Thursday, December 31, 2009


Watch the Repubs twist themselves into knots trying to explain why the Abdulmutallab case is oh-so different from the Richard Reid case
[Josh Marshall] Here's my prize for the day. Who can be the first to get an answer out of Hoekstra, King, Ridge et al. about why they're saying the Xmas bomber needs a military trial when they supported a regular trial for the "shoe bomber". We don't get many examples in politics where a perfect apples to apples comparison demonstrably shows a series of politicians as complete hypocrites and fibbers. Not that we don't see that a lot, but seldom is it quite this straightforward. . . .
Shoes vs. Underwear: The GOP's New Terror Double Standard

The dumbest of them all:

Terrorism – bad for the country, great for GOP fundraising

Don’t hold your breath
[Josh Marshall] When does the story become the GOP's unprecedented politicization of a terror attack? Three days before the first fund-raising letters go out? The obviousness of the point would seem even more obvious since the main complainers are demonstrably hypocritical on their basic arguments. Someone lemme know when this becomes the story.
[Joe Sudbay] Republicans really only had one political issue for the past few election cycles: Fear. They won when they could scare the American people. And, in the wake of the latest terrorism incident, the Republicans are hoping their glory days of scaring Americans are back . . . [read on]
[Steve Benen] By all appearances, it doesn't matter if the Republican attacks are baseless and ridiculous. It doesn't matter if Republican national security policies failed. It doesn't matter that Republicans are more anxious to denounce the president than they are to denounce terrorism.

What matters now is what mattered before -- whether GOP voices can create and exploit just enough misguided panic and fear to benefit politically. If they can shout "soft on terror" often enough, and the media overlooks all available evidence, maybe the public won't notice how ridiculous the Republican lies really are. . . [read on]


The Democrats are starting to speak up, finally
"In general, we are facing the consequences of the Bush administration's failures to deal with al Qaeda," [DCCC chair Chris Van Hollen] told Hotline OnCall. "The Republicans have no business in pointing fingers at the Obama administration on terrorism and national security."

"The Obama administration has been much more aggressive about going after al Qaeda than the Bush administration, which turned its focus from al Qaeda to Iraq," he added. The Obama admin has "been on the offense in places where the Bush administration had taken its eye off the ball." [read on]

The Troll crawls out from under his bridge
"As I've watched the events of the last few days it is clear once again that President Obama is trying to pretend we are not at war. He seems to think if he has a low key response to an attempt to blow up an airliner and kill hundreds of people, we won't be at war. He seems to think if he gives terrorists the rights of Americans, lets them lawyer up and reads them their Miranda rights, we won't be at war. He seems to think if we bring the mastermind of 9/11 to New York, give him a lawyer and trial in civilian court, we won't be at war.

"He seems to think if he closes Guantanamo and releases the hard-core al Qaeda trained terrorists still there, we won't be at war. He seems to think if he gets rid of the words, 'war on terror,' we won't be at war. But we are at war and when President Obama pretends we aren't, it makes us less safe. Why doesn't he want to admit we're at war? It doesn't fit with the view of the world he brought with him to the Oval Office. It doesn't fit with what seems to be the goal of his presidency - social transformation -- the restructuring of American society. President Obama's first object and his highest responsibility must be to defend us against an enemy that knows we are at war."

[NB: “Trying to pretend”? You miserable prick.]
[Josh Marshall] I guess it's worth remembering what's always been the Cheney signature on terrorism: clinical level of paranoia leading to delusions and lying to the public (already causing the the deaths of thousands of Americans) and seeing terrorism primarily as a tool for use in American domestic politics. . . .
[Kevin Drum] What a loathsome human being. . .
[David Dayen] I’m beginning to wonder if Politico pays Dick Cheney per link generated. It seems that every couple weeks or so, they send over a dictaphone to his house which he then fills with the usual paranoid rantings and rhetorical shots at the President. Unfortunately, the dictaphone isn’t accompanied by a “reporter” who could then ask Cheney a “question” about whatever it is he’s discussing at the time. . . . [read on]


Thank you, Eugene:
[Eugene Robinson] It's pathetic to break a New Year's resolution before we even get to New Year's Day, but here I go. I had promised myself that I would do a better job of ignoring Dick Cheney's corrosive and nonsensical outbursts . . . [read on!]

The WH hits back
"To put it simply: this President is not interested in bellicose rhetoric, he is focused on action. Seven years of bellicose rhetoric failed to reduce the threat from al Qaeda and succeeded in dividing this country. And it seems strangely off-key now, at a time when our country is under attack, for the architect of those policies to be attacking the President. . . .

"The difference is this: President Obama doesn’t need to beat his chest to prove it, and – unlike the last Administration – we are not at war with a tactic (“terrorism”), we at war with something that is tangible: al Qaeda and its violent extremist allies. And we will prosecute that war as long as the American people are endangered”


Full body scans? Here they come

Despite the silly bleating that we can’t imprison terror suspects anywhere but Camp Delta, the Obama admin says they’re going ahead with plans to close Gitmo anyway
“The detention facility at Guantanamo has been used by Al Qaeda as a rallying cry and recruiting tool — including its affiliate Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. As our military leaders have recognized, closing the detention facility at Guantanamo is a national security imperative.”


Can the House and Senate health care bills get reconciled?

