Hand-wringing over extreme partisanship has become a popular cause among learned analysts. They operate from Olympian heights and strain for evenhandedness by issuing tut-tuts to all sides, Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives.
But the evidence of recent days should settle the case: This administration has operated on the basis of a hyperpartisanship not seen in decades. Worse, the destroy-the-opposition, our-team-vs.-their-team approach has infected large parts of the conservative movement and the Republican Party. That’s a shame, since there are plenty of good people in both. Still, the tendency to subordinate principles to win short-term victories and cover up for the administration is, alas, rampant on the right.
Take the rush of conservative organs demanding an immediate pardon of Scooter Libby after his conviction on four counts related to lying and obstruction of justice. Last I checked, conservatives were deeply committed to the rule of law. They said so frequently during the Clinton impeachment saga.
President Bush should pardon I. Lewis â€œScooterâ€ Libby. The trial that concluded in a guilty verdict on four of five counts conclusively proved only one thing: A White House aide became the target of a politicized prosecution set in motion by bureaucratic infighting and political cowardice…
Whatever his motivations, Fitzgerald adopted the discredited Wilsonâ€™s script and focused his three-year investigation on Cheney, Libby, and Roveâ€”and not, inexplicably, on others. Not on Armitage. Not on Ari Fleischer, either. The recent trial revealed that the former White House press secretary was granted immunity from prosecution, and that he admitted to telling two reporters about Plameâ€™s employment. Those reporters were never even questioned. Nor did any charges arise from Fleischerâ€™s faulty memory, even though a third reporter (Pincus) testified that Fleischer had told him too about Plameâ€”something that Fleischer denied under oath.
There should have been no referral, no special counsel, no indictments, and no trial. The â€œCIA-leak caseâ€ has been a travesty. A good man has paid a very heavy price for the Leftâ€™s fevers, the mediaâ€™s scandal-mongering, and President Bushâ€™s failure to unify his own administration. Justice demands that Bush issue a pardon and lower the curtain on an embarrassing drama that shouldnâ€™t have lasted beyond its opening act.
Nicholas Kristof attempts to dispell the ‘myth’ that Obama is inexperienced:
The conventional wisdom about Barack Obama is that heâ€™s smart and charismatic but so inexperienced that we should feel jittery about him in the Oval Office.
But that view is myopic. In some respects, Mr. Obama is far more experienced than other presidential candidates.
His experience as an antipoverty organizer in Chicago, for example, gives him a deep grasp of a crucial 21st-century challenge â€” poverty in America â€” that almost all politicians lack. He says that grass-roots experience helps explain why he favors not only government spending programs, like early childhood education, but also cultural initiatives, like efforts to promote responsible fatherhood.
In foreign policy as well, Mr. Obama would bring to the White House an important experience that most other candidates lack: he has actually lived abroad. He spent four years as a child in Indonesia and attended schools in the Indonesian language, which he still speaks…
Our biggest mistake since World War II has been a lack of sensitivity to other peopleâ€™s nationalism, from Vietnam to Iraq. Perhaps as a result of his background, Mr. Obama has been unusually sensitive to such issues and to the need to project respect rather than arrogance. He has consistently shown great instincts.
Mr. Obamaâ€™s visit to Africa last year hit just the right diplomatic notes. In Kenya, he warmly greeted the president â€” but denounced corruption and went out of his way to visit a bold newspaper that government agents had ransacked. In South Africa, he respectfully but firmly criticized the governmentâ€™s unscientific bungling of the AIDS epidemic. In Chad, he visited Darfur refugees…
As a senator, Mr. Obama has not only seized the issue of nuclear proliferation, but also the question of small arms. For a majority of the worldâ€™s inhabitants, those AK-47s and R.P.G.â€™s are the weapons of mass destruction.
So how would an Obama administration differ from the Bill Clinton presidency in foreign policy? One way, he said, would be a much greater emphasis on promoting education, health care and development in Africa and other poor regions â€” not just for humanitarian reasons, but also with an eye to national security.
~Times Select – Subscription Required~ Â
The Horse’s Mouth dissects the Right’s latest attempted smear campaign:
The Drudge headline links toÂ this audio of Hillary speaking yesterday. If you listen to it, the main thing you’ll hear is Hillary speaking in a southern drawl, saying phrases that sound like her own words:
As you can see, this clip makes it sound like Hillary is adopting not just this drawl, but this language and this down-home grammar, as her own. The righties have been waving this around to prove what a phony Hillary is. This audio was promoted by, among others, PowerlineBlog, Free Republic, Instapundit, and Fox News, which linked to it under the headline, “Will the real Hillary please speak up?”
