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The LiberalOasis Blog
The daily view from the oasis

January 14, 2005 PERMALINK
Tell Your Senator: Vote Your Values, Reject Gonzales
(posted Jan. 14 12:30 AM ET)

A reminder: keep the pressure on Senate Judiciary Cmte members by telling them to vote no on Alberto Gonzales.

Since LiberalOasis noted on Monday that key Dems remain publicly on the fence (and in turn, needed a big grassroots push), there’s been no change to that dynamic.

As he did last week, committee member Chuck Schumer continued to express indecision and concern, this time to one of his hometown papers.

And on Wed., another committee member, Sen. Ted Kennedy, offered similar sentiment on CNN.

Kennedy’s spiel is worth looking at closely, because it shows how the Dems keep falling short:

I think there's obviously a general disposition to permit the president to have his own advisers.

There's a different standard for the cabinet that there are for judges, for example, and a different standard for judges as there are for the Supreme Court justices.

But I think Mr. Gonzales before the judiciary committee -- I think there are a lot of question still left very much unanswered.

I'm not sure that he really satisfied many of the questions about his role on torture.

We're talking about the torture amendments, and who in the administration permitted the kind of torture that we saw at Abu Ghraib, and that we're finding out through the FBI and through other reports torture that took place in Guantanamo and other places.

And Mr. Gonzales was right in the position to know about this, and he was not forthcoming before the judiciary committee.

There's going to be follow-up questions...We'll wait and see.

So, Kennedy begins to lay out the case why Gonzales should be rejected, and then he pulls back and says “we'll wait and see”.

Ostensibly because, Kennedy (and most Dems) are balancing those concerns with the completely made up concept that Dems must bend over backwards for Cabinet picks.

But what makes Kennedy’s hesitance so striking is that he expressed it on the same day he gave a speech insisting Dems should proudly stand up for their values:

There's no doubt we must do a better job of looking within ourselves and speaking out for the principles we believe in, and for the values that are the foundation of our actions.

Americans need to hear more, not less, about those values.

We were remiss in not talking more directly about them - about the fundamental ideals that guide our progressive policies.

Values are not a mere buzzword to toss around.

They are “the foundation”. They are what you hold most dear. They “guide” your policies and actions every day.

So, if rejection of torture really is a value – a value that distinguishes Democrats from Republicans – it would dictate your vote on Gonzales.

You would not go out of your way to give Gonzales a second chance responding to written questions after his pathetic, slippery testimony.

You would not flinch and say “we’ll wait and see.” You’d take a stand.

Granted, multiples values can factor into a decision.

But the only other value at play here seems to the value of presidential deference, which has no business being a Democratic value (America being a democracy and all).

This is not about whether or not Gonzales becomes Attorney General.

This is about communicating to the public what are the values that guide the Democratic Party.

Democrats don’t need to filibuster to accomplish that.

Simply voting “No” tells the public, “if we were in charge, we’d never pick a guy like this.”

Whereas voting “Yes” says, “we asked some tough questions for show, but in the end, what Bush wants is more important than what we claim to believe in.”

Is LiberalOasis optimistic that Dems will stand together and vote “No” on Gonzales? No.

It probably will not be until Dems win on Social Security that they will realize what standing together on principle can do for the party.

But with several key Dems wavering, there is definitely a chance. There still is a moment to seize.

And perhaps one way to push them off the fence is to contact them and say, “It’s time to stop talking about your values, and start acting on them.”

QUICK HIT

Other Things To Show Your Senator

From Editor & Publisher:

…19 leading newspapers [find] strong doubts about Gonzales' fitness to be U.S. attorney general.

Eight newspapers in that group have called on the U.S. Senate to reject his nomination.

Seven others expressed serious reservations, and four others endorse him strongly.

From CNN’s Bill Schneider:

In October 2001, the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll asked Americans if they would allow to U.S. government to torture known terrorists who knew details about future attacks…

…At a time of intense fear and anger, nearly half of Americans, 45 percent, said yes. But a majority still said no.