The health care reform mandate throws millions of new people into the private insurance pool. This is the thing that has most progressives upset. But this could be a “be careful what you ask for” moment for private insurance. Here’s why

The GOP might regret having to run on the repeal of health care reform in 2010

Sarah Palin wants us to think she’s a tough old gal, but she still runs to hubby when she wants the dirty work done

Bonus item: Worst Republican scandal of the decade?
What's the best (or worst) Republican political scandal of the decade?
- Gov. Mark Sanford's Argentinian affair
- Rep. Mark Foley's IMs to young male pages
- Sen. Larry Craig's "wide stance"
- The Abramoff investigation
- Other:

[NB: Oh, come on Marc, you can do better than that. These sexual escapades pale by comparison with the real GOP scandals – starting a war based on lies; legitimating torture; Abu Ghraib; squandering a record govt surplus into a record deficit; outing Valerie Plame, and the subsequent lies about it; politicizing the Justice Department . . .]

***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.***

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Richard Reid, failed shoe bomber, and Umar Abdulmutallab, failed underwear bomber. Watch the Repubs try to make this a comparison between Bush and Obama
Last night, former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge said that he disagreed with the decision to try the Flight 253 suspect criminally, and that "he's not a citizen of this country." . . .

Of course, Ridge was secretary of Homeland Security during the Bush administration, when British citizen and "shoe-bomber" Richard Reid was tried and convicted in 2003 on terrorism charges after attempting to blow up a plane with explosives hidden in his shoes. . . .
[WP] By staying in Hawaii, the president has sent the message that the situation really isn’t all that serious, that things can proceed just fine until he’s back. And isn’t it that kind of reasoning that emboldens our never-vacationing enemies into thinking Christmas Day is the perfect time for them to strike? . . .

[Politico] [I]t was six days before President George W. Bush, then on vacation, made any public remarks about the so-called “shoe bomber,” Richard Reid, and there were virtually no complaints from the press or any opposition Democrats that his response was sluggish or inadequate.

That stands in sharp contrast to the withering criticism President Barack Obama has received for his reaction to Friday’s incident on a Northwest Airlines flight heading for Detroit. . . .
Rove says Obama's handling of Nigerian airline bomber weaker than Bush's -- even though it's identical
[Josh Marshall] It's really about as close to identical cases as you get. . . .


Politicizing national security

Hoekstra Raising Money Off Detroit Terrorist Plot
DNC Says Hoekstra Fundraising Email 'Tells You All You Need To Know' About GOP

And they know Ponzi schemes!
Tim Pawlenty Says The 'Federal Government Is Running A Ponzi Scheme'
The Justice Department has opened an investigation into whether members of Congress did special favors for Allen Stanford, the Texas banker charged with running a multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme . . .

Old Reliable,mark-kirk-gay-attack-ad-election-122809.article
U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk, the front-runner in the Republican primary election for U.S. Senate, finds himself the object of an unusual attack ad from one of his lesser-known opponents.

Andy Martin, once known as Anthony Martin-Trigona, who has run for numerous elective offices over the last three decades in Illinois, Florida and Connecticut, taped a commercial questioning whether Kirk is gay.

Martin’s source? Statements some conservative Republicans made on a radio show saying they have heard “rumors” that Kirk is gay.

“Illinois Republican leader Jack Roeser says there is a ‘solid rumor that Kirk is a homosexual,’ ” Martin says in the ad. “Roeser suggests that Kirk is part of a Republican Party homosexual club. Lake County Illinois Republican leader Ray True says Kirk has surrounded himself with homosexuals. Mark Kirk should tell Republican voters the truth.” . . .


He probably steals hotel towels and ashtrays too
Alabama Party Switcher Steals Data On The Way Out The Door


What does it say about today’s GOP that their two national “stars” are Bachmann and Palin?

Politico: Obama should exploit national security issues more to raise his profile and popularity (hey, it worked for Bush)
[Kevin Drum] That's right: if only Obama insisted on immediately grabbing the spotlight and relentlessly overhyping events for his own political gain, maybe the right would leave him alone. . . .

[Steve Benen] It's a reminder that when it comes to the nation's partisan divide, the two sides are playing different games. . . [read on]

Once again, the Dems show that they still just don’t get what it means to be a governing party
Skittish Democrats Refuse To Defend Obama On National Security


The Wall Street Journal, like the GOP it represents, only likes "bipartisanship" tilted in its favor
[WSJ] The White House is now floating a bipartisan commission to reduce federal borrowing, and much of the political class is all for it. We only hope Republicans aren't foolish enough to fall down this trap door . . . Republicans should respond with their own choice: They'll agree to a deficit commission only if it takes tax increases off the table . . . [read on]

Fox News: doesn’t like complications or ambiguity
Fox And Friends To Obama: Quit It With Your Big Words Like 'Allegedly'

Bonus item: Obama wins a huge victory and the Dems control the legislative agenda for the year – so the most frequent guest on Meet the Press in 2009 is . . . ? (no, not John McCain)

***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, December 29, 2009


The bomber’s underwear
[ABC] It is a six-inch long packet of the high explosive chemical called PETN, less than a half cup in volume, weighing about 80 grams.

A government test with 50 grams of PETN blew a hole in the side of an airliner. . . .

How much is 50 grams? About three tablespoons

Two plotters behind the attempted bombing were released from Gitmo in 2007. Expect the Republican howls to be somewhat less because it happened under Bush – imagine if they’d been released under Obama

Does the attempted bomber have rights? Not if the Republicans have anything to say about it

National security is bipartisan, huh? Guess who has been holding up the appointment of the head of TSA?

