One area in which we in the US can still stake a claim to lead the world is the politics of paranoia, as Richard Hofstadter’s immortal essay made clear. And he wasn’t just talking about your garden-variety crazies like Ben Carson or Mike Huckabee; paranoia reaches even the highest rungs of the political ladder, as Richard Nixon so admirably demonstrated.
James Forrestal, one of my favorite examples, had a long string of impressive accomplishments, from excelling at (though not graduating from) Princeton, to claiming the first flag raised by American forces at Iwo Jima (the second flag-raising was captured in the famous photograph), to pushing racial integration in the Navy when his predecessor as Secretary of the Navy died of a heart attack and he became Secretary, to becoming our first Secretary of Defense. He was famously and uncompromisingly anti-Communist and anti-Soviet, concerned that the evil represented by Communism exerted a strong pull on societies decimated by the Second World War. His belief that Communism would not cease in attacking until it had destroyed all representative government might sound a bit paranoid, but Eisenhower, with whom Forrestal consulted during the War, apparently wrote in his personal diary that he “never had cause to doubt the accuracy” of Forrestal’s judgments on the issue. That level of paranoia, in other words, was pretty normal in those days.
After the war, Forrestal urged Truman to take a hard line with the Soviets over Poland. He also strongly influenced the new Wisconsin Senator, Joseph McCarthy, concerning infiltration of the government by Communists. Upon McCarthy’s arrival in Washington in December 1946, Forrestal invited him to lunch. In McCarthy’s words, “Before meeting Jim Forrestal I thought we were losing to international Communism because of incompetence and stupidity on the part of our planners. I mentioned that to Forrestal. I shall forever remember his answer. He said, ‘McCarthy, consistency has never been a mark of stupidity. If they were merely stupid, they would occasionally make a mistake in our favor.’ This phrase struck me so forcefully that I have often used it since.”
In the end Forrestal was asked to resign as SecDef and was quietly transferred to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda where the cover of his psychiatric diagnosis of depression could be maintained. For the same reason they placed him on the 16th floor. Unfortunately, his body was later found on the roof of the third floor, with some reports claiming a bathrobe sash cord was tied around his neck. While he had never been given an official diagnosis of paranoia, it was rumored that he harbored a physical and individualized fear that Communists were coming to get him. On the other hand, given his opposition to the partitioning of Palestine it is likely that he was in fact being followed, though probably not by Communists.
Poor guy, and what a paranoid and inaccurate conception of the world! To imagine that your putative enemy is so powerful that they never make mistakes and are completely consistent, properties unknown to human organizations or even individuals. They are aggressive and relentless, and the complete destruction of your way of governing and thus of your culture is their only motivation. They are not, in short, human, but simultaneously both superhuman and subhuman. And to imagine this was true of the Soviets, who lost an entire generation of men, had been reduced to poverty nearly everywhere, and were struggling to feed their people and rebuild their devastated country! But paranoia builds its own sorts of reverse-Potemkin villages.
If only Forrestal had lived in the time of gyrocoptors! But his spirit lives on in the senior Senator from South Carolina.
“He should have been subject to being shot out of the sky,” Graham said. “I don’t know why he wasn’t, but our nation is under siege. Radical Islam is a threat to our home land. There are probably radical Islamic cells in our backyard already.”
“If somebody is willing to, you know, approach vital government infrastructure, they should do so at their own peril,” Graham continued.
Even the Washington Times couldn’t swallow that one whole: “The small vehicle was unarmed and likely would not make a formidable weapon, even if used kamikaze-style.”
This man has a vote on serious matters. Or would if the Republican Congress ever made an effort to address its responsibilities. In practice, however, so little happens in the Senate that Lindsey gets antsy, talks of running for President, and starts singing war chants with his BFF.
Which way’s the boogeyman comin’ from, Senators?
You’ve got to be incredibly delusional to come up with a policy that puts Nobel Peace Prize winner Henry Kissinger and Noam Chomsky on the same side of an issue. But Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama has managed to pull it off. Read this by Kevin Zeese in Mint Press News. Excerpt:
The views of Henry Kissinger and Noam Chomsky on this conflict are quite similar, though it’s difficult to find two more polar opposites regarding U.S. foreign policy. Indeed, Chomsky has been a long-time critic of Kissinger for the bombings in Southeast Asia and the various coups against democratic leaders that occurred during his tenure. Chomsky has said that in a just world, Kissinger certainly would have been prosecuted for these actions. (These were the war crimes that CODEPINK recently protested before the Senate Finance Committee.)
Yet when it comes to Ukraine, Chomsky and Kissinger essentially agree with each other. They disagree with the more hawkish Obama administration and the even more extreme Sen. John McCain — who are both escalating the conflict in their own ways.
The original sin in this whole terrifying mess was our decision to act like a bunch of drunken Patriot fans when Gorbachev decided to end the Cold War in 1989. It wasn’t enough to win the game. We had to tear down the goal posts and beat up Seahawk fans in the parking lot. Which is to say we set out immediately to expand NATO and the European Union right up to Russia’s borders. A quarter century later we are still doing it, which is why Obama touched off the present conflagration by overthrowing Ukraine’s elected president and installing a US/NATO stooge. You could look it up.
Jim Wright at Stonekettle Station. Go here to appreciate fully the double bind he applies to the torture lovers of the GOP.
You know, it’s goddamned appalling that you actually have to torture a Republican to get them to act like a decent moral human being, to live up the morals and the ideals and the exceptionalism that we, the United States of America, that shining city on the hill, are supposed to represent.
John McCain the POW gets no credit from me for coming out against torture.
Here’s a small part of Jim Wright’s advice to the warhogs currently polluting the airwaves. For the full cathartic, go here.
What’s the goal? What’s the objective? Is it to end terrorism? Is it to enforce peace at the muzzle of a gun? Is it it to make defense contractors rich? Is it for jobs? Or is it for magic flying bunnies who shoot rainbows and cheap gasoline out of their little assholes to the sound of Yankee Doodle Dandy?
Or, or, is it just because you hate Barack Obama?
That’s it, isn’t it?
You sons of bitches one and all, you simpering capering madmen, this time at least have the courage to face the cameras, to look into America’s eyes, and tell them that their sons and daughters will be dying because you John McCain, because you Mitt Romney, because you Dick Cheney, because you Donald Rumsfeld, because you George W. Bush you lying bastard, because you conservatives hate Barack Obama and for no other reason. Go on, tell us, go on. Wave your little flags and beat your fleshy chests, roll out the marching bands and tell us just how many more American soldiers should die. Go on, put a number on it. Ten? A hundred? Fifty four thousand? How many of us have to die? How many more bodies will it take to satiate your mindless hunger for blood and revenge? How many more American lives are worth your insane hatred of the president? How many? How much further into debt should we drive our nation, another trillion dollars? Two? Ten? A hundred? Put a price on it you insane sons of bitches, go on, give me a number, write me a check. Tell me how much you’re willing to pay, show me the goddamned money. How many more years? How many? One? Five? Another decade? Fifty? What is it? Don’t wave your hands and make some vague prognostication, give me a number, how many lives, how much money, how many years? You look us in the eye and you fucking tell us…
I now count myself an early adherent to the life school of Ron Kaplan, chief executive of Trex, a manufacturer of outdoor decks. In today’s New York Times, he was asked, “How do you know which people to make your allies?” He replied, “By watching and listening. When people speak, you measure the variance between what they tell you is going to happen and what actually happens. The smaller the variance, the greater the credibility…”
This may at first strike you as a fancy restatement of the obvious, as it did me. But then I thought of the many pundits whose oracular certainties appear and reappear without end — yet are almost invariable proven wrong as to Mr. Kaplan’s “what actually happens.” I thought of Exhibit One, William Kristol, on the Iraq invasion and on the Affordable Care Act, to name two of many topics. I thought of the Times’s columnist Thomas Friedman on pretty much everything. I thought of the pompous talking-head David Gergen, and of the bloodthirsty military strategists John McCain and Lindsay Graham. Wrong, wrong, wrong time and again — but their confident predictions and prescriptions nevertheless continue to pop up time and again as VSPs (very serious pronouncements).
The Kaplan Principle seems therefore not to be obvious at all … and in any case its application is underutilized. Vastly. I have come to realize, as well, that under another banner the principle has been around for a while. In Western New York, where I grew up, we just disregarded someone who was wrong most of the time as being full of shit.
Can’t say I’ve searched the entire narrow span of the MSM, but this is the first major mention I’ve come across of the remote possibility that the United States might in some minuscule fashion if you viewed the matter from just the right angle hold some microscopic measure of responsibility under certain circumstances perhaps not totally unimaginable for the present mess in Crimea. From the New York Times, and good for them:
…Safeguarding this maritime muscle may well have been one reason President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia sent armed forces to seize Crimea. But is it possible that the Sevastopol base is just the most concrete manifestation of Russia’s deep interests in Ukraine that the United States and its NATO allies either ignored or forgot as they tried to bind it more tightly with the West?