Since that terrible time, public anxiety has diminished. Moreover, people know about what happened at Abu Ghraib…

…Now, nearly 60 percent say the government should not be able to torture known terrorists, even if they know details about future attacks.

January 13, 2005 PERMALINK
PayolaGate: Who Might The Others Be?
(posted Jan. 13 12:15 AM ET)

As you probably know, Armstrong Williams, the talk show host and columnist who took $240K of taxpayer funds to promote No Child Left Behind, cryptically told The Nation’s David Corn, “This happens all the time” and “There are others.”

So the question is out there: Who else may be taking conservative payola?

Seeing The Forest and MyDD are looking at the big picture, beyond government contracts.

They are not only asking who is being bought, but who else is buying besides the government – corporations, think tanks, trade associations, etc. – to illustrate how an entire corporate network of paid conservative opinion is in effect.

Meanwhile, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter is focusing on the government contracts, calling for a Government Accountability Office investigation into whether or not there are others like the Williams deal.

Regarding the latter issue, the government contracts, LiberalOasis has one suggestion for the sleuths out there.

Note that the government didn’t simply cut Williams a personal check for him to spout the White House line on No Child Left Behind.

It hired a PR firm called Ketchum as a primary contractor to promote NCLB, with another PR firm, Graham Williams Group, as a subcontractor. (link via No More Mr. Nice Blog)

And Armstrong Williams is the President and CEO of Graham Williams Group.

To emphasize: Williams is a media pundit and the head of a PR firm!

He is a member of the media and the head of a company that exists to influence the media, which is arguably an inherent conflict of interest.

So who else in the punditocracy might be likely recipients of propaganda payola?

Find out what other pundits are affiliated with PR firms.

QUICK HIT

And Another Thing…

…Perhaps it’s time to start asking why the government is hiring any PR firms at all.

The government has public information responsibilities.

But there should be a line between routine education about government programs and paying marketing experts taxpayer dollars to flack for a political agenda.

January 12, 2005 PERMALINK
Bush Blinks
(posted Jan. 12 12:45 AM ET)

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal published an exclusive interview with Dubya, and his comments on Social Security strategy were extremely notable:

WSJ: Are you saying that you're going to send up principles rather than a plan and let the particulars be drawn up by the Senate?

BUSH: No, not necessarily so...I have an obligation to lead on this issue -- I think this will be an administrative-driven idea...

I have the responsibility to provide the political cover necessary for members, I have the responsibility to make the case if there is a problem, and I have the responsibility to lay out potential solutions.

Now, to the specificity of which, we'll find out -- you'll find out with time.

Emphasizing his “obligation to lead” is a major shift from what he was saying last month:

The temptation is going to be ... to get me to negotiate with myself in public.

To say, you know, what's this mean, Mr. President, what's that mean.

I'm not going to do that. I don't get to write the law.

I will propose a solution at the appropriate time, but the law will be written in the halls of Congress

As LiberalOasis said at the time, that may have looked like lame dodging, but it actually was a sensible move:

To secure firmer support from GOP congresspeople by having the plan come from them, instead of imposing something controversial on them.

But that only works if your party is on board with your general approach. And LiberalOasis also said at the time party divisions were already showing.

That problem has gotten worse for Bush, with his poll numbers on Social Security dropping, and some GOPers openly questioning his strategy and even his privatization position.

These GOPers effectively sent a message to Bush: you want this, you get out there, get specific, make some tough calls, and build some support. If you can’t pull it off, forget it, not our problem.

And so, in the WSJ interview, Bush signaled to his congressional comrades: you win, I’ll stick my neck out and do more.

But the problem for Bush with getting more specific is that it will surely diminish support, not expand it.

So he’s caught in a bit of a bind.

And Dems should realize that they have helped create this bind.

