Friday, May 16, 2008
Reading coverage of the presidential race, I think perhaps I may be the one of the few remaining people on the planet that remember that George W. Bush ran for the presidency, in 2000, on a theme of being a bipartisan who would "change the tone" in Washington.
This was dutifully reported by, well, everyone. We were told that George W. Bush was terribly bipartisan as governor of Texas. Republican cronies were marched up in front of the cameras to tell us that he was great at working across the aisle, blah blah blah.
Coupled with these constant assertions of bipartisanship and CEO acumen was the campaign theme of "compassionate" conservatism: conservatism tempered with sympathy for the poor, and the sick, and the elderly, and minorities, and schoolchildren, and all those other groups of Americans that conservatism normally couldn't be bothered with (after all, they own very little stock), so all his handlers and speechwriters needed to make up a new word for Bush's supposed new brand of conservatism, to sort of cram the notion of basic human empathy and decentness into it somewhere. This, too, was roundly applauded by reporters and pundits in spite of absolutely no actual evidence that anyone anywhere meant a word of it, and considerable evidence that they did not.
The George W. Bush campaign schtick was bipartisanship and moderation, and a very, very large part of the reason he won the presidency over Al Gore was because a fawning press bought it all hook, line and sinker -- or at least dutifully reported it as such. We weren't supposed to look at his record, or the records of those he surrounded himself with, only his statements -- and we weren't supposed to look at his statements either, only the ones his handlers wanted us to look at.
Fast forward eight years later. From John McCain's speech Thursday:
If I am elected President, I will work with anyone who sincerely wants to get this country moving again. I will listen to any idea that is offered in good faith and intended to help solve our problems, not make them worse. I will seek the counsel of members of Congress from both parties in forming government policy before I ask them to support it. I will ask Democrats to serve in my administration. [...] I'm not interested in partisanship that serves no other purpose than to gain a temporary advantage over our opponents. This mindless, paralyzing rancor must come to an end.
Noble if not entirely original thoughts, and ones we have been exposed to as a central mavericky theme of his mavericky, mavericky campaign. What we are to take from John McCain, in this and a hundred other speeches, is that he's yet again a different kind of conservative, one willing to set partisanship aside and work across the aisle, one willing to temper his hard-right conservatism with compassion.
The problem, once again, is that there's very little to suggest that's anything more than rhetoric, and there's a whole lot of history suggesting it's complete bunk. Time and time again, McCain talks about bipartisanship or moderation, then goes back to vote for the hardline conservative position. Supreme Court justices? Government corruption and accountability? Corruption in Iraq? Domestic programs? The economy? Immigration? Healthcare? Tax policy? Nearly straight-party-line principles, matching to whatever the GOP has declared the "correct" position.
Even on his signature recent "mavericky" issue -- that prisoners in U.S. custody should not be tortured, because of, you know, basic freaking human decency -- his rhetoric doesn't match his votes. In his actual day job as Senator, he's carved out exception after exception to his assertion that torture is wrong, and it hardly ever gets a peep of press. A supposed avid supporter of the troops, at the moment he is trying to strip proposed benefits from American veterans, under the premise that it is nothing but a frivolous expense (unlike the rest of the war, which he has supported at every turn -- only angry that more was not done, not less.)
How often, during the Bush administration, has McCain voted against the interests of the most hardcore partisans of his party? Almost never. Even his few once-sparkling bipartisan mavericky efforts, like McCain-Feingold, are noteworthy because in practice they were always rare and have since dwindled into near nonexistence; his previous obsession with campaign finance reform is especially informative, given how (ahem) "unusual" his campaign finance decisions have been during this campaign. His position on ANWR continues so far as one noteworthy exception -- for which McCain is being well and truly hammered -- but it would be implausible to deny that the far more consistent theme of his presidential campaign has been, on issue after issue after issue, a steady migration to the positions of the hard right, even going against his own past rhetoric or, in the case of immigration reform, his very own previously proposed bill.
