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The LiberalOasis Blog
The daily view from the oasis

June 10, 2005 PERMALINK
Amnesty Is Winning
(posted June 10 2 AM ET)

On Wed., W. Post columnist Anne Applebaum launched a broadside against Amnesty International for calling the prison at Gitmo a “gulag.”

She charged that Amnesty “ceased to be politically neutral,” was “misusing language” and was “handing the administration an easy way to brush off ‘ridiculous’ accusations.”

Last Fri., her W. Post colleague E.J. Dionne similarly wrote, “What's maddening is that by reaching for the dramatic, overwrought and, yes, outrageous gulag metaphor, [Amnesty] let Bush slip right by the questions raised by American practices in Guantanamo...”

Well, if Amnesty’s outrageous rhetoric let the Bushies get off scot-free, someone forgot to tell the Bushies.

It’s been two weeks now since Amnesty called for Bush to shut down the Gitmo gulag.

Not only are people still talking about it.

Not only are more and more echoing Amnesty’s call.

But now the Bushies are feeling enough pressure that they suddenly opened the door to shutting it down.

In a Fox News interview on Wed., Dubya himself was asked if he should close Gitmo. And Bush wouldn’t say “No”:

NEIL CAVUTO: But now President Carter has said, sir, shut it down. Joe Biden said shut it down. Do you think it should be shut down?

GEORGE BUSH: Well, you know, we're exploring all alternatives as to how best to do the main objective, which is to protect America.

That made Defense Sec. Rumsfeld look a little silly, as he said earlier in the day that, “I know of no one in the U.S. government in the executive branch that is considering closing Guantánamo.”

Yesterday, Rumsfeld modified his words to close the gap between him and Bush, saying that, “Our desire is not to have these people. ... Our goal is to have them in the hands of the countries of origin, for the most part.”

Of course, none of this means that Gitmo is going to close any time soon.

And even if the Bushies did close Gitmo, that doesn’t mean their policies of secret detentions and abusing prisoners would change (as Balkinization points out.)

If the same counterproductive, immoral policies continued at other prisons, then the closing of Gitmo would just be an empty PR move (which is why Amnesty is calling for much more than that, it wants independent investigations of the whole system.)

But the fact that Dubya and Rummy feel a need to signal an open-mindedness on what to do with Gitmo, shows that their week-long bashing of Amnesty was a failure.

The attacks on Amnesty kept the story alive. Amnesty took advantage of the media spotlight, attacked right back, raised awareness of the issue and kept the heat on.

Which the Bushies are clearly feeling. Would they be publicly flirting with closing down Gitmo if it wasn’t for Amnesty? Inconceivable.

It is not true that Bush has been able to “slip by” or “brush off” a “ridiculous” gulag charge.

In reality, he can’t seem to shake what is a wholly legitimate gulag charge.

QUICK HIT

Coming Through For Dean and the DNC

LiberalOasis readers donated a total of $8728 yesterday to the DNC. That one-day total is more than what LO as able to raise for the DNC from June 2003 to November 2004. Kudos to you all.

But let’s remember. For the small-donor strategy to work, this can’t be a one-day thing.

We all need to do our part to grow the small-donor base and give steadily.

And thanks to those that linked: Atrios, Buzzflash, The Agonist, Rook’s Rant, The Sideshow, The Left Coaster, Seeing The Forest, Suburban Guerilla, The Situation Room, Interesting Times and anyone else who may have been overlooked.

June 9, 2005 PERMALINK
Stand Up For Dean and the DNC
(posted June 9 12 AM ET)
(minor edits June 9 11 AM ET)

PAUL BEGALA: ...ABC News has a new poll out. Here's how they described part of President Bush's support.

The only population groups in which majorities say the president is concentrating on issues important to them are Republicans, Evangelical White Protestants, Conservatives and better off Americans.

That's even more narrow than Dean's characterization. It's just the truth.

DANA BASH: You're talking about the substance, though.

BEGALA: Right.

BASH: But the issue here also is the messenger, right?
-- CNN’s Inside Politics, 6/8/05

If the Democrats in Washington aren’t going to stand up for their party chairman, then it’s up to us.

After Howard Dean noted that the Republican is “pretty much a white, Christian party,” Democrats seemingly couldn’t wait to rush to cameras and criticize the comment, leaving Dean on out a limb to defend himself.

This disloyalty builds on the bad precedent set over the weekend by Sen. Joe Biden and fmr. Sen. John Edwards, both who knocked Dean for saying a lot of Republican leaders have never made an “honest living.”

Oh, Edwards was sure to blog a day later to insist it was the awful media that unfairly blew up his comments.

Biden was sure to go on Imus to insist that he thinks it’s OK if Dean is a lightning rod.

Similarly yesterday, Dems like House Min. Leader Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chris Dodd were sure to claim that they were just criticizing the comment, but they still support Dean.

Please.

They all have done nothing but feed the GOP narrative that our party leader has contempt for voters.

For example, Dodd said to CNN, “You don't criticize the electorate.” That’s what Republicans want people to think Dean did, not what he actually did.