Normally, troublesome specifics are buried in the weeds, and covered up with a little bipartisanship.

By standing together and pushing back hard on the false notion of an imminent crisis, Dems are boxing Bush in and cutting off political avenues.

Dems should start thinking about ways to replicate this success.

QUICK HITS

Bush “Town Hall” Tidbits: #1

Dubya had one of his patented invite-only “town halls” yesterday, with all attendees die-hard backers of Social Security privatization.

How scripted was this event? Check out this exchange:

MS. STONE: I would like to introduce my mom. This is my mother, Rhoda Stone. And she is grandmother of three, and originally from Helsinki, Finland, and has been here over 40 years.

THE PRESIDENT: Fantastic. Same age as my mother.

MS. STONE: Just turned 80.

Of course, the script probably told Bush to say, “same age as my mother” after Ms. Stone mentions her mom is 80.

Bush “Town Hall” Tidbits: #2

The most disgusting and appalling moment in yesterday’s “town hall” was when Bush advanced the lie that African-Americans get shortchanged by Social Security:

African American males die sooner than other males do, which means the system is inherently unfair to a certain group of people. And that needs to be fixed.

This lie has been debunked over and over and over again.

But conservatives continue to push it to try to undermine Social Security in the African-American community.

Bush cannot be allowed to spread this garbage unchallenged.

Furthermore, if Bush and the rest of the GOP really care so much about African-American life expectancy, they could start addressing the massive racial disparity in our nation’s health care system.

Bush “Town Hall” Tidbits: #3

Dubya can condescend to a Red-stater with the best of them, saying to one attendee, “Have they got C-SPAN out there in Utah?”

January 11, 2005 PERMALINK
Message To WSJ: There Is No Core Group
Thinking Long-Term Tsunami Relief
(posted Jan. 11 12:45 AM ET)

As the tsunami relief effort continues, some are starting to discuss what the long-term reconstruction strategy should be.

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal tried to contribute, publishing an op-ed by Australian journalist Greg Sheridan, “The Year Of Living Diplomatically.” (No link available).

(For your background, Sheridan has deemed Dubya a “modern Winston Churchill,” and said, "the West's far Left has joined in a kind of de facto intellectual alliance with the al-Qa'ida extremists.”)

Sheridan sees the relief effort as an opportunity for the US to strengthen ties with Indonesia and improve our image with South Asian Muslims.

And to best provide assistance, Sheridan says:

[The US] should operate bilaterally with the Indonesian government ... with nil or minimal U.N. involvement.

This is in part to minimize the risk of corruption and in part to maximize the effectiveness of the aid.

Why does Sheridan believe marginalizing the UN would be more effective?

First, he claims that the Indonesian people were looking to the US and not the UN for help, based on a single CNN interview with a distraught survivor who cried out “Where is America?” (to the American TV station), instead of “Where is the U.N.?”

Then, Sheridan points to the “core group”:

The U.S. immediately convened a core group of nations to coordinate the early relief effort.

The identity of the core group tells us much -- India, Japan and Australia, three democracies, two of them formal military allies of the U.S.

It would surely have been inconceivable...to think that U.S. and Australian soldiers would be conducting large-scale joint operations in Aceh, the site of an ongoing, fierce separatist Islamic rebellion...

...Yet it was U.S. military helicopters which first brought relief to survivors there.

So lesson No. 1 is that it is the U.S. and its alliance system which counts for most in Asia.

Now at this point, regular LiberalOasis readers should be scratching their heads.

That’s because it was noted here last Thursday that Sheridan’s beloved “core group” no longer exists.

It was a failure, scrapped after a mere eight days, allowing the UN to take the lead in coordinating the relief effort.

The short-lived core group is not an example of the unquestioned power America has in Asia, but the limitations of any single country’s power, and the need for a global body to navigate the myriad of political conflicts in order to effectively deliver aid.

