Saturday, April 30, 2005


Bush’s Social Security “gamble” -- well, only to the extent he is willing to gamble OTHER people’s money

“Progressive indexing” isn’t what it appears to be
[L]et's state specifically what this to-some-sexy-sounding proposal offers: steep benefit cuts for all but the lowest income Americans and meager increases in benefits for them. It's hard to see how there's anything particularly progressive about gutting Social Security for the entire middle class. And how this comes off as a politically attractive proposal once anyone understands it is hard to figure.

All that has happened here is that the president has temporarily bamboozled a few folks in the media by trying to spin phase out. He is calling for steep and growing benefit cuts for everyone in the middle class and he still demands a partial phase-out of Social Security to be replaced by private accounts.

Social Security's support of the poorest Americans is a critical part of what it accomplishes. But Social Security is not poor relief. That is only what the president wants to make it -- in part because, once it is, it is far easier to cut further, since it has no organized political constituency.


Only one thing wrong with Bush’s plan
By untethering the benefits from payments made into the program, President Bush proposed last night that Social Security be transformed into the thing President Roosevelt feared; a welfare program for the aging…with private accounts.

Important questions Bush hasn’t even begun to address yet, such as, What about the disability benefits built into Social Security? What about the “clawback”?
Josh Marshall notes the dissonance between this and the White House's claim that, in other contexts, Treasury bonds are "just IOUs." But it's worse than that. As I've said before, under the proposal Bush has put forward an investment in Treasury bonds is guaranteed to lose money. . .

Scotty tries to “clarify” what Bush meant

You’ve heard about the struggle to reschedule the timing of Bush’s Very Important Press Conference so it wouldn’t conflict with the networks’ favorite shows. So, how did the press conference fare in tv terms?
[Dan Froomkin] The television networks -- and, by extension, the American viewing public -- got snookered last night. . . Strong-armed, beguiled and wheedled into pre-empting an hour of prime-time national programming last night for President Bush's news conference, the networks were assured they would be getting must-see TV. Instead, they got a clip show. . . The White House had promised that Bush would unveil new specifics about how he proposes to resolve Social Security's future funding shortfalls. And he did that -- but only briefly, and using language that was disingenuous at best.


[NB: This is fascinating in its deeper implications. So the sharpest evidence that the tv networks have stopped being intimidated or deferential to Bush ISN'T primarily that their questioning or coverage are getting tougher -- it's that they simply rate Bush's comments as less interesting and important than programs like "The O.C.", and so drop it lower in their programming priority. Hey, George, you need better plot twists (Jenna gets kidnapped....)]

Summed up in one sentence
President Bush on Thursday used a format he does not like to discuss issues he cannot resolve in hopes that he can sell the American people on policies most say they don’t want.

My favorite lines from what may have been the worst press conference ever, in terms of achieving it's goals (gaining public support for Chimpy's plans to destroy Social Security and calming public anxieties over high gas prices). . .

More photos:

And the questioning? (thanks to Doug Kellner for the link)
[David Corn] Overall, the press conference was not a grand performance--for either Bush or the reporters. The questions were not that sharp. And Bush was usually able to pull the rip cord for his same-old rhetoric. Asked about the controversial practice of renditions--under which terrorist suspects are sent by the CIA to other countries where torture may be conducted--he said, "We operate under the law," and he asserted, "We're going to do everything we can to protect us." One reporter simply wondered what Bush's view of the economy is at the moment. In response, Bush discussed the hardship imposed on small business by high gas prices. What about the National Education Association's lawsuit against the No Child Left Behind Act. The legislation is working, he insisted. North Korea and nuclear weapons? We're working through the six-party talks, he responded. John Bolton? A fine fellow who "isn't afraid to speak his mind." No one asked him to defend Tom DeLay or the administration's fantasy budget numbers.

On Iraq, Bush didn't deviate from his happy-talk approach: "I believe we're making really good progress." He declined to address the fact that insurgent attacks have returned to the high levels of last year. And he has yet to acknowledge in public that various military experts say that the insurgency can continue for years (perhaps decades) and that it could also take several years to train an Iraqi security force. When might US troops be withdrawn? As soon, he said, as Iraqis are "able to fight." Asked about the rise in the number of terrorist attacks worldwide last year--statistics that the State Department refused to release--Bush ran for cover, repeating his index-card rhetoric that it is necessary to fight terrorists abroad so they do not have to be confronted at home. It was a non sequitur. He refused--yet again--to criticize Russian leader Vladimir Putin for taking antidemocratic steps, noting that both he and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently had good chats with "Vladimir" about democracy. He refused to denounce Russia's decision to supply Iran with highly-enriched uranium for a nuclear power plant. He noted that "Vladimir is trying to help" Iran with its power needs and that Russia would collect the uranium after it was used. "I appreciate that gesture," he added. How understanding.

By and large, the media coverage of Bush’s Social Security comments was. . . well, you know

How we got here (thanks to Jan Pieterse for the link)
The Left's Media Miscalculation

Bush’s tipping point?
[Tim Grieve] One hundred days into his second term, it's a little early to stick a fork in George W. Bush. But boy, has the tide turned on a president who was so recently the swaggering darling of the national news. The White House had to beg some of the networks to air last night's prime-time news conference; it was the first night of sweeps week, and NBC and Fox couldn't bear the thought that Donald Trump or "The O.C." might be bumped by a not particularly popular commander in chief with little new to say. Bush's media handlers, who value nothing more than the president's reputation for resoluteness, caved in at the last minute and moved up the presser by half an hour so that most of the prime-time entertainment could appear on schedule. Bush made a joke about it all toward the end of the press conference, but, as the New York Times notes, a lot of viewers didn't see it: NBC and CBS had already cut away. . . If he reads the papers today, Bush might find himself wishing that the print reporters had left early, too. Forget the analysis pieces, almost all of which focus on the sorry shape of the president's second-term agenda; notice the hostile tone in the straight news stories today.
[Howard Fineman] Across a range of issues, and in a number of subtle and not-so-subtle ways, the Bush administration seems to have lost its touch. Is it losing momentum in a serious and permanent way?. . . Yes, Bush has been down politically before, and recovered smartly. He’s a fighter, and has the ability to ignore the gloom and doom around him. Yes, the Democrats don’t have much of an answer to him other than to shout “no” on a host of issues. Still, despite Republican control of virtually every lever of power in Washington—in a way because of that very fact—Bush finds himself playing defense. . .
[Craig Crawford] It has been a rough couple of months for the president, and, by extension, for Rove. These past weeks ended with Bush posting his lowest public approval ratings since the dog days before Sept. 11. Could it be that Rove’s untouchable political genius has already met its limits in the policy arena?. . . Bush’s troubles might stem from Rove’s management style, which seems to depend on three elements: power, intimidation and secrecy. Bush and Rove like holding all the cards. They work best from a position of total power. They get in trouble when they cannot command the shots, as in getting Congress to enact the Social Security changes they want. . . Bush and Rove have no qualms about leveraging their power. Many Republicans on Capitol Hill, especially in the Senate, gripe about “my way or the highway” edicts from the White House. This is one reason the president now encounters so much resistance to his agenda.

I like that phrase from Dan Froomkin: "clip show." Compare Bush’s recent lines with Frank Luntz’s strategy document that got leaked a few weeks ago (talk about message discipline. . . ). This is like those magicians who tell you how they are pulling off a trick, then they go ahead and do it anyway

Here is the weirdest, most outrageous argument yet for the “nuclear option” on Bush’s judicial nominees – though my only surprise is why someone hasn’t tried it earlier
[Wayne Allard, R- CO] “In light of recent terrorist attacks, it is readily apparent that we face a new age of global unrest, a world in which terror has replaced formal declarations of war as the major threat against freedom and democracy. A necessary component of providing justice to those who would do harm to our nation is to maintain an efficient court system. . ."

