There has been a lot of discussion online and in the mainstream media about our response to various critics of the President, specifically former Vice President Cheney, who have been coming out of the woodwork since the incident on Christmas Day. I think we all agree that there should be honest debate about these issues, but it is telling that Vice President Cheney and others seem to be more focused on criticizing the Administration than condemning the attackers. Unfortunately too many are engaged in the typical Washington game of pointing fingers and making political hay, instead of working together to find solutions to make our country safer.
First, it’s important that the substantive context be clear: for seven years after 9/11, while our national security was overwhelmingly focused on Iraq – a country that had no al Qaeda presence before our invasion – Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda's leadership was able to set up camp in the border region of Pakistan and Afghanistan, where they continued to plot attacks against the United States. Meanwhile, al Qaeda also regenerated in places like Yemen and Somalia, establishing new safe-havens that have grown over a period of years ...
To put it simply: this President is not interested in bellicose rhetoric, he is focused on action. Seven years of bellicose rhetoric failed to reduce the threat from al Qaeda and succeeded in dividing this country. And it seems strangely off-key now, at a time when our country is under attack, for the architect of those policies to be attacking the President.
Second, the former Vice President makes the clearly untrue claim that the President – who is this nation’s Commander-in-Chief – needs to realize we are at War. I don’t think anyone realizes this very hard reality more than President Obama. In his inaugural, the President said “our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred" [...]
There are numerous other such public statements that explicitly state we are at war. The difference is this: President Obama doesn’t need to beat his chest to prove it, and – unlike the last Administration – we are not at war with a tactic (“terrorism”), we at war with something that is tangible: al Qaeda and its violent extremist allies. And we will prosecute that war as long as the American people are endangered.
An excellent response ... and hopefully it will prod more Democrats to stand up and fight against the hate and lies that have been peddled by the GOP and their operatives this past week, instead of continuing with the "strategy" of sitting on their hands and hoping it will go away.
I’m beginning to wonder if Politico pays Dick Cheney per link generated. It seems that every couple weeks or so, they send over a dictaphone to his house which he then fills with the usual paranoid rantings and rhetorical shots at the President. Unfortunately, the dictaphone isn’t accompanied by a “reporter” who could then ask Cheney a “question” about whatever it is he’s discussing at the time.
So here’s today’s air-dropped statement (no link to Politico because I don’t want to fund Cheney’s next pacemaker operation):
“As I’ve watched the events of the last few days it is clear once again that President Obama is trying to pretend we are not at war. He seems to think if he has a low-key response to an attempt to blow up an airliner and kill hundreds of people, we won’t be at war. He seems to think if he gives terrorists the rights of Americans, lets them lawyer up and reads them their Miranda rights, we won’t be at war. He seems to think if we bring the mastermind of Sept. 11 to New York, give him a lawyer and trial in civilian court, we won’t be at war.
“He seems to think if he closes Guantanamo and releases the hard-core Al Qaeda-trained terrorists still there, we won’t be at war. He seems to think if he gets rid of the words, ‘war on terror,’ we won’t be at war. But we are at war and when President Obama pretends we aren’t, it makes us less safe. Why doesn’t he want to admit we’re at war? It doesn’t fit with the view of the world he brought with him to the Oval Office. It doesn’t fit with what seems to be the goal of his presidency — social transformation — the restructuring of American society. President Obama’s first object and his highest responsibility must be to defend us against an enemy that knows we are at war.”
There’s no question that this is a massive bit of hypocrisy. George Bush was silent for six days after Richard Reid’s analogous failed “show bomber” attack. They prosecuted Reid in court, convicted him and held him in federal prison. They let hundreds of Guantanamo detainees go, often haphazardly, including two sent to Saudi Arabia for art therapy, both of whom eventually joined up with Al Qaeda in Yemen and may have had a role in the Christmas Day incident. And the idea that the President hasn’t yelled and screamed “Terra! Terra! Terra!” enough because he wants to transform global society is hampered by the fact that, if you did want to transform global society, exploiting a perceived crisis is exactly what you would do.
But again, Politico doesn’t see it as their role to actually press Dick Cheney on any of this. They’d rather he essentially write op-eds for them and generate hits so they can “win the day.” Josh Marshall may be offering a prize for actual reporting, but I just don’t see it happening. It wouldn’t fit with the manner with which the traditional media reports on terrorism.