For years, Mr. Putin has complained about the West moving unilaterally to reorder the Continental balance of power — promoting Western capitalism and democracy — with little indication anyone was heeding his concerns. Its courting of Ukraine, apparently, was a step too far, prompting Mr. Putin to risk sanctions and the worst conflict since the Cold War to make clear that Washington and its friends do not call all of the shots anymore…
Read the rest and then forward it to the idiot McCain and Graham, care of any of the Sunday talk shows.
In contradistinction to silly blabbermouths like John McCain and Lindsay Graham, Jack F. Matlock, Jr. actually knows a thing or two (or millions) about Russia, Crimea, and the Ukraine. Seeing as how he was Reagan’s ambassador to the Soviet Union, you’d think he’d be all over Fox News these days. Here’s why he isn’t:
Well, I think that what we have seen is a reaction, in many respects, to a long history of what the Russian government, the Russian president and many of the Russian people — most of them — feel has been a pattern of American activity that has been hostile to Russia and has simply disregarded their national interests. They feel that having thrown off communism, having dispensed with the Soviet Empire, that the U.S. systematically, from the time it started expanding NATO to the east, without them, and then using NATO to carry out what they consider offensive actions about an — against another country — in this case, Serbia — a country which had not attacked any NATO member, and then detached territory from it — this is very relevant now to what we’re seeing happening in Crimea — and then continued to place bases in these countries, to move closer and closer to borders, and then to talk of taking Ukraine, most of whose people didn’t want to be a member of NATO, into NATO, and Georgia.
Now, this began an intrusion into an area which the Russians are very sensitive. Now, how would Americans feel if some Russian or Chinese or even West European started putting bases in Mexico or in the Caribbean, or trying to form governments that were hostile to us? You know, we saw how we virtually went ballistic over Cuba. And I think that we have not been very attentive to what it takes to have a harmonious relationship with Russia…
You see, in the Orange Revolution in Kiev, foreigners, including Americans, were very active in organizing people and inspiring them. Now, you know, I have to ask Americans: How would Occupy Wall Street have looked if you had foreigners out there leading them? Do you think that would have helped them get their point across? I don’t think so. And I think we have to understand that when we start directly interfering, particularly our government officials, in the internal makeup of other governments, we’re really asking for trouble…
Now, what have we been telling the Ukrainians, the Georgians — at least some of us, officials? “Just hold on. You can join NATO, and that will solve your problems for you.” You know, and yet, it is that very prospect, that the United States and its European allies were trying to surround Russia with hostile bases, that has raised the emotional temperature of all these things. And that was a huge mistake. As George Kennan wrote back in the ’90s when this question came up, the decision to expand NATO the way it was done was one of the most fateful and bad decisions of the late 20th century.
The current alleged crisis over the “scandal” of Benghazi is obviously totally political, devoid of merit, of both good sense and facts.
The real facts, from a top CIA source, are: circa 2011, our guys got wind of the fact that an al Qaeda-linked cell was forming in Benghazi, Libya. So we put three agents in the U.S. consulate to use paid informers to identify the cell’s members and their “house” address — which they did — and to track back to their origins and network connections.
The problem with using paid informers, of course, is that intelligence can flow both ways. So the Benghazi cell learned about the presence of our guys, too. Then, in September 2012, taking advantage of the smokescreen of Libyan civil unrest (the so-called Arab Spring uprising), when the host country security services were fully occupied with the rioting going on in the streets, the cell members attacked our consulate preemptively, with rockets and other weapons. The limited U.S. security personnel at the compound were not in a position to prevent the attack. These are the facts. What followed is history, exaggerated by useless commentary.
Susan Rice knew nothing of all of this, of course, so she was given a text prepared for the State Department by the CIA, who quite rightly did not want to call attention to the cell connection — because they were still tracking down the source network. So the text was intentionally vague, and Rice read it, as she should. That’s it. There was and is no “crisis” and no “scandal.”
It was — and still is — totally counterproductive for would-be Congressional “patriots,” Fox News, and other irresponsible critics to harp on Benghazi, because it draws attention to methods of counterintelligence operations for tracking terrorist networks that are still in use. Note also: some of these critics are among those who would deny funding to better protect our embassies and consulates around the world.
Whatever we may think about the CIA, the fact is that they are out there risking their lives to anticipate, assess, and counter real acts of terrorism — by lawful means, we hope. The last thing we need is for self-styled “super patriots,” in trying to damage Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, to weaken the security of America in the process.
Rand Paul, Lindsey Graham, and Dick Cheney — draft dodgers and combat avoiders all — are hardly the ones to listen to for advice on military matters. But we should expect something a little better of John McCain, who has shown an occasional ability actually to think about certain issues. If he bothered to think about Benghazi, he would realize how counterproductive and damaging his harping on this particular issue really is to America’s security interests.
From Candice Millard’s new book, Destiny of the Republic, on the assassination of President James A. Garfield:
Inexplicably, it seemed that the only cause for which Garfield would not fight was his own political future. In an early-adopted eccentricity that would become for him a central “law of life,” he refused to seek an appointment or promotion of any kind. “I suppose that I am morbidly sensitive about any reference to my own achievements,” he admitted. “I so much despise a man who blows his own horn, that I go to the other extreme.” From his first political campaign, he had sternly instructed his backers that “first, I should make no pledge to any man or any measures; second, I should not work for my own nomination.” The closest he had come to even admitting that he was interested in a political office was to tell his friends, when a seat in the U.S. Senate became available in 1879, that “if the Senatorship is thus to be thrown open for honorable competition, I should be sorry to be wholly omitted from consideration in that direction.” After a landslide victory, his campaign’s expenses amounted to less than $15o.
When it came to the presidency, Garfield simply looked the other way. He spent seventeen years in Congress, and every day he saw men whose desperate desire for the White House ruined their careers, their character, and their lives. “I have so long and so often seen the evil effects of the presidential fever among my associates and friends that I am determined it shall not seize me,” he wrote in his journal in February 1879. “In almost every case it impairs if it does not destroy the usefulness of its victim.”
Is John McCain coming to his senses at last? Is the old maverick risen from the grave? From Greg Sargent’s Plum Line, here’s an excerpt from a speech the senator gave today:
“With so much misinformation being fed into such an essential public debate as this one, I asked the Director of Central Intelligence, Leon Panetta, for the facts. And I received the following information:
“The trail to bin Laden did not begin with a disclosure from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times. We did not first learn from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed the real name of bin Laden’s courier, or his alias, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti — the man who ultimately enabled us to find bin Laden. The first mention of the name Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, as well as a description of him as an important member of Al-Qaeda, came from a detainee held in another country. The United States did not conduct this detainee’s interrogation, nor did we render him to that country for the purpose of interrogation. We did not learn Abu Ahmed’s real name or alias as a result of waterboarding or any ‘enhanced interrogation technique’ used on a detainee in U.S. custody. None of the three detainees who were waterboarded provided Abu Ahmed’s real name, his whereabouts, or an accurate description of his role in Al-Qaeda.
“In fact, not only did the use of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed not provide us with key leads on bin Laden’s courier, Abu Ahmed; it actually produced false and misleading information. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed specifically told his interrogators that Abu Ahmed had moved to Peshawar, got married, and ceased his role as an Al-Qaeda facilitator — which was not true, as we now know. All we learned about Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti through the use of waterboarding and other ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ against Khalid Sheik Mohammed was the confirmation of the already known fact that the courier existed and used an alias.
“I have sought further information from the staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and they confirm for me that, in fact, the best intelligence gained from a CIA detainee — information describing Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti’s real role in Al-Qaeda and his true relationship to Osama bin Laden — was obtained through standard, non-coercive means, not through any ‘enhanced interrogation technique.’
“In short, it was not torture or cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of detainees that got us the major leads that ultimately enabled our intelligence community to find Osama bin Laden. I hope former Attorney General Mukasey will correct his misstatement. It’s important that he do so because we are again engaged in this important debate, with much at stake for America’s security and reputation. Each side should make its own case, but do so without making up its own facts.”
From the New York Times:
But Mr. McCain took time on the Senate floor on Tuesday morning to profusely praise Mr. Feingold, who lost his bid for a fourth term this month to Ron Johnson, a Republican businessman. “The Senate will be a much poorer place without Russ Feingold in it,” said Mr. McCain, who detailed their disagreements — specifically over the war in Iraq — and the civility with which they debated them.
“I will sorely miss his presence here,” Mr. McCain said. “I will miss the daily reminder of what a blessing it is to have a true friend in Washington.”
