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March 22, 2003 PERMALINK
Follow-Up: Tax Cut Drama
(posted March 22 1:30 PM ET)

Just in case you missed it, the Senate moderates failed in their attempt to roughly halve the Bush tax cut, thanks to a few opposed to any tax cut.

Like LO said yesterday, this is a good outcome for the Dems, despite the fact that most Dems stood with the moderates.

Now, the blame for the upcoming fiscal disaster will fall square on the GOP, where it belongs.

March 21, 2003 PERMALINK
Tax Cut Drama
(posted March 21 12:15 AM ET)

There may be much drama today as people wonder if Saddam is dead, alive or injured.

But there is also drama in the Senate over Bush's proposed $726B tax cut.

Moderates from both parties are opposing Bush, mounting a serious push to scale it back to $350B.

A lot of Dems are supportive. And a "nail-biter" vote is expected today.

Let's hope they fail.

The number 1 point in the LiberalOasis 9-Point Plan from last November said:

The Dems need to get into "Government-In-Exile" mode. That means to the largest extent possible, no compromises. It's a GOP show, and they should blow it on their own.

The budget will be a train wreck, whether they pass a giant tax cut or a really giant tax cut.

Going for the $350B compromise means having your fingerprints on the disaster.

Fortunately, failure is looking like an option.

Late Thursday, Sens. Fritz Hollings (D-SC) and John McCain (R-AZ) came out against the compromise, saying it was still too large.

Key moderate Sen. John Breaux (D-LA) said without them, the $350B proposal can't pass.

But these legislative battles can be very fluid. Maybe Breaux tries to find a lower number that will get enough folks on board.

McCain, Hollings and any other Dem should resist. There's nothing to gain.

Advocacy group OMB Watch is encouraging citizens to contact their representatives and say "No More Tax Cuts."

Perhaps it's not quite bumper sticker material, but it's on target.

QUICK HITS

Dems Hanging Tough (Cont.)

Another sign Dems have learned to be crafty, tough and principled.

Republicans fanned out this week to accuse Sen. Tom Daschle of being unpatriotic -- and French -- for criticizing Dubya.

Senate Dems didn't flinch. It seems they took a cue from Joe Conason, according to the W. Post:

Democrats...laid the groundwork for keeping Bush's feet to the fire throughout the military campaign.

Senators circulated a seven-page report titled "Republicans criticized Clinton during Kosovo conflict" to show that questioning of the commander in chief during wartime is far from unprecedented.

Even GOPers Feel The Jingoistic Heat

This is certainly the quote of the day.

After a closed-door session, where Speaker Denny Hastert (R-IL) pressured GOP moderates to support Bush's budget package, Rep. Gil Gutknecht (R-MN) said:

I'd describe it as patriotic intimidation that's going on.

FROM THE MAILBAG

One reader takes issue with yesterday's observation that CNN's Wolf Blitzer wasn't cheerleading in the first hours of war:

He may not have been cheerleading, but he took a gratuitous shot at President Clinton.

Quoting from Bush Jr.'s "speech," Blitzer indicated our current non-elected President was willing to go the whole way against Hussein, unlike President Clinton in 1998.

The language in the speech could just have easily been interpreted as a slap at Bush Sr.'s failure to roll on to Baghdad in 1991.

I was appalled and was further disappointed that you complimented Blitzer.

March 20, 2003 PERMALINK
At War
(posted March 20 2 AM ET)

Sometimes, words fail. We all want as few casualties as possible, on all sides, but there's nothing to do but pray, hope and wish.

Any snap analysis is of limited value, but here are a few initial thoughts.

-- It appears as if we took a shot at Saddam and missed, similar to when Clinton missed Osama.

A reminder to us all that this stuff ain't easy.

-- So far, the embedded journalists are nothing but PR conduits for the Pentagon, transmitting video of weaponry in action, and conducting fluff interviews.

That doesn't necessarily mean it will remain that way.

These reporters may simply be softening up their Pentagon overseers, and could file more journalistically sound reports later on.

Wait and see.

-- The networks are top-heavy with former military officers who seem inclined to ooh-and-aah at the new gadgets and systems.

For example, NBC's Gen. Barry McCaffrey marveled at the operation to (ostensibly) attack Saddam as "remarkable," before Saddam gave his televised address.

But NBC also gets credit for including in its stable of military analysts William Arkin, who, among other things, does work for Human Rights Watch.

He's a thoughtful, nuanced observer who recently has been critical of Shock and Awe, nuclear bunker busters, Don Rumsfeld and excessive secrecy.

Arkin is unlikely to get the face time that the generals will get, but his presence should lead to some useful, unvarnished analysis.