I’m not saying that the White House, and actually Democrats in general, aren’t looking feckless by essentially remaining silent in the face of Republican attacks. They could start by highlighting the fact that Republicans are admitting that the attacks are essentially political:
Since before Obama was sworn into office, Republicans have been building a case that he is weak on national security, and in the wake of the intelligence and security failures that led to last week’s incident, they think that narrative might stick. Congressional Republicans and GOP pollsters said they believe the administration’s response to the failed attack on a Detroit-bound plane — along with Obama’s decisions on the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the intelligence lapses connected to November’s massacre at Fort Hood, Tex. — damage the Democratic brand [...]
“There’s a certain fragility to his numbers on the perception of how he’s handling national security issues,” said Republican pollster Neil Newhouse. “They certainly can move and move quickly based on a specific incident such as this.” The Detroit incident is “a black eye” for the administration, Newhouse continued, because it feeds the perception that dangerous jihadists are “falling through the cracks.”
One party is shaping their opponent’s record; the other party barely mentions their opponent’s record. That’s the asymmetrical warfare that’s going on here. And until Democrats actually get some kind of rapid response, there’s virtually no reason for the media to change their ways and challenge the GOP on national security. They’re taking their cues from the party in power.
The White House is pushing back hard on Joe Lieberman and select Republicans, who are seizing on the thwarted terror plot to renew calls for Guantanamo to be kept open, saying in no uncertain terms that the facility will still be closed because it remains a “national security imperative” to do so.
Lieberman and multiple Republicans have pointed to the would-be bomber’s training in Yemen to argue that closing Gitmo would be disastrous to our security because repatriating Yemenis housed there could let them re-join the terrorists’ war on the U.S.
But a senior administration official emails that plans to close the facility haven’t changed — and that the administration is sticking to its scheme of releasing some detainees and trying or indefinitely holding others.
It would be easy for the administration to cave to the Lieberman-GOP position that Guantanamo should remain open, especially given the near total silence of congressional Democrats. Nonetheless, as Greg points out, the administration is standing firm on its position that closing Gitmo strengthens national security.
Republicans want to turn this into a political issue, portraying Pres. Obama as an appeaser who wants to let terrorists roam free, but that line of attack has no connection to reality.
First, it was the Bush Administration that released two of the individuals apparently involved with the failed Christmas Day attack. Second, the administration's plan to close Gitmo also includes a plan to transfer detainees to a new maximum security facility in the U.S. where they will be subject to the U.S. legal system. Third, the closure of Gitmo will serve as a symbol to the rest of the world that no matter who may try to attack us, the United States is and will always be a nation that is governed by the rule by law, not fear.
Despite the GOP's political attacks, President Obama's decision to close Gitmo will make America safer and more secure; torture may warm the hearts and comfort the souls of some on the right, but torture doesn't work and torture doesn't save lives. Instead of imitating those whom they profess to hate, Republicans ought to rededicate themselves to the principles they claim to cherish. America would be stronger for it.
... take his case directly to Nebraskans during Wednesday night's Holiday Bowl game.
Nelson will air a new TV ad in which he attempts to debunk opposition claims that the Senate legislation represents a government takeover, and he makes the case for health care reform.
His idea of health care reform anyway ...
"I think that Barack Hussein Obama should be put in jail. It is clear that Barack Hussein Obama is a communist. Mao Tse Tung lives and his name is Barack Hussein Obama. This country should be ashamed. I wanna throw up."
Urp. I'm having kind of a pukey moment, too, Ted. Meteor Blades
The sordid business of blood diamonds was believed to have ended with the adoption in 2003 of the Kimberley Process, a UN-sanctioned agreement between 75 countries that import and export diamonds, diamond industry leaders and nongovernmental organizations. ...
The reality is different. According to recent reports by NGOs, including Global Witness, Partnership Africa Canada and Human Rights Watch, blood diamonds are still circulating freely and smuggling remains rampant. Some of the worst countries in the diamond business, such as Sierra Leone, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo, can't account for where as many as 50 percent of the diamonds they export originate, making their status as clean gems highly questionable. Meanwhile, Cote d'Ivoire, the only country considered to be the source of "official" conflict diamonds due to rebel control of its northern diamond mines, has expanded its production since it was placed under UN sanction in 2004, meaning the rebels are finding willing markets for them somewhere.
-- Meteor Blades
If an underwear bomb means we're not safe under Obama, does a shoe bomb mean Bush didn't really keep us safe after 9/11?
Don't expect anyone in the traditional media to actually ask this question to one of the incessant stream of GOP politicos rushing to cameras to bash the Obama administration. -- Steve Singiser
The U.S. International Trade Commission sided with U.S. steelmakers in a case over Chinese steel Wednesday, voting that U.S. industry has been damaged by a flood of imports of subsidized steel from China.