His voice sometimes seemingly choked with emotion as he continued: “In his time in the Senate, Russ Feingold every day and in every way had the courage of his convictions,” Mr. McCain, said adding, “I think he is one of the most admirable people I have ever met in my entire life … I don’t think he is replaceable.”
This is sad stuff. It is as if McCain were mourning not the loss of Feingold, but of his own imagined self.
It might help if Congress had a sense of humor about itself. Except for Barney Frank, nobody in our estimable House of Representative seems to have the slightest idea how funny they are — funny in a stupid, vulgar sort of way, but funny nonetheless. Congress is the Whoopee Cushion of government. Is that really funny? Well, yes — if you think Whoopee Cushions are funny.
How about the Senate: funny or not funny? Many people insist on seeing the August Body as a serious, deliberative council full of earnest public servants trying to do their best by the voters who sent them there. This is a nice conceit but ignores the obvious fact that the Senate is actually opera buffa. How can any organization that would embrace the likes of Alphonse D’Amato, Strom Thurmond, Mitch McConnell and Joe Lieberman take itself seriously? And let’s not forget John McCain, who used the last presidential contest to develop his considerable skills as a stand-up comic. The Senate is Steve Martin arrow-through-the-head funny. It is Chevy Chase pratfall-funny. It is W.C. Fields child-hating funny. The Senate is a laff riot.
The Supreme Court is something else. It has a distinct sense of humor but it doesn’t play for laughs. The court’s idea of good fun is the practical joke. A good example of what it thinks is funny is its recent ruling that corporations and unions are just the same as private individuals and can contribute as much money as they see fit to political campaigns. This subtly hilarious judgment wiped away the fruits of fifty years of legislative struggle to limit the influence of money on American politics.
The ruling on campaign contributions was a fine example of high judicial humor, the kind of well-planned prank that brings that creepy smile to John Roberts’s lips. But this stunt, however amusing, was as nothing compared to the ruling of the Rehnquist Court that gave the 2000 presidential election to George W. Bush. Now that was funny. And it was funny in a way that goes on being funny. It is still funny to the young soldiers who were blinded or lost their legs in Dubya’s Arabian adventure, itself quite a good joke. Of course we’ll never know if the thousands of soldiers who have been killed in Iraq saw the fun in it, but we can say that they would never have had the ultimate comic opportunity without the help of the Supreme Court.
This brings us to some interesting questions. Who is the funniest Supreme Court justice? John Roberts? Sam Alito? Clarence Thomas? Thomas held the title for years, but competition arrived with the appointment of Roberts and then Alito, both of whom are knee-slapping, gut-wrenching, tears-starting hilarious. Most court-watchers believe that Thomas has been eclipsed by the two newer justices not only because they are funnier but because he has run his one joke into the ground. After twenty-some years, nobody thinks a judge acting like a moron is amusing.
On the other hand, Roberts and Alito, the Abbott and Costello of the court, are not only the funniest of the justices, they are the smartest. Roberts, it is said, is so smart he will have nothing to do with any of the other justices except Alito and Scalia. Alito and Scalia are so smart they know how they are going to rule in a case without reading briefs, researching the law or listening to arguments. Roberts follows much the same judicial method.
Remarkably, they always agree, although they express their opinions in different ways. Alito shows delight by scowling while Scalia revels in judicial bad manners, interrupting and insulting the lawyers who appear before the court. Roberts smiles in a way that suggests that a small dog is biting his ankles under his robe. Laurel and Hardy were never better than this, perhaps because they lacked the nuanced comic depth one can only acquire at Harvard and Yale law school.
Well, frumps, I’ve been at this for a year now, and I must admit that writing the Frump Gazette has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my long and varied life. It has forced me to focus on the world around me in new and different ways; it has opened my eyes, ears and heart to things that slid right on by during my hustle and bustle years of working and parenting.
Best of all, I have met some truly remarkable people that I might not have otherwise met. Despite being drawn to troubling subjects, the intelligent, thought-provoking commentary and good humor of my readers have continually reassured me that all is far from lost. I have met with some modest blogging success and have expanded my audience with spots on Alternet’s “Speakeasy,” Salon.com’s Open Salon and Jerome Doolittle’s Bad Attitudes.
For a while now, I have planned to take an “anniversary” week off so that my granddaughter can teach me how to play, again. But before I do that, I would like to leave you with something to chew on that has the potential to put an end to the freewheeling forum that has become known as the Blogosphere as well as any other venue where dissent and activism currently flourish.
On March 4, 2010, Sen. John McCain introduced new legislation that he has written called the “Enemy Belligerent, Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010.” The bill is co-sponsored by Sen. Joe Leiberman making it “bipartisan” — after a fashion…
Assessing McCain’s bill in an article for Salon.com, Glenn Greenwald noted that:
“It’s probably the single most extremist, tyrannical and dangerous bill introduced in the Senate in the last several decades, far beyond the horrific, habeas-abolishing Military Commissions Act. It literally empowers the President to imprison anyone he wants in his sole discretion by simply decreeing them a Terrorist suspect — including American citizens arrested on U.S. soil. The bill requires that all such individuals be placed in military custody, and explicitly says that they ‘may be detained without criminal charges and without trial for the duration of hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners,’ which everyone expects to last decades, at least. It’s basically a bill designed to formally authorize what the Bush administration did to American citizen Jose Padilla — arrest him on U.S. soil and imprison him for years in military custody with no charges.”
For those of you who may not be familiar with Glenn Greenwald, he is a constitutional expert, a lawyer, a columnist, a blogger, and author. He worked as a constitutional and civil rights litigator prior to becoming a contributor to Salon.com, where he focuses on political and legal topics. He has also contributed to other major newspapers and political news magazines, including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The American Conservative, The National Interest, and In These Times.
His commentaries “on surveillance issues and separation of powers” have been cited in The New York Times, in The Washington Post, in United States Senate floor debates, and in House “official … reports on executive power abuses.”
In short, when Glenn Greenwald is alarmed, we should all be paying attention.
If you would like to read the bill for yourself, you’ll find it here. It’s a short read (12 pages); Republicans seem to have become great fans of brevity in their legislative endeavors lately.
Basically, the bill would establish a policy for the detention, interrogation and trial of suspected enemy belligerents who are suspected of hostilities against the United States. Such detainees would be held in military custody, interrogated for their intelligence value by High Value Intelligence Teams and pointedly would not be provided with a Miranda warning.
Here’s a relevant bit taken directly from the bill:
“The bill asks the President to determine criteria for designating an individual as a “high-value detainee” if he/she: (1) poses a threat of an attack on civilians or civilian facilities within the U.S. or U.S. facilities abroad; (2) poses a threat to U.S. military personnel or U.S. military facilities; (3) potential intelligence value; (4) is a member of al Qaeda or a terrorist group affiliated with al Qaeda or (5) such other matters as the President considers appropriate. The President must submit the regulations and guidance to the appropriate committees of Congress no later than 60 days after enactment.”
“To the extent possible, the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Team must make a preliminary determination whether the detainee is an unprivileged enemy belligerent within 48 hours of taking detainee into custody.”
“The High-Value Detainee Interrogation Team must submit its determination to the Secretary of Defense and the Attorney General after consultation with the Director of National Intelligence, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. The Secretary of Defense and the Attorney General make a final determination and report the determination to the President and the appropriate committees of Congress. In the case of any disagreement between the Secretary of Defense and the Attorney General, the President will make the determination.”
Things that “go bump in the night” about these passages:
* We are no longer referring to these “targets” as “aliens;” American citizens like you and I (and José Padilla) could now be (officially) pulled off the street and detained indefinitely
* The bill calls for the President to decide what behavior will label a person a “high-value detainee.” The bill then makes suggestions about possible criteria but ends with “or (5) such other matters as the President considers appropriate.” I have to wonder what a President Cheney or a President Palin might consider appropriate criteria for “detainment.” Perhaps anyone who might have called for the indictment of Bush/Cheney, on war crimes, would suddenly become a “high value detainee”?
* Once the criteria have been set, the Kangaroo Court is in session and the Orwellian-sounding High-Value Detainee Interrogation Team have “48 hours” to deliver a verdict. So — based on 48 hours of extra-judicial deliberation by a group who make their living being part of an “interrogation team” you, or someone you know, could be “disappeared” for quite a long time. Period.
* That “interrogation team” verdict is handed over to the Secretary of Defense and the Attorney General who make the Final Determination and hand it over to the President (who DOES NOT have a say in that determination unless DoD and DoJ bring in a split decision).
Furthermore, per the bill, such detainees can be held until the end of terrorist hostilities against the US and its Coalition allies – which, as we all know, could be a very, very long time. And wouldn’t this act be a great tool for anyone with a feverish imagination and an “enemies list”? In our overheated national security environment it shouldn’t be too awfully hard to make, say – any regular subway commuter into a terrorist suspect.