And guess who voted against new funding for TSA?,-The-Party-of-No-Voted-Against-TSA-Funding-

Watch for a major Democratic tack toward the center in 2010 – and that means no climate change legislation for now

Interesting: both the Dems and the Repubs want to run the 2010 election over whether the Repubs will repeal health care reform if given the chance
Tea partiers: GOP should demand full repeal of health reform
GOP Faces Electoral Risks In Running On Health Care Repeal

The Party of No
During his appearance yesterday on Fox News Sunday, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) appeared to give out some inside dirt from his days as a Republican -- alleging that the GOP plotted early to stop any bipartisan cooperation with President Obama, and to instead look towards the 2012 election.

"I'd like to pick up on what Sen. DeMint says about the process. I think the process was very bad. But the process was really caused, in large measure, by the refusal of the Republicans to deal in any way," said Specter.

"Sen. DeMint is the author of the famous statement that this is going to be President Obama's 'Waterloo,' that this ought to be used to break the president," said Specter, referring to the political battle over health care. "So that before the ink was dry on the oath of office -- and I know this, because I was in the caucus -- the Republicans were already plotting ways to beat President Obama in 2012."

The Party of Hypocrites
Republicans Who Opposed The Stimulus Continue To Pan It As A ‘Failure,’ While Also Taking Credit For Its Success

The GOP starts posturing again over a balanced budget amendment – which they know will never pass, which they don’t actually want to pass, and which would have paralyzed the Bush administration if they had passed it when they had the chance

The political action committee behind the Tea Party Express (TPE) -- which already has been slammed as inauthentic and corporate-controlled by rival factions in the Tea Party movement -- directed around two thirds of its spending during a recent reporting period back to the Republican consulting firm that created the PAC in the first place. . . .

Just hours after federal agents charged banker Allen Stanford with fleecing investors of $7 billion, the disgraced financier received a message from one of Congress' most powerful members, Pete Sessions.

“I love you and believe in you," said the e-mail sent on Feb. 17. “If you want my ear/voice -- e-mail," it said, signed “Pete."

The message from the chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee represents one of the many ties between members of Congress and the indicted banker that have caught the attention of federal agents. . . .

Obama’s economic team
[Al Hunt] A year ago, the expectation was that President-elect Barack Obama’s economic team would be a smooth- functioning machine, and the outlook was for turbulence in the national-security arena.

Timothy Geithner, the Treasury-secretary designate, and Lawrence Summers, chosen to head the White House National Economic Council, were unusually able veterans of Washington and financial crises. They were joined by a star-studded cast of economic advisers starting with former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, perhaps the most respected financial figure in the world, and prominent academic economists. . . .

Twelve months later, this conventional wisdom has turned upside down. . . . The vaunted economic team is faulted for poor coordination, drawing even the president’s ire, and an inability to convey an overarching policy.

Two recent anecdotes illustrate this problem. On Dec. 2, as Obama prepared to give a major economic speech at the Brookings Institution on Dec. 8 (and a day after his Afghanistan speech at West Point) he met with policy makers. He heard a familiar reprise of the previous several meetings with budget director Peter Orszag arguing for more emphasis on reducing the deficit and Council of Economic Advisers chief Christina Romer leading the contingent espousing a greater short-term stress on jobs.

The president, by his standards, exploded. “Why are we having this meeting again, the same discussion,” participants quoted him as saying.

Several administration insiders, prominent outside Democratic economic advisers and a few Congressional heavyweights, all worry this is symptomatic of a process that isn’t working well. Summers, they argue, is brilliant on policy and ill-suited for a high-level staff job, which is what the head of the National Economic Council is.

“If you came up with 10 words to describe Larry, coordination and collaboration would not be two,” says one person requesting anonymity who has worked with Summers extensively and admires his intellectual force. . .

Still, others say Summers too often is dismissive of fellow economic advisers, other than Geithner, although he gets a bum rap for supposedly freezing Volcker out of major decisions. The 82-year-old Volcker wants a freewheeling advisory role. But advisers acknowledge Summers rarely reaches out to include him. Volcker takes a much tougher line than Summers or Geithner toward Wall Street. . . .

Some good news
William Hochul, a twenty-year prosecutor with expertise in running counter-terrorism cases, was in line for promotion to Main Justice in 2006. Until Monica Goodling, the infamous figure from the US Attorney firings scandal, found out his wife is active in Democratic politics and killed the appointment. Now President Obama has nominated him to serve as US Attorney in the Western District of New York.


Bonus item: Look on the bright side
Nate Silver notes that from October 1999 through September 2009 there has been one terrorist incident per 16,553,385 airplane departures. . . .

***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.***

Monday, December 28, 2009


Yesterday Iraq, today Afghanistan, tomorrow Yemen?

The system worked?
[Marc Ambinder] "The system worked," said the Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano [on Sunday]. Did those words really escape the barriers of her teeth? Was this a talking point? Certainly, the passengers worked... certainly, the crotch-rocket didn't work... certainly, the system went into high gear after the failure of the system . . . .
Officials now say tragedy was only averted on Northwest flight 253 because a makeshift detonator failed to work properly.

Bomb experts say there was more than enough explosive to bring down the Northwest jet, which had nearly 300 people aboard, had the detonator not failed . . .
[Monday] "Our system did not work in this instance," [Napolitano] said on NBC's "Today" show. "No one is happy or satisfied with that. An extensive review is under way."