His advisory staff, during the campaign, has not been bipartisan in the slightest (unless you're counting petulant ex-Dem Joe Lieberman) but has instead been staffed with the most conservative, neoconservative and hard-right figures available. McCain isn't just Bushlike in his foreign policy -- he is even more explicitly hawkish. McCain once shunned the worst of the religious right: now not only has he made up, he vigorously courts them. McCain once had some modest degree of skepticism for hyperconservative tax policies; now he treats them as holy writ.
But once again, we get to hear speeches and reporting and punditry and testimonials about how this brand of lifelong hard-right conservatism is different from all the others before it, and how this lifelong Republican candidate wants to unite, not divide, and how this election really isn't like all the others, all of this is force-fed down our media-consuming gullets like we are geese being prepared for the axe. The political coverage is all so intently focused on horserace analysis and meta-analysis, endlessly discussing how issue X plays to demographic Y, or why event 3,921 is going to cost N points among voters who drink apple juice on Wednesdays, that there will be almost no moments left to look at the actual issues, or actual records, or determine how the two candidates are actually different, or even whether or not either of them are completely pulling our legs about the whole thing.
No, Republican John McCain wants to change the tone in Washington. Hard-right conservative John McCain wants to unite, not divide. McCain wants to bring the grownups back to government. McCain wants to work across the aisle, so long as it is not on any issue of foreign policy, or taxes, or the Supreme Court, or domestic spending, or social issues or war or the U.N. or environmental policy or blah-blah-freakin-blah. And we're all going to play this game yet again because that's how the game is set up. Everybody gets a turn in front of the cameras to say what the sky on their planet looks like, and then we all vote on what imaginary color would be prettiest, and then when we wake up after the election, glory be, the sky is still the same shade as always.
I do not know which is worse: the overarching political and media presumption that we Americans as a collective population are all stupid as dirt, or the possibility that we really might be.
John McCain thinks we should "Talk" (appease?) Hamas.... Wait..... Now he's against Talking to Hamas. Flip Flopper?
Rubin has written an op-ed in Friday's Washington Post about his exchange with McCain, and The Huffington Post has obtained exclusive video. Here's the key excerpt:
RUBIN: "Do you think that American diplomats should be operating the way they have in the past, working with the Palestinian government if Hamas is now in charge?"
McCAIN: "They're the government; sooner or later we are going to have to deal with them, one way or another, and I understand why this administration and previous administrations had such antipathy towards Hamas because of their dedication to violence and the things that they not only espouse but practice, so . . . but it's a new reality in the Middle East. I think the lesson is people want security and a decent life and decent future, that they want democracy. Fatah was not giving them that."
Given that exchange, the new John McCain might say that Hamas should be rooting for the old John McCain to win the presidential election. The old John McCain, it appears, was ready to do business with a Hamas-led government, while both Clinton and Obama have said that Hamas must change its policies toward Israel and terrorism before it can have diplomatic relations with the United States.
Even if McCain had not favored doing business with Hamas two years ago, he had no business smearing Barack Obama. But given his stated position then, it is either the height of hypocrisy or a case of political amnesia for McCain to inject Hamas into the American election.
Labels: John McCain; Flip-Flopper
Chris Matthews makes an Excellent Point: Appeasement was giving away half of Czechoslovakia, not Talking to your enemies.
Utterly insane goings-on tonight on Hardball, where, for the second night in a row, the "Hardball Sideshow" segment was preceded by a scene that way outfreaked it. Tonight, host Chris Matthews took up President Bush's pointed attack on the Democrats in the Knesset today, asking if Bush was "out of line." Radio talk-show host Kevin James didn't think so, saying - and I'm paraphrasing - "RRRRAAAAAHHHH! OBAMA BLAAAAHHHH! HAMAS LOVES BARACK, YAAAAHHHH!" Chris Matthews was quick to ask, "Why are you screaming?"
But the best was yet to come. Matthews, convinced that James was being a fatuous ass, called him out on his knowledge of geo-political history, asking James if he knew what Neville Chamberlain did at Munich in 1938. If you answered, "He signed the Munich Agreement, conceding a portion of Czechoslovakia to the Nazi regime," you are right. If you answered, "He talked to Hitler, and caused 9/11 to happen and made the Statue of Liberty cry, just like Barack Hussein bin Laden wants to!" then you are Kevin James.
