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The LiberalOasis Blog
The daily view from the oasis

May 27, 2005 PERMALINK
Bolton Nom Delayed ... Yawn
(posted May 26 11:30 PM ET)

LiberalOasis is not keen on playing the sourpuss all week, but the “non-filibuster filibuster” that Dems laid on the Bolton nomination is nothing to get excited about.

Dems are contending it’s not really a filibuster because they aren’t extending debate in order to directly kill the nomination.

Only to delay a vote until the State Dept. coughs up info that the Senate deserves to review before a vote.

The gambit of course is that with delay comes hope that they can uncover damning evidence that would shake loose a few more uneasy Republicans and defeat Bolton outright.

Anything is possible, but the farce of the Foreign Relations Cmte vote -- which allowed the nomination to go to the full Senate without majority support -- should have taught Dems the lesson.

They’re not going to beat Bolton on the merits.

It doesn’t matter what new information they uncover.

There are already mounds and mounds of damning evidence that in a normal world would have forced Bolton to leave town in shame and turn in his Yale Club membership.

They will never get six GOPers to buck the White House on something that Bush has staked so much personal prestige on.

If Dems really think Bolton at the UN is bad for America, the only way to stop him is with a filibuster.

Which they have now practically sworn not to do. Filibusters are now officially icky.

(Another GOP objective accomplished. Thanks “centrists.”)

To be clear, it is generally not an imperative to filibuster executive branch nominations.

LO did not push for filibusters of Cabinet picks, just encouraged Dems to vote “No.”

Anyone Bush nominates will be a tool for his bad policies (was our foreign policy any better because moderate Jack Danforth was at the UN last year?).

So defeating a nomination doesn’t necessarily make the world a better place.

But voting “No” in unison, combined with good messaging, makes clear that the party does not endorse the policies the nominees stood for, which helps the party communicate to the public what it’s principles are.

Dems generally did not do that, preferring to show traditional deference to the presidency (though the grassroots pushed them into an effort to oppose Alberto Gonzales for Attorney General).

However, the Dems on Foreign Relations Cmte decided to try to stop Bolton.

Not for political gain. Not because of poll data. Not to get a moderate instead. Not (unfortunately) to loudly oppose Bush’s foreign policy.

But because they deeply, and correctly, believe that Bolton is bad news for America.

That he would undermine our credibility and moral standing in the world, diminishing our national security.

They went nearly all out, mobilized the rational corner of Establishment Washington, revved up the grassroots, generated real momentum, even made Bolton a pop-culture punch-line.

But they will not succeed with their present strategy. They cannot count on enough Republicans to do the right thing.

They need a filibuster, a real filibuster, to save America from Bolton. And that is not what we saw yesterday.

May 26, 2005 PERMALINK
More Two-Faced Uzbek Policy
(posted May 26 1:15 AM ET)

The NY Times did some impressive reporting last month, ferreting out our policy of sending detainees to Uzbekistan, the country with the slogan “We Boil People.”

That’s why it’s so inexplicable that the paper is enabling the Bush Administration’s transparently two-faced strategy of the dealing with the recent Uzbek massacre of its own people.

Yesterday’s Times offered the headline, “China Backs Uzbek, Splitting With U.S. on Crackdown.”

And today’s edition, reporting on a high-profile meeting between the Chinese and Uzbek leaders, says:

Both China and the United States have sought closer relations with Uzbekistan...But their responses to the shootings there differed sharply.

Washington called for an independent inquiry and threatened to withhold aid unless an impartial investigation is conducted.

Sure sounds like Bush Administration is taking a principled stand against Uzbekistan, unlike those Chinese, right?

But the TImes’ rote reporting leaves out so much crucial context.

The Pakistan Daily Times is far more illuminating. From this past Monday:

In the past week, Moscow and Washington have joined numerous other countries and institutions in turning up the heat on Uzbekistan’s autocratic President Islam Karimov, whose regime they have both supported in their own ways.

They have also agreed that the recent killings require investigation.

But in contrast to demands from European Union countries for an “international, independent” probe - demands that Karimov has shown little enthusiasm to meet - the language from Moscow and Washington has been attenuated, focusing on a “credible” probe with “international participation.”

