Thursday, May 24, 2007

What part of “majority” don’t you understand?

After weeks of standing tall and standing fast, the Democratic leadership seems on the verge of, once again, standing for nothing. Claiming that they don’t have the votes to override a Bush veto, the likes of Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Steny Hoyer have agreed to strip the Iraq war supplemental spending bill of any real restrictions on the president’s usurped power to continue to make mayhem in the Middle East.

Rather than building on a strategy that has unified most Democrats and allied Congress with the sentiments of three-quarters of American voters, while effectively driving a wedge between Republicans and those same voters, rather than ratcheting up the pressure that effectively planted a ticking time-bomb within the Republican caucus, causing those members that hope for a political future to privately, or sometimes openly, question their dead-ender president, rather than blaze a new way forward while just maybe saving a few lives in Iraq as well, Democrats, in their infinite wisdom, have chosen the comfort of concession, the tough talk without the tough action, the tried and true road back to mediocrity and minority.

Rather than strengthening the new narrative that had an out-of-touch president as the last man on earth that thought things were going well in Iraq, and Republicans slowly mustering their own circular firing squad as they nervously eye the electoral calendar, a vote on another blank check for George Bush will split the Democrats. When the supplemental comes to a vote, those members of the majority that still have a spine and a conscience—some predict 120 of them in the House—will vote against their leaders’ “compromise.” In the Senate, I expect a dozen or more Democrats will break with Reid, lining up with Senator Russ Feingold, who expressed his outrage this way:

Under the President’s Iraq policies, our military has been over-burdened, our national security has been jeopardized, and thousands of Americans have been killed or injured. Despite these realities, and the support of a majority of Americans for ending the President’s open-ended mission in Iraq, congressional leaders now propose a supplemental appropriations bill that does nothing to end this disastrous war. I cannot support a bill that contains nothing more than toothless benchmarks and that allows the President to continue what may be the greatest foreign policy blunder in our nation’s history. There has been a lot of tough talk from members of Congress about wanting to end this war, but it looks like the desire for political comfort won out over real action. Congress should have stood strong, acknowledged the will of the American people, and insisted on a bill requiring a real change of course in Iraq.

The length of time before the establishment media reverts to the “divided Democrats” meme will be measured in minutes, if not seconds.

And therein lies the other defeat for Democrats. Beyond losing the battle to end the battle in Iraq, beyond losing the trust of the progressives that worked so hard last year to return the party to majority status, beyond losing additional lives and limbs while they fecklessly wait for the next meaningless milestone or pretend deadline to see them in September, the Democrats, by backing down this week, have lost control of the narrative, and so, have lost control of their brand story.

As Drew Weston wrote—and I blogged about—last week, how the Democrats square off with the White House sends a meta-message about how they will handle confrontations across the board:

The willingness of Democratic leaders such as Chuck Schumer, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi to stare down the president has done far more to reassure the American people that Democrats know how to deal with aggression than all the efforts over the last five years to show that they, too, "support our troops."

It had done more, anyway. Now, with Reid saying we just can’t override Bush’s veto, goshdarnit, and Pelosi helping to negotiate a bill that she then announces she cannot support, the party is back to sympathizing with losers. Reid, who likes to remind us from time to time of his prizefighting days, should know better. You can’t win this one on points. History is not written by loveable losers, and there is no short-end money for the thousands upon thousands of Americans and Iraqis who will have their lives permanently altered over the next 120 days.

Reid and his Democrats could have been contenders, but, instead, they have bought themselves a one-way ticket back to Palookaville. Once again Democrats will be forced to argue that they really, really do “support our troops,” instead of being allowed to talk about how Bush’s rope-a-dope is killing our fighting men and women and the very civil and military structures that truly safeguard our country.