In Iraq, Allawi is on the outside looking in (how far the mighty have fallen)

Bolton: setting the bar lower and lower
[Peggy Noonan] The case of John Bolton is about politics (unhousebroken conservatives must be stopped), payback (you tick me off, I'll pick you off) and personality. People who have worked with him allege he is heavy-handed, curmudgeonly and not necessarily lovably so. . . I don't know him, but I suspect there's some truth in it. Do the charges disqualify him to serve as American ambassador to the United Nations? If reports of his behavior are true--he is tough, pushes too hard, sends pressuring e-mails and may or may not have berated a coworker as he threw paper balls at her hotel door--the answer is no.

[NB: The GOP and their proxies keep trying to spin this as a “tough boss” story – but we are way past that now. The serious accusations against Bolton concern abuse of intelligence, spying on colleagues, and interfering in independent assessments to drive results he favors. And on those stories something new comes out almost every day. . . ]

Misuse of NSA intercepts

“Rogue behavior”

Violating State Dept rules

Trying to get people fired who don’t even work for him

Widespread dissatisfaction among foreign policy professionals who knew and worked with him

Here’s a new legislative trick: pass something overwhelmingly in both houses of Congress, garnering favorable press coverage for bold, principled, and bipartisan action – then eliminate it in secret in the GOP-controlled conference

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I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Friday, April 29, 2005


Bush’s press conference: a good overview. Best line: “Bush holds a press conference to tell us that he can't do anything to help with our problems, but he wants us to know that he's trying”

Remember that Bush was SUPPOSED to lay out his plans for Social Security in greater detail. . . but for some reason he never got around to that (I wonder why?)
There was so much bamboozling going on tonight in that press conference that it was easy to miss one essential contradiction in the president's argument. You don't have to worry about private accounts, he said, because if you want you can fill your account with US Treasury bonds which have no risk at all. They're backed by the full faith and credit of the US government. But he says that the very same Treasury notes, when they're in the Trust Fund, are just worthless IOUs.
[Bush] As a matter of fairness, I propose that future generations receive benefits equal to or greater than the benefits today's seniors get. . . Secondly, I believe a reformed system should protect those who depend on Social Security the most. So I propose a Social Security system in the future where benefits for low-income workers will grow faster than benefits for people who are better off. . . This reform would solve most of the funding challenges facing Social Security.

[Kevin Drum] I assume that "equal to or greater" is code for "indexing to inflation, not wage growth." In other words, guaranteed benefits, which today are based on wage growth, would be reduced by quite a bit for everyone except the lowest wage earners. But he didn't have the guts to actually say this, instead making it sound like no one's future benefits would be cut. . . Presumably the unvarnished truth will come later, at some time when the president isn't on primetime TV. What a coward.
Rather than acknowledge what amounts to future cuts, the president suggested something of the opposite, saying "As a matter of fairness, I propose that future generations receive benefits equal to or greater than the benefits today's seniors get."


The Washington Post nails it
Bush Social Security Plan Would Cut Future Benefits

CBS doesn't
President Bush put a populist face on his Social Security plan by urging Congress to tilt the system to benefit low-income retirees of the future as part of a plan to shore up the program's finances.

Does he really mean this, or is he just trying to have it both ways?
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has defended the claim that opponents of President Bush’s judicial nominees are “against people of faith.” Tonight President Bush was asked if he agreed, and his answer was clear:

BUSH: … I just don’t agree with it.

QUESTION: You don’t agree with it?

BUSH: No. I think people oppose my nominees because of judicial philosophy.

QUESTION: Sir, I asked you about what you think of…

BUSH: No, I know what you asked me.

QUESTION: … the way faith is being used in our political debates, not just in society generally.

BUSH: Well, I can only speak to myself. And I am mindful that people in political office should not say to somebody, You’re not equally American if you don’t happen to agree with my view of religion.

The history of Republican filibusters

Read or listen to this speech by Al Gore on the GOP’s assault on Senate traditions to promote extremist judges: really, it’s worth the time


The latest vote count on overturning the filibuster

How conservatives and theocrats manage to convince themselves that they are a put-upon minority even during a time when their influence and power are dominant (thanks to Colleen Vojak for the link)


New Iraq govt formed – and guess who’s the Oil Minister? (It all makes so much sense)

Pentagon says it has put a stop to the “ghost detainee” practices they never quite fessed up to committing in the first place. . .

. . . and limits the interrogation practices they never quite admitted to either

Detainee interrogations were faked for visiting observers
The U.S. military staged the interrogations of terrorism suspects for members of Congress and other officials visiting the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to make it appear the government was obtaining valuable intelligence, a former Army translator who worked there claims in a new book scheduled for release Monday.

Who really supports the troops?

Wow. How badly was the WMD search screwed up? Very

Bush WH finally releases those suppressed terror numbers – and guess what? Things have gotten a lot worse

Just to show that I can criticize Democrats too: Pelosi has to deal with House colleagues who don’t seem to have gotten the memo that a political war is going on, and that compromise with the Bush regime never helps

Look at how the House Repubs are planning to respond on the DeLay fight, and tell me you can deal with these people

Everyone gives big play to Hastert’s concession on ethics rules. But this doesn’t mean they have any intention of actually investigating DeLay

What’s the matter with liberals? (thanks to Jan Pieterse for the link)

What’s the matter with conservatives? (thanks to Jan Pieterse for the link)

The Bolton wars: heating up again
John Wolf tells Senate Foreign Relations committee staff of Bolton's bizarrely extreme efforts over months to retaliate against junior State Department rising star Rexon Ryu, and two other still unnamed State Department officials.
[Chris Nelson] "The potentially explosive part of this is that Richardson is known to have had several conversations with then-Secretary of State Powell about his meetings with North Koreans since the Bush Administration came to power. If intercepts of these chats are on Bolton’s list, some observers argue that this means that Bolton, in effect, was spying on his own boss."

[NB: it is widely acknowledged that Bolton was the Cheney/Rumsfeld “mole” in the State Dept to report back on what Colin Powell was doing. See, for instance,]

More on the Denver 3 trial: it may be that the “Secret Service agent” was actually a WH staffer. This could get good

Did you buy oil stock when Bush/Cheney took office?

Another creepy House bill on parental notification

Our new Education Secretary
"Margaret Spellings terrifies me," said a Washington lobbyist who has known Ms. Spellings since she joined the Bush White House in 2001. . .

Since taking office, she has made clear that she sees the federal law as the nation's best bet for closing the achievement gap between minority and white students and that her mission is to help states that are raising student scores and following the law's principles, which include an expansion of standardized testing, to carry it out. Those states "will be gratified," she said recently. . . "Others looking for loopholes," she said, "who ignore the intent of the law and have minimal results to show for their millions of dollars in federal funds will think otherwise and be disappointed."

Mixed feelings: Limbaugh loses court fight on medical privacy. This is good news from the standpoint of seeing him convicted, bad news for its wider legal implications


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I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Thursday, April 28, 2005


Sometimes you gotta laugh to keep from crying. Every once in a while I like to collect some of the more funny and ironic stories in the news: a little humorous leavening for the daily dish of outrage and scandal. Here we go. . .

Light him up
[Time] Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And sometimes, according to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a cigar is an economic prop to a brutal totalitarian regime. Arguing against loosening sanctions against Cuba last year, DeLay warned that Fidel Castro "will take the money. Every dime that finds its way into Cuba first finds its way into Fidel Castro's blood-thirsty hands.... American consumers will get their fine cigars and their cheap sugar, but at the cost of our national honor."

DeLay has long been one of Congress' most vocal critics of what he calls Castro's "thugocracy," which is why some sharp-eyed TIME readers were surprised last week to see a photo of the Majority Leader smoking one of Cuba's best—a Hoyo de Monterrey double corona, which generally costs about $25 when purchased overseas and is not available in this country. The cigar's label clearly states that it was made in "Habana." The photo was taken in Jerusalem on July 28, 2003, during a meeting between DeLay and the Republican Jewish Coalition at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem.

