Bill Scher's LiberalOasis

Home of the This Is Not Normal podcast, Bill Scher columns and other liberal commentary

Month: September 2007 (page 1 of 3)


Over at, I join Hotline blog reporter Conn Carroll for a diavlog on what’s been percolating in the blogosphere for the past week, including how Washington Dems turned on, the Richardson campaign featuring bloggers in its new Iraq ad, the reaction to the Lieberman-Kyl Iran resolution, and the brewing battle over children’s health insurance.
You can watch the entire program here.

Seder on Sundays

I’ll be on Air America Radio’s “Seder on Sundays” today at 4 PM ET, for our regular Weekend Watchdog segment. Click here to listen online or find a station near you.
UPDATE: You can also watch our segment live at

The LiberalOasis Radio Show

Today at 10 AM ET, The LiberalOasis Radio Show was broadcast on WHMP-AM in Western MA. My special guest was Roger Hickey from Campaign for America’s Future, who assessed how health care is shaping the presidential race.
The podcast for the first half of the show is here. (Second half is a little delayed, but will be up soon.) And you can watch the full show below.
UPDATE: Apologies for the longer than expected delay. The second half is now up here.
Segment 1: Iraq 2013

Segment 2: Hickey on Healthcare in Election ’08

Segment 3: More Hickey on Healthcare

Mentioned on the broadcast:
Roger Hickey blog posts on presidential candidate health care plans
Past LiberalOasis posts on Flynt Leverett and Iran
Making the case that Iran is rational

Left Jab

I’ll be on XM Radio’s Left Jab this weekend, airing on XM Channel 167 at 11 AM ET Saturday and 1 PM ET Sunday, talking about the presidential field on Iraq and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.

War Made Easy

For Western Mass. readers, tomorrow night is a one-night only screening of the new documentary War Made Easy, from the Media Education Foundation, and featuring Sean Penn and Norman Solomon. It’s happening at The Academy of Music Theater, Friday at 7:30 PM, in Northampton. Tickets are $8.
The filmmakers are celebrating the strong reviews:

Variety called War Made Easy a “damning” and “unobtrusively well-crafted film.” The Nation magazine described it as “chilling and persuasive.” And the San Francisco Chronicle praised it as “a genuine eye-opener and a treat for history buffs,” an “expertly edited and researched” documentary that offers “a searing critique of how administrations over the past 40 years have manipulated the media to build support for war.”

Information on other screenings across the country is here. And check out the compelling preview below.

Has Hillary Peaked?

Tim Russert began last night’s presidential debate in exactly the right way: asking all the presidential candidates if they would pledge to have all US troops out of Iraq by the end of the next presidential term: January 2013.
Unstated in the question was that Sen. Hillary Clinton refused to take that pledge this past Sunday.
This presented the opportunity for candidates to distinguish themselves from Clinton, inform primary voters that Clinton cannot be relied upon to end the occupation, and attempt to dislodge her front the frontrunner position.
Last month, John Edwards and Sen. Barack Obama passed up such an opportunity. What about now?
Obama passed it up again. Instead, he echoed Clinton, saying:

I think it’s hard to project four years from now, and I think it would be irresponsible. We don’t know what contingency will be out there … I believe that we should have all our troops out by 2013, but I don’t want to make promises not knowing what the situation’s going to be three or four years out.

Edwards refused to make that pledge as well, but nevertheless, sought to make a distinction with Clinton, and raise questions about her foreign policy objectives:

…I heard Senator Clinton say on Sunday that she wants to continue combat missions in Iraq. To me, that’s a continuation of the war…
…when I’m on a stage with the Republican nominee, come the fall of 2008, I’m going to make it clear that I’m for ending the war. And the debate will be between a Democrat who wants to bring a war to an end … and a Republican that wants to continue the war.

Further, Edwards sought to emphasize that his residual force would be relatively small, between 3,500 and 5,000 troops, in order to protect the US Embassy in Iraq and protect humanitarian workers.
Without taking a pledge to get all troops by Jan. 2013, Edwards’ is drawing a very fine distinction, which may limit the political impact.
While some news reports highlighted criticism of Clinton, the AP noted that all three leading Dem candidates wouldn’t take that pledge.
Meanwhile, Gov. Bill Richardson and Rep. Dennis Kucinich sought to take advantage of the opening created by the three leading candidates to tout their plans to withdraw all troops from Iraq as soon as possible.
And Sen. Chris Dodd, when asked if he’d take the 2013 pledge to get all troops home, said, “I will get that done.”
So you have three candidates — Dodd, Richardson and Kucinich — who have pledged to get all troops out by Jan. 2013 (if not sooner). Edwards specifies a low level of residual forces for an indefinite period of time. Clinton, Obama and Sen. Joe Biden were vague about the size of their proposed residual forces.
Clinton also faced criticism, first levied by Mike Gravel, for voting for the Lieberman-Kyl amendment that arguably takes us a step closer towards attacking Iran.
Edwards jumped in forcefully. Noting that both he and Clinton voted for the Iraq war authorization, he said of Clinton’s new Iran vote:

We [each] learned a very different lesson from [Iraq.] I have no intention of giving George Bush the authority to take the first step on a road to war with Iran.
And I think that vote today — which Senator Biden and Senator Dodd voted against, and they were correct to vote against it — is a clear indication of the approach that all of us would take with the situation in Iran.
Because what I learned in my vote on Iraq was you cannot give this president the authority, and you cannot even give him the first step in that authority, because he cannot be trusted.