-- Surprisingly, CNN's Wolf Blitzer shied away from cheerleading.

He characterized the Iraqi ability to quickly get Saddam on the air as "sophisticated," and convincingly shot down anchor Aaron Brown's suggestion that the speaker was one of Saddam's famous doubles.

-- A few important articles to read

From Slate, what to look for when watching the news coverage.

Also from Slate, sizing up the eventual "I Told You So's"

And just in case you thought this has nothing to do with oil, Newsweek International reports on the jockeying already underway by ExxonMobil and crew.

March 19, 2003 PERMALINK
Dems Hanging Tough
(posted March 19 12:45 AM ET)
(revised March 19 10 AM ET)

Something positive to consider in these decidedly negative times.

Despite the onset of war, Dems are signaling that they will stand tall on domestic issues during military action.

They are on the verge of killing Bush's scheme to drill for oil in the protected Alaskan wilderness.

A third attempt to appoint Miguel Estrada failed in the Senate yesterday.

Also in the Senate, Dems are pressing the point (despite sure legislative defeat) that you can't fight a war, protect the homeland and go ahead with a tax cut giveaway to the rich.

Two Dems are blocking the appointment of Joseph Kelliher to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Kelliher was a top adviser to Cheney's secret energy task force that sought to implement much of a "dream list" given to Kelliher by Enron.

Dems are still amping up the rhetoric on homeland security funding.

Sen. Tom Daschle is amping up his rhetoric on everything. Case in point:

President Bush came to office pledging conservative compassion, compassionate conservatism, whatever that mumbo jumbo was. All I know is there is nothing compassionate about this budget.

And he's not wilting in the face of a coordinated GOP attack.

Why are Dems playing so tough?

Because the numbers show that being a real opposition party is working.

The polls certainly could change rapidly, but the latest USA Today poll shows a tight race for '04, with Bush at 45% versus 42% for an unnamed Dem.

It may be better for Dubya than last week's Quinnipiac poll that showed him losing.

Nevertheless, a below 50% re-elect number is quite weak for an incumbent.

That's the result of a number of things: bad economy, bad economic proposals from Bush, weeks of unsettling shaky diplomacy.

But the clear opposition on domestic issues from Dems cannot be discounted.

The message appears to have been received by the party. Rolling over is dumb. Articulating opposition in an organized fashion is smart.

That attitude is sorely needed to fight Bush Inc.'s plans to "rebuild" Iraq without international support and with crony US companies (See NYT, WSJ, Salon, Molly Ivins, and Body and Soul.)

By letting GOP donors make a profit off of the war's aftermath, Bush will feed the notion that the whole enterprise is being done for America's benefit.

Not Iraq's. Not the world's.

Howard Dean is looking ahead. In his damn near perfect statement following Bush's address, he said:

...to ensure that our post-war policies are constructive and humane, based on enduring principles of peace and justice, concerned Americans should continue to speak out; and I intend to do so.

In doing so, Dean drew the first line of a sketch of an attractive vision. No details yet.

Possible candidate Gen. Wesley Clark has done the opposite.

He gave a good nuts and bolts post-war plan for Iraq in Tuesday's USA Today, but it lacked the poetry of an overarching vision.

And the vision is terribly important here.

Because Dems need to tell the nation and the world: we want real bottom-up democracy in the Arab world that will suck the oxygen out of the terrorist movement.

And we don't want imperialist puppet governments, faking democracy, that will only breed more resentment and more terrorism.

LiberalOasis is hopeful this kind of message will become the Dem mantra, among the pro- and anti-war.

And if Dems keep showing the fight that is being shown on the domestic side, we may be hearing such a message very soon.

March 18, 2003 PERMALINK
The Final Argument
(posted March 18 12:45 AM ET)
(edited March 18 9:15 AM ET)

It began with projection:

The Iraqi regime has used diplomacy as a ploy to gain time and advantage.

Yet it appears it is Bush who used diplomacy to kill time while he got the troops in place.

Then it moved to misdirection:

Over the years, U.N. weapon inspectors have been threatened by Iraqi officials, electronically bugged, and systematically deceived.

Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.

Never mind that we were just caught bugging our pals at the UN.

And the intelligence (some of which was plagiarized and forged) was never fully given to weapons inspectors so that they could find the goods.

Then the half-truths:

This regime has already used weapons of mass destruction...

The ones we helped him get, and the ones he used while Bush's Daddy looked the other way.

The regime has a history of reckless aggression in the Middle East.

That would be referring to the war against Iran, carried out with our support, and the invasion of Kuwait, after we gave him the green light.