Let Me Count the Ways…
This is not one of those hair-splitting constitutional debates that go on in some rarefied legal ether. This bill is a down and dirty assault on the Constitution that has so much glaringly wrong with it that any American high-schooler could shoot it full of holes in five minutes. Here are some of its major constitutional transgressions:
Fourth Amendment 4 — Search and Seizure:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Fifth Amendment 5 — Trial and Punishment, Compensation for Takings:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger.
Sixth Amendment — Right to Speedy Trial, Confrontation of Witnesses:
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.
Eighth Amendment — Cruel and Unusual Punishment:
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Fourteenth Amendment — Citizenship Rights:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law, which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Keeping in mind that this bill was written by a United States Senator, who is sworn to uphold the Constitution, and co-sponsored by ten others (see list of co-sponsors below) – it is little wonder that the American public is thoroughly disgusted with Congress’s performance of late (approval rating is consistently around 20%). If this bill had been introduced on April 1st, I would have known what to make of it. As it stands, I have to assume that Sen. McCain’s loss of the Presidential election, the imminent repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and, now, the very real threat to even holding on to his Senate seat, has completely unhinged the man.
Here is the promised list of Co-Sponsors of the Enemy Belligerent, Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010:
Sen. Scott Brown [R, MA]
Sen. Saxby Chambliss [R, GA]
Sen. James Inhofe [R, OK]
Sen. George LeMieux [R, FL]
Sen. Joseph Lieberman [I, CT]
Sen. Jefferson Sessions [R, AL]
Sen. John Thune [R, SD]
Sen. David Vitter [R, LA]
Sen. Roger Wicker [R, MS]
These are, of course, many of the usual subjects; but I find it especially chilling to find Sen. Jeff Sessions, Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, on that list.
Now, it’s only fair to let McCain speak for himself and, to that end, here’s a link to his official letter introducing his bill to the President. Unfortunately, McCain’s rambling, finger-pointing screed doesn’t go very far in elucidating good motives for establishing a police state.
There are a number of political ways to look at this development — it could be simply a Republican effort to introduce legislation that provides an opportunity for the administration to appear wimpy by shooting it down. Who’s paying attention? Sen. McCain is just being a stand-up, ex-military patriot trying to make Americans safer but the radical Obama administration shots down anything that smacks of traditional values — right?
McCain, whose Senate seat seems to be imperiled in November, may believe that his bill will appeal to a gun-toting, xenophobic, kick-ass contingent of Arizona voters (centrism sure doesn’t seem to be working).
It could be that he believes the McClatchy-Ipsos poll, from January 2010, that found that 51 percent of Americans agree with this statement: ”it is necessary to give up some civil liberties in order to make the country safe from terrorism.”
It could be part of the GOP’s general accretion of scary material that keeps Americans wary and the defense dollars flowing until the Republican Party rises from the ashes and saves us from ourselves, once again.
Or it could just be what we’re coming to — a corporatist, militarist global concern that needs to sweep stodgy American values out of its way. The precedent for using US military inside the US occurred in 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Since then, U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) has run exercises called “Vigilant Shield” to prepare, prevent and respond to any number of national crises that would call for the use of the military inside the United States. Vigilant Shield 2008 builds a scenario of a domestic disaster in the US (terrorist attack or natural disaster). It posits the domestic use of the US military including a special role for the US Air Force.
In case anyone out there is comforted that President Obama would never sign that bill, don’t be sure. Here’s a clip from Rachel Maddow last spring that puts the lie to that false security:
I’m sure that Sen. McCain, like Liz Cheney, is just obsessed with Keeping America Safe … so why do I feel so very afraid?
It behooves us all to STFU until we figure out what’s actually happening in Iran. I’m talkin’ to you, McCain.
This from McClatchy:
TEHRAN, Iran — Supporters of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his main rival in the disputed presidential election, Mir Hossein Mousavi, massed in competing rallies Tuesday as the country’s most senior Islamic cleric threw his weight behind opposition charges that Ahmadinejad’s re-election was rigged.
“No one in their right mind can believe” the official results from Friday’s contest, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri said of the landslide victory claimed by Ahmadinejad. Montazeri accused the regime of handling Mousavi’s charges of fraud and the massive protests of his backers “in the worst way possible.”
“A government not respecting people’s vote has no religious or political legitimacy,” he declared in comments on his official Web site. “I ask the police and army personals (personnel) not to ‘sell their religion,’ and beware that receiving orders will not excuse them before God…”
Theoretically the New York Times’ new conservative columnist, Ross Douthat, is supposed to run Tuesdays, starting today. He doesn’t appear on today’s website, though. But if you search for his name, his debut column shows up — datelined yesterday. It didn’t run in yesterday’s print edition, however, nor does it appear in the Opinion section of yesterday’s web site.
So who the hell knows what’s going on? Anyway, here’s the link to that damned, elusive columnist. And below is a sample. The improvement over his predecessor, the hapless and clueless William Kristol, is already striking.
At the very least, a Cheney-Obama contest would have clarified conservatism’s present political predicament. In the wake of two straight drubbings at the polls, much of the American right has comforted itself with the idea that conservatives lost the country primarily because the Bush-era Republican Party spent too much money on social programs. And John McCain’s defeat has been taken as the vindication of this premise…
As a candidate, Cheney would have doubtless been as disciplined and ideologically consistent as McCain was feckless. In debates with Barack Obama, he would have been as cuttingly effective as he was in his encounters with Joe Lieberman and John Edwards in 2000 and 2004 respectively. And when he went down to a landslide loss, the conservative movement might — might! — have been jolted into the kind of rethinking that’s necessary if it hopes to regain power.
Here’s a terrifying look into the mind of McCain, excerpted from a Politico posting. One wonders — well, one doesn’t really wonder — just how far out of the ball park Governor Palin’s answers were.
John McCain’s lead vice presidential vetter said Friday that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin “impressed” in her interview, knocking the senator’s most important questions “out of the park.”
A.B. Culvahouse, a powerful Washington lawyer and former counsel to President Reagan, told an audience of Republican lawyers that for McCain, selecting a vice president came down to three questions: Why do you want to be vice president? Are you prepared to use nuclear weapons? And the CIA has identified Osama bin Laden, but if you take the shot there will be multiple civilian casualties. Do you take the shot?
“She knocked those questions out of the park,” he said at an event held at the National Press Club by the Republican National Lawyers Association. “We came away impressed.”
A few days ago I put up a brief bio of a pathetic specimen named Wayne Anthony Ross who is Sarah Palin’s choice to be the next attorney general of Alaska. Remember, you read it here first. Because now there’s more. Lots more.
As a general rule, you can assume that a draft dodger who drives around in a red Hummer with vanity plates reading WAR is bound to be a giant anus and you would, in this case, be spectacularly right. Palin can sure pick ’em. (As can, of course, McCain.)
Opposite Land, from the New York Times:
Most Senate Republicans remained opposed to the measure, criticizing it as a case study in excessive spending that would do little to lift the economy. Some conservatives indicated Friday night that they would push for time to study the new legislation before any final vote.
“We want to stimulate the economy, not mortgage the future of our children and grandchildren by the kind of fiscally profligate spending embodied in this legislation,” said Senator John McCain of Arizona, the defeated Republican presidential nominee, who has emerged as a chief opponent of the proposal.
Real World, from Media Matters:
Economist Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, explains: “Spending that is not stimulus is like cash that is not money. Spending is stimulus, spending is stimulus. Any spending will generate jobs. It is that simple. ... Any reporter who does not understand this fact has no business reporting on the economy.”
Unfortunately, many of the reporters who have shaped the stimulus debate don’t seem to understand that.
ABC’s Charles Gibson portrayed spending and stimulus as opposing concepts in a question to President Obama: “And as you know, there’s a lot of people in the public, a lot of members of Congress who think this is pork-stuffed and that it really doesn’t stimulate. A lot of people have said it’s a spending bill and not a stimulus…”
If there’s one fact that should be made clear in every news report about the stimulus package working its way through Congress, it is this: Government spending is stimulative.
That’s a basic principle of economics, and understanding it is essential to assessing any stimulus package. So it should be an underlying premise of the media’s coverage of the stimulus debate. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case. Indeed, reporters routinely suggest that spending is not stimulative.
Economist Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, explains: “Spending that is not stimulus is like cash that is not money. Spending is stimulus, spending is stimulus. Any spending will generate jobs. It is that simple... Any reporter who does not understand this fact has no business reporting on the economy.”
Unfortunately, many of the reporters who have shaped the stimulus debate don’t seem to understand that.
ABC’s Charles Gibson portrayed spending and stimulus as opposing concepts in a question to President Obama: “And as you know, there’s a lot of people in the public, a lot of members of Congress who think this is pork-stuffed and that it really doesn’t stimulate. A lot of people have said it’s a spending bill and not a stimulus.”