In the ITC's largest-ever steel case, all six commissioners said that imports of so-called oil country tubular goods from China have injured U.S. manufacturers. The commission is made up of three Democrats and three Republicans.
The ruling will likely result in duties on future imports of Chinese steel pipes. The decision comes at a time when tensions between Western steelmakers and Chinese steelmakers are at a high point. It also follows a U.S. decision a day earlier to impose preliminary antidumping duties on imports of steel-grating products from China. The world's recession and overall drop in demand for steel products has caused steelmakers to fight for a smaller pool of customers.
Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) said Aniston's activism was instrumental in the success of Assembly Bill 524, which takes effect Jan. 1. The law allows for civil penalties of up to $50,000 against members of the paparazzi and media outlets that sell and buy "unlawfully obtained" photos and video of people, including celebrities and their families.
There is a myth that the public option was only a tiny idea blown out of proportion for symbolic reasons. The public option was never going to be truly tiny, it was only going to be small at its inception. It is not because it was “weak,” it was just strongly caged in. But even the largest redwood tree starts out as a very small seed.
It is true that the CBO predicted that the negotiated rate public option in the House bill would only cover 6 million people, but that is because it was purposely restricted to a new exchange that would only be used by 30 million people at first. The CBO’s guess was that the public option would be selected by 20% of the people in this new marketplace. While I think their 20% estimate is low, it is important to put that in context–any company that can grab 20% of its market is a major player.
The public option was projected to be “small” because it would be forced to be a big fish in a very small pond. It would have major potential for growth. Progressives would have at their disposal multiple ways to increase the number of people who could have access to the public option. Dramatically expanding employer access to the exchange (something the Secretary of HHS could do without Congressional approval) is one idea. Expanding on Sen. Ron Wyden’s goal of giving people with employer-provided coverage the option of using vouchers to select their own plan on the new exchange is another route. The best solution might have been to attach a simple 12-word provision to the defense appropriations bill to allow the public option to sell outside the exchange. Any of these are very doable changes that could have completely changed the dynamics in only a few years.
If the public option was able to to sell to the entire private insurance market and just not the exchange gaining 20% of the market would have given it over 50 million customers. This would make the public option larger than Medicare, and one of the three largest insurance companies in America. Assuming the public option’s larger market share allowed it to negotiate much better rates (or even better, Congress decided to combine its operations with Medicare), it would probably be able to attract even more than 50 million customers.
The argument over the public option has never been symbolic or about what coverage a small group of Americans would or would not get. This health care fight is not about creating one new, static system that would remain in place forever. To argue otherwise is intellectual dishonesty put forward by many, including the Obama administration. The debate has been about the foundation on which we will build the future of our health care system, and whether the solution to our broken system is public or private insurance. Everyone from progressive activists to health insurance company CEO’s understood that this reform could grow, and only minor tweaks made later would make the public option a serious player. That is why the public option has been such a big fight on both sides. It was never about symbolism, but about laying down an infrastructure that could be quickly built upon.
The progressive demand that public health insurance programs must be part of the solution is based not on pure ideology, but overwhelming domestic and international evidence. The track record of private insurance is terrible, and no honest economist could look its performance compared to public insurance and think it a smart solution. The public option is not symbolic, it is foundational. Can the Democratic Party act in the best interest of our country by standing up to the health care lobbyists, or will they reward the private health insurance industry? This is not some metaphysical argument. There are literally hundreds of billions riding on this question, and possibly the future international competitiveness of the American economy. You may not agree with the methods that the supporters of the public option are using, but pretending that they are somehow fools chasing after symbolism completely ignores what the true stakes in the fight really are.
Josh Marshall at TPM asks a good question:
When does the story became the GOP's unprecedented politicization of a terror attack? Three days before the first fund-raising letters go out? The obviousness of the point would seem even more obvious since the main complainers are demonstrably hypocritical on their basic arguments. Someone lemme know when this becomes the story.
Sadly, I think the answer is never.
There is tremendous fear rising on both the right and the left that the announced intention of Congress — to force every American to pay tribute to private corporations, with no government alternative — sets a dangerous and frightening precedent with implications far outside the scope of health care.
If the health care bill written by the Senate is passed, middle class Americans will be mandated to pay almost as much to private insurance companies as they do to the federal government in taxes, with the IRS acting as a collection agency for penalties of 2% of your annual income for refusing to comply.