Of course, the idea that refusing to throw more good money after bad and refusing to sacrifice more soldiers and marines to the disappearing dream of a permanent Republican majority is somehow anti-troop is absurd on its face. The thought that de-funding Bush’s war will somehow strand Americans on a sand dune somewhere in the “triangle of death” with no bullets and no ticket home is so ridiculous it shouldn’t require a response. Yet, this is the story that Democrats are about to let Republicans and their media mediators tell: We can’t have a stand off with the White House, because we support our troops. Refusing to approve the blank check supplemental, so the story will go—has to go—is tantamount to leaving Americans in Iraq to fend for themselves.

Nothing, of course, is further from reality—I mean real reality—wars have been de-funded before, and the result hasn’t been “run for your lives!” The result has been a reasoned and reasonable redeployment, and would be this time, as well. The generals in the field know it, the Pentagon knows it, even the White House knows it (albeit they keep it to themselves), but if the American people are to know it—know it in a way that frames the debate moving forward—then the Democrats have to embrace it.

Instead, it seems, we will continue to be held hostage by the Republican myth machine, with our Democratic leaders exhibiting what might be the first recorded instance of Stockholm Syndrome by proxy.

But it doesn’t have to be this way, the Democrats have, if only for a few more hours, the cheers of an adoring nation. . . or, if not adoring, strongly supportive. Three quarters of Americans—what we call a vast majority—think this occupation is going horribly wrong. A majority support a drawdown of American troops. A majority support a real timeline with an end certain. A majority trust the Democratic Congress more than the President to manage this mess. A majority of independents, a majority of suburban voters, a two-thirds majority of voters in Republican districts all want to see Congress send Bush a bill with restrictions or deadlines. No matter how you slice it, a majority of Americans are against this war, and a majority of Americans want you, the Democrats in Congress, to bring it to an end.

Do that—or, at least continue to try to do that—and you, the Democrats who represent us in Congress, will be thought of as strong. Even if Bush vetoes and threatens to veto again, Americans will have your back because they will believe that you have theirs. Continue to fight, and you will be winners. Capitulate, and you will be losers.

How hard is that to understand?

Action alert: The vote on this compromising compromise could come as early as today. Please call your Representative—especially if he or she supported the McGovern amendment—and call your two Senators—especially if they had voted for the Feingold-Reid resolution last week—and tell them to stand strong and vote “no” on this version of the supplemental spending bill.

(cross-posted to Daily Kos)

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, May 18, 2007

What to write about—a day filled with scandals, or a "very special ER"

Thursday was a day so full of real news, it made my head spin. More fallout from James Comey’s testimony (and more fallout still), Paul Wolfowitz’s resignation, Cheney’s lawyers claiming total immunity in the Plame civil suit, Bush not answering one question, and smirking at another—I wanted to write a piece that pulled it all together, culminating in one or two undeniable conclusions. But, I’ll leave that to your imagination for now, that post is growing very long, and there is something else that I just can’t get off of my mind.

It’s kind of a small thing, really, but in another way, kind of not. It involves, of all things, last night’s episode of the long-running NBC hospital drama ER. The show, the season finale, itself wasn’t great (I’m not sure there has been a “great” episode of ER in a very, very long time), but some of the things in it really struck me. Struck me not so much because they were rendered that artfully, but rather, it struck me because they were rendered at all.

Over the years (and I am not a regular, each and every week viewer, but I see my share), ER has been good about bringing the outside world into the TV one—adding a line or a short subplot about the state of healthcare in America, or about other social issues—but last night, well. . . .

Most notable was a storyline about a guy in the emergency room for treatment of a lacerated arm. He’s a little touchy, and through some awkward dialog, it is revealed that he is an Iraq vet, but not one that saw any combat duty. Instead, he was a translator. After he exhibits drug-seeking behavior, however, and then attempts to swallow a room full of pills (it’s too much for me to explain how that happened), one of the regular characters suggests the vet has PTSD.

But, how can that be, another wonders—he didn’t see any combat. No, he didn’t, but it turns out he was an interpreter for interrogations.

As the drugged-up vet babbles in Arabic what we learn is something like “please don’t hurt me! I don’t know anything!” it is revealed that he has witnessed US interrogators beating, burning, cutting, and maiming Iraqi detainees. Many serious and strained looks are exchanged among all the doctors and nurses in the room.