That formulation — “it’s a spending bill and not a stimulus” — is complete nonsense; it’s like saying, “This is a hot fudge sundae, not a dessert.” But nonsensical as it is, it has also been quite common in recent news reports.
There’s another problem with Gibson’s formulation, though — in describing the stimulus as a “spending bill,” he ignores the fact that the bill contains tax cuts, too. Lots and lots of tax cuts. And those tax cuts, by the way, provide less stimulus than government spending on things like food stamps and extending unemployment benefits. It probably goes without saying that Gibson didn’t ask if the bill would be more effective if the tax cuts were replaced by additional spending.
MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski, among others, has repeatedly suggested “welfare” provisions in the bill wouldn’t stimulate the economy. This is the exact opposite of true; those provisions are among the most stimulative things the government can possibly do. There are some fairly obvious reasons why that is true, beginning with the fact that if you give a poor person $100 in food stamps, you can be pretty sure they’re going to spend all $100 of it; but if you give a rich person $100 in tax cuts, they probably won’t spend much of it at all.
But we needn’t rely on logic and common sense to know that welfare spending is stimulative; economists study these things. One such economist is Mark Zandi of Moody’s Economy.com, who served as an adviser to John McCain’s presidential campaign. Zandi has produced a handy chart showing how much a variety of spending increases and tax cuts would stimulate the economy. According to Zandi, a dollar spent on increasing unemployment benefits yields $1.64 in increased gross domestic product, and a dollar spent on food stamps yields $1.73 in GDP.
As for tax cuts, Zandi says the most effective form is a payroll tax holiday. A one dollar reduction in federal revenues as a result of such a tax holiday would produce a $1.29 increase in GDP — far less than the benefit realized from extending unemployment benefits, increasing food stamps, providing general aid to state governments, or spending on infrastructure.
Yet if you turn on MSNBC any given morning, you’re likely to find Mika Brzezinski saying something like, “I want to look at the plan and how much of it is sort of welfare programs and how much are things that we know, either from history or because economic experts somehow know this, actually stimulates the economy.” Or like this: “Does this plan add up to the definition of stimulus? I don’t think it does. And I don’t question the value of food stamps and helping low-income people pay for college. It just shouldn’t be in this bill.” Or this: “If you’re gonna have welfare programs in this bill, call them welfare programs and pass them, but don’t call them facets of the bill meant to stimulate the economy. I do feel like there’s some old politics at play here.”
There’s old politics at play, all right — the old politics of demonizing “welfare spending” without any regard for the simple truth that such spending not only helps those Americans who are struggling the most feed their families, it also does more to stimulate the economy than anything else you can think of.
What you probably won’t see is Mika Brzezinski or Charles Gibson or any other TV reporter suggesting that the tax cuts in the bill are not stimulative and should be stripped — even though they are less effective as stimulus than unemployment benefits and food stamps.
At this point, it becomes impossible to ignore the elephant in the room: Television anchors like Charles Gibson are not going to qualify for food stamps anytime soon. But they would certainly benefit greatly from some tax cut provisions that wouldn’t do nearly as much to stimulate the economy.
(This is not the first time Gibson has shown himself to be badly out of touch on basic economic issues. During a Democratic presidential primary debate, Gibson challenged the candidates on their support for repealing President Bush’s tax cuts for people making more than $200,000 a year by saying that a family in which both parents are schoolteachers would be hit by the repeal. Gibson’s cluelessness was so apparent, the audience actually burst out laughing at him.)
So far, the news media’s coverage of the stimulus debate has consisted largely of repeating false Republican spin and pontificating about which side has been making their arguments more successfully (all the while ignoring the media’s own role in aiding the GOP.)
The bright side is that if reporters care about informing the public, it’s pretty easy to do — they just have to start basing their reports on the true premise that government spending is effective stimulus, rather than on the false premise that it isn’t. Everything else flows easily from there; for example, asking Republicans why they want to lard up the bill with less-stimulative tax cuts rather than unemployment benefits.
(Jamison Foser is Executive Vice President at Media Matters for America.)
Ever wondered just what the hell a petard was anyway? Here’s a hint: “ORIGIN mid 16th cent.: from French pétard, from péter ‘break wind.’”
This clip, courtesy of Outta the Cornfield, was made at a GOP rally in Denver.
Funny piece from Ketchup Is a Vegetable. Sample:
We have decided that it is necessary at this stage in the game to RAMP THINGS UP a bit. We’re in the hole, and the old man is wandering all over the place stammering like an idiot. I’ve been tempted to make him lip sync, but our tech guys can’t figure out how to make that work. We tried him on an earpiece so we could direct him a little, but we put an end to it after the Brokaw debate; it just makes him wander around the stage even more, looking for that disembodied voice. No, what we need to do is to now is to employ a much-discussed theory that’s not yet been tried: The mythical “Rove Batshit Crazy Motherfucker.” Yes, it really does exist…
From Doonesbury’s daily feature, “Say What?” —
“For eight U.S. presidential elections during the period 1960-2004, the rapid blinker during debates received fewer overall votes than his opponent. In seven of these eight elections, the rapid blinker also lost the electoral vote and was defeated at the polls.”
— Journal of Psychology observation, cited on net in reference to McCain blinking 3,000 times during the third debate
More good news for Obama, from Sarah Palin and her team of mavericks:
ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Gov. Sarah Palin’s signature accomplishment — a contract to build a 1,715-mile pipeline to bring natural gas from Alaska to the Lower 48 — emerged from a flawed bidding process that narrowed the field to a company with ties to her administration, an Associated Press investigation shows…
Despite Palin’s boast of a smart and fair bidding process, the AP found that her team crafted terms that favored only a few independent pipeline companies and ultimately benefited the winner, TransCanada Corp.
The leader of Palin’s pipeline team had been a partner at a lobbying firm where she worked on behalf of a TransCanada subsidiary. Also, that woman’s former business partner at the lobbying firm was TransCanada’s lead private lobbyist on the pipeline deal, interacting with legislators in the weeks before the vote to grant TransCanada the contract. Plus, a former TransCanada executive served as an outside consultant to Palin’s pipeline team.
Under a different set of rules four years earlier, TransCanada had offered to build the pipeline without a state subsidy; under Palin, the company could receive a maximum $500 million…
These odd and sad parallels hadn’t occurred to me, but they did to Jim Fallows:
The plotlines and character-motivations of the two Bush Administrations, 41 & 43, are perhaps too broad and obvious ever to support a first-rate novel. At least that is what reviews of Oliver Stone’s W suggest to those, like me, who have not seen the film. (Not yet on the pirate-video market here in Beijing. Maybe next week.) Or if could be simply that Stone and other Bush chroniclers have taken a family saga of Shakespearean scale and presented it without corresponding richness and nuance.
Still, someone will eventually do something compelling with the intersecting stories of John McCain and Colin Powell, including the latest chapter that began today.
Close contemporaries, born eight months apart; both headed toward military careers, but from very different starting points — immigrants’ son, versus son and grandson of admirals. Lives changed by the Vietnam War, including ultimately putting both on the track to top-level politics.
Powell declining to take what could have been a promising path to the Republican nomination in 2000; McCain trying hard for that nomination but losing out to a slime-rich campaign by GW Bush and Karl Rove. It was during a debate in this campaign that McCain delivered his famous and withering line directly to Bush’s face, about his campaign’s character-assassination ads. The line, spat out with more contempt than anything McCain later displayed toward Obama, was “You should be ashamed” — and, when Bush tried to answer, “You should be ashamed.”
After that, diverging arcs: Powell providing cover and legitimacy for the Bush-Cheney WMD argument in favor of the Iraq war, and despite acclaim for his record as Secretary of State clearly understanding how his historical standing had been diminished. McCain increasing his “maverick” reputation, before that term became a joke, right through his defense of John Kerry against the Bush-Rove Swift Boat ads in 2004.
And now the arcs reverse again. Powell, with his endorsement of Obama, taking a cleansing step not because he is endorsing a Democrat or the person who, instead of him, has a chance to become the first black President. But rather because Powell is at last free to say the many “Cut the crap!” things that his fealty to the Administration had kept him from saying publicly while in office or until now, ranging from the perverse effects of anti-Muslim hysteria to the dangers of scorched earth political campaigns.
Meanwhile, John McCain, once laid low by those very tactics, embracing them as his best chance for victory this year. Powell, tainted by his association with the Bush Administration, choosing at age 71 to restore his reputation for recognition of higher principles. McCain, who earlier opposed Bush tactics, choosing at age 72 a path that in the end is likely to bring him both defeat and dishonor. Maybe we need a Shakespeare to do this story justice.