While Sheridan is certainly right that ably providing relief can help America's reputation among Muslims in the South Asian region, going about it in a stubborn unilateral way would likely undermine that goal.

A more comprehensive, creative and thoughtful strategy for long-term tsunami relief comes from TomPaine’s Patrick Doherty.

It’s too much to properly summarize here, but here is the gist:

With billions of dollars of aid pouring in over a period of three to five years, the world is faced with a massive choice in how to guide not the emergency relief, but the reconstruction.

As Oxfam noted two years after Hurricane Mitch, the international community rebuilt communities along their old foundations.

This meant communities were rebuilding the unsustainable, poverty-ridden, undemocratic societies that existed before, reconstituting the infrastructure of injustice...

...In practical terms, metropolitan land use is where America must focus its energies overseas.

Infrastructure assistance, legal and bureaucratic streamlining, loan guarantees for homeowners and democratization assistance are all essential.

Anyone who perpetuates the canard that liberals don’t have any big ideas is ignoring work like this.

January 10, 2005 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted Jan. 10 12:30 AM ET)
(minor edit Jan. 10 2 PM ET)

Dems Undecided On Gonzales, So Give Them A Push

The Senate hearing on Alberto Gonzales' nomination for Attorney General did not receive much attention on the Sunday shows.

But on CNN's Late Edition, Sen. Joe Biden, when asked how he'd vote, said:

I haven't made up my mind yet.

I was disappointed he wasn't more candid.

I like him. I know him. It's a great trade for my good friend John Ashcroft.

But his lack of candor and the way he responded bothered me.

That uncertainty was also reflected in Sen. Chuck Schumer comments on Friday, in this exchange with CNN's Judy Woodruff:

SCHUMER: I walked in to that hearing pretty favorably disposed to Gonzales based on my own personal experience with him.

But he was so not forthcoming on the issue of torture, on the issue of so many other things that I think we're going to have to wait and see [his] answers in writing.

We're allowed to submit written questions to him.

I've submitted a bunch and I know many of my colleagues have -- both Democrat and Republican were not totally happy with his answers.

WOODRUFF: So you're withholding judgment on whether you're going to vote for him?

SCHUMER: I am.

And I think I would be regarded as one of those Democrats, at least on the Judiciary Committee, more favorable to him than…some of my colleagues.

Both of these guys we're basically planning to vote for him.

Both, like most Dem Senators, are (wrongly) squeamish about voting against Cabinet picks, believing presidents deserve deference.

But now they're on the fence.

And, because of that squeamishness, you cannot presume they will jump off in the right direction without a significant push.

Seize this precarious moment. Contact the Dem members of the Judiciary Committee and tell them to vote no of Gonzales.

Tim Roemer’s Extremely Troubling Interview

Former Rep. and former 9/11 Commission member Tim Roemer announced on ABC's This Week that he is running for DNC Chair.

Roemer has been getting hit from the left on several matters: abortion, Social Security, Clinton's landmark deficit reduction plan, Bush's destructive tax cuts, affiliation with a right-wing economic think tank.

George Stephanopoulos questioned him about some of it, specifically citing blog criticism from Talking Points Memo, Political Animal and MyDD.

And Roemer’s responses were dreadful.

For example, when asked about his votes against the ‘93 budget plan and for the ‘01 tax cut giveaway to the wealthy, Roemer acknowledged no fault in ‘93, and scooted by without explaining his ‘01 vote.

But most egregious was his explanation on his Social Security views:

STEPHANOPOULOS: It looks like the big issue on the domestic agenda this time around is going to be Social Security reform.

And others have looked at your votes there...

...They take out one vote called the Filner amendment in 2001.

It was a vote to block any funding for implementing the recommendations of President Bush's Social Security commission. You voted against that.

That's been interpreted as a vote supporting some sort of private accounts...Will you repudiate that vote?

ROEMER: Publicly and loudly, I will explain what that vote was.

That vote was not anything about Social Security.

It was simply giving the money to...let the study come forward...