And that’s it. There is no counter argument. There is no doubting his story. There is, indeed, no need for what the establishment media calls “balance” (but what is really just the airing of a contrary viewpoint, whether or not it is a serious one). This soldier saw Americans torture Iraqis. Americans torture Iraqis—it is simply understood.

There are other subplots that also intensify the sense that America is touched by this war and occupation more than it or its government let on (veterans working in the ER, reminders of a character that was killed “in country,” a peace march, and a portrayal of a double amputee that, although not a war injury, visually cannot help but refer to the large numbers of limbless veterans now back among us), but the story concerning PTSD caused by witnessing American-engineered torture made me reflect on how far we have come in the last four years.

And yes, while we have come a long way in recognizing the horrors of this occupation and the collateral damage of this conflict—and even in the understanding of post-traumatic stress—the long way I am thinking about is a less hopeful road. In fact, it is a sad one.

What I can’t help but realize from this dramatized portrayal is that we not only are a country that tortures people (for this I already knew), but that we are a country that knows it tortures people. And there is no national outrage, as best I can see—not really. In fact, as the audience at Tuesday’s Republican presidential debate demonstrated, there is at least an excitable minority that is quite proud and energized by the knowledge that we torture.

That behavior, and the behavior of the candidates that pandered to that group, horrifies me, but it does not surprise me. In any large group—in this case, an entire country—there are going to be some very scary subgroups. The episode of ER, however, saddened me. Primetime big three TV, after all, is designed to speak to a much larger and broader audience than an early Republican debate on FOX. If there were something obscure in an ER script, something too inside the beltway, it would likely be cut, or at least would be explained and argued.

Thursday’s torture story was not cut, however, and the narrative was not interrupted by longwinded explanations. It was understood that we would all understand.

And perhaps that says as much about the last six years as any of the other scandals and horrors I could have written about today.

How sad is that?

(cross-posted to Daily Kos)

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

In Republican America, it’s Always “Giuliani Time”

Call me a wild-eyed optimist (you wouldn’t be the first), but I am salivating at the chance to see any of these whack-jobs try to run away from this garbage in the general election.

The whack-jobs to which I refer are the angry white men who are running for the Republican presidential nomination, and the garbage is their, well, dare I dignify them with the label “ideas”?

Let’s look at some of the comments from Tuesday night’s Republican softball game debate regarding torture. Moderator Britt Hume pitched some absurd scenario about a multi-city nuclear attack by terrorists, and then asked candidates about whether they would endorse “enhanced interrogations techniques,” including “waterboarding.” Rudy Giuliani had this to say:

GIULIANI: In the hypothetical that you gave me, which assumes that we know there is going to be another attack and these people know about it, I would tell the people who had to do the interrogation to use every method they can think of. Shouldn’t be torture, but every method they can think of.

HUME: Water boarding?

GIULIANI: I would say every method they could think of, and I would support them in doing that because I have seen — [applause] — I have seen what can happen when you make a mistake about this and I don’t want to see another 3,000 people dead in New York or any place else.

And, the mouth-foaming xenophobes’ favorite fringe candidate, US Representative Tom Tancredo (R-CO—yes, some folks actually elected this guy) thought that since he was on FOX, he’d plug 24:

I just say that it’s almost unbelievable to listen to this in a way. We are talking about it in such a theoretical fashion. You say that nuclear devices have gone off in the United States, more are planned, and we are wondering about whether waterboarding would a bad thing to do? I’m look[ing] for Jack Bauer at that time, let me tell you. [applause] There is nothing — if you are talking about — I mean, we are the last best hope of Western Civilization. So all of the theories that go behind our activities, subsequent to these nuclear attacks going off in the United States, they go out the window. When we go under, western civilization goes under. So you better take that into account and you better do every single thing you can as President of the United States to make sure, number one, it doesn’t happen, that’s right. But, number two, you better respond in a way that makes them fearful of you, because, otherwise, you guarantee something like this will happen.