From AFP photographer Emmanuel Dunand comes the signature image of last night’s debate: the image that McCainiacs never, never, ever wanted to see:
Sarah Palin’s M.O. during her brief political life has been to cozy up to some unsuspecting mentor, then knife him in the back and step over him. Now she’s at it again. Colin McEnroe spells it out:
Palin is pretty clearly running a double campaign these days — one for Nov. 4 and the other for her future position as a leading Republican voice during the Obama era.
It was most noticeable when she openly questioned McCain’s decision to pull out of Michigan. What kind of language do you think McCain used when he heard about that one? This is not a guy who reacts well to being crossed or second-guessed, especially by a woman he yanked out of obscurity five weeks ago.
Since then Palin has announced a bare-knuckles strategy of denouncing Obama as a strange guy with terrorist pals and Stokely Carmichael attitudes. She has again questioned McCain’s tactics — this time his reluctance to brawl and spill blood and bring up Rev. Wright — and openly announced that she will advise him to follow her lead.
Do you not see a little needle directed at her boss in the way Palin worded this? Particularly the phrase “I guess”:“I don’t know why that association isn’t discussed more,” Palin said, “because those were appalling things that that pastor had said about our great country, and to have sat in the pews for 20 years and listened to that — with, I don’t know, a sense of condoning it, I guess, because he didn’t get up and leave — to me, that does say something about character.”
“I guess that would be a John McCain call on whether he wants to bring that up,” Palin added.
You guess? That, my friends, is classic passive-ag[g]ressive criticism…
So that’s at least twice that Wilderness Woman has told her boss to man up. First she called him on the cut-and-run from Michigan. Then she told him to knock off the soft stuff. My guess is that McCain is steaming. He’d send her home if he could. No wonder he renewed his vows to Joe [Lieberman] last night.
Meanwhile, Palin’s no dummy. She can read polls, and she knows that a loss is more likely than a win. She has become a favorite Republican of Republicans…
If they lose this election, the GOP will probably want to get her out of Alaska and into a Senate seat where she can be closer to the limelight and more able to speak out for the loyal opposition. She knows this, and that’s why she’s running two races. McCain may go down, and, if so, she’s not going down with him.
Charlie Peters founded The Washington Monthly and edited it until his retirement in 2001. A “relentless centrist,” he focussed all his life not on party but on process. How does government actually work or not work? If the latter, how can it be fixed?
When Charlie speaks on this topic, he is worth listening to. Particularly when he speaks about a legislator who is being regularly accused of legislative ineffectiveness by a man whose own legislative successes, considering how long he has been in Congress, are negligible.
Enough already. Read:
…It had not been easy for a Harvard man to become a regular guy to his colleagues. Obama had managed to do so by playing basketball and poker with them and, most of all, by listening to their concerns. Even Republicans came to respect him. One Republican state senator, Kirk Dillard, has said that “Barack had a way both intellectually and in demeanor that defused skeptics.”
Obama proved persuasive enough that the bill passed both houses of the legislature, the Senate by an incredible 35 to 0. Then he talked Blagojevich into signing the bill, making Illinois the first state to require such videotaping.
Obama didn’t stop there. He played a major role in passing many other bills, including the state’s first earned-income tax credit to help the working poor and the first ethics and campaign finance law in 25 years (a law a Post story said made Illinois “one of the best in the nation on campaign finance disclosure”). Obama’s commitment to ethics continued in the U.S. Senate, where he co-authored the new lobbying reform law that, among its hard-to-sell provisions, requires lawmakers to disclose the names of lobbyists who “bundle” contributions for them.
Taken together, these accomplishments demonstrate that Obama has what Dillard, the Republican state senator, calls a “unique” ability “to deal with extremely complex issues, to reach across the aisle and to deal with diverse people.” In other words, Obama’s campaign claim that he can persuade us to rise above what divides us is not just rhetoric…
Once again, the Rude Pundit nails it:
She called herself or McCain “mavericks” at least half a dozen times. You know how to prove you’re not a “maverick”? By saying you’re a maverick.
I’m sorry, but I just can’t help myself. I’m in love. Here’s another of Sara Benincasa’s small masterpieces. In this one she discovers Africans, Joe Lieberman, and other exotic fauna native to the lower 48.
COURIC: You’ve cited Alaska’s proximity to Russia as part of your foreign policy experience. What did you mean by that?
PALIN: That Alaska has a very narrow maritime border between a foreign country, Russia, and on our other side, the land — boundary that we have with — Canada. [...]
COURIC: Explain to me why that enhances your foreign policy credentials.
PALIN: Well, it certainly does because our — our next door neighbors are foreign countries. They’re in the state that I am the executive of. And there in Russia —
COURIC: Have you ever been involved with any negotiations, for example, with the Russians?
PALIN: We have trade missions back and forth. We — we do — it’s very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia as Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where — where do they go? It’s Alaska. It’s just right over the border. It is — from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there. They are right next to — to our state.
Bet you’ve been wondering why Sarah Palin has been ducking the press. No, of course you haven’t. And you were right, because take a look. The potential president was just permitted to hold the world’s shortest Q & A with her traveling press corps — her first.
Jesus, this so embarrassing:
CNN: On the topic of never letting this happen again, do you agree with the way the Bush administration has handled the war on terrorism, is there anything you would do differently?
A: I agree with the Bush administration that we take the fight to them. We never again let them come onto our soil and try to destroy not only our democracy, but communities like the community of New York. Never again. So yes, I do agree with taking the fight to the terrorists and stopping them over there.
POLITICO: Do you think our presence in Iraq and Afghan and our continued presence there is inflaming islamic extremists?
A: I think our presence in Iraq and Afghanistan will lead to further security of our nation, again, because the mission is to take the fight over there. Do not let them come over here and attempt again what they accomplished here, and that was some destruction. Terrible destruction on that day. But since September 11, Americans uniting and rebuilding and committing to never letting that happen again.
Here’s Timothy P. Carney of the Evans-Novak Political Report. The noncrazy wing of the Republican Party seems to be in a state of deep despair.
- Congressional Republicans and conservatives, meanwhile, are almost completely at a loss. Republicans are still finding their footing after denying for months that the economy is endangered. Frantic behind closed doors, they seem unable to propose any solution that approaches the magnitude of the problem. Promising more drilling, capital-gains-tax cuts, and full business expensing comes across as laughable — the same things the GOP was pushing while saying the economy was strong.
- At the presidential level, it’s not only that McCain and Palin lack credentials and knowledge about economics, but McCain also lacks a real rudder. As the GOP nominee, he has taken up free-market talk, but does he really have any roots in a philosophy? Does Palin have the clout or the know-how to guide McCain? The answer to both questions is probably not.
- When Republicans highlight the Democratic big-government programs that contributed to the mess — Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act directing private capital in low-income housing — they lack conviction and credibility, having long been champions of policies such as IRAs and 401(k)’s driving money to Wall Street, or the home-mortgage interest deduction and the “ownership society.”
Gail Collins, God love her, in the Times today:
On Friday, McCain looked steamed when he gave a new policy speech in Wisconsin with Sarah Palin at his side. The Republicans have discovered that McCain can’t draw a crowd without Palin, and the dangers of letting her float off by herself are apparent. So the two are manacled together these days like Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier in that old escape-from-a-chain-gang movie.
Remember how the Republican smear squads scored with the lie that Al Gore claimed he invented the Internet? Well, it turns out John McCain gave us the Blackberry:
Asked what work John McCain did as Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee that helped him understand the financial markets, the candidate’s top economic adviser wielded visual evidence: his BlackBerry.
“He did this,” Douglas Holtz-Eakin told reporters this morning, holding up his BlackBerry. “Telecommunications of the United States is a premier innovation in the past 15 years, comes right through the Commerce committee so you’re looking at the miracle John McCain helped create and that’s what he did.”
I am beginning to sense that McCain’s behavior is destroying himself and that Obama has the good sense or instinct to take a deep step back and let McCain dig a hole so deep he can not get out.
After all, McCain has spent years branding himself as a straight talker of truth who puts country ahead of self ... it was always a phony image, but now he is aggressively destroying that brand name and replacing it with the opposite Rovian brand.
This is something we have seen all too often — a man who will do anything and say anything to get elected, to include selecting someone for vice president who is obviously not qualified to be President, even though he would be the oldest person ever to be elected President, and is a cancer survivor to boot, with a heart condition and an abused body (from torture), and therefore, actuarially the most likely President in history to die in office, if elected.
Maybe Obama’s behavior is akin to subtly waving the red cape to lure McCain into reinforcing the rebranding operation. I think Obama did a cape job on Hillary, and she ended up up with the immoral alternative of either having to destroy the Democratic Party in order to win its nomination or quitting. I think (hope?) Obama is doing a similar thing with McCain, and McCain is walking into the trap.