Then the all-important circular logic:

The danger is clear: using chemical, biological or, one day, nuclear weapons, obtained with the help of Iraq, the terrorists could fulfill their stated ambitions and kill thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent people in our country, or any other.

So to preclude that hypothetical, we will go "kill thousands or hundreds of thousands" in some other country, beginning with a "Shock and Awe" plan that to some is akin to nuclear attack.

Followed by the distortion of the opposing side:

...some permanent members of the Security Council have publicly announced they will veto any resolution...

...These governments share our assessment of the danger, but not our resolve to meet it...

...The United Nations Security Council has not lived up to its responsibilities, so we will rise to ours.

Translation: they don't have the cojones. We do.

Not exactly.

Putting aside the ulterior motives of all parties, to the extent there is an agreement about the danger (and it is surely not total), most countries view the inspections process as having a chance to meet it.

That's not a lack of will. That's a healthy dose of sanity.

And onward to the butt covering:

In desperation, he and terrorists groups might try to conduct terrorist operations against the American people and our friends.

These attacks are not inevitable. They are, however, possible. And this very fact underscores the reason we cannot live under the threat of blackmail.

The Bushies do think two steps ahead sometimes, let's give them that.

They make us less safe, and spin it as standing up to threats.

And at a time when we have gained some momentum in the war on Al Qaeda, we will embark on an endeavor that will help them recruit and grow.

But these are all mere arguments, quite meaningless right now.

The question of whether or not this war is right or wrong will soon be academic.

And the time to look ahead is upon us.

March 17, 2003 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted March 16 11:15 PM ET)

The Sunday shows were a mere prelude to the Azores "summit," later in the day.

Both VP Dick Cheney and Secretary Colin Powell were dispatched, Cheney to the higher-rated Meet The Press and Face The Nation, Powell to ABC, FOX and CNN.

They accomplished two key objectives:

1. Stifle criticism to create the sense of inevitability

After a few weeks where war critics were getting decent Sunday face time, Cheney and Powell hogged the airwaves and silenced criticism.

Notably, MTP's Tim Russert reverted to deferential whore mode, just one week after giving Powell relatively rough treatment.

Not only were there scores of questions Russert could have asked, Cheney actively created opportunities for tough follow-ups, and Russert missed every one.

LO will forgo a list, but one thing stands out.

Cheney continually stressed how "everything changed on 9/11."

But as LiberalOasis has noted, as well as ABC's Nightline, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz are closely linked to an organization that was pushing for Saddam's removal years ago.

Cheney's argument begged for follow-ups that probed for underlying motives.

Yet over and over, Russert simply gave Cheney a platform for propaganda and then got out of his way.

Similarly on Face The Nation, the set-up was arranged to minimize critical questions.

Last week, NYT columnist Tom Friedman joined host Bob Schieffer when interviewing Condi Rice.

Friedman, who supports war in theory, has been increasingly critical of the Bushies' execution.

In that vein, his questioning of Rice last week was sharper-edged than that of Schieffer.

This week, Friedman was kept away from Cheney altogether, and was trotted out only after Cheney left the studio.

2. Preemptively shut down any hope for last-minute breakthroughs

Both Cheney and Powell conveyed the same main message:

There is nothing Saddam can do now but leave town. Don't even think about any compromises or surprises.

On MTP, Cheney said:

...even if he were tomorrow to give everything up, if he stays in power, we have to assume that as soon as the world is looking the other way...he will be back again rebuilding his BW [bio] and CW [chemical] capabilities, and once again reconstituting his nuclear program.

But the big Sunday event was the Azores "summit."

Dubya, standing next to the smallest posse ever assembled, following the shortest summit ever convened, said:

Tomorrow is the day that we will determine whether or not diplomacy can work.

Similarly, the Portuguese Prime Minister said:

This is the last possibility for a political solution to the problem.

But no one on that stage wants a diplomatic or political solution. There is only a war solution.

The four leaders took their turns berating the UN for shirking its responsibility regarding enforcement of UN resolution 1441.

Bush, bristling at a reporter's suggestion that a majority on the Security Council didn't approve of war, said:

Resolution 1441, which was unanimously approved, that said Saddam Hussein would unconditionally disarm, and if he didn't, there would be "serious consequences"...

...The world has spoken. And it did it in a unified voice.

Well not quite.

Recall that back in October, a draft version of 1441 from the US did not use the language "serious consequences."

It authorized using "all necessary means" if Iraq violated the terms.

That was the accepted trigger for military action.

"Serious consequences" was watered-down compromise language, specifically used so all sides could walk away and say it meant different things.

At the time, France and others contended that a second resolution would be needed to authorize force.