Indeed. It’s the “don’t mess with America because it’s ruled by a crazy SOB and there’s no telling what he might do” theory of deterrence. (Hey, it’s worked so far, uh, yeah, well. . . moving on—)

But, really, why even pretend to be a city on a hill when you’ve got a prison on an island? Which brings us to Guantanamo, and Mitt Romney’s modest proposal:

I am glad [detainees] are at Guantanamo. I don’t want them on our soil. I want them on Guantanamo, where they don’t get the access to lawyers they get when they’re on our soil. I don’t want them in our prisons, I want them there. Some people have said we ought to close Guantanamo. My view is we ought to double Guantanamo.

So, wait, you want to give the detainees more room, or lock their lawyers up with them, or maybe you just want to signal that on inauguration day 2009, it will be “round up the usual suspects” squared?

Really folks, is there a serious man or woman out there—one who is not drawing an administration paycheck, anyway—that thinks Guantanamo has been a net plus in the “war on terror?” Well, at least I have a new nickname for Romney: Mitt “double Git” Romney.

Also, note that the partisan Republican crowd in South Carolina Tuesday, applauded after Giuliani and Tancredo praised torture. Those are the politically involved people who will be picking their party’s standard-bearer!

The torture that routinely goes on at Guantanamo, or at various secret sites in other countries, has seriously tarnished America’s reputation and undermined its authority throughout the world. Along with Abu Ghraib, these examples of US juris(im)prudence are the best recruiting tools a terrorist could have. The policy, and the false bravado that accompanies it, also puts American servicemen and women in greater danger of being tortured themselves. (Don’t just believe me, Colin Powell said it, too.)

Two-thirds of Americans think the US should abide by international treaties and change the way it treats detainees as prescribed by the UN Commission on Human Rights. Even more think we should allow international courts to monitor our compliance with international treaties—even a majority of Republicans think so! So what country are these Republicans running to be president of?

If a Democratic nominee gets to face off against one of these guys in a debate this fall, and a question about torture or Gitmo comes up, I just hope that the Democrat takes the time to pause, look quizzically at the angry white man across the stage, and say something like, “I’m sorry, I’m just taking a moment to absorb your clueless, venal, soulless, lack of humanity.”

And if the Republican nominee happens to be America’s Sadist Mayor Sadist, I hope our candidate has the gumption and spark to say, “America can’t afford another Giuliani time.”

(cross-posted to Daily Kos)

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Swimming with Donkeys, Kicking Some Ass, Playing for Keeps (and a host of other metaphors)

This is a watershed moment for Democrats. At first blush, it might not feel that wet—the partisan Republicans packing the executive and judiciary branches are, after all, strong bulwarks against a progressive tide—or it might only feel that certain kind of wet one might get in a pissing match (a frame the establishment media is all too eager to put around the conflict between the new majority party in Congress and the dead-enders in the White House). But, this is not a pissing match, nor is it a time to tread water—how the congressional Democrats behave during the remainder of this session will define this generation of politicians for scores of Americans and set the tone for the ’08 election cycle.

Drew Weston, writing for the American Prospect, puts it like this:

The way Democrats handle their confrontation with the White House on the firing of the U.S. attorneys is as important to the party's brand on national defense as the way they handle the confrontation on the funding of the Iraq War itself. Why? Because it sends a meta-message about how they handle confrontations. The willingness of Democratic leaders such as Chuck Schumer, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi to stare down the president has done far more to reassure the American people that Democrats know how to deal with aggression than all the efforts over the last five years to show that they, too, "support our troops."

I will take Weston’s insight a step further: How the Democrats confront the White House on all matters of oversight—investigating the administration’s deception in the run-up to the Iraq war, uncovering the warrantless domestic spying program(s), closing Guantanamo, ending torture and extraordinary rendition, restoring habeas rights, exposing the failures that lead to the Katrina disaster and continue to hamper Gulf Coast recovery, attempting to correct the partisan politicization of the civil rights division at the Department of Justice and the General Services Administration, prosecuting the influence peddling, cronyism, and outright larceny that has touched the Pentagon, the CIA, Commerce, DHS, the Department of the Interior, the EPA, and many more—will go a very long way to defining the Democrats as a positive force, and not just an opposition party.