Maybe the Dems are lighting up a few cigars themselves these days

Under widespread criticism, House GOP goes into full retreat on their corrupt ethics rules, trumpeting it as proof that they are the party of ethical propriety (uh-HUH)
The House Republican Conference distributed talking points blaming the minority party for forcing the majority to take a step with which it disagrees. Talking point No. 11: “Unlike the obstructionist Democrats who would rather bluster about supposed abuses of power by the Majority than actually come to an agreement on ethics, House Republicans are committed to moving forward and protecting the integrity of the House.”


Who do you send the House Ethics Committee to for ethics violations?

[USAT] "All five Republicans on the House ethics committee have financial links to Tom DeLay that could raise conflict-of-interest issues should the panel investigate the GOP majority leader"
The NYT says inside that a few dozen Republican lawmakers who received money from DeLay's PAC also contributed to his defense fund. There's nothing illegal about that, but it could have been used as a way to get around legal limits on individual contributions to the fund. "I think the House ethics committee would frown on the practice," said one Republican elections lawyer.

What happens next?
Now that it's clear that his controversial private-paid trips abroad will be put under a microscope in Congress, Tom DeLay is in serious danger of being declared in violation of House ethics rules, legal experts say.

House Republicans are rewriting Democratic amendments to make them sound outrageous and silly (thanks to Atrios for the link)
What’s the right name for this sort of behavior? Dishonest seems too weak. . .

Why is Bush backing DeLay in a way he never backed Trent Lott?

Bush’s Social Security pitch has been so bad that even businesses don’t support him!

Rumspeak (always good for a laugh)
Asked during the briefing "are we winning" the war, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld did not directly respond.

"The United States and the coalition forces, in my personal view, will not be the thing that will defeat the insurgency," Rumsfeld said.

"So, therefore, winning or losing is not the issue for 'we,' in my view, in the traditional, conventional context of using the word 'winning' and 'losing' in a war. The people that are going to defeat that insurgency are going to be the Iraqis."


A useful typology of Bush lies on Iraq
[Kevin McMillan] "(1) outright lies (even in the "lawyer's" sense of the term);

"(2) serious distortions and deliberate obfuscations with respect to known facts and existing evidence;

"(3) claims which strictly/literally were true but which were crafted with a deliberate intent to deceive and to suggest something quite different;

"(4) deliberate omission of critical information when presenting claims (information that would seriously undermine the force of those claims);

"(5) deliberate ambiguity about verb-tense in order to create a false impression that current facts were being referred to when in fact only long-past ones -- invariably pre-1991 -- were;

"(6) false assertions of certainty about matters that were anything but certain (in many cases highly controversial or purely speculative);

"(7) deliberate and systematic misrepresentation of others' claims (most notably UNSCOM and UNMOVIC reports);

"(8) unequivocal assertions about matters for which no evidence was ever provided; and so on and on.

The GOP operative who apparently called upon a fake "Secret Service agent" to oust participants at the Denver town hall meeting was the chair of the Colorado Young Republicans. The real Secret Service is investigating
[Kos] Remember, this is a taxpayer-funded event, and they've got Young Republicans running "security".

More, and a photo:

Over to you, Scotty
Q Back on March 21st, the President was in Denver doing an event. At that event three Denver residents were removed by somebody working on behalf of the President who is now being investigated for impersonating a Secret Service officer. I understand the White House knows who this person is. Will you tell us who this is? And will you, more importantly, explain what role the White House has in recruiting --


Q -- and training volunteers at these events? Is the White House encouraging people to screen or expel people from the President's events based on their point of view?

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me -- and I think I've talked about this issue before. But, first of all, let me just walk back through it because I think that's the best place to start. My understanding that a volunteer at this event -- and let me -- I need to back up before that. We use a lot of volunteers at events to help us in a number of different areas because you obviously have -- you tend to have a lot of people come into the event, a lot of logistical support that you need, and so we do rely on volunteers to help in a lot of different ways at events.

Now, in terms of this issue, my understanding is a volunteer was concerned that these three individuals were coming to the event solely for the purpose of disrupting it. And if people are coming to the event to disrupt it, they are going to be asked to leave. There are always protest areas set up outside the events where people can express their views.

These three individuals acknowledged that they were coming to the event to disrupt it. They stated that publicly in some of the initial reports. And so my understanding is the volunteer was concerned about these individuals, and that's why he asked them to leave.

Q Does the White House have any role in telling volunteers at these events, screen people that you think might be disruptive?

MR. McCLELLAN: I don't know if I'd view it that way. If we think people are coming to the event to disrupt it, obviously, they're going to be asked to leave. And if they do disrupt it, they will be asked to leave, as well. There's plenty of opportunity for people to express their views outside the event. That's why areas are set up for that sole purpose.

But again, these three individuals acknowledged that they were coming to the event to disrupt it. And in terms of who this individual was, I don't think that really serves any purpose to get into that publicly, other than to help advance the political agenda of these three individuals.

Funny story: one of the judges currently being filibustered is the son of the man who filibustered Abe Fortas under the Johnson administration

[NB: The serious aspect of this story is not to buy the current GOP claptrap that no judges have ever been filibustered before the mean old Democrats started blocking poor George’s “highly qualified” nominees. The Republicans have bottled up and blocked more judges from receiving an up-or-down vote (when in the minority) than the Democrats ever have]

Frist’s legacy: the end of the Senate as a deliberative “cooling plate” – he’s made it as rancorous and partisan as the House has always been
Amending the rules over the objection of the minority will do little to restore the spirit of cooperation that is vital to the Senate’s role as the “cooling plate” for the “hot tea” produced by the House.

[NB: This is the serious long-term consequence of killing the filibuster. The Senate is different because a committed minority CAN block votes (not just a minority party, but any coalition that can muster 40 votes) -- this forces compromise and deliberation over controversial issues. When the majority can basically ignore and override the minority any time it wants, the Senate becomes just like the House.]

How bad are Priscilla Owen and Janice Rogers Brown? You won’t believe how bad

Another smashing of Senate tradition: if Bolton fails to pass the Foreign Relations Committee, they’re planning to bring it to the full Senate for a vote anyway (Nuclear Option Two)
If they can't win playing by the rules, then their next move is ... to change the rules.


[NB: Watch, if this happens, for the first test of whether the Frist gang will immediately extend the Filibuster Buster not only to judicial appointments, but to other presidential appointments too – something they have promised not to do]

“Jeff Gannon”: no one seems to know exactly how often he came to the White House, how long he was there, who he talked to, or where he went. In a security-conscious era, how did this happen?

[NB: No, you won’t find me making any cheap jokes about a gay prostitute hanging out in the White House without his movements being accounted for. Nope, not me]

Bonus item: imagine this (thanks to Michael Froomkin for the link)
[E. J. Dionne Jr.] [I]n an amusing but revealing question, the pollsters asked how Americans would vote in a contest between Bill Clinton and George W. Bush if the Constitution were changed to allow them to run in 2008. Clinton beat Bush, 53 percent to 43 percent — a rather decisive judgment on our two most recent political legacies.

Go ahead, try and deny how much you’d love to watch that race. I dare you. If they put the debates on pay-per-view, it’d be worth millions

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I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Wednesday, April 27, 2005


This is quite a collection of stories today. On four different fronts: Social Security, Bolton, DeLay, and the filibuster, Bush and the GOP leadership have carved out positions that are wildly unpopular, dropping in credibility by the day, and opposed by a substantial number of members of their own party. Yet in every case the public line is “we will win,” and in every case a decisive win/lose vote is continually being put off (because right now they would lose), as they work the ropes behind the scenes to line up support among an increasingly suspicious and reluctant party. It appears that their only real argument (since in each case people really do disagree with them on the merits) is a combination of brute pressure and/or an appeal that “you can’t let us lose on this one.” Bullying or pleading – which is more politically desperate?