The bloggers -- the Internet is a very, very useful tool for us to communicate with voters, ideas. I'm very excited about it.

But it can also misinterpret a vote.

Roemer’s characterization of the Filner vote is flatly untrue.

As Stephanopoulos said, as David Sirota (who helped write the Filner Amendment) said, as Rep. Bob Filner said, the amendment was not about blocking funding for publishing a mere study.

It was specifically about blocking funding for implementing the recommendations of Bush’s handpicked commission.

All of the commission members were privatization backers, and the commission’s “guiding principles” included support for private accounts.

That’s why Filner said during the debate:

This amendment, which is only one sentence long, may be the most significant sentence that we vote on in this Congress, because it would prevent any funding being used for the purpose of implementing a Social Security privatization plan.

For Roemer to misrepresent his vote, while falsely casting blame on others for spreading misinformation, is extremely troubling.

(Video of the interview at Crooks and Liars.)

Frist Gets Off Easy

Amazingly, yet unsurprisingly, Meet The Press' Tim Russert had an “exclusive” interview with Sen. Bill Frist, and failed to ask him about this AP report (from South Knox Bubba):

Just before his helicopter lifted off, Frist and aides took snapshots of each other near a pile of tsunami debris. "Get some devastation in the back," Frist told a photographer.

The Blog Wire
Tracking the liberal blogosphere

Cheryl Jacques: "Some have interpreted the 2004 election results as a backlash against gay marriage ... [but] equality cannot wait for a convenient time ... A backlash isn't a reaction, it is the surfacing of long-standing resentments and misunderstandings that can only be addressed if brought out into the open" (via Coffee House Studio)

Opinions You Should Have makes the NY Times op-ed page

Angry Bear: "Bottom line is that employment growth for 2004 was just enough to keep pace with population growth and not enough to reverse the lackluster performance for the prior three years."

Tapped: [The Armstrong Williams/NCLB scandal] isn't just a replay of the sleazy Medicare advertising [scandal,] it's part of the same effort"

The Progress Report: Staples backs out of boycotting Sinclair, despite having reviewed and approved of a Media Matters news release announcing it

Road To Surfdom: "when [Gonzales] advised that the Convention was obsolete and its provisions quaint, he was just speaking in his professional capacity. It wasn't how he felt personally. You see now?"

Tom Paine: "[The] tsunami struck at just the right time to shake up Democratic foreign policy thinkers ... the calls for long-term programs to address vulnerability and poverty present a rare opening to think beyond the ill-conceived and intellectually dishonest 'war on terror' framework."

Political Wire: White House paid right-wing pundit Armstrong Williams $240K of taxpayer money to promote No Child Left Behind on the air, USA Today reports

Sen. Boxer: "We have fought for social justice. We have fought for economic justice. We have fought for environmental justice. We have fought for criminal justice. Now we must add a new fight – the fight for electoral justice."

The Left Coaster: "Give Barbara Boxer credit. She stood up today ..."

Mark A.R. Kleiman: "Before he got into the torture-enabling business, Alberto Gonzales was in the business of enabling executions, in at least one case the execution of someone for a crime he hadn't committed ... There's a pattern here"

Donkey Rising: "in 2006 Democrats would be wise to target Republicans representing high-risk districts: districts that lean Democratic in presidential elections ... There are currently 25 such GOP districts"

Political Animal: "a new study ... suggests one of the causes of malpractice lawsuits is - surprise! - malpractice"

Human Rights First is blogging the Gonzales hearings

Raw Story: "The House Judiciary Democrats investigating election irregularities in Ohio have issued their final report, titled, 'Preserving Democracy: What went wrong in Ohio.' ... 'We have found numerous, serious election irregularities in the Ohio presidential election, which resulted in a significant disenfranchisement of voters,'"

The SEA-EAT Blog has information about resources, aid, donations and volunteer efforts for victims of the SE Asian tsunami

**************

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