Perhaps that seems strange at first—by opposing the Republican agenda, the Democrats transcend their oppositional branding—but if framed, communicated, and executed with the American people (dare I say, “the consumer”) in mind, Democrats can quickly move past saying “no,” move past being perceived as “not Republicans,” and gain brand equity as a force for constructive and noticeable change.

In other words, simply being a “not” brand is not a good positioning for Democrats. “Not” brands are weak brands—defined by their antagonist, reactive at best, reactionary at their worst. There is little that is aspirational in such a positioning; you are the lesser of two evils.

But by standing up for our Constitution, for the rule of law, for a guarantee that every vote counts, for a government for and by the people, for the right to privacy, for accountability and an honest government, the Democratic Party marries itself to the sort of iconic American values that countless beltway strategists have (wrongly) ceded to Republicans for the last decade. Being the party of the country that we set out to be two-and-a-quarter centuries ago, the country that we can be proud to be today, will go further to garner the support of so-called “values voters” than any twisted triangulation on the role of the New Testament in civil society.

And, by standing firm for the ideals laid out in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, and against the Republican executive’s attempts to degrade them, Democrats not only show what they are fighting for and who they are fighting for, but, that, when the fighting gets tough, they will stand their ground.

By continuing to hammer the Bush Administration and its enablers on the issues outlined above—as well as on the need for national healthcare and a living wage—Democrats will show that Americans have an ally in the everyday struggle for a better life—an ally that won’t cut and run or compromise on core values. There is no negotiating Liberty, after all, and it doesn’t look good to try.

And, by continuing to investigate, hold hearings, reign in the executive—to check and balance—by continuing to pass legislation that benefits hardworking Americans, that represents the beliefs of the majority, even if these bills just meet with a presidential veto, then Democrats will demonstrate strength far more effectively than any photo-op on an aircraft carrier.

If they can do this, Democrats will not only shed light on and throw up roadblocks to the rightwing agenda, and win the hearts of voters, they will do something almost as satisfying—they will disarm beltway blowhards. When you are acting on the instructions of the American majority, when you are advocating for the broad interests of the American people, then you are no longer engaged in a simple pissing match. When your special interest is the Constitution and the people it protects, it is not politics as usual.

Fail to stand tall, however, and you confirm every prejudice of the Paleolithic punditocracy. Talk loudly, but eventually whittle down your stick to something smaller than a souvenir miniature baseball bat, all in the interest of being seen as a team player, and you will soon find yourself handling the leather instead of the wood. You will be back on defense. It’s all a game; you’ll get ‘em next time.

Or, to go back and torture my opening metaphor, if Democrats lack the strong kick to swim with the progressive current, they will again be back to carrying the Republicans’ water, and 2006 will look like just another unremarkable high tide, rather than a defining sea change.

Or, let me put it yet another way: Don’t play for time—play for keeps.

(cross-posted to Daily Kos)

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, May 11, 2007

DHS to EML: Drop Dead (establishment media to no one in particular: who cares?)

Here’s a story that has flown under my radar, and, it seems, just about everybody else’s, too (with one notable exception)—which is amazing, because it has everything. Everything, that is, we’ve come to expect from the agents of catastrophe, cronyism, and corruption affectionately known as the Bush Administration.

This is the story of the Environmental Measurements Laboratory, a small agency of the federal government that, much to my surprise, has its headquarters just blocks from my apartment here in NYC. The EML, as it has been known since the late Seventies, traces its origins back to the Manhattan Project, and, over its life, has earned the reputation as one of the world’s preeminent authorities on environmental radiation, its detection and measurement, and safety and abatement procedures.