So we may have the beginning of an effort to convince voters that Clinton would not represent a substantive change in our foreign policy.
And if primary voters are convinced of that, making Clinton lose her frontrunner status, the whole race opens up again.
Side note: Russert also asked Clinton about Israel’s air strike on Syria. Both Russert and Clinton generally accepted the neocon-backed line that Israeli was thwarting a nuclear program in Syria backed by North Korea, and Clinton went as far to say, “What happened in Syria, so far as we know, I support.”
While no one knows the full story yet, in my recent LiberalOasis Radio Show interview of Steve Clemons, he cast significant doubt on the nuclear story.

Northampton Drinking Liberally

Pioneer Valley readers, Northampton Drinking Liberally meets again tonight, 6:30 PM, at the Northampton Brewery. Hope to see you there!

Critical Vote Today on Children’s Health Insurance

The House is expected to vote today on expanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). There already is enough support in the Senate to override Bush’s threatened veto. While there is certainly majority support in the House, it’s not certain if there is veto-proof levels of support. Public pressure may very well make this difference on this one.
First thing this morning, call the House switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and tell your representative to support covering millions more kids with health insurance. America’s kids will thank you.

Would Clinton Leave Iraq?

Last month after a Dem presidential debate, I wrote that, “The Dem Primary Won’t Be Decided Over Iraq”:

Given the opportunity in Sunday’s ABC debate to distinguish themselves from Sen. Hillary Clinton on Iraq, Sen. Barack Obama and former Sen. John Edwards passed.
Which raises the question: how do they think they are going to dislodge her from her front-runner position?…
…she is the only candidate who reportedly believes that we should have US troops in Iraq by Jan. 2017 at least.
She has not said that publicly, but Ted Koppel has reported that she privately told a former Pentagon official who has briefed her that “she would still expect U.S. troops to be in Iraq at the end of her second term.”…
… perhaps, if voters believed Clinton would not really end the war — and primary voters really want to end the war — that would gives voters pause.
Yet when Sunday’s debate moderator George Stephanopoulos prodded the candidates to clarify their differences on Iraq, neither Edwards or Obama exploited the opening.

Now, Sen. Clinton has created a fresh opening.
On ABC’s This Week and CBS’ Face The Nation today, she refused to pledge to withdraw all troops from Iraq.
From ABC:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Can you pledge that all US troops will be home over the course of your first term as president?
CLINTON: You know I’m not going to get into hypotheticals and make pledges, because I don’t know what I’m going to inherit, George.

And on CBS, she said:

…there will be remaining missions. The counter-terrorism mission against Al Qaeda in Iraq. The protection of our embassy and our civilian workforce in Iraq. The continuing mission of training the Iraqi army … There will also, in my view, be a continuing mission with respect to the Kurds in the north…
…So when I have voted to say that we’re going to start withdrawing troops by a date certain, it has always including a recognition of these continuing responsibilities.

Later on Face The Nation, NY Times’ David Sanger put that list of “remaining missions” in perspective: “it’s very hard when you talk to Pentagon people to have them figure out how you do that with fewer than 100,000 troops.”
More importantly, (putting aside the question whether we need a residual force at all) why couldn’t these missions be accomplished in a relatively short time?
Al Qaeda in Iraq is overhyped. There’s no need for a large US civilian workforce to remain long-term. Training the Iraqi army should not be an 10-year enterprise.
If we’re not planning to occupy Iraq forever, why can’t we pledge to complete these missions by 2012, if not sooner, and remove the sense of occupation among Iraqis?
Sen. Clinton’s rivals have a fresh opening to ask these questions, and make the case she would not truly end the occupation while they would.
If they don’t ask them, it’s hard to see what other openings they can identify to dislodge Clinton from her frontrunner perch.

The LiberalOasis Radio Show

Today at 10 AM ET, The LiberalOasis Radio Show was broadcast WHMP-AM in Western MA, My special guest was Steve Clemons from The New America Foundation and The Washington Note, who offered his analysis on the political developments in Iran, Israel, Syria and Pakistan.
The podcasts are available here. And you can watch the show below.
Segment 1: Eek! An Ad!

Segment 2: Steve Clemons on Iran

Segment 3: Steve Clemons on Israel, Syria & Pakistan

Mentioned on the broadcast:
Why Bush Won’t Attack Iran by Steve Clemons for
Cheney Attempting to Constrain Bush’s Choices on Iran Conflict: Staff Engaged in Insubordination Against President Bush by Clemons for The Washington Note
Why We’d MIss Musharraf by Sameer Lalwani for
Experts Doubt Drop In Violence in Iraq, The Washington Post

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