And why are we brought to this point? Two simple facts: (1) this is an administration that never learned how to compromise, and their “my way or the highway” approach is wearing thin; (2) they have always relied on the perception of inevitability for driving support for their policies, and so they are concerned that once they are shown to be vulnerable and capable of picking the wrong horse they will lose the iron grip of control they have gotten used to wielding over their own party

I think they will lose on all four of these issues. But most interesting, to me, is that even if they “won” them: privatizing Social Security, sending Bolton to the UN, saving DeLay, and killing the filibuster, polls show decisively that they would lose even more public support as a consequence. Or maybe they’ve stopped caring about that

Of course, the ultimate example of losing by winning has been Iraq. . .

Frist rejects the Reid compromise on judicial nominations and suffers a serious defeat (even though he doesn’t seem to realize it yet)
Reacting to a Democratic offer in the fight over filibusters, Republican leader Bill Frist said Tuesday he isn't interested in any deal that fails to ensure Senate confirmation for all of President Bush's judicial nominees.

[NB: Read that again. Bush nominates, and the Senate MUST confirm. Now we know why the Bush people hand-picked Frist as their boy for Majority Leader. Do you think he cares if he is destroying the Senate’s traditions and its advise and consent role? He’ll be gone in a year to start his Presidential campaign]
Reid just engaged Frist in a game of chicken, and Frist blinked first.

Reid has been extremely effective in whipping up opposition to the Nuclear Option, garnering strong grass- and netroots support, editorial board support, and popular support (as the latest polls show scant appetite for ending the filibuster).

But in order to avoid looking like obstructionists, Democrats had to make efforts to "find a compromise", lest the chattering class get the vapors from such Democratic intransigence.

Had Frist accepted the offers for compromise, Bush would've gotten the majority of his judges through, and Democrats would've gotten -- who knows what. . .

So Reid got the Democrats to look conciliatory, forcing Frist and his Republicans to look even more inflexible than before.

Just in case you have any doubts about who is pulling Frist’s strings
Karl Rove is injecting himself into the Senate's deliberations over George W. Bush's judicial nominees. In an interview with USAToday, Rove says he's opposed to any compromise on the "nuclear option" that would involve anything less than up-or-down floor votes on every one of the president's judicial nominees.

[NB: What jurisdiction does Rove have to direct Senate policy on its own procedures? Good question. But read on!]

Rove's point: The president has already compromised. "Rove said Bush tried to end the stalemate when he renominated just seven of the 10 nominees who had been blocked last year," USAToday reports. Those obstructionist Democrats didn't reciprocate. "I saw no change in tone," Rove said. "The flamethrowers ... came out within moments."

It's a nice story Rove tells about the president's attempt to make peace with the Democrats; it's just not exactly true. When the White House announced in December that Bush would re-nominate the seven judges, White House officials told the New York Times that Bush had offered all of the stalled judges the chance to be re-nominated. Two of them, Carolyn Kuhl and Claude Allen, declined. A third, Charles Pickering, who Bush had placed on the Fifth Circuit through a recess appointment, chose to retire rather than seek Senate confirmation again.
Rove also offered further evidence that he has lost his touch by:

• Claiming that Chimpy was making progress with the public in his efforts to destroy Social Security.

• Predicting that John Bolton would be confirmed by the Senate.

• Predicting that Tom DeLay would keep his job as majority leader

Republican hubris: act like you have the advantage even when you don’t
Here we are at another prescribed deadline for Bill Frist's detonation of the “nuclear option” to end judicial filibusters. And here we are, watching that deadline get postponed once more.

Early last week, everyone in the know seemed sure that the majority leader would pull the trigger in the last days before the Senate begins its weeklong recess on April 29. But by yesterday, April 25, Frist aides had put out word that nuclear action would not, in fact, occur this week, so lawmakers can focus their energies on the highway bill and on conference reports for the Iraq War supplemental and the budget.

This cycle of leaked reports touting nuclear action as imminent, followed by inevitable postponement, has recurred a few times during the 109th Congress. (“Senate Republican leaders have decided to begin their use of the ‘nuclear option’ … about a month from now,” wrote Bob Novak -- on February 5.) There are three reasons why the showdown keeps receding into the horizon. . .
On January 4, [Frist] said in no uncertain terms that the following month he would bring a nominee to the floor and deploy the nuclear option if that nominee did not receive an up-or-down vote. But it was three months before Frist brought the first nominee to the floor. . .

Talk about deadlines receding into the horizon. . .
[Matt Yglesias] If you're looking for reasons to believe that the Bush political machine is losing its deft touch then look no further than Bloomberg News' report that the President will be extending his Social Security privatization world tour beyond the initial 60-day timeframe. This is an absolutely baffling thing to do. By all objective standards, the tour has been a catastrophic failure. He's induced zero new legislators to back his agenda. Privatization's numbers have sunk further in the polls. Indeed, the best polling evidence available suggests that the more people focus on the issue, the less they like the president's ideas. . . I have trouble believing his team would do anything as dumb as a tour extension clearly seems to be. Maybe they've got some trick up their sleeve so brilliant that I can't grasp it. Certainly if there's a trick here I'm not seeing what it's supposed to be. . .

Don’t laugh (okay, laugh)
Q Scott, what does the President think of polls that show two-thirds of people disapprove of his handling of Social Security?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think you have to keep in mind what we're in. One, we are still in the early phase of our efforts to strengthen Social Security and get something done this week [sic]. And the goal of the initial phase has been to educate the American people about the problems facing Social Security.

[NB: In the “early phase”? Recall that Bush has already been in campaign mode on this issue for MORE than 60 days. And, as noted, the more people know the LESS they like Bush’s ideas about Social Security. So what is gained by putting more time and money into these pointless road shows? Stubbornness? A plan to turn public opinion? Or something else?]

As Congressional Republicans try to form an alternative to Bush’s proposal, the issue continues to tear them apart
A Senate Republican leadership aide expressed frustration with conservative groups’ rhetoric. While Bush and GOP congressional leaders say they are open to many ideas, conservatives have panned the everything-is-on-the-table approach.

“We should have no conditions before we start talking,” the Senate leadership staffer said. “If you start narrowing the ideas, there’s nothing left to negotiate.”

“There is a splinter in the Republican Party on how this should be addressed,” another Senate Republican aide said.

Rep. Clay Shaw (R-Fla.), a senior Ways and Means Committee member, said he has noticed “some negative stuff coming out” of certain groups, which he declined to name.

“They don’t understand that politics is the art of compromise,” he added.

Shaw’s Social Security reform plan proposes “add-on” accounts instead of “carve-outs” favored by many conservatives. The carve-outs would be financed from diverting payroll taxes, while add-ons would be paid for through tax credits.
[WP] On the eve of the first congressional hearing on the restructuring of Social Security, Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee signaled that they will not insist that personal accounts be part of the legislation and that they will not seek further details from President Bush about his plans for the government-run retirement program. . . In yesterday's briefing, the committee official asserted that the contours of Bush's plan for Social Security are already well known and that the panel did not believe the release of further details of the plan would be helpful.

[Kevin Drum] Am I missing something? Or did this guy basically ask President Bush to please shut up and stop making things worse?
A badly divided Senate Finance Committee yesterday held the first hearing examining President Bush's efforts to restructure Social Security. While the Democrats remained united in their opposition, there were signs of cracks in the Republicans' support for the president.

After months of political positioning, the stakes were high as the committee took up Bush's signature domestic issue for his second term. The White House has framed the Social Security debate as a matter of political courage, challenging both parties to secure the program's long-term solvency. . . With that highly charged backdrop, Republican divisions at the hearing had added significance.

One GOP witness repeatedly disparaged the White House's approach to Social Security changes, bolstering Democratic contentions that it would lead to politically untenable benefit cuts. Sen. Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.) questioned the wisdom of adding trillions of dollars in federal debt in the coming decades to finance the president's plan. And Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) seemed to signal intractable opposition to converting part of the defined Social Security benefit to variable returns from stock and bond investments.

Bush court nominee lights the “faith war” fuse,1,2263009.story
Just days after a bitterly divided Senate committee voted along party lines to approve her nomination as a federal appellate court judge, California Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown told an audience Sunday that people of faith were embroiled in a "war" against secular humanists who threatened to divorce America from its religious roots, according to a newspaper account of the speech.