From reader David R., here’s a short video that tells just how easy it is to get high explosives past airport security. No wonder the people tasked with keeping us safe are losing sleep at night

Obama is clearly trying to keep a lower profile in responding to attempted terrorist attacks, instead of playing Big Daddy to the nation. And of course the Republicans try to make partisan hay out of it
[Greg Sargent] Obama has stuck to his commitment to not getting too excited—in health care and torture, it’s meant that he has played by the rules of the political culture, but it has also meant that he has refrained from speaking about campaign against Al Qaeda and its ilk in hysterical terms—remember threat levels?—and has shied away from using incicents like the recent one in Detroit and the Fort Hood shootings as a polarizing political cudgel. . . .
[Marc Ambinder] The president's vacation activities might have become the subject of a fierce partisan fight -- but really, the only carping is coming from the usual suspects on the right.

There is a reason why Obama hasn't given a public statement. It's strategy.

Here's the theory: a two-bit mook is sent by Al Qaeda to do a dastardly deed. He winds up neutering himself. Literally.

Authorities respond appropriately; the president (as this president is wont to to) presides over the federal response. His senior aides speak for him, letting reporters know that he's videoconferencing regularly, that he's ordering a review of terrorist watch lists, that he's discoursing with his secretary of Homeland Security.

But an in-person Obama statement isn't needed; Indeed, a message expressing command, control, outrage and anger might elevate the importance of the deed, would generate panic . . . .
Peter King Compares Obama Not Doing Press Conference on Bomb Plot to Bush Not Going to New Orleans After Katrina
[Steve Benen] Some have wondered this year if, in the case of a deadly terrorist attack, Republicans could bring themselves to put patriotism over party, and rally behind a president they disagree with.

I think we're getting a sense of the answer. . . . [read on]

I think this caption is mislabeled
Republicans are criticizing President Obama's response to the foiled terror attack on Christmas Day.

[NB: I think that should read “CNN is criticizing President Obama's response to the foiled terror attack on Christmas Day.” Watch the video.]

The GOP tries to block a conference committee on health care

Will the GOP run in 2010 on the repeal of health care reform?

Mary Matalin, propagandist: Bush was better than Obama. Here’s why

Bonus item: Strange bedfellows indeed
[Jane Hamsher] [T]he biggest battle grassroots progressives would have to fight wouldn’t really be with the GOP, but with DC/K Street elitists who operate within both parties . . .

And so we’re seeing young anti-war GOP libertarian candidates like Adam Kokesh, who represent a break with the grassroots theocrats on the right.

We’re also starting to see the rise of the left-right civil liberties coalition of the Swedish Pirate Party, which is sweeping up young people all over Europe and now has 2 seats in the EU. How successful this alliance will be remains to be seen, but as the old fault lines are breaking down it creates intense tribal hostility in some quarters. Perhaps those of us who have worked with civil libertarians of the GOP for years (and watched them pilloried by their own party for doing so) are going to be more comfortable making those “strange bedfellows” alliances, but the inadequacies of the status-quo are quickly opening up many others to them too.

New opportunities, new dialectics, new conversations. I’m probably never going to agree with very much that’s written on Red State, but it’s not enough to say something was on Red State by way of dismissing its validity. Because I look at this post by Dan Perrin and I think it’s really smart and aside from an observation that DeMint’s move cold be easily overcome by Reid, I think it’s spot on.. . . .


***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.***

Sunday, December 27, 2009


The near-bombing of a flight over Detroit raises holiday fears – but here is the really scary thought
[Malcolm Gladwell] And, despite all the improvements in airport security, the percentage of terrorist hijackings foiled by airport security in the years between 1987 and 1996 was at its lowest point in thirty years. Airport-security measures have simply chased out the amateurs and left the clever and the audacious. "A look at the history of attacks on commercial aviation reveals that new terrorist methods of attack have virtually never been foreseen by security authorities," the Israeli terrorism expert Ariel Merari writes, in the recent book "Aviation Terrorism and Security." . . . [read on]

The FAA once again adopts intrusive and annoying new rules designed to prevent the PREVIOUS attempt – when the really serious terrorists have already moved on to new approaches
The government was vague about the steps it was taking, saying that it wanted the security experience to be “unpredictable” and that passengers would not find the same measures at every airport — a prospect that may upset airlines and travelers alike.

But several airlines released detailed information about the restrictions, saying that passengers on international flights coming to the United States will apparently have to remain in their seats for the last hour of a flight without any personal items on their laps. It was not clear how often the rule would affect domestic flights.

Overseas passengers will be restricted to only one carry-on item, and domestic passengers will probably face longer security lines. That was already the case in some airports Saturday, in the United States and overseas. . . .

[Digby] The suspect was wearing a white t-shirt and drank two diet cokes, so the TSA will be banning those on all flights as well. . . .

Wouldn’t you know that Republicans would try to find some way of blaming Obama for the attempt
[Pete Hoekstra, R-MI] "People have got to start connecting the dots here and maybe this is the thing that will connect the dots for the Obama administration," Hoekstra said.

[Steve Benen] It's not even clear what that means, exactly, though Hoekstra was apparently offended that an Obama administration official described the incident as an "attempted" terrorist attack when, as far as Hoekstra is concerned, "it was a terrorist attack."