The ensuing melee is just far to shouty and unhinged to transcribe. Basically it ran like this, over and over again:
MATTHEWS: WHAT DID NEVILLE CHAMBERLAIN DO? WHAT DID HE DO? YOU DON"T KNOW WHAT HE DID, DO YOU?
JAMES: WUBBA WUBBA HUH?
Until finally, James conceded, sort of, that he didn't know. Matthews replied: "Your problem, is, Kevin, you don't know what you're talking about. You don't understand there's a difference between talking to the enemy and appeasing. What Chamberlain did wrong was not talking to Hitler, but giving half of Czechoslovakia." He then growled, "This is pathetic," tossed it to Air America's Mark Green, who told James, "Kevin, when you're in a hole, stop digging."
Watch the video:
You sort of have to love the way he worked in a shot at Dana Perino there at the end. Anyway, as a famous newsman once said: "F*** it! We're doing it live!"
GEORGE BUSH IS UNWORTHY OF THE PRESIDENCY. HE IS A DISGRACE.
Bush uses Holy Land Pulpit to launch smear campaign
by Paul Begala at HuffPo
George W. Bush is unworthy of the presidency. He is a disgrace to himself, our Nation, and the high office he holds.
In a speech to the Israeli Knesset on Thursday, Mr. Bush forfeited the last scraps of his moral authority, dishonoring himself by using one of the world's most important pulpits to launch a false and vicious political attack against Barack Obama.
I am such a strong supporter of Israel that when I worked in the White House some of my friends called me a "Likkud Democrat." It is especially appalling to supporters of Israel that Mr. Bush would stand on a hilltop in Jerusalem to invoke the Holocaust in order to make a cheap and deeply dishonest political point.
I am a person of faith, so it is especially galling that a man who calls himself a brother in faith would stand in the Holy Land and violate one of the Commandments God gave to Moses: "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor."
This is what Mr. Bush said, according to the text released by the White House:
"Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: "Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided." We have an obligation to call this what it is - the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history."
His attack was disgraceful, demeaning and dishonest. Bush's own government has repeatedly conducted negotiations with terrorists and radicals, including:
- Iran. Bush sent Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, then posted to Baghdad, to negotiate with Iran over security issues affecting Iraq. Bush's current Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, told ABC News, "We are willing to sit down with Iran face to face for talks on Iraqi security at the invitation of the Iraqi government. We've had three rounds of those talks and we've told them we are ready to again."
- Libya. Although Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi was behind the December, 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie Scotland, which killed 270 people, most of them Americans, the Bush Administration conducted months of negotiations with the terrorists, culminating in a 2003 agreement to dismantle Libyan long-range missiles and weapons of mass destruction;
- North Korea. The Bush Administration, led by Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, has held numerous direct negotiations with the North Korean regime, a charter member of Mr. Bush's "axis of evil."
It should be noted that in each instance, the negotiations actually advanced America's security position. So even the Bush administration, by its actions, attests to the efficacy of negotiating with evildoers.
All this is to say George W. Bush is a hypocrite. So deep is his cynicism that he would go on foreign soil to invoke history's greatest crime to condemn conduct he himself has engaged in.
As an American I am ashamed that such a man represents me.
I say this as someone who has not supported Barack Obama in the Democratic primaries; someone who has reservations about Sen. Obama's plan to engage Iran in talks without any preconditions. But there comes a time when intra-party rivalries must yield, and all of us must stand together against the degradation of the Office of the Presidency.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Uncle Salty's note - If you believe Reagan had no knowledge of this, I have a bridge I'd like to sell you)
The Iran-Contra affair was a political scandal which was revealed in 1986 as a result of earlier events during the Reagan administration. It began as an operation to increase U.S.-Iranian relations, wherein Israel would ship weapons to a moderate, politically influential group of Iranians opposed to the Ayatollah Khomeni; the U.S. would reimburse Israel with those weapons and receive payment from Israel. The moderate Iranians agreed to do everything in their power to achieve the release of six U.S. hostages, who were being held by the terrorist group Hezbollah. The plan eventually deteriorated into an arms-for-hostages scheme, in which members of the executive branch sold weapons to Iran in exchange for the release of the American hostages, without the authorization of President Ronald Reagan. Large modifications to the plan were conjured by Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North of the National Security Council in late 1985. In North's plan, a portion of the proceeds from the weapon sales was diverted to fund anti-Sandinista and anti-communist rebels, or Contras, in Nicaragua. While President Ronald Reagan was a supporter of the Contra cause, he did not authorize this plan, nor was he aware that the funds were being sent to the Contras.