[NB: This just goes to show her judicious temperament, I suppose. How tactful to give a speech like this in the middle of her confirmation fight!]

And get this: Frist’s “statesmanlike” statement disavowing the rabid anti-judicial screeds of DeLay et al. (while appearing before an audience of people who by and large have fostered such hatred toward judges) seems to have cost him both ways. Defenders of an independent judiciary saw it as calculated and disingenuous; the rabid right saw it as craven and opportunistic
[Matt Yglesias] This observation set off a torrent of conservative grumbling from fringe religious leaders and House Republican backbenchers. The Times reports that it was understood as a veiled swipe at Tom DeLay who "said last month that judges who denied appeals by Terri Schiavo's relatives who were trying to keep the brain-damaged Florida woman alive must 'answer for their behavior.'" It could just as easily be read as a swipe at the much broader and increasingly demented conservative anti-judge campaign in its entirety. My colleague Sam Rosenfeld has brought to my attention the Declaration of Constitutional Restoration put out by the Judeo-Christian Council for Constitutional Restoration. It not only calls on the Senate Republicans to go nuclear, it also demands that Congress strip the federal courts of jurisdiction over questions of marriage and establishment clause cases, calls for the impeachment of judges who make rulings they don't like, and most wackily states that "where appropriate, Congress should reduce or eliminate the funding of federal courts, the salaries of judges excepted, that overstep their constitutional authority."

They want, in other words, retaliation. Social conservatives seem to have been content to get mild rhetorical support of their agenda and essentially no policy substance from George W. Bush during the 2000 and 2004 campaigns. But it looks like the 2008 GOP contenders are going to need to bid pretty high to get this crowd in their corner.

In Iraq, Jaafari forms Cabinet compromise: will it hold?

(Not for long: I didn’t even finish composing the blog and the story has already been reversed!)

What?! Allawi accused of serving as a puppet for U.S. interests? Stop the presses!
Al-Hayat also says that the Sadr Movement has charged Iyad Allawi with implementing "an American game" in attempting to obstruct the formation of a government. Ahmad al-Qurayshi, head of the higher council for the Sadrists, told al-Hayat that "the goal of Allawi is to rob the Shiite alliance in order to make them withdraw the names of cabinet ministers who are not liked in Washington.". . . A high-ranking member of the Shiite Dawa Party told the newspaper that he intended to resort to "demonstrations and a popular uprising to force the formation of a government if the Americans continued to intervene behind the scenes to derail the process."

History will judge
[E&P] Half of Americans, exactly 50%, now say the Bush administration deliberately misled Americans about whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, the Gallup Poll organization reported this morning.

“This is the highest percentage that Gallup has found on this measure since the question was first asked in late May 2003,” Gallup observed. “At that time, 31% said the administration deliberately misled Americans. This sentiment has gradually increased over time, to 39% in July 2003, 43% in January/February 2004, and 47% in October 2004.”

Also, according to the latest poll, more than half of Americans, 54%, disapprove of the way President George W. Bush is handling the situation in Iraq, while 43% approve.


Numbers can lie: but no numbers is the finest lie of all
Major terrorist attacks tripled worldwide in 2004, according to a new US government count. That is one reason why Condoleezza Rice has suppressed further publication of Patterns of Global Terrorism, as reported originally by Knight Ridder's Jonathan Landay. It's such increasingly frequent displays by Rice of suppressing the truth that makes one lose respect for her rather quickly all over again.

Is this how you treat your allies?
The Bush assministration sends a message to any would-be allies by claiming that it was the Italians' fault that U.S. soldiers shot them while they were slowly traveling on the road to the Baghdad Airport.


Ugly, vicious, mean-spirited. . . no, don’t stop me. . . hateful, cruel, callous. . . I’m not done yet. . . malicious, malevolent, venomous. . .wait, one more. . .EVIL, pure evil
Debbie Schlussel, a right-wing political "commentator" and self-proclaimed heiress to Ann Coulter, has a truly nasty piece appearing in David Horowitz's hysteric Front Page Magazine, in which she asserts that humanitarian activist Marla Ruzicka deserved to die at the hands of Iraqi terrorists. . .

"There are plenty of young American men and women Ruzicka's age and younger who've been brutalized or killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. But none of them got the wall-to-wall fawning coverage that Ruzicka got -- unless they were anally raped or formerly played pro football," writes Schlussel. "While it's a sad day when any American gets killed by Islamic terrorists, it's measurably less sad when that American aided and abetted them -- and belittled our troops. . . For Marla Ruzicka," she concludes, "some might call it poetic justice."

Afghans don’t want permanent U.S. bases in their country either

Starting with Cheney’s line the other day, I think we are seeing Phase Two of the Bolton campaign: hey, he’s just a tough boss
"If being occasionally tough and aggressive were a problem, there are a lot of members of the US Senate who wouldn't qualify," Mr Cheney said in a speech, echoing an increasingly common defence of Mr Bolton.
[Bill] Kristol knows perfectly well what the charges against Bolton are. And yet here's how he sums up the case against: "Bolton disagreed with--he even disliked!--a couple of bureaucrats. He challenged them." That's absurd. The relevant point here isn't that Bolton was brusque with some lower-tier officials. It's that the behavior -- however you want to characterize it -- was aimed distorting the intelligence assessments received by the American people and by the President of the United States. That's not the only charge against Bolton, but it's one of the very most important ones. If Bolton had some subordinates who were trying to misrepresent Intelligence Community views on Syrian (and Cuban, etc.) WMD programs and he got really, really mad at them in an effort to stop them, nobody would be complaining. But he did the reverse. At any rate, Kristol knows this, he's just choosing to lie about it. . .

More on Kristol’s lies:
[Laura Rozen] Yesterday I wondered aloud on this site, why the pro-Bolton pushback had been so curiously silent on the substantive issues and concerns raised about Bolton, in particular his well documented manipulation and exaggeration of intelligence, and retaliation against those intelligence analysts and negotiators whose professional judgment conflicted with Bolton's ideological views. While Bolton's supporters accuse his critics of engaging in character assassination, they studiously avoid answering some of the chief substantive policy-process concerns raised about Bolton, and they themselves keep the focus squarely on Bolton's style ("blunt, but effective") (and the character of his many critics).

So, why won't Bolton's conservative supporters just stand up and say they wholeheartedly endorse Bolton's record of grossly exaggerating rogue state proliferation threats far beyond the best professional judgment of the intelligence community?. . .

Bolton's conservative supporters in and out of the administration are therefore in the absurd position of blaming the entire pre-war hype and misjudgment on Iraq's non-existent WMD stockpiles on the US intel community, hype of which they were the cheerleaders in chief. . . Now, in the current Bolton nomination debate, out comes - surprise, surprise! -- a well-documented pattern of John Bolton's exaggeration and politicization of the WMD threat posed by nations like Cuba and Syria to the consternation of the US intelligence community. But wait! That's precisely what Bolton's supporters like about Bolton. He exaggerates and politicizes the threat for ideological reasons, running up time and again against the judgment and patience of the professional US intelligence community. But -- shhhh -- after the Iraq WMD intel fiasco, the Bush line is, that such hype was (c'mon, you know the chorus) “all the US intelligence community's fault.” Black is white, folks.

Bolton: “the last straw”?

Nope, it gets even worse!
Trying to find out the U.S. officials named in the NSA intercepts is going to be complicated and difficult -- particularly because they are highly classified and also because the State Department and Bush administration are working over-time to try and prevent Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from seeing them.

There is no more important evidence in the John Bolton nomination than those transcripts -- and it is my understanding, though I admit to not having complete information -- that Senator Lugar's staff is now getting stonewalled by the administration as well.

What I do have from a confidential and highly placed source is at least one name who appears in the NSA documents, and it is someone I had not previously considered.

Quite astoundingly, reports are that Governor Bill Richardson -- who previously served as a Member of the U.S. Congress, as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and as Secretary of Energy -- was named in the transcripts dealing with diplomatic efforts he was making with North Korea.