This is just one of many recent measures that have brought liberal progressives and conservative libertarians together to join forces in opposition:
The individuals on both sides of the political spectrum who signed these letters agree on very little, but they do share both a tremendous concern for the corporatist control of government that politicians in both parties seem hell-bent on achieving.
In 2000, the Democrats railed in opposition when the Republicans passed Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage that didn’t allow for negotiated drug prices. And in 2006 when Democrats took over Congress, one of the hallmarks of their first hundred days was passing legislation allowing Medicare to do so, supported by both Rahm Emanuel and Barack Obama. Of course, it had no chance of passing with George Bush in the White House.
Candidate Barack Obama said the ability to negotiate for drug prices would save $30 billion a year in medical costs. Yet when President Obama got to the White House, one of the first things he did was negotiate a secret deal with PhRMA that prevented drug price negotiations in exchange for $150 million in political advertising to help vulnerable Democrats in the House and in support of the health care bill.
In the Senate, Tom Carper said that because PhRMA had paid for the deal with political advertising, they were obligated to abide by it.
Jeff Sessions railed against the corrupt PhRMA deal that didn’t allow for prescription drug price negotiation. He didn’t mention that he voted for the 2000 bill without it, and when he had the chance to vote for it in the Senate in 2006, he voted “no” himself. Both parties are equally blameworthy — the only difference is who is in power and taking PhRMA’s money.
The PhRMA deal is one of many negotiated by the White House this last summer which formed the underpinnings of the health care bill. From then on, it just became a matter of which member was going to extract what deals for their votes, and who was going to take the blame for cutting popular elements from the legislation that the corporate “stakeholders” didn’t want.
As FDL’s Jon Walker wrote recently, if the ability to cut health care costs hadn’t been auctioned off to private corporations in exchange for political patronage, there would have been no government subsidy necessary to make insurance coverage affordable.
We are ceding control of the government to private corporations, not figuratively but literally. When the Senate Finance Committee bill was released earlier this year, the “author” was a former VP of Wellpoint. Liberals, conservatives and independents alike are all justifiably alarmed at what this represents.
It is tragic that health care for the poor is being held hostage to the corporatist agenda, a fig leaf to buy public support and disguise this bill for what it is. As blogger Marcy Wheeler noted in a piece called Health Care and the Road to Neo-Feudalism:
I understand the temptation to offer 30 million people health care. What I don’t understand is the nonchalance with which we’re about to fundamentally shift the relationships of governance in doing so.
Just as those on the libertarian right were demonized by the Republican establishment for opposing the Iraq war during the Bush years, so progressives on the left are being pilloried for “damaging the cause” by joining with Republicans to oppose these extreme measures. It’s ironic that the most virulent supporters of a President who ran on “bipartisanship” should reject it so vehemently when it becomes critical of the policies pursued by his White House.
This “right-left wraparound” is happening because politicians in both parties have become so unresponsive to popular sentiment: public support for stifling investigation of the bank bailouts just to protect the President are infinitesimally small, and fortunately Dennis Kucinich announced today that he would commence an investigation into the Fannie/Freddie bailout. But it’s a testament to the extreme nature of what is happening to our government that such traditional political foes could find common cause in opposing it.
It’s foolish to say that only those who agree with you on every issue are allowed to share your opinion when it comes to opposing something like the mandated bailout of Aetna — it isn’t necessary to achieve health care reform. As Jon Walker notes, removing the mandate would reduce the CBO score and its inclusion in the health care bill with no government alternative is unacceptable for moral, political and policy reasons.
As Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos said, “remove the mandate or kill this bill.” We’ve opened a “war room” at Firedoglake with information about calling your member of Congress to demand that this provision to bail out the insurance industry be removed from the health care bill before they agree to cast their vote in favor of it.
And nobody needs to pass an ideological purity test before they can use it.
Join us to oppose the mandate. Enter the war room.
Let's say you're in the White House and a certain publication is stenographically touting attacks from the previous administration's Vice President. Sure, that publication might be pushing self-contradictory double standards, but everybody reads it, and you know whining about it won't get anything accomplished.
So what do you do to get them to lower the volume on the attacks against you? You give them an exclusive. Now you are in control of the message, at least for a little while, and your critics have been pushed aside.
But the only problem is, when you wake up tomorrow, you're going to face the same problem when that publication goes back to some other random schmuck to line up an attack against you, forcing you to once again feed the beast, fueling the vicious circle.
You really don't have much of an option other than to play the game, but man, does it ever suck. Big time.