[Note that the NY Times said the US called for an “independent” investigation. This is not true. Read the State Dept. statement. However, Russia has been more explicitly critical of an independent investigation than we have.]

The disparity, experts say, reflects differences in the strategic objectives pursued by Russia and the United States in Central Asia as opposed to those pursued by Europe, as well as the wariness with which Moscow and Washington are watching each other to see who moves first, and how.

“Both Russia and the United States want Uzbekistan in their camp,” said Yevgeny Volk, a strategic analyst with the Heritage Foundation think-tank in Moscow.

“And neither wants to destabilise the Karimov regime.”

For Russia, Karimov represents a familiar order that has long safeguarded and promoted Russian economic, military and political interests in a critical part of the world on the border separating Russia from sources of instability on the Indian subcontinent and in the Middle East.

For the United States, Karimov is a vital partner in the US-led “war on terrorism,” who agreed to let Washington open an air base in his country, in a critical region representing a frontier outpost for US military presence and international influence.

“Russia and the United States have some of the same objectives in the Central Asia region,” Volk said.

“Uzbekistan is a major producer of gold and its location, ideal for transport of energy resources through oil pipelines and other means, for example, makes it of top strategic priority and of importance to control.”

It is not the case that China is the only country still looking to do business with Uzbekistan. Nothing has changed about our Uzbek policy.

And it’s nothing new for the Bush Administration to talk out of both sides of its mouth when it comes to Uzbekistan, so it can pay lip service to human rights.

As the W. Post reported last week (link via Just World News):

The U.S. government has sometimes spoken to Uzbekistan with more than one voice.

Last summer, then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell refused to certify that Uzbekistan had improved its human rights record, cutting off $18 million for military training.

Weeks later, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff ... criticized that decision as "very shortsighted"; he announced that the United States would be giving $21 million for bioterrorism defense.

And the State Department later restored $7 million of the suspended aid, arguing that it was for priorities such as health care and nuclear security.

The result, according to critics, is that Uzbek officials shrug off U.S. complaints about repression.

"They don't take the State Department seriously," said Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch. "They think the Pentagon and CIA will protect them. So the Uzbeks are not inclined to listen to American diplomats when they get lectured on democracy."

That pattern continues today.

The BBC reported on Saturday that “the US has announced it is scaling back operations at the [Uzbek] airbase following the unrest.”

But yesterday, a State Department official signaled that the scale-back is just cosmetic, saying “we will continue to use those bases because we have 18,000 U.S. troops and 8,000 European troops (in Afghanistan) ... and Central Asia is the best place to supply them from.”

The Bush Administration policy towards Uzbekistan remains Exhibit A in showing how Bush is dangerously insincere and hypocritical with his democracy and freedom rhetoric.

Uzbekistan is the perfect example of how oppression, brutality and poverty can fuel radical religious terrorism (further, people in the region are starting to speculate that the unrest could spark “another Balkans war” in the Central Asia region).

Yet Bush sees no need to call for a Magenta Revolution when the Uzbeks rise up against their dictator, because he has no qualms propping up a tyrant when that tyrant is friendly to us.

(Bush also appears to have been kissing up to Uzbekistan, on behalf of Enron, since his Texas Governor days, link via Buzzflash.)

And it is that kind of foreign policy which, as Bush himself has said, is the primary cause of terrorism.

May 25, 2005 PERMALINK
The Damage Of The Deal
(posted May 25 1:15 AM ET)
(updated May 25 10:15 AM ET)

This is shaping up to be a very unpleasant week.

Democrats had been showing some spunk.

They had held together on Social Security, pushing Bush’s poll numbers on the issue into the ground.

They were going to the mat on John Bolton’s nomination to be UN Ambassador.

And they had developed an innovative strategy to make the GOP pay dearly if they triggered the nuclear option.

After being handmaidens to the GOP’s corporate agenda on a couple of holdover issues – class action suits and bankruptcy – they seemed to be finding their footing.

Bit by bit, we were starting to see a more confident, aggressive posture, and the beginnings of a consistent party message to run on in '06.

Now, all that progress may be unraveling.

Not only did the “Gang of 14” forge The Deal, but they are being showered with love from the mainstream media and the Dem leadership (which didn’t do the deal, but wants to piggyback on a perceived winner).