How such a world-class buffoon became the ranking member on the House Intelligence Committee remains an open question, though it continues to be something of an embarrassment for the Republican caucus.

There are a couple of angles to this to keep in mind. First, Hoekstra would like people to believe the Obama administration isn't taking the terrorist threat seriously enough. The evidence to the contrary -- a.k.a. "reality" -- is overwhelming.

Second, when it comes to national security issues, Hoekstra has one of the more transparently ridiculous track records of any member of Congress in recent memory. We are, after all, talking about a partisan clown who held a press conference in 2006 to announce, "We have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq."

And third, yesterday's pettiness probably has something to do with Hoekstra's gubernatorial campaign -- he needs to impress the GOP base to win his primary, and he likely assumes cheap shots at the president in light of attempted terrorism is the way to get a bump in the polls.


What will change in the final health care bill?

The deals it took to get health care done
A POLITICO look at the deals shows the liberals have it right, at least in regard to key reform proposals. Several cherished Democratic goals — including a government-run insurance plan, bringing in cheaper drugs from other countries and expanding Medicare — faced steeper, and ultimately insurmountable, odds of passage after the hospitals and drug companies said they would oppose any bill that included them.

This was no idle threat, but instead a serious challenge to Obama’s goal of winning reform — and pocketing a major achievement in his presidency’s first year.

But the liberal attacks glide past a hard reality. By bringing industry players inside the room, Obama and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) holstered some of the very guns that defeated reform in 1994. PhRMA, for instance, will spend nearly $200 million on reform this year — and clearly it could spend it endorsing or opposing the bill.

Cutting deals to neutralize would-be antagonists was one of the Democrats’ key takeaways from the failed “Hillarycare” effort. And the Obama White House followed a basic tenet of negotiating: first in, best deal. PhRMA agreed to give up $80 billion over 10 years to pay for reform — a figure that infuriated some House members who thought it was too light and who tried to negate the agreement. . . . [read on]

Figuring out Obama
[Ross Douthat] Every presidency is the subject of competing caricatures. But almost a year into his first term, there’s something particularly elusive about Barack Obama’s political identity. He’s a bipartisan bridge-builder — unless he’s a polarizing ideologue. He’s a crypto-Marxist radical — except when he’s a pawn of corporate interests. He’s a post-American utopian — or else he’s a willing tool of the national security state.

The press has churned out a new theory every week . . . [read on]
[Adam Nagourney] As much as Mr. Obama presented himself as an outsider during his campaign, a lesson of this [health care reform] battle is that this is a president who would rather work within the system than seek to upend it. He is not the ideologue ready to stage a symbolic fight that could end in defeat; he is a former senator comfortable in dealing with the arcane rules of the Senate and prepared to accept compromise in search of a larger goal. . . . [read on]
[Kevin Drum] I think the thing that surprises me is that anyone ever thought otherwise. Among low-information voters I understand the disconnect: they heard hopey-changiness, haven't really gotten it, and are disappointed. But even some very high-information voters seem to be disappointed the same way, and it's baffling. Obama's entire career has been one of low-key, pragmatic leadership. He's clearly a mainstream liberal, but during the Democratic primaries he was famously the least progressive (by a small margin) of the three major candidates on domestic issues. He did everything he could to avoid taking dangerously inflammatory stands on button social issues. His advisors during the campaign were nearly all members in good standing of the center left. His nickname was "No Drama Obama," and his temperament was plainly cautious, sober, and businesslike. . . . [read on]

Sunday talk show line-ups
STATE OF THE UNION (CNN): Indiana Gov. Mitchell E. Daniels Jr. (R); Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell (D); Selma, Ala., Mayor George Patrick Evans; Andrew H. Card Jr., Bush White House chief of staff; John D. Podesta, Clinton White House chief of staff; Lauren Ashburn, president of Ashburn Media; Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano; Republican strategist Mary Matalin; and Democratic strategist James Carville.

THIS WEEK (ABC): Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) , White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, Napolitano.

FACE THE NATION (CBS): Gibbs; Reps. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Peter T. King (R-N.Y.).

MEET THE PRESS (NBC): Gibbs, Massachusetts Gov. Deval L. Patrick (D), former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R), New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I) and Napolitano.

Where do they find these clowns?
The Weekly Standard's Matthew Continetti makes a fool of himself with this statement about President Obama and the press . . . [read on]

Bonus item: He must be so proud
Glenn Beck: Media Matters' 2009 Misinformer of the Year

***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.***

Saturday, December 26, 2009


Two thousand of these postings ago, I converted my email newsletter to a blog format and PBD was born:

May 8, 2004: Abu Ghraib: Will go down with My Lai, Andersonville, etc. as one of the most shameful events in US military history

That first issue also featured the immortal words of Rush Limbaugh: “This is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation and we're going to ruin people's lives over it and we're going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer them because they had a good time. You know, these people are being fired at every day. I'm talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release? You of heard of need to blow some steam off?”

Every 500 issues since then I have paused to reflect on this blog, the political purposes of blogging (for me), and why I keep doing it. With the 2008 election and the return of the Democrats to power, I knew that the blog was going to have to change from recounting the daily litany of horror and outrage presented to us by the Bush/Cheney regime. The Republicans continue to provide good fodder, to be sure. But most of the blog each day now has to be devoted to the workings of the Obama administration and the Democratically controlled Congress.