After the weapon sales were revealed in November 1986, Ronald Reagan appeared on national television and stated that the weapons transfers had indeed occurred, but that the United States did not trade arms for hostages. The investigation was compounded when large volumes of documents relating to the scandal were destroyed or withheld from investigators by Reagan administration officials. On March 4, 1987, Reagan returned to the airwaves in a nationally televised address, taking full responsibility for any actions that he was unaware of, and admitting that "what began as a strategic opening to Iran deteriorated, in its implementation, into trading arms for hostages."
Many investigations ensued, including those by the United States Congress and the three-man, Reagan-appointed "Tower Commission". Neither could find any evidence that Reagan himself knew of the extent of the multiple programs. In the end, fourteen administration officials were charged with crimes, and eleven convicted, including Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger. They were all pardoned in the final days of the George H. W. Bush presidency, who had been vice-president at the time.
BUSH: The biggest issue we face is — it’s bigger than Iraq — it’s this ideological struggle against cold-blooded killers who will kill people to achieve their political objectives. Iraq just happens to be a part of this global war. Iraq is the place where al Qaeda and other extremists have made their stand — and they will be defeated. They’ll be defeated through military action, but they’ll also be defeated as this young democracy takes hold. They can’t stand to live in a free society, that’s why they try to fight free societies.
The United States pulling out of Iraq or pulling out of the Middle East or not maintaining a forward presence would send all kinds of signals throughout the Middle East. And it would shake everybody’s nerves, and it would embolden the very same people that we’re trying to defeat.
Don’t look now, President George W. Bush, but you know what else emboldened the very same people that we’re trying to defeat? Invading and occupying Iraq. This is a problem with justifying a particular course of action through appeals to reputation: There is simply no way to ensure that the reaction one gets will be the reaction one originally intended to evoke.
To use just any old random example, let’s take Iraq. President Bush and his advisers conceived the Iraq invasion as a way to demonstrate to America’s enemies that terror attacks upon American soil would be met with massive military retaliation. In short, the Iraq invasion was intended to demonstrate American strength. Unfortunately, what the Iraq invasion actually demonstrated was that America, at least an America under George W. Bush, could be induced into invading a Muslim country that had nothing whatever to with that attack, and then into occupying that country for five years and counting. For many Muslims, the Iraq war has also vindicated bin Laden’s claim that America wants a war on Islam.
And if Bush thinks that his strategy of fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them here, which effectively amounts to using Iraqis as live bait in America’s War on Terror, has been anything other than a stunning disaster for America’s reputation, he’s even more deluded than he appears.
Not shockingly, Fox News reports the interview with the headline “Bush Says Electing Democratic President Could Lead to New Attack On U.S..” We can, of course, expect more of this stuff as the presidential campaign continues. It seems obvious that if progressives had, at long last, as little decency as conservatives do, progressives could point out that electing a Republican president did lead to a terrorist attack. But we won’t.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
The AP reports today that the Pentagon has “dropped charges” against Mohammed al-Qahtani, a Saudi held at Guantanamo Bay since 2002 who was alleged to have been the so-called “20th hijacker” on 9/11.