When aboveground nuclear tests in Nevada sent radioactive clouds drifting eastward during the 1950’s, it was EML (then part of the Atomic Energy Commission) that spotted the problem and got the tests moved below ground. It was this lab that started sampling for radioactivity in our food supply and soil in the 50’s and 60’s. It was the EML that documented the threat from environmental radon in the Northeastern US in the 1970’s, and developed standards for radon safety and procedures for radon abatement. Today, EML watches over radiation monitoring stations throughout New York City and processes data from across the US and many other parts of the world.

When any government or public-private endeavor that dealt with radioactivity needed to calibrate its instruments, it sent them to the Environmental Measurements Lab because they were the most trusted institution for this essential maintenance, and, apparently, because they performed this service free of charge.

That’s performed. . . past tense. . . .

Enter Bush 43.

Now, it would seem to me, and probably to a lot of other honest souls, that in post-9/11 world, in the age of “loose nukes” and “dirty bombs” and smoking guns in the form of mushroom clouds (sorry, couldn’t resist)—and especially in a city that is still considered “ground zero” for such sorts of terrorist attacks—you would think that a fine, effective, and efficient agency like the EML would be safe. Hell, you’d think their staff and budget would have grown exponentially.

Of course, with the powers that be being who they be, you’d be thinking wrong.

With the formation of the Department of Homeland Security (I still choke and stutter when I say that name), the Environmental Protection Laboratory was shuffled from the Office of Environmental Management over to the newly formed Science and Technology Directorate (what is it about the names this bunch gives to things?), inside the gigantic DHS bureaucracy. And thus began the classic Bush-era destruction of a useful public institution.

I am short on details, here, I am afraid. I understand that the calibration check I mentioned earlier was privatized and is now much more expensive and less trustworthy. . . I do not know the name of the private company that now performs this vital service, nor do I know their connection to Bush acolytes (I can only imagine). I also understand that EML has seen their staff cut from 120 to 35 (some of these cuts were pre-Bush, but I don’t know what percentage). And, as I read it, had anyone been writing about this a month ago, they would have been reporting on the imminent shuttering of this Laboratory.

And they still would, had it not been for a whistleblower (presumably from EML, but not necessarily), one or two Congressmen, and one journalist. A couple of weeks ago, if I understand this right, Bob Hennelly, a reporter for WNYC, New York Public Radio, either himself received an anonymous fax, or was told of a congressional committee receiving such a fax, telling of EML’s all-but-certain demise.

Hennelly did a local radio piece on May 3 in which he reported on hearings to be held by Representative Brad Miller (D-NC) looking into the decommissioning of EML. (I missed this piece, and can only find this short summary.) Then, yesterday, Hennelly followed-up during an information-filled but unfortunately kind of scattershot interview with WNYC talk show host Leonard Lopate (there is an audio stream here; alas, there is no transcript).

I have listened to the Thursday piece twice, and as Bob Hennelly tells it, the Environmental Measurements Lab was very close to dead and gone, but the hearings have opened a few eyes, gotten the attention of some area Congressmen, raised the visibility of the matter, etc. Hennelly says the newly appointed director of EML claims that the lab will now be spared. Hennelly seems to concur with that assessment, but to my ear, he was less than convincing (apparently, Senator Schumer (D-NY) was made some assurances about EML at an earlier point that were less than honest). I am not slighting the reporter for his optimism, he is closer to the story and has done yeoman’s work, it’s just that, in my experience, following the “say one thing, do another” Bush Administration, absolutely nothing is safe and no battle is ever won—even if you have some official’s word on the matter; even if what you are trying to save is as important as the Environmental Measurements Laboratory.

Alas, the wrongheaded policies and hypocrisy are really just standard operating procedures for the Bush Administration. More vexing, in this case, is that, in a time when radio-terrorism (to coin a phrase) is all the rage, and in a place where terrorist attacks have already left still-visible scars, the story of Washington’s attempts to close an important agency like the Environmental Measurements Laboratory did not get more notice from the establishment media—local or national.

As the one reporter that did do his job remarked during yesterday’s interview, “Maybe, at the time, Imus was more important.”