In the end, this election is a battle that takes place within an overarching moral context, and as Boyd showed, you can not isolate your opponent in moral warfare…
Your opponent has to morally isolate himself, and he does that by destroying legs of the moral triangle, and in so doing, exhibits behavior that promotes his own well being by violating the codes of conduct or standards of behavior he professes to uphold and others expect him to uphold.
I have this vague sense that Obama’s goal (maybe instinct is a better word) may be to create an atmosphere (perhaps by looking weak, inter alia) that encourages McCain to reinforce this self-destructive behavior and thereby make his hypocrisy obvious to a majority of the undecided voters. But then maybe I am seeing visions in cloud formations.
…and so I won’t even try. These are excerpts from Women Against Sarah Palin, the wonderful website to which my sister Pat alerted me, and about which I blogged earlier this week.
Sarah Palin is the classic example of a woman being used by those in power to remove power from women.
I want to love a mother, governor and VP candidate, but Palin horrifies me, she seems to epitomize the American inability to be introspective, to polarize and see everything in terms of black and white, good or evil, right or wrong. This intolerance and inability to get out of a narrow perspective and see the divine spark in all is at the core of the danger America is creating for itself, and feeds the dissension in America. She has a sharp, but not a deep mind fast with the comebacks, but more interested in bullying an argument than in understanding the truth.
Even in this very red state of Alabama, we know the difference between a show horse, a hobby horse, and a work horse. You do not represent working class women, farm wives or single mothers — ALL of whom turned to Hillary Clinton with great hopes. You charged women for their own rape kits when you were mayor in Wasilla. You use housekeepers and nannies to care for your kids. You don’t want sex education in schools, but you let your daughter get pregnant! You do not now, nor will you ever speak for us!
I can hardly begin to express the depth of my anger at hearing Ms. Palin denigrate the many community organizers I worked with and proudly call my friends. Community Organizers make the world a better place, doing God’s work day in and day out, night after night. To hear that convention audience laugh in response to her snide remarks really pissed me off. I didn’t realize just how steamed I was until a dear friend (another longtime community activist) sent me an e-mail with this message: Jesus was a Community Organizer. Pontius Pilate was a Governor.
Sarah Palin represents the slap of the dinosaur’s tail — a deadly, horned swipe of a breed going extinct; quite likely, in her throes of excited thrashing, to kill off many individuals, many careers, many dearly held gains, won since 1963, for which many of us fought with our brains, our convictions, our blood, our time, our eloquence, and our money…
Are we ready to stand idly by while an old, ill man, watches Sarah’s shapely behind, while fingering his wedding ring? Are we ready to give up our time to choose, our right to decide and let this mockery of a modern woman, this poorly educated bigot tramples our civil rights? Are we ready to die if our life is endangered by an unhealthy pregnancy? Are we willing to let Sarah Palin, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney and the other megalomaniacs at the helm of the Republican party decide the course of our lives, our daughters’ and granddaughters’ lives?
Even the power she gained as the mayor of a town of a mere 5000, immediately corrupted her; her wide swipes through the administration she inherited were so disruptive to that small government entity that an immediate remedy was set in place — an administrator had to be hired to do the job of running the town while she was mayor. And still, the surplus she inherited turned into a deficit — IMAGINE the damage she could orchestrate on a national level.
The Alaskan legislature took to wearing buttons that said, “Where’s Sarah?” because she spent so little time in Juneau. Once again, the GOP is deceiving the American people in a most callous and calculating way — just because they put a skirt on this time doesn’t change a damned thing!
Women in particular should project hope and love and caring for others, and Ms. Palin does none of this, choosing instead to be mean-spirited and accusatory in every single speech and action. I can only hope that with time, people will recognize this and realize that we need someone quite different from her to take us down the road to respect and REAL morality.
But she is not the problem — our problem is the white old men that insist on running this country with their need to control, their archaic laws and ideas. Their lives are based on fear and ridiculous needs to dominate our pocketbook, our bodies and to shoot before thinking and talking. They also have a great need to distort the truth — in other words LYING. This young woman from Alaska is being fooled with — she is their decoy — but she might be elected and then she could be a heartbeat away from being in charge of our lives.
The American people have become distracted. Palin, participating in this election as a trojan horse, has come with phrases that involve animals and lipsticks, bridges to nowhere, and eBay, leading americans in to an abyss of distractions pulling away from the very sobering facts that who she represents and the policies she supports are a complete replica of the current Bush administration, on paper, and without personality mud-slings, the Palin/MCCain ticket represent four more years of the same policies the world has come to hate.
Here we have the ideal ticket for anyone who supports women’s rights — Obama and Biden — versus two people who think women are brainless fools. The fact that Palin wears a skirt doesn’t mean she has respect for women. On the contrary. It just means that she uses her sex to stop any questions about her competence by accusing the questioner of sex-discrimination. Frankly, I didn’t buy that argument when Hillary made it and I’m certainly not buying it from Palin.
This classic bait and switch move has the electorate once again focusing on the culture wars instead of the real ones, on pseudo-feminism instead of tolerance and equality.
Her extreme beliefs regarding abstinence-only education did not work even for her own daughter! and yet she wants to force it on our daughters! We will not have it. We can do better, there are stronger, more thoughtful and fair minded women in this country who are fit to run it.
Is Ms.Palin really the best the Republican party has to offer in terms of a female? I guess there are slim pickings for a woman who will support an antiquated and sexist Republican agenda.
The cruel irony of Senator Clinton blooding herself on that glass ceiling only to have a puppet escorted through on the arm of a warrior…
These people are two loose cannons on a rolling deck and I genuinely fear for the future of our great country. If John McCain is unable to see his term through, Sarah Palin is next in line as leader of the Free World.
“To the families of special-needs children all across this country, I have a message: For years, you sought to make America a more welcoming place for your sons and daughters. I pledge to you that if we are elected, you will have a friend and advocate in the White House.” Really? Because the parents of children with disabilities in Alaska don’t have much of a friend or advocate right now. Even in years of great surplus, she actually cut state funding for special education services and Medicaid — the program that children and adults with disabilities rely on for health care.
Ms. Palin is also well documented as a local bully who tries to fire anyone who disagrees with her. After eight years of an unqualified President who has done everything in his power to position America as a global bully, this characteristic is the last quality we need in the White House for four more years.
Sarah Palin sees the hand of God in a $30 billion Alaskan national gas pipeline. “I think God’s will has to be done in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built, so pray for that,” she has stated.
Ms. Palin and I clearly worship very different gods. I see the hand of God not in the wallets of the oil companies, but in the pristine Alaska coastline, its majestic polar bears, whales, and glaciers — all of which Big Oil will despoil. Perhaps Ms. Palin has made the mistake that afflicts a frightening number of our citizens: confusing God with money.
My sister Pat recommends Women Against Sarah Palin, and so do I. You may already have guessed its general orientation.
(Mysteriously, the link above takes you to this notice: “Sorry, the page you were looking for in the blog Women Against Sarah Palin does not exist.” Then if you click on Women Against Sarah Palin the page opens, or at least it did for me. Go figure.)
Sarah Vowell, in today’s New York Times:
During a gubernatorial debate in 2006, Governor Palin claimed that if her daughter, then 16, were impregnated as the result of being raped, Ms. Palin would hope that the girl would “choose life,” which is a polite way of saying she would expect a tenth-grader to give birth to her rapist’s baby.
Here’s a not-so-polite fact about the United States: According to Amnesty International, a woman is raped here every six minutes.…
This year, Senator McCain himself didn’t bother to stand up to the right wing of his party to insist that the rape and incest exception be written into the Republican Party platform.
As much as it pains me to say it, I think Obama will lose this election. The American public really is far, far more stupid than we tend to give them credit for. A majority of people eagerly buy into whatever Republican meme is being peddled, facts be damned.
As a rather personal example, I have my own father. He loathes George Bush with every fiber of his being. Yet, not two weeks ago my father was telling me how Obama is really a secret Muslim — he knew this because Obama’s campaign symbol is an “O” and that could only mean something Muslim.
I asked him what he thought of John McCain’s campaign symbol — a red star — which happens to be the communist party symbol, and whether there might be some connection to McCain’s five years of being held by communists. No, the red star doesn’t mean anything at all — it’s just McCain’s symbol, see?
Back in 2004, some of us were excoriated for saying the public was stupid enough to buy into all the Swift Boat lies. Yet, as we now know, those lies helped give Bush a second disastrous term.
So you will have McCain running his campaign on the theme that he represents true change in Washington because he will continue all the policies that you hate — and he’ll add a few more that you despise as well.
Joe Sixpack has no clue — none at all — what Bush’s policies have been. All Joe knows is that Bush did great against those Muslims, and that maybe the economy needs a little perking up. He doesn’t much like Bush, but he probably can’t tell you why he doesn’t like Bush.