Today’s posting takes place just after the Senate-passed health care bill, with a final bill within sight. And for weeks now the main theme has been progressive disappointment with the bill, a sense of betrayal and broken promises, the infuriating ability of the Republicans and conservative Democrats to block truly progressive reforms, and the inability (or unwillingness) of the Obama administration to force through policies that would reward the people who worked so hard for his election and greeted his inauguration with so much hope and anticipation.

There is a good case to be made that it isn’t entirely his fault. Obama was greeted soon after taking office with a financial meltdown that was as threatening to the country as 9/11 had been; forced to deal with two unfinished wars that, having been started, could not simply be shut down without devastating consequences for the region and ultimately this nation’s security; and confronted with an opposition party committed to absolute deadlock and willing to whip up the very worst atavisms in US society. It is appalling to see the level of hatred, fear, racism, and ignorance that have been unleashed by the likes of Beck and Limbaugh, and given a wink and a nod by more “legitimate” political figures, including the Queen Bee of the Teabaggers herself, Sarah Palin.

For those of us who saw the election of a black man to be President as the possible portent of a post-racial era, it is shameful to realize that, instead, it has actually made legitimate as part of mainstream discourse the very worst kinds of post-9/11 lies and slander. (He’s a Muslim, he’s not one of us, he wasn’t born in the US, he pals around with terrorists, and on and on.) And this incessant hammering has had just the intended effect: a declining sense of Obama’s legitimacy as President, and an actual belief (just listen to Beck and Limbaugh) that he is intentionally pursuing policies designed to damage and undermine the nation. . . because he is an “angry black man” who “hates white people.”

For our side, the fact that Gitmo is still in business; the massive government giveaways for banks, auto companies, and now the insurance industry; the continuation of many Bush-era policies on government secrecy; slow-walking judicial appointments; and a deferral to the conservative wing of the party to the detriment of the wishes of the popular majority, has led to increased frustration and disillusionment with Obama. You have read many, many links and clips here making the case that he has sold out the progressive cause, taking for granted the base that adored him and lifted him to his present position. Bush never let his base think he didn’t hear them and take their concerns seriously, even if he didn’t always do what they wanted. (No President can, of course.)

So, what is a Progressive Blog to do? I think it is crucial to give voice to that frustration and disillusionment; and it is crucial to keep up the pressure of publicly articulated progressive expectations and demands, lest the political balance shift even further in the other direction. While I have my own views, frequently expressed here, that sometimes those progressive expectations and demands are unrealistic, it is part of my editorial responsibility in this project to represent a range of progressive voices and opinions whether I always agree with them or not.

Yet something else is going on, too, and perhaps it is just the timing of the moment; but some of the recent comments by Markos Moulitsas and (especially) Jane Hamsher seem to me to be crossing the line from legitimate progressive complaint and pressure, to threats against the administration itself. To that I say, “For all the legitimate criticism Obama has earned, if anyone thinks for a moment that we are ever likely to have a better opportunity to advance our wider values than now, they are in dreamland.” Joining voices, as Hamsher has, with people who are consumed with Obama hatred and steadfastly dedicated to dismantling the liberal welfare state is shortsighted and foolish. Helping further to delegitimate and undermine Obama, and potentially costing him the Democratic majority in Congress, will only encourage and embolden an increasingly radicalized Republican party. Do we really want that?

I remember when progressive outrage with Johnson and Humphrey over the war gave the Presidency to Nixon; when Carter’s inability to work with his party gave the Presidency to Reagan; when Clinton and a large Democratic majority in Congress squandered their first two years and then lost the majority to the likes of Gingrich and DeLay; and when the left-wing mantra that there was no significant difference between Gore and Bush helped give us one of the worst administrations in the history of this country.

I don’t want to live through another one of these. I’m not a Leninist, and I don’t think that making things worse by “heightening the contradictions” can help make things better by stimulating a movement for progressive change. I don’t believe that there is a huge populist base that really wants what we want, if we can just harness their political power. This is a multivalent political system, in which allies on some issues are opponents on others. We need moderates and independents to gain national power – at a time when the Republicans seem to be shooting themselves in the foot by driving them away – but that means making real compromises in what we want, and in how quickly we can accomplish it. Has Obama tilted too far in that direction? I think that’s a legitimate debate, a debate I will continue to represent here in PBD. But I won’t help bring down the brightest prospect for progressive change we’ve had in the White House in my lifetime.

Today's PBD:

Does Obama know what he’s doing?
[Paul Krugman] Imperfect as it is, the legislation that passed the Senate on Thursday and will probably, in a slightly modified version, soon become law will make America a much better country.

So why are so many people complaining? There are three main groups of critics.

First, there’s the crazy right, the tea party and death panel people — a lunatic fringe that is no longer a fringe but has moved into the heart of the Republican Party. . .

A second strand of opposition comes from what I think of as the Bah Humbug caucus: fiscal scolds who routinely issue sententious warnings about rising debt. By rights, this caucus should find much to like in the Senate health bill, which the Congressional Budget Office says would reduce the deficit, and which — in the judgment of leading health economists — does far more to control costs than anyone has attempted in the past. . . .

Finally, there has been opposition from some progressives who are unhappy with the bill’s limitations. Some would settle for nothing less than a full, Medicare-type, single-payer system. Others had their hearts set on the creation of a public option to compete with private insurers. And there are complaints that the subsidies are inadequate, that many families will still have trouble paying for medical care.