But as always, a simple fact-check shows this latest wingnut preoccupation to be highly dishonest. The audio clip Drudge linked to cherry-picked that quote and removed it completely from its context, which would have shown that Hillary wasn’t adopting this accent or grammar or language as her own at all.
Rather, it turns out that Hillary was actually quoting the hymn lyrics of someone else — while clearly and very openly imitating (not very well, it turns out) the cadences she thought the lyrics would traditionally have been delivered in. There was nothing phony about it at all. Watch for yourself:
[TalkingPointsMemo/Horse’sMouth] (with audio, video, and transcript)
Green Smear – the $mear attack on Vice President Al Gore and his energy consumption
ON NEW YEAR’S EVE in 2003, I was seized at the border of Serbia and Macedonia by Macedonian police who mistakenly believed that I was traveling on a false German passport. I was detained incommunicado for more than three weeks. Then I was handed over to the American Central Intelligence Agency and was stripped, severely beaten, shackled, dressed in a diaper, injected with drugs, chained to the floor of a plane and flown to Afghanistan, where I was imprisoned in a foul dungeon for more than four months.
Long after the American government realized that I was an entirely innocent man, I was blindfolded, put back on a plane, flown to Europe and left on a hilltop in Albania â€” without any explanation or apology for the nightmare that I had endured.
My story is well known. It has been described in literally hundreds of newspaper articles and television news programs â€” many of them relying on sources within the U.S. government. It has been the subject of numerous investigations and reports by intergovernmental bodies, including the European Parliament. Most recently, prosecutors in my own country of Germany are pursuing indictments against 13 CIA agents and contractors for their role in my kidnapping, abuse and detention. Although I never could have imagined it, and certainly never wished it, I have become the public face of the CIA’s “extraordinary rendition” program.
Why, then, does the American government insist that my ordeal is a state secret?
The newest from NYTimes’ David Brooks:
So there I was, sitting in my office, quietly contemplating suicide. I was watching a cattle call of Democratic presidential candidates on C-Span. In their five-minute speeches, they were laying it on thick with poll-tested, consultant-driven clichÃ©s of the Our Children Are Our Future variety. The thought of having to spend the next two years listening to this drivel set me wondering if it was literally possible to be bored to death.
Then Bill Richardson walked onstage. He was dressed differently â€” in slacks and a sports jacket. He told jokes that didnâ€™t seem repeated for the 5,000th time. He seemed recognizably human, unlike some of his overpolished peers. He gave the best presentation, by far.
Then a heretical question entered my head: What if Richardson does this well at forums for the next 10 months? Is it possible to imagine him as a leading candidate for the nomination?
When you think that way, it becomes absurdly easy to picture him rising toward the top. He is, after all, the most experienced person running for president. He served in Congress for 14 years. He was the energy secretary (energyâ€™s kind of vital).
(Times Select subscription required)
The Bush administrationâ€™s assault on some of the founding principles of American democracy marches onward despite the Democratic victory in the 2006 elections. The new Democratic majorities in Congress can block the sort of noxious measures that the Republican majority rubber-stamped. But preventing new assaults on civil liberties is not nearly enough.
Five years of presidential overreaching and Congressional collaboration continue to exact a high toll in human lives, Americaâ€™s global reputation and the architecture of democracy. Brutality toward prisoners, and the denial of their human rights, have been institutionalized; unlawful spying on Americans continues; and the courts are being closed to legal challenges of these practices.
It will require forceful steps by this Congress to undo the damage. A few lawmakers are offering bills intended to do just that, but they are only a start. Taking on this task is a moral imperative that will show the world the United States can be tough on terrorism without sacrificing its humanity and the rule of law.
Today weâ€™re offering a list â€” which, sadly, is hardly exhaustive â€” of things that need to be done to reverse the unwise and lawless policies of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Many will require a rewrite of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, an atrocious measure pushed through Congress with the help of three Republican senators, Arlen Specter, Lindsey Graham and John McCain; Senator McCain lent his moral authority to improving one part of the bill and thus obscured its many other problems.
Restore Habeas Corpus
Stop Illegal Spying
Ban Torture, Really
Close the CIA prisons
Account for Ghost Prisoners
Ban Extraordinary Rendition
The U.S.-backed Iraqi cabinet approved a new oil law Monday that is set to give foreign companies the long-term contracts and safe legal framework they have been waiting for, but which has rattled labour unions and international campaigners who say oil production should remain in the hands of Iraqis.