(Addendum: Seriously, this story is so under the radar, it’s not even mentioned on the EML’s Wikipedia page. If anyone has any more information on this story, please send it my way. Thanks.)

(cross-posted to Daily Kos)

Labels: , , , , , ,

Friday, May 04, 2007

Credit Where Credit is Due

Back in January, I read a piece on Radar Online (!) about the contrasting fortunes of pundits and reporters who weighed in on the Iraqi incursion before its start. The results of the survey, as written up by Jebidiah Reed are, quite frankly, disheartening: those that were pro-war and predicted easy success were richly rewarded and continue to thrive, while those that dared to raise questions or predict trouble have been marginalized. It is a trend that sadly seems to have continued mostly unabated through four-plus years of bloody and brutal failure. . .

Until yesterday.

Regular consumers of my spleen know that I have a healthy portion reserved for the establishment media, their indiscriminant noblesse oblige inside the beltway, their unwarranted hostility to new media, and their regular inability to grasp just how terribly wrong things have gone in the last six years. So, let me step up and take note, extend a laurel and hardy handshake, and congratulate the most established of the establishment, the “gray lady,” “the paper of record”—The New York Times got this one right.

Recently, there were rumors that the position of Public Editor at the Times would disappear when the tenure of current PE Byron “Barney” Calame ended later this month. Instead, Times’ Executive Editor Bill Keller announced Thursday that starting May 14, Clark Hoyt will take over as the Times’ new Public Editor. In Keller’s words:

Clark has spent 38 years with Knight Ridder newspapers as a reporter, editor and executive. As a reporter, he shared a Pulitzer, and as an editor he earned a reputation as a reporter's editor. Until the sale of Knight Ridder last year, he was, for seven years, the Knight Ridder Washington Editor. In that role he presided over a body of aggressive reporting in the runup to the war in Iraq -- journalism that has been widely praised for sometimes being more skeptical about the pre-war intelligence than bigger news organizations, including our own.

That’s right, Hoyt, as Washington Editor for Knight Ridder, presided over some of the only establishment reportage that doubted Bush Administration claims of Saddam-al Qaeda connections and smoking guns in forms resembling cremini cumulous. As recently featured in a Bill Moyers documentary for PBS, Knight Ridder’s work lays waste to the protestations of so many that they had little choice but to support the Iraqi expedition back in 2002-03 because all of the information available at the time was so convincing.

Hoyt wasn’t convinced, and now his skepticism has been rewarded. And I might actually start looking forward to reading the Public Editor column again. That’s two plusses, and here are three cheers for the gray lady: hip hip hooray.

(h/t Think Progress)

(cross-posted from guy2k)

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Mission Not Accomplished

It is easy—really easy—to look at the beady-eyed maniac who vetoed the Iraq supplemental (now! with timelines!) and laugh at the folly of his flyboy stunt and photo-op speech of four years prior. Since then, over 3,200 more dead Americans, 360 billion more dollars down the sinkhole, the number of Sunni insurgents increased 14-fold, the number of attacks up by a factor of 17—mission so not accomplished.

It is easy, too, to laugh at the rationale President Bush used when issuing only the second veto of his administration: timelines are a “prescription for chaos and confusion; an early American exit would turn Iraq into a “cauldron of chaos”—as if Iraq today is a model of warm, fuzzy order rivaled only by Build-a-Bear Workshop.

But, it is because of the additional dollars and the additional dead, because of the inflating number of terrorists and the inflamed global tensions, and because of the current carnage and chaos that I cannot laugh.

Republicans and reporters might want to frame the debate over the future of the occupation as a game, pissing match, or staring contest between Bush and the Democratic leadership, but what is truly at stake is not just bragging rights or a stack of play money. Everyday the US stays the course and continues to splurge on the “surge,” the numbers of dead and wounded Americans, the numbers of dead and wounded Iraqis, the numbers of radicalized Moslems, and the numbers of dollars that could have been spent on something better will continue to increase—and the power that we as a nation have to do anything about it all will continue to decrease.