Unlike the tea partiers and the humbuggers, disappointed progressives have valid complaints. But those complaints don’t add up to a reason to reject the bill. Yes, it’s a hackneyed phrase, but politics is the art of the possible.

The truth is that there isn’t a Congressional majority in favor of anything like single-payer. There is a narrow majority in favor of a plan with a moderately strong public option. The House has passed such a plan. But given the way the Senate rules work, it takes 60 votes to do almost anything. And that fact, combined with total Republican opposition, has placed sharp limits on what can be enacted.

If progressives want more, they’ll have to make changing those Senate rules a priority. They’ll also have to work long term on electing a more progressive Congress. But, meanwhile, the bill the Senate has just passed, with a few tweaks — I’d especially like to move the start date up from 2014, if that’s at all possible — is more or less what the Democratic leadership can get.

And for all its flaws and limitations, it’s a great achievement. It will provide real, concrete help to tens of millions of Americans and greater security to everyone. And it establishes the principle — even if it falls somewhat short in practice — that all Americans are entitled to essential health care.
[Andrew Sullivan] My own view is that 2009 has been an extraordinarily successful year for Obama. Since this is currently a minority view and will prompt a chorus of "In The Tank!", allow me to explain.

The substantive record is clear enough. Torture is ended, if Gitmo remains enormously difficult to close and rendition extremely hard to police. The unitary executive, claiming vast, dictatorial powers over American citizens, has been unwound. The legal inquiries that may well convict former Bush officials for war crimes are underway, and the trial of KSM will reveal the lawless sadism of the Cheney regime . . .

Domestically, the new president has rescued the banks in a bail-out that has come in at $200 billion under budget; the economy has shifted from a tailspin to stablilization and some prospect of job growth next year; the Dow is at 10,500 a level no one would have predicted this time last year. A stimulus package has helped undergird infrastructure and probably did more to advance non-carbon energy than anything that might have emerged from Copenhagen. Universal health insurance (with promised deficit reduction!) is imminent - a goal sought by Democrats (and Nixon) for decades, impossible under the centrist Clinton, but won finally by a black liberal president. More progress has been made in unraveling the war on drugs this past year than in living memory. . . .

Relations with Russia have improved immensely and may yield real gains in non-proliferation; Netanyahu has moved, however insincerely, toward a two-state solution; Iran's coup regime remains far more vulnerable than a year ago, paralyzed in its diplomacy, terrified of its own people and constantly shaken by the ongoing revolution; Pakistan launched a major offensive against al Qaeda and the Taliban in its border area; global opinion of the US has been transformed; the Cairo speech and the Nobel acceptance speech helped explain exactly what Obama's blend of ruthless realism for conflict-management truly means. . . .

[W]hen you consider the magnitude of shifting from one conservative era to one in which government simply has to be deployed to tackle deep structural problems, the achievement is as significant as his election year.. . .

Change of this magnitude is extremely hard. That it is also frustrating, inadequate, compromised, flawed, and beset with bribes and trade-offs does not, in my mind, undermine it. Obama told us it would be like this - and it is. And those who backed him last year would do better, to my mind, if they appreciated the difficulty of this task and the diligence and civility that Obama has displayed in executing it. . . .

This is bipartisanship just waiting to happen, isn’t it?
[Josh Marshall] Sen. Hatch is on TV getting cornered by a host on just what in this bill he'd be for -- if he supports health care reform but just doesn't like this version of it. It was pretty comical. The host asks him whether he's in favor of barring health insurers from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions. Oh, yeah, oh, we all agree on that, blah blah blah. No explanation of how you do that without dramatically broadening the risk pools.

It's not surprise. But it's worth noting once again that the Republican opposition on this whole issue is a sham. It is simply a vote for the status quo. And a bet that straight opposition can lead them back to power.

Hmmm . . . does the GOP really want to run in 2010 on the platform that if elected they will repeal health care reform?

Business as usual
In 2006 and 2007, Goldman Sachs Group peddled more than $40 billion in securities backed by at least 200,000 risky home mortgages, but never told the buyers it was secretly betting that a sharp drop in U.S. housing prices would send the value of those securities plummeting. . . .

Pentagon starts to reverse the Bush-era practice of hiring private contractors (at an average of $250,000 a pop) to perform jobs that should be done by federal employees
The Defense Department estimates it will save an average of $44,000 a year for every contractor it replaces with full-time federal personnel to perform critical defense jobs . . .

More on the Jane Hamsher/Grover Norquist attack against Rahm Emanuel

Is the Dawn Johnsen nomination dead?


Bonus item: Remember the list of “banned” journalists not allowed into a Sarah Palin booksigning event? Guess who drew up the hit list?

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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, December 25, 2009


Happy holidays, everyone. PBD will return to its regular schedule tomorrow, with its 2000th edition (that's right!)

***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.***

Thursday, December 24, 2009


BREAKING: Senate passes health care bill
Today Harry Reid said: "It is long past time we declare health care a right and not a privilege."

Spotlight turns on the House
House leadership is confident their liberal members may complain loudly but will back the final compromise even if it doesn't change from the more conservative Senate version. . . .
On the left, Pelosi could lose some progressives, miffed about the demise of the public option, and unhappy with the abortion language in both bills. . . . Of course, with 218 members needed to pass a bill, and 219 Democrats voting 'aye' the first time around, Pelosi faces a nearly zero-sum game. If she encounters defections from her progressive wing, she'll have to make up those votes among conservative-voting freshmen, sophomore, and Blue Dog members, who opposed the House bill the first time around.