Known as Detainee 063, Qahtani was the subject of a 2002 meeting at Guantanamo that included former Bush lawyer Alberto Gonzales, Cheney’s lawyer David Addington, and former Rumsfeld lawyer Jim Haynes. The trio approved the interrogations at Guantanamo, with Donald Rumsfeld then authorizing the “First Special Interrogation Plan” specifically for Qahtani. The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) noted that these methods included:
[F]orty-eight days of severe sleep deprivation and 20-hour interrogations, forced nudity, sexual humiliation, religious humiliation, physical force, prolonged stress positions and prolonged sensory overstimulation, and threats with military dogs. The aggressive techniques, standing alone and in combination, resulted in severe physical and mental pain and suffering.
“This is a very dangerous individual who has provided us with valuable intelligence,” claimed former White House press secretary Scott McClellan in 2005. But as Marcy Wheeler notes, the dismissal raises questions about the credibility of torture-based evidence.Renowned international lawyer Philippe Sands, who has extensively studied Qahtani, talked to PBS’s Bill Moyers about the interrogations of Qahtani on Friday. “And the bottom line of it was, contrary to what the administration said, they got nothing out of him,” Sands explained.
In 2006, Qahtani recanted a confession he said he made after he was tortured. In fact, “Qahtani never made a single statement that was not extracted through torture or the threat of torture,” CCR notes.
Records of the interrogations of Qahtani, however, were “mysteriously lost.” Cameras that “run 24 hours a day at the prison were set to automatically record over their contents,” the Guardian reported last month.
You are being lied to by Republicans. U.S. Government arranges display of 20,000 weapons found in Iraq. Turns out NONE are from Iran.
May 10th, 2008 2:33 pm
IRAQ: The elusive Iranian weapons
By Tina Susman / Los Angeles Times
There was something interesting missing from Maj. Gen. Kevin Bergner's introductory remarks to journalists at his regular news briefing in Baghdad on Wednesday: the word "Iran," or any form of it. It was especially striking as Bergner, the U.S. military spokesman here, announced the extraordinary list of weapons and munitions that have been uncovered in recent weeks since fighting erupted between Iraqi and U.S. security forces and Shiite militiamen.
Among other things, Bergner cited 20,000 "items of ammunition, explosives and weapons" reported by Iraqi forces in the central city of Karbala; an additional Karbala cache containing 570 explosive devices, nine mortars, four anti-aircraft missiles, and 45 RPGs; and in the southern city of Basra alone, 39 mortar tubes, 1,800 mortars and artillery rounds, 600 rockets, and 387 roadside bombs. Read his remarks here.
Not once did Bergner point the finger at Iran for any of these weapons and munitions, which is a striking change from just a couple of weeks ago when U.S. military officials here and at the Pentagon were saying that caches found in Basra in particular had revealed Iranian-made arms manufactured as recently as this year. They say the majority of rockets being fired at U.S. bases, including Baghdad's Green Zone, are launched by militiamen receiving training, arms and other aid from Iran.
Today brought fresh attacks, including an unusual barrage fired at a military base used by British and U.S. forces in Basra, in southern Iraq. A statement said "several" rockets hit the base during the afternoon, and that initial reports indicated two civilian contractors were killed, and four soldiers and four civilians injured.
It was the first reported attack of its kind since March 27 in Basra.
Iraqi officials also have accused Iran of meddling in violence and had echoed the U.S. accusations of new Iranian-made arms being found in Basra. But neither the United States nor Iraq has displayed any of the alleged arms to the public or press, and lately it is looking less likely they will. U.S. military officials said it was up to the Iraqis to show the items; Iraqi officials lately have backed off the accusations against Iran.
A plan to show some alleged Iranian-supplied explosives to journalists last week in Karbala and then destroy them was canceled after the United States realized none of them was from Iran. A U.S. military spokesman attributed the confusion to a misunderstanding that emerged after an Iraqi Army general in Karbala erroneously reported the items were of Iranian origin.
When U.S. explosives experts went to investigate, they discovered they were not Iranian after all.
Iran, meanwhile, continues to seethe after an Iraqi delegation went to Tehran last week to confront it with the accusations. It has denied the accusations, and it says as long as U.S. forces continue to take part in military action in Iraq's Shiite strongholds, it won't consider holding further talks with Washington on how to stabilize Iraq.