Senate panel to WIDEN its Bolton probe
In a widening of the inquiry into John R. Bolton's nomination to be ambassador to the United Nations, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee intends to conduct formal interviews in the next 10 days with as many as two dozen people, Congressional officials said Tuesday. . . The expanded questioning is an unusual approach for a committee that has already held confirmation hearings and at one point appeared to be on the verge of voting to approve the nominee.

Meanwhile, even as the daily details of serious malfeasance continue to grow, the backroom pressure on Repubs to back Bolton DESPITE EVERYTHING is, from all appearances, getting brutal
Vice President Dick Cheney and Karl Rove, the White House deputy chief of staff and the president's powerful political adviser, are playing a central and aggressive role in trying to salvage Mr. Bolton's prospects.


Plame: as predicted, the likely defense will be “I leaked her name, but didn’t know she was a covert agent.” But that shouldn’t get Bush Co. off the hook. Here’s why
[Murray Waas] Although several administration officials admitted to disseminating negative information about Wilson and Plame, they also asserted that they did not know that Plame was a clandestine CIA operative. Federal investigators have been skeptical of those accounts, according to sources close to the case, but unable to prove them false.

[Swopa] But aren't there any other loose ends Fitzgerald can tug on? In an interview posted on Daily Kos, Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson, suggests one:

. . . the leakers were probably not the decision-makers. They just carried out the decisions of their superiors. . . The intriguing question is: Who gave the name to the White House in the first place? Who in the intelligence community offered up my wife's name and why?

This angle is similar to the one I suggested in mid-October 2003, when I tried to figure out an overall theory of how the leak happened:

As part of the decision to leak the information about Valerie Wilson, Libby or whoever passes along some rationale -- correct or not -- by which the people who do the leaking won't be liable for blowing a CIA agent's cover. Perhaps he says she isn't covert, or finds some loophole in the way he got the information.

As I describe in way too much greater detail in that post, the fact that the calls by Karl Rove and others to reporters stopped as soon as Wilson explained on TV that "Valerie Plame" was the name under which his wife had done undercover work

. . . leads me to believe that Karl Rove et al. may have been caught by surprise by what Wilson said -- they didn't know "Valerie Plame" wasn't his wife's current name, or that it had greater meaning in terms of previous covert work (which they also may not have known about). They just got suckered into it by Lewis Libby, or someone else with a sizable ax to grind against the CIA.

But, as I also noted, whoever gave Rove and others the name "Valerie Plame" -- the name under which Wilson's wife had been a covert agent -- almost certainly did know her true role, and so is guilty of disclosing classified information. That's the line of investigation Fitzgerald should be pursuing.

Scotty on Bush’s embrace of DeLay
Q Scott, why -- Tom DeLay is not from Galveston, why is he riding back with the President today? And what's the signal that the President is trying to send by inviting him on Air Force One?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, he is from the area. Galveston is near his district and we typically invite members of Congress to events in their area. . .

Q Does DeLay's district touch on Galveston at all?


Q Okay.

Q Does this have something to do with his ethics problems?

MR. McCLELLAN: What's that?

Q Is it helping him with his ethics problem?

MR. McCLELLAN: This has to do with an event that is occurring in his area and the fact that the President appreciates his leadership in the House and that we work very closely with him, as well as other congressional leaders, on the agenda for the American people. . .Leader DeLay, along with other leaders in the House and the Senate, is someone who is committed to getting things done on our shared priorities. . .

DeLay can’t survive this: new disclosures on just how cozy his ties to Abramoff were
[Time] Lobbyist Jack Abramoff gave expensive gifts to key members of then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay's staff, which the aides accepted in apparent violation of House ethics rules, according to two sources who worked at Abramoff's law firm at the time Abramoff made the gifts. The gifts included high-end golf equipment, tickets to sporting events and concerts and, in the case of one high-ranking DeLay staff member, a weekend getaway paid for by Abramoff's own frequent flyer and hotel points, two sources who had direct knowledge of the transactions tell TIME.

The two sources say that one recipient of the gifts, including the weekend trip and expensive golf clubs, was Tony C. Rudy, who worked for DeLay for five years and served at various times as DeLay's press secretary, policy director, general counsel and deputy chief of staff when DeLay was House Majority Whip. When Rudy left DeLay's office in 2002, he joined Abramoff at Greenberg Traurig, the firm that hired Abramoff in December 2000. Rudy now works at Alexander Strategy Group, a lobbying firm headed by former DeLay Chief of Staff Ed Buckham.
Tom DeLay and his top aides were often in daily contact with lobbyist Jack Abramoff during the mid-1990s as the lobbyist made campaign contributions and arranged travel for the House leader while seeking legislative help for a multimillion-dollar client, according to law firm records made public for the first time.

DeLay's office kept Abramoff, now under criminal investigation, routinely apprised of congressional efforts to block new regulations on his client, the Northern Mariana Islands.

Abramoff's firm reported it drafted legislative materials for DeLay, and Abramoff boasted to island leaders he could use his close ties to Republican leaders to block legislation from receiving a House vote.

Chalk up another victory for a united Democratic front
[WP] House Republican aides said yesterday for the first time that they believe they will have to reverse or modify the ethics rules that were passed on a party-line vote in January and have caused Democrats to refuse to allow the ethics committee to organize. Republican leaders had been trying to avoid a new floor vote over the rules, but aides said they now are convinced that they need to get the committee going so that Democrats cannot accuse them of squelching an investigation of DeLay.
"We fumbled the ball badly," one "senior Republican official" told the NYT.
All five Republicans on the House ethics committee have financial links to Tom DeLay that could raise conflict-of-interest issues should the panel investigate the GOP majority leader.

Public records show DeLay's leadership political action committee (PAC) gave $15,000 to the campaign of Rep. Melissa Hart, R-Pa. — $10,000 in 2000 and $5,000 in 2002. Hart would chair a panel to investigate DeLay if the committee moves forward with a probe.

The same political committee, Americans for a Republican Majority, also has donated to the campaigns of ethics Chairman Doc Hastings of Washington, Judy Biggert of Illinois and Tom Cole of Oklahoma. They are among scores of Republicans DeLay has contributed to. Cole and the remaining committee Republican, Lamar Smith of Texas, contributed to DeLay's legal defense fund.


Let him stay? Another county heard from

Lou Dobbs!
“Compassionate conservatism has been the catchphrase of George W. Bush since the presidential campaign of 2000, but those two words must now ring hollow to the more than 100 million Americans who make up our middle class. There is nothing conservative about our rising record budget and trade deficits. There is nothing compassionate about the president's idea of Social Security reform, the rollback of coverage for ever more costly healthcare for working Americans, or the most recent assault on the middle class: the new bankruptcy reform bill that Bush signed into law last week.”

What can be done about election fraud?

Branding the Democrats
“Democrats are the party for people who work for a living”

[NB: Like it?]

Bonus item: The Family Research Council on filibusters
MSNBC host Keith Olbermann noted that the Family Research Council (FRC), which is currently campaigning to stop filibusters of President Bush's judicial nominees by Senate Democrats, was quite vocal in the late 1990s in defending the right to filibuster another presidential nominee, James C. Hormel, who was nominated by President Clinton as ambassador to Luxembourg. . .

OLBERMANN: Yesterday, it was opposed to filibusters. Seven years ago, it was in favor of them. That's when Clinton and a then-Democratic plurality in the Senate wanted a man named James Hormel to become the ambassador to Luxembourg. Hormel, of the Spam-and-other-meats Hormels, was gay, as the Senate minority bottled up Hormel's nomination with filibusters and threats of filibusters, minority relative to cloture, to breaking up a filibuster. . .

The Family Research Council's senior writer, Steven Schwalm, appeared on National Public Radio at the time and explained the value, even the necessity, of the filibuster. . . "The Senate," he said, "is not a majoritarian institution, like the House of Representatives is. It is a deliberative body, and it's got a number of checks and balances built into our government. The filibuster is one of those checks in which a majority cannot just sheerly force its will, even if they have a majority of votes in some cases. That's why there are things like filibusters, and other things that give minorities in the Senate some power to slow things up, to hold things up, and let things be aired properly."

