, has ignored the now longstanding views of the majority of the country's citizens and wants to plow ahead with an expansion of his own failed and overwhelmingly repudiated policy. The need for Congress to assert itself in such a case transcends the particulars of Iraq policy. It's important to confirm the democratic character of the state itself. The president is not a king. He is not a Stuart. And one more Hail Mary pass for George W. Bush's legacy just isn't a good enough reason for losing more American lives, treasure and prestige.


You'd think that much would be clear to somebody who's spent a lifetime in the Senate, but Joe Biden, regrettably, doesn't seem to understand his role (the one he has, not the one he wants).

MR. RUSSERT: You said the other day that this is President Bush's war, and there's...

SEN. BIDEN: It is.

MR. RUSSERT: ...there's really little Democrats can do. Why not cut off funding for the war?

SEN. BIDEN: I've been there, Tim. You can't do it.


SEN. BIDEN: You can't do it. It's -- what -— because it made sense in the Constitution when you said you could cut off funding when you had no standing army. We have a standing army with a budget of hundreds of billions of dollars. You can't go in and, like a tinker toy, and play around and say, "You can't spend the money on this piece and this piece and" —- he —- able -— he'll be able to keep those troops there forever constitutionally if he wants to.

MR. RUSSERT: Why not have legislation then that would cap the number of troops in Iraq?

SEN. BIDEN: Because it's very difficult to -— it's constitutionally questionable whether or not you can do that. I think it is unconstitutional to say, "We're going to tell you you can go, but we're going to micromanage the war." When we wrote the Constitution, the intention was to give the commander in chief the authority how to use the forces, when you authorize them, to be able to use the forces. And so, look, what we have to be doing here is the president -— the only way this is going to change, Tim, and I've been saying —- I'm a broken record on this —- is when a majority of Lindsey's colleagues, Republicans, say to the president, "Mr. President, enough. We are not going to support you any more," that's when the president will begin to change his policy. That's when we begin to listen to bipartisan groups. That's when we bebin —- begin to listen to the majority of the expert opinion in this country.

What is he talking about? He's been there? When we wrote the Constitution?

First of all, when the Constitution was written, there was no billion dollar political machine called the Republican Party, upon which was bestowed the only authority to influence the diminutive mind of the president. Utah isn't even on board with Bush in Iraq anymore. But even after getting their political asses handed to them in the midterms, the GOP still has the power as far as Biden is concerned.

Why would the Constitution give Congress the power to authorize military action, but not to revoke that authorization? That's just stupid. Really, it's just stupid. Especially when you consider the fact that this particular president has used that authorization to justify violating whatever laws he's discovered to have circumvented.

Oh yeah, and Biden's in charge of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which witnessed this exchange in 2005 (when he was Ranking Minority Member, a position he's still incorrectly listed as holding):

SEN. CHAFEE: So would you agree that if anything were to occur on Syrian or Iranian soil, you would have to return to Congress to get that authorization?

SEC. RICE: Senator, I don't want to try and circumscribe presidential war powers. And I think you'll understand fully that the president retains those powers in the war on terrorism and in the war on Iraq. ...

SEN. CHAFEE: So that's a no.

SEC. RICE: Senator, I am not going to be in the position of circumscribing the president's powers.

Of course, no matter how crazy George Bush is and how far he sinks America's future in the sand, it's Congress, not the president, who should have its powers "circumscribed" by the Constitution. At least that's how Biden sees it. Is there any other way to interpret his comments?

But the real mindnumber is his absurd "micromanaging" excuse. Biden tells Russert "You can't go in and, like a tinker toy, and play around and say, 'You can't spend the money on this piece and this piece...'" but isn't that, to a certain degree, exactly what Congress is supposed to do?

And that's not even what anybody is really suggesting. Saying "no funding for additional troops" is the most macro you can possibly get. Zooming out any further is no managing whatsoever. Zero. If Biden thinks that is micromanaging, what exactly does he think Congressional oversight is supposed to be? [UPDATE: It is this.]

Simply saying (as most Americans would) "no funding for additional troops" is all anybody really expects at this point. That's not micromanaging, it's democracy in action. And it's the right thing to do.

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Happy New Year

A belated Happy New Year to Dover Bitch readers. Vacation was excellent... Got some kickass presents, didn't see Oliver North this year and DB's spectacular snowboarding wipeout did not result in a concussion.