Is The House Going To Cave On Its Responsibility? Maybe Not!

Will the health care bill be finished in time for Obama’s State of the Union address?

Obama calls out the filibuster-everything Republicans
I think that if this pattern continues, you're going to see an inability on the part of America to deal with big problems in a very competitive world, and other countries are going to start running circles around us. We're going to have to return to some sense that governance is more important than politics inside the Senate. We're not there right now. . . [read on]

David Broder, always dependable:
[E]ven those Republicans who were initially inclined to [favor health care reform] — and there were at least a handful of them — were turned away by the White House and the Senate Democratic leaders, who never lifted their sights much beyond the Democratic ranks. . . . It would help a lot if he reached out personally to those few Republicans who might still want to improve the bill rather than sink it.

Yeah, right. The Republicans pretend to be shocked and appalled that members sometimes ask for special favors as a price for their votes on key legislation!-Shocked-to-Find-that-Gambling-is-Going-on-in-Here!

The Republicans’ health care blunder?

Please, please stop confusing us – the media has already told us that the GOP is resurgent and the Dems are in trouble
Poll: Public Still Prefers Dems' Policies Over GOP's

I’m sorry, but what the HELL is Jane Hamsher doing?
Jane Hamsher, Grover Norquist Call for Rahm Emanuel’s Resignation

[Kevin Drum] Apparently Jane Hamsher has decided that a healthcare bill that provides a trillion dollars worth of benefit to low and middle income workers is so odious that mere opposition isn't enough. Nor is opposition that increasingly employs the worst kind of right-wing talking points. No, it's so odious that it deserves a scorched earth campaign against the Obama White House in partnership with Grover Norquist. Hard to know what to say about this. . . .
[Jane Hamsher] Why I Reached Out to Grover Norquist on Fannie/Freddie

Bonus item: Don’t make the diva angry
The woman who once called on the press to "quit makin' things up" took it a step further yesterday by allegedly banning four members of the media from a book event in Wasilla, Alaska.

On a four-person "banned list" -- yes, that term was actually used by police -- were a blogger, a videographer, a local radio host, and another person who hasn't been identified. TPMmuckraker reached two of the four by phone in Alaska this morning. Here's what happened. . . .


***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.***

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


How much will the House be able to change the health care bill passed by the Senate? Not much, it seems

[P]ro-life Democrats will seek direction from the U.S. Conference of Bishops as to whether they can support an amendment weaker than Rep. Bart Stupak's . . .

Could be a deal-breaker:

Here’s the best you can hope for: establishing the principle of universal health care, and a government role in funding it, will inevitably lead to further (and better) legislation later: expanding access, regulating the insurance industry, negotiating costs downward, etc.

Historic – and not in a good way
[Greg Sargent] A Congressional scholar confirms our theory: If health care does pass on a straight party-line vote, it will be the first time a major domestic initiative in the Senate was solely the work of one party, and was unanimously opposed by the opposition party. . . .

The end of bipartisanship
[NYT] At the same time, Democrats say the apparently unbridgeable health care divide has convinced them that Republicans are dedicated solely to blocking legislative proposals for political purposes. Several said they now realized that they would have to rely strictly on their own caucus to advance such defining issues as climate change in 2010. . . .

Obama didn’t fight for the public option
Harkin: I Assumed--Wrongly--The White House Pushed Strongly For Public Option

Robt Gibbs confirms it:
Asked today about Sen. Joe Lieberman's (I-CT) claim that President Obama didn't pressure him on a public option, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Obama "absolutely" did everything he could for health care reform.

THIS IS NOT TRUE,-distances-himself-from-public-option
Obama said the public option "has become a source of ideological contention between the left and right." But, he added, "I didn't campaign on the public option." [read on]


Is the insurance mandate unconstitutional?

Where is it written that progressives can’t withhold their votes to force changes to the health care bill, just as Lieberman and Nelson did? (No, it won’t happen.)
Progressives Begin To Pressure Feingold On Public Option

I have to tell you, I think this is a VERY bad idea
[Jane Hamsher] Why I Went on Fox and Friends

How Bush missed his chance at Osama Bin Laden
The Battle for Tora Bora
How Osama bin Laden slipped from our grasp: The definitive account.

A Democratic strategy for 2010
Dems in charge of winning Senate seats say they hope to put Republicans on the spot in 2010 by demanding that they say whether they support a full repeal of health care reform . . .

Blue Dog Dem switches parties – will anyone notice?
Over this past summer, he told a local newspaper that he wouldn't support Nancy Pelosi for Speaker again, saying she was too divisive. . . .
Rep. Griffith, a medical doctor by profession, voted against the economic recovery package, the federal budget, health care reform, the cap and trade energy policy, the financial regulatory reform and even against Ledbetter Gender Pay Equality Act. . . .

What the GOP said about Griffith last year – and what they’re saying now

National Republicans were elated but the conservative, anti-establishment movement within the party cast a skeptical eye toward Griffith.

The two Republican candidates who were vying to challenge him as an incumbent now plan to primary him . . .
Conservative Backlash Against Griffith Party Switch Begins


The gift that keeps on giving
Steele Slammed By Past GOP Chairs For Charging Speaking Fees


Bonus item: Liberal media? Puh – leeze!

***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.***