People For the American Way has developed a chart compiled from Congressional Research Service data that lists the judicial and executive branch nominees filibustered prior to the Bush administration. Twenty-six of the filibusters – more than three-quarters of the total – were initiated by Senate Republicans. . .

Double bonus: the funniest “nuclear option” locution yet
[WSJ] With a vote expected soon on what the Democrats (borrowing a term from Trent Lott) call the "nuclear option," suddenly they are talking compromise.

[NB: So, even though we admit that TRENT LOTT invented the term, it’s still the Democrats’, see?]

***If you enjoy PBD and support what we are doing, you can help by forwarding a copy of this issue to your friends (using the envelope link below) or by sending them a copy of its URL (

I don't get anything personally out of this project, except the satisfaction of doing it (I don't run ads, etc). The credit really all goes to the people whose material I copy and redistribute. But if I do have a "mission," it is to get this information into the hands of as many people as I can.***

Tuesday, April 26, 2005


Promises of significant troop reductions in Iraq may have been premature
Developments in Iraq haven't been too positive of late -- though pronouncements from the U.S. military have, with forecasts for reduced U.S. troop levels, and confident appraisals of an insurgency weakened and on the run. . . But as a new surge of violence rattles Baghdad and beyond, some in the military are expressing deep concern (not on the record, of course) that the mission may be in serious trouble.

"Senior military strategists, speaking privately, said they worry that insurgents are making inroads toward sparking a full-blown sectarian war and offered cautions about recent predictions that the United States could significantly reduce its forces from the current 142,000 within a year," reported the Boston Globe yesterday.

"'One of the insurgency's strengths is its capacity to regenerate," retired Army General John Keane, who returned recently from a fact-finding mission in Iraq, told the Globe. "We have killed thousands of them and detained even more, but they are still able to regenerate. They are still coming at us."

On WMD, the last, final little squeak
In his final report, the CIA's top weapons inspector in Iraq said yesterday that the hunt for weapons of mass destruction has gone "as far as feasible" and has found nothing. . .

(They aren’t in Syria either)

Support the troops!
The Bush administration long ago turned its back on a group of American POWs tortured by Saddam Hussein's regime during the Gulf War, and now the U.S. Supreme Court has, too. Its refusal to hear their case today kills the vets' last hopes for reparation.

Bush Co. decides to “get tough” with Venezuela. I guess trying to overthrow the democratically elected govt of Hugo Chavez wasn’t tough enough?

On Priscilla Owens, the prime Test Case for Bush’s new “highly qualified” court appointees: read what Alberto Gonzales said about her in 1999-2000

Let’s see, Frist keeps making the argument that overturning the filibuster is promoting the will of the People. So how do the People feel about it?
Support - 26%
Oppose - 66%
[Atrios] Only 26% of the country support "changing the Senate rules to make it easier for the Republicans to confirm Bush's judicial nominees?". . . I'm one who pegs Bush's base support at about 35%. By base, I mean "would rather eat sh-t and die than oppose dear leader." So, to get anything falling below that is truly stunning.

Just how bad is the GOP’s hypocrisy on filibusters?

Reid offers a true compromise on judicial nominees (one I expect Frist to reject) – but this is the kind of savvy move that sets up a useful response later, if the nuclear option does come to pass

Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) said that under such a deal, Democrats would allow a vote on some of President Bush's seven controversial nominees to the federal bench, while others would be withdrawn by the White House. . . The Democrats stressed that any deal would have to include a pledge by the GOP leadership not to try to change Senate rules that allowed for filibusters of judicial nominees.

There are twitters today about a possible compromise between Reid and Frist on the seven nominations. I don't think it's going to happen, but the process of negotiation is necessary theater for both sides. Here's why I think we're headed for the showdown: first, because Frist and the rest of the GOP have wedged themselves between a rock and a hard place. Second, because Sen Harry Reid and associates have set the framework for the coming battle perfectly. . .

So, to pull this all together, I'm not saying Democrats shouldn't keep up the pressure on their senators. They must. And any deal that doesn't put the nuclear option off the table in a permanent and meaningfully binding way is a joke. But let's remember what this is about. It's about whether the Democrats retain their significant lever of power to block President Bush's most extreme judicial nominees. Democrats give that up, they lose. Republicans give that up, they lose. It's really that simple. A couple judges passed through are a secondary matter. From having watched so far, I get the sense that Sen. Reid sees all those moving parts. So I'm inclined to give him the room for maneuver he needs to back these folks into a ghastly trap.

Dick Durbin, our guy!
GWEN IFILL: Does Sen. Frist have the votes in order to force this nuclear option?

SEN. JOHN KYL: Well, I'm not going to characterize it as a nuclear option. That's what the opponent....

GWEN IFILL: Or a constitutional option. Whatever term we're using today.

SEN. JOHN KYL: It is a constitutional option because the Senate has the right to provide its own precedents. That's what would be done. I won't predict vote, but I don't think we'd go forward unless we thought we had the votes.

GWEN IFILL: How about that. Sen. Durbin, what's your nose count these days?

SEN. DICK DURBIN: Well, I can tell you it's very close; it's down to one or two Republican senators. And they understand the basics. First, this term nuclear option was coined by Trent Lott, a Republican. It's not a Democratic way to try to color this debate.

More polls
Bush Sinking Like a Stone

Fred Barnes, GOP mouthpiece, says it’s time to start looking for a Social Security exit strategy
“Bush can deny them that issue with the right exit strategy. He could say he tried his best to alert Americans to the coming crisis in Social Security, and that Democrats not only opposed him in the most partisan and irresponsible fashion possible but failed to present a plan of their own for modernizing the system. Sadly, he could add, the matter must now be left to future presidents and Congresses.”

[NB:I doubt this would work. First, Bush has said it is a crisis that requires an emergency response. Throwing up his hands and quitting now looks pretty pathetic. Second, HE NEVER PROVIDED A PLAN. He never even had strong support within his own party. Third, he was the one to set inflexible conditions on the negotiations that guaranteed that no compromise was possible. If he were ever really in problem-solving mode, he would have given up on private accounts and explored other possible solutions]
[LAT] Invariably, when Bush talks to Republicans about Social Security, he sends an important political message: He's not going to give up this fight any time soon. . . "He gives you a lot of confidence he's not going to leave you out on a limb," said Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who rode with Bush on Air Force One to the senator's home state last week. "He's going to stick with this issue....Until the last day in office he's going to keep doing this."

I like this: Bush asks DeLay to help him make the Social Security case. (If he could get Bolton to join them too, that would be the trifecta!)

[NB: Hey George, tighten those handcuffs a little stronger, okay?]

Senate committee to try to develop its own Social Security plan
Sen. Charles Grassley is ready to tackle Social Security without Bush's beloved private accounts or any input from the Chimp at all.

Harry Reid: soft-spoken Mormon from Nevada, but hell on George Bush (read this: it will do your heart good)

I like this guy
As a matter of comity, the Minority in the Senate traditionally defers to the Majority in the setting of the agenda. If Bill Frist pulls the nuclear trigger, Democrats will show deference no longer.

Invoking a little-known Senate procedure called Rule XIV, last week Democrats put nine bills on the Senate calendar that seek to help America fulfill its promise.

If Republican's break the rules Democrats will use the rule to bring to the Senate floor an agenda that meets the needs of average Americans, such as lowering gas prices, reducing the cost of health care and helping veterans.

"Across the country, people are worried about things that matter to their families - the health of their loved ones, their child's performance in schools, and those sky high gas prices," said Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid. "But what is the number one priority for Senate Republicans? Doing away with the last check on one-party rule in Washington to allow President Bush, Senator Frist and Tom Delay to stack the courts with radical judges. If Republicans proceed to pull the trigger on the nuclear option, Democrats will respond by employing existing Senate rules to push forward our agenda for America."