That is popularizing the notion that the Gang actually represents “the center.”

That not only gives the 14 a certain amount of influence and authority, but also injects additional fear into rest of the Dems about engaging in principled confrontation.

Already, the Dems have decided to forgo a filibuster on Bolton.

Bolton may not be a judicial nominee, but he is unquestionably an “extraordinary circumstance,” if for no other reason that he was sent to the full Senate without majority support in committee.

Furthermore, Dems have been stressing that the point of the filibuster is to force the majority party to work with the minority and forge bipartisan consensus.

But now that they saved it, will they use it when, like with Bolton, the majority party is flagrantly ignoring the minority?

Apparently not.

The Dems are too busy praising the glory of compromise to find their stomach for a good scrap.

(Granted, the call on Bolton may well not be a consensus decision within the Dem caucus. For all we know, many wanted to filibuster, but a handful of accommodationists made it unfeasible.)

Also, talk of an unholy compromise on Social Security is back in the news, and GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham is declaring that the Gang provides the model to go forward.

Of course, unlike the judges deal, it will take more than 12 Senators to make a Social Security deal stick, and the Gang will have trouble on the left and right.

But if any Dems sign on to a proposal that advances the privatization agenda, directly or indirectly, it will undermine the party’s message.

Before The Deal, accommodationist Dems were afraid to jump ship on Social Security, knowning that they would be thoroughly shamed by party leaders and the grassroots.

But now, having been tongue-bathed by the media for breaking rank, the accommodationists may well believe they have protection from any shaming.

The fight to reform and modernize the Democratic Party to survive in today’s political and media environment is by no means over.

But it suffered a setback this week.

And where the opening is for reformers to regain their footing is unclear.

May 24, 2005 PERMALINK
The Corporate Conservatives Win
And Other Observations On A Sorry Deal (posted May 24 2:15 AM ET)

1. LiberalOasis has been noting since last April that the two cornerstones of the GOP base, the corporate conservatives and the fringe fundamentalists, were putting conflicting pressures on the party.

Both want radical right-wing judges quite badly.

But business-friendly legislation has been flowing out of Congress, and corporate cons feared the nuclear option would shut off the tap.

While the fringe fundamentalists feel they haven’t gotten theirs from Congress anyway, and didn’t care so much if the Senate shut down.

The word in early April was that the corporate cons were going to win out. This caused the fringe fundamentalists to quadruple their efforts.

The corporate cons should thank them for that.

Because in early April, it looked like not only would the nuclear option remain in the holster, but that all seven “do-over” judicial nominations (ones that already had been blocked in the previous Congress) would keep getting filibustered.

Now, thanks to the added pressure, enough Dems capitulated for a few more radical right-wing judges to get lifetime appointments (exactly how many is a little unclear at this writing).

So the corporate cons get more lobbyist-drafted legislation and a few more judges to boot.

Some deal.

2. Some Dems and liberals seem to be taking solace in that the filibuster was saved, the fringe fundamentalists are livid and Bill Frist looks weak.

All those sentiments are misguided.

Yes, we saved the filibuster. But what good is saving it if Dems never have the spine to use it when it’s needed to protect the public?

Seven Dems have now proclaimed that it will only be used in “extraordinary circumstances.”

And those same seven have in effect said that Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown and William Pryor – nominees as radical as they come – are not extraordinary.

Yes, some of the contested nominees will be formally filibustered and then withdrawn (and one might even be voted down on the floor.)

But does anyone believe Bush will replace those failed nominees with impartial nominees?

When Miguel Estrada was successfully blocked from a seat on the second most-powerful court in the land, did Bush suddenly consult with Dems and make a consensus pick?

Of course not.

He put up Thomas Griffith, whose main qualifications were his willingness to practice law without a license, and his attempts to gut Title IX, the law that ensures equal education opportunities of women and girls.

So when Bush comes right back at the Senate with more radicals, be they for the lower courts or the Supreme Court, not only will Dem hands be damn near tied, but so will their tongues.

Because how can they effectively argue against nominees that are equivalent to whom they have already approved?

And if they try to do so, via the filibuster, the Republicans can easily void the deal and go nuclear anyway.

Some deal.