Enter McCain, who will promise to perk up the economy by cutting taxes — and everyone knows that works because they’ve been told for 30 years by Republicans that cutting taxes ALWAYS boosts the economy. McCain will talk tough, tough, tough — and Joe Sixpack likes the idea that we’ll be killing more Muslims. McCain will promise to begin drilling off Miami on Jan. 21, and Joe knows gas has been expensive lately.
McCain will present every existing Bush policy as though it is his very own, and he’ll tell Joe Sixpack that the existing policy is change. And because Joe doesn’t really pay any attention to these things, Joe will think McCain is actually promising change from Bush’s policies.
And Joe will be constantly reminded that John McCain — who owns four (or six, or nine) houses, flies in private jets he personally owns, has held exactly one private-sector job in his life (and that for just a few months), wears $500 shoes and $2000 slacks — is just a regular guy. Obama, however, is a rich fat-cat elitist who eats funny-sounding vegetables and is just so out of touch with Joe.
And a majority of voters will joyfully pull the lever for McCain.
One thing about the Brits, they know their snark. A self-described “liberal European elitist journalist” — Oliver Burkeman of The Guardian — live-blogs last night’s performances in St. Paul:
8.18pm: [Quoting Romney] “I know what makes jobs come, and I know what makes them go.” What made jobs come and go often enough in the past, as Ezra Klein points out, has been the noted private equity firm chief executive Mitt Romney.
8.32pm: Mike Huckabee actually just said this: “My Dad lifted heavy things”. And this: “I was in college before I found out it wasn’t supposed to hurt to take a shower.” It’s something to do with having to clean himself with stones, because he grew up so poor. But this is an almost entirely crazy speech, I’m afraid to say. That’s an unbiased opinion.
8.50pm: Themes of the evening so far: xenophobia, “anti-elitist” rabble-rousing, media-bashing, smalltown boosterism versus liberal city people. Pretty unpleasant, all told.
9.05pm: Wait, wait, wait, WHAT? John McCain was a prisoner of war. He has proved his commitment with his blood. On the other hand, Obama worked as a “community organizer”. “What?” says Giuliani, pretending not to understand. He laughs unpleasantly. The crowd laughs. “Then he ran for the state legislature — where nearly 130 times he was unable to make a decision yes or no. It was too tough. He voted ‘present.’ I didn’t know about this ‘vote present’ when I was mayor of New York City. Sarah Palin didn’t get to vote present when she was mayor or governor.”
“Barack Obama has never led anything. Nothing. Nada. Nada. Nothing.” This is real, jeering anti-Obama stuff, the nastiest we’ve heard, and the delegates are loving it — yelping and whooping.
9.18pm: If you say the war in Iraq is lost, you are saying that Osama bin Laden has won, and that makes you a terrorist. Or something like that.
There’s something rather troubling about the way in which Giuliani enjoys the roiling up the audience. He claps softly to himself, and chuckles.
10.12pm And in a parallel to Obama’s surprise arrival at the end of Joe Biden’s speech, here’s John McCain. “Tremendous, tremendous, fantastic, tremendous,” he says, vaguely hugging the Palins. “Don’t you think we made the right choice for the next vice-president of the United States? And what a beautiful family!” Militaristic music. McCain and Palin are both doing an awful Republican version of Hillary Clinton’s already sufficiently awful pointing-and-smiling thing.
Shortly, these psyched-up delegates will hold a roll-call vote officially to nominate McCain. First, three country singers including John Rich are reading out random bits of famous American speeches and documents, in between lines of the national anthem. Extremely strange.
Brilliant, now Rich is singing his criminally stupid song Raising McCain.
One of the nice things about being a former president is that you can tell the truth, right out in the open where the children can hear:
Carter said in a USA Today interview on the sidelines of the Democratic convention in Denver last week that McCain had been “milking every possible drop of advantage” from his time as a prisoner of war.
From the Washington Post, this portrait of the straight shooter as a young man:
McCain was closer to Richey than to any other Episcopal [High School] student, and during a summer night after McCain’s sophomore year, the two found themselves cruising in a car, with Richey behind the wheel. As Richey remembers, he and McCain spotted a couple of older girls near Arlington and called out to them, asking if they wanted company. The girls laughed. Insulted, McCain leaned across the driver’s-side window and shouted an expletive at them. “Our feelings were hurt. They unveiled our masks and revealed us for the boys we were,” Richey says.
Minutes later, a car stopped them on the road. Police were called, and McCain and Richey were ticketed for what Richey remembers as public nuisance and profanity. Soon they were standing in an Arlington court, with Richey hoping that McCain would tell the truth: that he alone, not Richey, had shouted the profanity at the girls. As Richey recalls, McCain said nothing — explaining to Richey later that he didn’t know what good it would have done to speak up.
One thing about rising stars, they don’t hang albatrosses around their necks:
WASHINGTON (AFP) — Rising Republican star Bobby Jindal — the young Indian-American governor of Lousiana — on Sunday ruled himself out of the race to become John McCain’s vice-presidential pick…
His youthful enthusiasm and ability to bridge the divides of race and party has led some to see him as the Republican party’s future answer to the Democratic Party’s Obama.
Paris Hilton faces John McCain totally:
New stats from what Phil Gramm insists is only a “mental recession” — which phrase is, as the Wall Street shill ought to recognize since he slings shrink lingo so skillfully, a mighty pretty piece of projection.
Ads for luxury goods and services are faring best, as they have for years. Ad pages increased in a number of high-end fashion, home décor and travel magazines, like Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, Architectural Digest and National Geographic Traveler, while several others stayed roughly even.
“The joke here is, ‘Flat is the new up,’ ” said Thomas J. Wallace, editorial director at Condé Nast.
Here, for your viewing pleasure, is Not Alex. It’s the antiMcCain, antiwar ad from MoveOn.org which is being called tasteless by the conservative punditry. Being called tasteless by it/them is of course like being called ugly by a frog.
Personally I thought the ad was (1) tasteful, (2) fair, (3) well-produced, and (4) effective. What’s more, (1) the baby was cute, and (2) I fell in love with the young mother.
So, as Thomas L. Friedman might say, and did, Suck on this, okay?
Having written for a president who was terrific at town meetings and terrible at prepared speeches, this Gail Collins op-ed made me feel a tiny — barely perceptible actually — twinge of sympathy for McCain’s speechwriters. McCain, you’ll remember, wants to do a sort of buddy road flick with Obama, the two of them spending the summer together doing weekly town hall appearances:
But for all the talk about McCain wanting a “higher level of discourse,” the bottom line is that he is begging to be rescued from the big problem his campaign has encountered: which is that the only thing their candidate is good at is town-hall meetings.
This was driven home Tuesday night when the Republicans decided to try to insert a McCain speech into the Democrats’ final primary night. They were hoping to steal thunder from the moment when Obama clinched the nomination. The actual effect was to offer viewers a chance to compare the skills of the greatest orator in modern American politics with a guy who has never really learned how to read a teleprompter…
MDC at Foreign Policy Watch dissects McCain’s various nuclear disarmament stances. Excerpt:
Tuesday’s speech, on the whole, is a bit of a mixed bag. As for nuclear testing, McCain wants to appear tough:
“This would include taking another look at the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to see what can be done to overcome the shortcomings that prevented it from entering into force.”
Well, one of “the shortcomings that prevented [the CTBT] from entering into force” was McCain’s own vote against it in the Senate, when it was up for ratification by the US in 1999. And it’s not certain just how he wants “to take another look at it” in a “dialogue with our allies.” 144 states, many of which include staunch allies of the US (the continent of Europe, for example), have already ratified the treaty. Good luck revisiting that.
Want to remove all slime from the election this fall and limit debate strictly to the issues? Rick Hertzberg knows how:
The solution is obvious. Obama should ask McCain to be his running mate. McCain should ask Obama to be his. And both should say yes.
A campaign pitting an Obama-McCain ticket against a McCain-Obama ticket would absolutely guarantee a general-election campaign that would be about The Issues and nothing but The Issues…
Amazing stuff from Arianna Huffington about John McCain, whose habit of serial lying would have long since sunk any Democratic candidate:
At a dinner party in Los Angeles not long after the 2000 election, I was talking to a man and his wife, both prominent Republicans. The conversation soon turned to the new president. “I didn’t vote for George Bush” the man confessed. “I didn’t either,” his wife added. Their names: John and Cindy McCain (Cindy told me she had cast a write-in vote for her husband).
The fact that this man was so angry at what George Bush had done to him, and at what Bush represented for their party, that he did not even vote for him in 2000 shows just how far he has fallen since then in his hunger for the presidency. By abandoning his core principles and embracing Bush — both literally and metaphorically — he has morphed into an older and crankier version of the man he couldn’t stomach voting for in 2000.