Democrats have introduced bills that address America's real challenges. (Details attached)


[NB: This is smart stuff. Instead of being labeled as “obstructionist,” the Dems will put forth an alternative agenda, and simply refuse to debate anything else]

House Dems divided? I’m not seeing it

How Bush alienated Congressional support: he had to work at it
[LAT] In a 2001 budget meeting still fresh in congressional memories, Bush antagonized a bipartisan group of senior members who were seeking additional funding for domestic security. Bush bluntly threatened a veto and, rather than respond to lawmakers' arguments, abruptly left the meeting.

"I was flabbergasted and amazed," said Rep. David R. Obey (D-Wis.). "We expected it was going to be a working meeting instead of a 'my way or the highway' meeting."

Republicans again saw an adamant, table-pounding Bush when he tried to persuade lawmakers in 2003 to support full funding for rebuilding Iraq. "I'm not here to debate you," Bush said at one meeting, interrupting one senator. . .

Bush Co. finds a handy and oh-so-familiar way to solve the health care crisis: they change the numbers to drop 20% from the not-insured list

DeLay gets another free ride
[Reuters] "In a show of support, President Bush will give embattled House of Representatives Republican leader Tom DeLay an Air Force One ride to Washington from Texas on Tuesday, a White House spokesman said."

[NB: Hmmmm. . . I find this more interesting than Josh does. Isn’t this the friendly way Bush would deliver the bad news, in private, that DeLay is going to have to voluntarily step aside? “I’m your President and your troubles are interfering with the wider agenda we all support. For the good of the Party, you need to temporarily put aside Majority Leader until these allegations are settled.”]

Despite DeLay’s threats, House GOP has no plans to investigate or intimidate sitting judges

Bolton: I’m sure there are people in the Cheney/Rumsfeld axis who admire his tough-guy approach
The most serious charge against Bolton is that he pressured intelligence analysts to change their findings to suit his political aims and -- when they said they'd given him all the leeway they could -- he harassed them and tried to get them fired. Bolton's fights were not with one or two recalcitrant intelligence analysts that proved annoying.

According to these emails, Bolton fought with and tried to strong arm and inspired complaints from:
1. The State Department's bureau of intelligence and research (INR)
2. The National Security Agency
3. Defense Intelligence Agency
4. Central Intelligence Agency

These are serious, serious allegations and yet the media keeps playing this off as if Bolton's just some sort of jerky boss. . .

Wow. It turns out that govt officials reviewing NSA intercepts is a lot more common than you might imagine
[LAT] The National Security Agency, which eavesdrops on electronic communications around the world, receives thousands of requests each year from U.S. government officials seeking the names of Americans who show up in intercepted calls or e-mails. . .


More revelations today
John Bolton seems to have inflated virtually every threat into which his office came into contact. I take that back. He seems to have underestimated the threat of potential rogue nuclear materials in Russia as Senators Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Peter Fitzgerald (R-IL) questioned his delinquency on that front several years ago.

But on Cuba, Syria, Iraq, and Iran, John Bolton spent a lot of time at war with intelligence analysts. Certainly, all of these nations are threats, but overestimating threats can be as dangerous as underestimating them.

I have known a number of people who worked around John Bolton, and in mid-2003, one of these people made an off-hand comment, which perhaps should not be taken too seriously but nonetheless was chilling. He said, "if my boss had his way, would be at war with North Korea right now.". . . The Six Party Talks were probably the most critical diplomatic initiative underway at the time, and John Bolton spent a lot of political capital trying to undermine them and position the U.S. in a much more belligerent stance towards North Korea.

Bolton has apparently done much the same with Syria, according to an important report by the New York Times' Douglas Jehl. . .

Another former high-ranking State Department official has urged senators not to approve John R. Bolton as United Nations ambassador, saying Bolton has "no diplomatic bone in his body" and is "unworthy of your trust.". . Frederick Vreeland, a former U.S. ambassador to Burma and Morocco appointed by President George H.W. Bush, joined a growing chorus of ex-officials taking sides on Bolton. . . "If it is now U.S. policy not to reform the U.N. but to destroy it, Bolton is our man"

Does any of this matter any longer? Bush Co. seems to be arguing to wavering Senators now that no matter how bad a choice Bolton is, they NEED this one (because withdrawing it would lose face for them)

Bob Novak
“The White House and Republican Senate leaders have a little better than two weeks to save John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations after last Tuesday's fiasco in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. All that can be promised is that their efforts on Bolton's behalf will be tougher and better organized than they have been so far. That should not be difficult because they could hardly be worse. . . Republicans, weak and disorganized, were ground down by the Democratic juggernaut.”

A new (and constitutionally dubious) wrinkle: ignore what the Foreign Relations Committee does, and bring the Bolton vote to the full Senate anyway (thanks to Josh Marshall for the link)
"I think the best policy is to have his nomination come to the full Senate, not decided by a committee because the Constitution says that advice and consent are the province of the Senate itself," said Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., on CNN's "Late Edition."

Credit where credit is due
[Digby] I haven't written much about the Bolton nomination because I pretty much said everything I thought about him in the first year of this blog, when I railed considerably about the bizarre notion that an insane, Jesse Helms protege should be in charge of arms control. . . [I]f he isn't confirmed for the UN, he just goes back to the State Department where he can do even worse damage in his current position. Remember, he was given the UN nomination in order to get him out of there in the first place.

I have no reason to believe that the loyal Bolton will be shamed into quitting the administration entirely. Has anyone? It just doesn't happen. . . Nobody leaves a Bush administration official in the corner. . . any Bush administration. Hell, they've revived Eliot Abrams and John Negroponte. Unless Bolton wants to leave, nobody will ask him to.


Matt Yglesias wonders why the Republicans have been so blase about nominees lying outright to the Senate during their confirmation hearings when they may very well be at the mercy of Democrats in the future. Yesterday, Bill Frist righteously rebutted the argument set forth by some Republicans that the nuclear option would leave them powerless when Democrats came into power, by saying that if it was wrong for Democrats today it would be wrong for Republicans tomorrow. In truth it doesn't matter.

The trouble is that the IOKIYAR (it's ok if you're a republican) phenomenon is not just a little blogospheric joke. It's quite real and it's been demonstrated over and over again. There is absolutely no reason for the Republicans to fear that they will be held to the same standard as they hold Democrats, ever. These lies by Bush appointees are not going to be investigated and they will always remain in the realm of he said/she said, old news, whyareyoubringingthisupnow. Fuggedaboudit.

A thought experiment. Just imagine a left-wing equivalent of these comments, and what would happen to a “serious” commentator on a nationally syndicated radio network who routinely said such things
[Michael Savage] The ACLU, National Lawyers Guild, and "I believe it's time for the heads of left-wing agitation groups who are using the courts to impose their will on the 'sheeple' to be prosecuted under the federal RICO statutes."

[NB: Let’s see, “arrest the NRA?” “drag the Family Research Council into court?” “shut down the Christian Coalition?” How would that play?]

Graham Larkin gives David Horowitz what for: always a fun read
David Horowitz’s War on Rational Discourse

Bonus item: Your President
Q What do you expect to get out of this meeting, sir?

THE PRESIDENT: Do you like the footpath?

Q Let's talk about the meeting.

THE PRESIDENT: This is an important relationship -- personal relationship with the Crown Prince is important. I look forward to talking with him about a variety of subjects. I'm glad you're here. Thank you for coming. I hope you're enjoying this day.

Q How much progress can you make on oil prices?

THE PRESIDENT: I'll be glad to answer those questions at a later time.

Q Later today?

THE PRESIDENT: No. No, of course I'll talk about energy. And the Crown Prince understands that it's very important for there to be a -- make sure that the price is reasonable. A high oil price will damage markets, and he knows that. I look forward to talking to him about that. But as well as -- you know, we'll talk about his country's capacity. It's an important subject.

[NB: It didn’t work:]

Double Bonus: how the Repubs love to blame overzealous underlings for their own failures

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