As far the fringe fundamentalist whining goes, it's fun to watch, but it’s no signal of success.

They whine about everything. They thrive on victim status.

Doesn’t mean they aren’t moving the ball downfield (and with some Dem fingerprints on the ball.)

As far as Frist looking weak, who cares? Frist is a pawn, not the playmaker.

If he’s not the ’08 GOP nominee, some other schmuck will be. It makes no difference to us.

If there is any political upside it’s that the ties between corporate cons and fringe fundamentalists are fraying, and the GOP needs that coalition to stay together.

But LO wouldn’t bet too much on that relationship completely breaking, since they both need the GOP too.

3. The mainstream media narrative that LO has been tracking lately, praising compromise and bashing “interest groups,” is now in full force.

The compromisers are playing it up, bragging that there is a new “center” in Washington.

And CNN’s Aaron Brown and MSNBC’s Chris Matthews both crowed that this “center” triumphed over the evil “pressure groups.”

But let’s be clear.

A judge that continually sides with the corporations that fund her campaigns is not in the center.

A judge who finds the New Deal unconstitutional is not in the center.

A judge who finds the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act and the Endangered Species Act unconstitutional is not in the center.

There is no new center in Washington.

It is the same old conservatism with the same old centrist mask.

May 23, 2005 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted May 23 1:30 AM ET)

Just in case you weren’t sure, Senators read polls.

And since the latest polls show a majority not paying attention to the nuclear option debate, as well as disapproving of Congress’ priorities and performance, it’s time for Senators to self-servingly self-flagellate.

On Fox News Sunday, GOP Sen. John McCain, who is anti-nuke and pro-compromise, said:

Understandably, to me, the American people's priorities are not those being displayed by the Congress today, particularly in the United States Senate.

The level of rhetoric has reached a point that's really not helpful to the institution or to the individuals who are part of it.

On CNN’s Late Edition, GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is pro-nuke but also pro-compromise, said:

We're all grown men and women. And we're behaving like we're in the third grade...

... I think if you're the party in power and people have a dim view of what's going on, it affects you.

But it affects our Democratic friends. It affects us all. Incumbents in general are seen not in a favorable light.

The American people don't understand why all this is happening.

And on ABC’s This Week, anti-nuke and pro-compromise Dem Sen. Joe Lieberman said:

The American people want us to stop being partisan...They’re sick of it.

They want us do something...to lower their gas prices and make us energy independent. To deal with health care and education, social security and their jobs.

And that’s what, in fact, we’re not doing enough of the time.

And all that’s what, in fact, is known as disingenuous crap, dressed up as straight talk, to try to score some “maverick” points.

The American people “don’t understand why all this is happening” because no one bothers to explain it. Not the politicians. Not the media.

(CNN’s Wolf Blitzer at least made an effort, saying to both Graham and Dem Sen. Ben Nelson “a lot of viewers...don't necessarily appreciate what's at stake...Why is this so important?” Neither gave a substantive answer.)

Now Lieberman had a grain of a good idea in noting what Congress isn’t working on.

But he made it sound like that’s the fault of both parties (all those icky partisans on both sides).

When he should have properly pointed the finger by saying: “Yet the Republicans insist on pushing radical judges who will cater to a handful of corporate interests and fringe fundamentalists, at the expense of most Americans, instead of solving the problems that affect most Americans.”

In fact, his fellow guest on ABC, GOP Sen. George Allen (pro-nuke, anti-compromise) smartly, albeit dishonestly, made the converse argument: the Senate wasn’t getting to pressing issues because “we’ve had to spend more time on judges because of these filibusters.”

In any event, after Sunday, no one knows any better what will happen by Tuesday.

Republicans are boasting they have the votes (though McCain said he didn’t know, and Allen, while claiming they had the votes, couldn’t say if potential tiebreaker GOP Sen. John Warner was on board.)

Meanwhile, Dem Sen. Dick Durbin, on CBS’ Face The Nation, said two or three GOPers were “on the bubble.”

The compromisers all sound hopeful, but no one really buys it.

And pressure from corporate interests (who want the judges, but also want the Senate to function so they can get more friendly legislation) is still cutting against the efforts of the Dobsonites.