Interestingly, the second resolution put on the table by the US sticks to the language "serious consequences" while acting as if that is uniformly accepted wording for force.

And so, the Bushies rely on that to claim the UN refuses to enforce its own resolutions.

Bush also found a way to wriggle out of his insistence that the Security Council should "show their cards," while taking a gratuitous swipe at France:

France showed their cards. After I said what I said, they said they were going to veto anything that held Saddam to account.

Though former CIA analyst Kenneth Pollack, on CNN after the Azores event, indicated that France may be trying to throw Bush a little bit of rope:

What the French are hinting at is, "United States, if you're going to go to war, don't put the UN resolution out there because if it gets vetoed, then war would be illegal."

France may be a lot of things, but it's not interested in the evaporation of international law and sabotage of multilateral institutions.

The warmongers say France has ulterior motives, that it just wants to keep its veto power so it can play with the big boys.

Maybe so. But no one in this mess is free of ulterior motives. Least of all George Bush.

BEST OF THE BLOG LAST WEEK

Iraqi blogger Salam Pax says "No one inside Iraq is for war...Do support democracy in Iraq. But don't equate it with war"

Back To Iraq 2.0 worries that the Pentagon has the "embedded" journos on a short leash

Daily Kos and MyDD give first-hand accounts of the prez candidates at the CA Dem convention

onegoodmove finds a collection of new antiwar songs

Meanwhile, Counterspin sings!

The Sideshow has more to say about LiberalOasis' concerns about anti-Semitism

Orcinus says Bush's threatening of Mexico may be giving rise to white supremacist activity on the border

TBogg finds that George Will is a (*gasp*) hyprocrite

March 15, 2003
***SPECIAL REPORT***
How Many Americans Said No To War?

(posted March 15 11 PM ET)

As many as 1 million Americans protested against war on February 15, much more than what most media accounts reported, according to a new study by the group Less Oil For Life.

The group has provided a copy of the report to LiberalOasis.

Beyond stats, the report offers insight on how the media and local police often inaccurately portray the size of protests. Check out the full report.

The Sandbox
Guest Column by Alexander Pierre Luboknovich

Alexander Pierre Luboknovich, a Soviet in exile, is a political commentator, water comedian, diplomatic impersonator, and importer of international wives.

He is currently at work on a book of essays entitled "Power to the Peep-hole: Lewd Propositions for a New Sexual Revolution."

I Freed The Fries Before Freeing Fries Was Cool

Like most aliens, I am sometimes frustrated by an inability to attract attention in Washington.

When others were making jokes about Janet Reno, I separated myself and targeted mainly Robert Rubin. Did it work?

I covered myself in silver paint and stood completely still, naked, in the middle of the National Gallery.

I even hid under the covers on Lincoln's deathbed and scared a group of Chevy Chase schoolchildren. But nobody noticed.

Nobody wanted to listen to what Luboknovich had to say.

I spent years lobbying Congress to change the name of items on the Congressional lunch menu. But no fruit was reaped.

I was laughed at, and at times, ignored. But finally, on Tuesday, justice was served, along with a side of Jello.

If you haven't heard already, Congressional leaders finally opened their ears and their eyes and turned some of Luboknovich's ideas into hard legislation.

That's right! They added amendments to the Constitution, all in the name of patriotic eating!

But while last week's decision to change the name of congressional cafeteria "French Fries" to "Freedom Fries" is a major victory for both the American people and Luboknovich, it is not enough!

The French have done many things wrong, and as a result, they deserve a harsher molestation.

They have debilitated and demoralized the American people with their stubbornness against warfare, and their utter lack of respect for Dr. Phil.

They have embarrassed the U.S. and have forced our leaders to scramble like wild orangutans in a frozen microwave.

And what's the best we can do in return?! What's the harshest stance we can take against THEM?!

Yes, we must ban the export of Woody Allen films.

This will not only deprive the French of their favorite intellectual stimulation, it will deprive Woody of his only source of income.

But why stop there? France's entire legal system is antiquated and perfumed. We must update our own legal system and make all of our laws the opposite of France's laws!

But why stop there? Last I checked the Congressional cafeteria still served Hamburgers and Frankfurters.

Hello?! Last I checked both of those were named after cities in Germany - which is the Tubbs to France's Crockett.

In order for these changes to have their intended economic and psychological effect, we need to be consistent. No more double standards, or free refills on coffee.

I propose that we change the name of Hamburgers to Topekas and Frankfurters to San Diegos. Two all-American towns with lots of babes, instead of two German places I've never even been to.

Such legislation would be easy to pass at this time when most Americans are focused on the NHL playoff race. We have not a month to lose.

Luboknovich can be contacted through his manager, Robert Elstein

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

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