Independent analysts and labour groups have also criticised the process of drafting the law and warned that that the bill is so skewed in favour of foreign firms that it could end up heightening political tensions in the Arab nation and spreading instability.
For example, it specifies that up to two-thirds of Iraq’s known reserves would be developed by multinationals, under contracts lasting for 15 to 20 years.
This policy would represent a u-turn for Iraq’s oil industry, which has been in the public sector for more than three decades, and would break from normal practice in the Middle East.
According to local labour leaders, transferring ownership to the foreign companies would give a further pretext to continue the U.S. occupation on the grounds that those companies will need protection.
Stories in Thursday’s New York Times and Washington Post quote senior U.S. intelligence officials saying that North Korea might not have an enriched-uranium program after all…
“The revelation is stunning on two levels.
First, it suggests that the Bush administration could have struck a deal to halt the North Koreans’ nuclear-weapons program five years agoâ€”before they reprocessed 8,000 nuclear fuel rods into plutonium, before they tested a nuclear bomb for the first time, before they officially became a “nuclear-weapons state.”
Second (and this is the reason for the “no-confidence” stamp), it shows that Bush and his people will say anything, no matter whether it’s true, in order to shore up a political point. It means that U.S. intelligence has become completely corrupted.
It would be nice to know whether Iran is supplying Iraqi insurgents with particularly deadly explosives. It would be nice to know how far along the Iranians are coming with their (quite real) enriched-uranium program. It would be nice to know lots of things about this dangerous world. Or it would, at least, be nice to have a true sense of how much our intelligence agencies know about such things.
But we don’t know how much these agencies know, because we can have no confidence in what the Bush administration tells us they know.”
Sometime this spring or summer, barring an unexpected turnaround by Tehran, President Bush is likely to go on national television and announce that he has ordered American ships and aircraft to strike at military targets inside Iran. We must still sit through several months of soap opera at the United Nations in New York and assorted foreign capitals before this comes to pass, and it is always possible that a diplomatic breakthrough will occur – let it be so! – but I am convinced that Bush has already decided an attack is his only option and the rest is a charade he must go through to satisfy his European allies. The proof of this, I believe, lies half-hidden in recent public statements of his, which, if pieced together, provide a casus belli, or formal list of justifications, for going to war.
Three of his statements, in particular, contained the essence of this justification: his January 10 televised speech on his plan for a troop “surge” in Iraq, his State of the Union Address of January 23, and his first televised press conference of the year on February 14. None of these was primarily focused on Iran, but the President used each of them to warn of the extraordinary dangers that country poses to the United States and to hint at severe U.S. reprisals if the Iranians did not desist from “harming U.S. troops.” In each, moreover, he laid out various parts of the overall argument he will certainly use to justify an attack on Iran. String these together in one place and you can almost anticipate what Bush’s speechwriters will concoct before he addresses the American people from the Oval Office sometime later this year. Think of them as talking points for the next war.
Britney Spears was an idiot last Thursday, an idiot on Friday, and an idiot on both Saturday and Sunday. She was, shockingly, also an idiot on Monday. It will be news when she stops being an idiot, and we’ll know when that happens, because she’ll have shot herself for the good of the planet. Britney Spears cutting her hair off is the least-worthy front page news story in the history of humanity.
Apparently, from now on, every time a jackass sticks a pencil in his own eye, we’ll have to wait an extra ten minutes to hear what happened on the battlefield or in Congress or any other place that actually matters.
On the same day that Britney was shaving her head, a guy I know who works in the office of Senator Bernie Sanders sent me an email. He was trying very hard to get news organizations interested in some research his office had done about George Bush’s proposed 2008 budget, which was unveiled two weeks ago and received relatively little press, mainly because of the controversy over the Iraq war resolution. All the same, the Bush budget is an amazing document. It would be hard to imagine a document that more clearly articulates the priorities of our current political elite.
Not only does it make many of Bush’s tax cuts permanent, but it envisions a complete repeal of the Estate Tax, which mainly affects only those who are in the top two-tenths of the top one percent of the richest people in this country. The proposed savings from the cuts over the next decade are about $442 billion, or just slightly less than the amount of the annual defense budget (minus Iraq war expenses). But what’s interesting about these cuts are how Bush plans to pay for them.
Sanders’s office came up with some interesting numbers here. If the Estate Tax were to be repealed completely, the estimated savings to just one family — the Walton family, the heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune — would be about $32.7 billion dollars over the next ten years.
The proposed reductions to Medicaid over the same time frame? $28 billion.