Fox’s Chris Wallace said yesterday, “I talked to a big business executive this week who was not happy [about the nuclear option]...he said, this is going to be bad for business if the Senate shuts down.”

With so much uncertainty, and the pundits yapping that Americans don’t care about this, it is crucial that you contact your Senators today, by phone or email, or to really grab their attention, drop $15 and send a telegram.

QUICK HITS

Stem Cell Jockeying

Two prospective GOP prez candidates sought to move to Dubya’s left on embryonic stem cell research.

But only a hair to the left.

Both Sen. Allen (on ABC) and Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney (on Fox) said they support research on embryos that would otherwise be discarded from fertility clinics, whereas Bush has blocked federal funding for such research.

But both join Bush in opposing therapeutic cloning, which South Korea is using to become stem cell research pioneers.

(These are actually not new positions. Allen laid out his views in 2001. Romney clarified his stance this past Feb.)

How will the fringe fundamentalists react?

It’s unclear.

Sen. Bill Frist, another prez possibility, actually pioneered this oh-so-nuanced position in July 2001, pissing off several pro-life groups at the time.

But Slate has since contended that Frist “solidified the pro-stem cell, anti-cloning position, allowing pro-lifers to accept the former without assuming that the latter would follow.”

And Romney’s position has pitted him against local Democrats and scientists, winning him some plaudits from Beltway conservatives.

So it may just be that these guys aren’t really distancing themselves from right-wing, but are hoping to give that impression.

That way, they can stake a “moderate” claim on a tough social issue for Republicans, even though their position isn’t moderate at all and they aren’t really risking anything with their base.

Single-handedly Turning The Clock Back

Someone please tell House Armed Services Committee Chair Duncan Hunter that it’s 2005, not 1955.

From ABC’s This Week:

I think one of the marks of civilization is that we have not had our women in direct ground combat.

In fact, we’ve decried the enemy when they have pushed women into the front lines and into combat situations, and utilized women to attack military forces.

We’ve said that’s wrong. That’s not something that civilized nations do.

And there are a host of factors...the fact that you have no privacy in a brutal infantry operation...you have the grimness...

Dean Reviews

For takes on Howard Dean’s first Sunday appearance since becoming DNC Chair, check out Suburban Guerilla and Crooks and Liars.

The Blog Wire
Tracking the liberal blogosphere

Star Tribune: "If Newsweek's story caused damage, it is but a speck compared with the damage caused by this administration and its well-documented habit of abusing prisoners in Guantanamo, Iraq and Afghanistan."

Flogging The Simian has her weekly "PBD," rounding up all the important international news you missed this week

Swing State Project has the blog roundup on the hypocrisy of Santorum's use of Hitler to attack Dems

Body and Soul: "Human Rights First has ... released a batch of recently declassified interviews with six Guantanamo detainees ... that show a clear pattern of interrogators using people's faith as a weapon against them, in addition to physical abuse."

Tapped: Santorum compares Dems to Hitler on Senate floor (Oliver Willis has the audio)

The Nation's Daily Outrage: "How peaceful change will occur when the US has supplied [Uzbekistan] with $500 million in military aid and waived human rights requirements for military and non-proliferation assistance is anyone's guess."

Tom The Dancing Bug: Godman vs. The Filibusterer and John Bolton's Guide To Diplomacy

The Carpetbagger Report: "Dems are embracing the mantle of reform with both hands, highlighting the ways in which the House could be run in a more honest and forthright fashion. It’s not dissimilar to the message House Republicans were offering 11 years ago... "

Pam's House Blend: "The recruiting woes are so bad for the military, that the Pentagon is in stark disagreement with the House Armed Services Committee over its vote to limit the role of women in combat."

Seeing The Forest, BOP News and Talk Left report on a blog conference call with Sen. Schumer on the judicial showdown

Think Progress: Frist Implodes on Senate Floor

Pandagon rips Patricia Owen, Crooked Timber takes on Janice Brown

The Night Light: "the new Senate report says that 'the US treasury failed to take action against a Texas oil company, Bayoil, which facilitated payment of at least $37m in illegal surcharges to the Hussein regime' ... we broke the story here on April 14 that Bayoil contributed to the campaign of [GOP] Sen. Don Nickles... "

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