After a DNC spokesman called Pete Hoekstra's (R-MI) attempt to cash in on last week's attempted terrorist attack, "beyond the pale," a Hoekstra spokesman offered perhaps the lamest excuse in recent political memory:
Truscott, Hoekstra’s spokesman, dismissed criticism of his boss’s terrorism-related fundraising appeal as part of an effort by Democrats to undercut his gubernatorial bid.
“This is hottest issue going right now. Everybody’s talking about it’s the lead story in the news all across the country,” Truscott said. “As a leading national expert on this issue, it’s certainly appropriate to raise this issue as he talks about the leadership he could bring to Michigan.”
Uh, the problem isn't raising the issue of terrorism, it's trying to make money off of it -- never mind the fear and hate-mongering language Hoekstra used in his fundraising letter.
Dennis Kucinich just released this statement:
As Chairman of the Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, I’m announcing that the Subcommittee will launch an investigation into the Treasury Department’s recent decision to lift the current $400-billion cap on combined federal assistance to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, opening the way for additional, unlimited funds through the end of 2012. This investigation will include the role played by Fannie Mae chief executive Michael J. Williams and Freddie Mac chief executive Charles E. Haldeman in the decision, if any, and will seek to ensure that the additional assistance is used for homeowners and not Wall Street.
Many questions remain unanswered regarding this move by the Treasury. Why suddenly remove the cap? Indications are that Freddie and Fannie, even as millions of Americans lose their homes, have used just $111 billion of the $400 billion previously available to them. Is lifting the cap on assistance a back-door TARP?
Additionally, I want to determine whether Fannie and Freddie have a cohesive plan to buy up the under-performing mortgages that remain on the books of the big banks, at appropriate prices, and undertake a massive reworking of the terms of the mortgages so as to stem the foreclosure crisis that continues to plague our country.This new authority must be used responsibly and for the benefit of American families. This cannot be used simply to purchase toxic assets at inflated prices, thus transferring the losses to the U. S. taxpayers and acting as a back-door TARP.
On Christmas Eve, they also announced $4-$6 million compensation packages for their top executives. But they’ll start foreclosing on homeowners again in January.
Fannie and Freddie have been corrupt cesspools for years, a place where presidents of both parties parked friends like Dennis DeConcini and Rahm Emanuel, giving them lucrative spots on the board of directors as political payoff. As government sponsored entities (GSEs) selling shares to the public, they operate like hedge funds that socialize losses and privatize profits. From the LA Times last year:
This week…news broke that until August, the lobbying firm owned by McCain campaign manager Rick Davis was paid $15,000 a month by Freddie Mac, one of the mortgage giants implicated in the current crisis (now taken over by the government and under investigation by the FBI). Apparently, Freddie Mac’s plan was to gain influence with McCain’s campaign in hopes that he would help shield it from pesky government regulations.
It appears they kept looking. The Democrats have been too intimidated by leadership to start looking into the utter corruption at these entities, but Kucinich just doesn’t care.
We’ve started a fundraising page at ActBlue to thank Dennis for taking this bold step, and doing it quickly. It takes a lot of courage to stand up to leadership, the White House and the banks like that. GSEs are going to be much in the news in the upcoming year, and Kucinich is announcing that he will be setting the agenda, not standing on the sidelines, watching a coverup.
We’d like to get 100 donors to say “thank you” to Dennis, even if it’s only $5, so he knows it matters to the people who are watching.
Dick Cheney has emerged from his undisclosed lair to issue his expected attack against the President, this one in response to the recent attempted terrorist attack on a U.S. airliner.
As usual, the attack is blatant, hypocritical, and sure to be lapped up by the traditional media for the next 24 hours. In part, he says:
"As I’ve watched the events of the last few days it is clear once again that President Obama is trying to pretend we are not at war. He seems to think if he has a low key response to an attempt to blow up an airliner and kill hundreds of people, we won’t be at war. He seems to think if he gives terrorists the rights of Americans, lets them lawyer up and reads them their Miranda rights, we won’t be at war. He seems to think if we bring the mastermind of 9/11 to New York, give him a lawyer and trial in civilian court, we won’t be at war ... But we are at war and when President Obama pretends we aren’t, it makes us less safe.
Of course, after the near identical situation in 2001, when shoe bomber Richard Reid attempted bring down an airliner, the Bush administration waited nearly a week to comment, and then only in passing, and Reid was (presumably after being read his Miranda rights) tried, convicted and sentenced in a civilian court.
I anxiously await the grilling Dick Cheney will get by the media over these pesky little details. And if any intrepid reporter does manage to work up the nerve to question him, maybe they could also ask Dick how that art therapy program kept us safe.