The clearly deteriorating situation in Iraq—with violence of all kinds as high as ever, the Iraqi parliament in disarray and now on hiatus, the al Maliki government using the US to kill Sunnis and arm their own Shiite militias—coupled with the contempt held by the White House for the feelings and wisdom of the majority here at home, makes this no time for easy jokes. . . or expedient compromises.

And that is why when I say “Mission not accomplished,” I am not looking at the president—not this time—I am looking at the Democrats. George W. Bush has vetoed one strategy to end the occupation—and more the visible fool he for doing so—but that is not an invitation to the Democrats to find their own USS Abraham Lincoln and declare major combat over. Democrats may have won the day, but they have not accomplished their mission.

Voters made it clear last November—America wants its troops out of Iraq. And while this round has done much to tie the Bush Administration and its Republican enablers to a fiasco of historic proportions, it has not stopped the architects of our misfortune from perpetuating, and exacerbating, the nightmare. If Democrats take this moment to feel satisfied with the political points gained, victory will be beyond pyrrhic, and voters will all too soon come to mock them as much as they now do the calcified commander-in-chief.

Any talk of compromise that does not include real and binding restrictions on the President’s long war is not so much compromise as capitulation. Any discussion of drafting a bill that Bush might sign must keep the Democrats’ mission—emphasizing political and diplomatic solutions over military force—in mind, and the final goal—effectively withdrawing all US combat forces from Iraq—in plain sight. Returning to the status quo ante, voting for another supplemental funding bill while paying aggressive lip service to the president’s problems, will not end the carnage nor calm the chaos, and thus, it will not do.

Over four years in, Bush’s original mission—however you frame it—lies in blood-soaked ruin. It is not accomplished, but it needs to be over. The occupation must end. American troops must come home.

President Bush has now made it his mission to prevent that from happening—it is the Democrats’ mission to see that this time, this Bush mission is (also) not accomplished.

(cross-posted from guy2k)

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Happy “Law Day”

I know, you thought it was May Day, but, as a New York Times editorial reminds us:

President Dwight Eisenhower established May 1 as Law Day to co-opt the biggest day on the socialist calendar. While much of the world marked May Day with critiques of capitalism and parades celebrating working men and women, the United States would honor, President Eisenhower declared, the “national dedication to the principle of government under laws.”

A dumb beginning, true, but as the Times points out, in the age of King George 43, “not a bad idea.” And they add this interesting fact:

Law Day proved to be a boon to international law, which was seen during the cold war as a check on communism. In his proclamation creating the holiday, Eisenhower emphasized law’s role “in the settlement of international disputes.” On Law Day 1959, Senator Prescott Bush of Connecticut, grandfather of the current president, urged, remarkably, that international conflicts be settled by the World Court.

Which makes it all the more ridiculous and sad that while the editorial staff was acknowledging that

. . . for six years now, the rule of law has been under attack. An array of doctrines has emerged to undermine it, like the enemy combatant doctrine, which says people can be held indefinitely without trial. . .

Times reporter Linda Greenhouse and her editors on the news pages could barely be bothered to note the latest developments in the enemy combatant saga and the continued trampling of our Constitution by the Bush Administration and its puppet-dominated Supreme Court:

In another action, the court turned, without comment, down the latest appeals by two Guantánamo detainees, Salim A. Hamdan and Omar Khadr. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David H. Souter, and Stephen G. Breyer dissented, as they had earlier this month. The case was Hamdan v. Gates, No. 06-1169.

Those three sentences are the last paragraph—and the only mention of this—in a long article about Monday’s Supreme Court business that mostly concerns itself with the (also horrible) decision to find for the police in reckless car chases.

While I’m happy to see that case covered, the unfathomably short shrift that Greenhouse and the Times give this latest turn in the Hamdan case and the challenges to the US Constitution raised by the Military Commissions Act show that while some at the paper have come to praise the rule of law, the news czars still choose to bury it.

Shame—on the Supreme Court. . . and the New York Times.

(cross-posted to Daily Kos)

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,