Instead, they could have stood with Dean, put Dean’s words in proper context, and amplified the message Dean was trying to send, not the message the GOP is trying to send.

They could have taken a cue from CNN’s Paul Begala, perhaps the only Dem who did just that.

When asked about Dean’s “white Christian” comment, his first response was, “Duh...I think it's news from nowhere.”

He continued:

...A gaffe in Washington is when someone makes a mistake and tells the truth.

[The truth is,] the Republican Party is 82 percent White Christian...

...It was an unremarkable comment for the Democratic chairman. But we've all got our panties in a wad about it.

While Dean shows no fear in standing up to these attacks, these other Dems cave in the media glare.

And some Dems are caving without any media glare.

According to ABC’s The Note:

...some Democrats believe Dean's ascension to party chair has generated unusual ill-will among some of the party's top fundraisers.

While The Hill, in reporting that three DNC fundraisers quit on Dean because of his focus on cultivating small donors, said:

Democratic fundraisers say that there is growing concern over what they call Dean’s lack of attention to major donors and that donors are much less likely to give money if they don’t have sufficient opportunity to meet with the party’s leadership.

All LiberalOasis can say to that is: Halley-Frickin-Loo-Yah.

Dean is attempting to fully put the party in the hands of the people and minimize the influence of corporate interests.

And the big money guys don’t like it.

Another part of Dean’s strategy is to empower the state party operations.

Alternet (via Mathew Gross) reports that effort has gotten off to a good start.

Further evidence of that came from Fox News’ Mara Liasson yesterday:

I’ve spent the day calling state party chairs...to find out whether...there was any disenchantment or disappointment in him from outside the Beltway.

Those are the people who elected him...the congressional wing of the Democratic Party never liked him...

...And I haven’t found it...The people that I talked to today say:

“Look...he’s come out to my state...rural parts of my state. We haven’t seen a DNC chair in these parts for a long time. He says he’s going to pay for X number of staff people...he’s a refreshing voice, he’s honest...”

But Dean can’t succeed in empowering us in the grassroots, if we don’t empower him.

The Doubting Dems are fueling reports that Dean’s fundraising is lagging.

Media Matters shows how that is a “baseless claim,” but perception becomes reality.

Just like in the presidential primaries, the media won’t respect Dean until the money is unequivocally on the table.

When the media attacked Dean then, supporters responded by fueling Dean’s coffers.

Dean is under attack again. Let’s respond by filling the DNC coffers.

You can donate via LiberalOasis by clicking here.

June 8, 2005 PERMALINK
Downing Street Tipping Point?
(posted June 8 1 AM ET)

A common tipping point in a scandal is the moment when the key figure is forced to publicly comment on the allegation.

Often the story is just kicking around on the fringes, but a public comment -- be it a denial, clarification or apology – can prod mainstream media into giving the story new or higher-profile coverage.

However, tipping points can tip either way.

A well executed denial or apology can snuff out a scandal before it metastasizes. An unsatisfying comment can lead to a growing and deafening chorus of questions.

Yesterday’s denials from Dubya and Poodle about the Downing Street Memo would appear to be a tipping point.

Just as when Sen. Trent Lott was forced to respond to criticsm of his praise for Strom Thurmond’s Dixiecrat presidential campaign. It was only after that when the media frenzy really kicked in.

In both cases, the scandal was kept alive, as the mainstream media slept, in part because liberal blogs kept talking about it.

And in the Downing Street case, also through some organized internet activism such as from AfterDowningStreet.org, Democrats.com and congressional blogger John Conyers.

The pressure on the media from liberals has had an impact, as has been recognized by W. Post online columnists Dan Froomkin and Jefferson Morley (together, they provide a good roundup of the story’s trajectory).

For example, just this Sunday, Meet The Press’ Tim Russert confronted RNC Chair Ken Mehlman with what he called the “now-famous Downing Street memo,” even though it wasn’t famous enough for Russert to bring it up for the past five weeks.

Before that, the only other Sunday show appearance the memo made was the May 15th ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, much to Sen. John “Straight Talk” McCain’s chagrin.

Both Russert and Stephanopoulos reacted with restrained incredulousness when their respective guests tried to ignore the contents of the memo and deny its legitimacy.

From Meet The Press:

MEHLMAN: Tim, that report has been discredited by everyone else who's looked at it...

RUSSERT: ...I don't believe that the authenticity of this report has been discredited.

From ABC’s This Week:

McCAIN: I have not seen evidence that the Administration was manipulating evidence...

STEPHANOPOULOS: ...But what about that memo though?

MCCAIN: Uh –

STEPHANOPOULOS: It says that’s what was happening.

MCCAIN: I look at that -- well, first of all, I don’t agree with it.

The inability for any of the war architects to give a decent answer should be like chum for reporters.

The W. Post’s Morley candidly explained yesterday, during an official online chat, why reporters haven’t lunged at the bait (via Romenesko):

I think some combination of cynicism, complacency and insulation has stifled the instincts of very good reporters.

I also think there is also a failure of leadership at the senior editorial level.

The issues raised by the Downing Street minutes are very serious. To pursue them is to invite confrontation.

This means that "beat" reporters cannot realistically pursue the story.

I say all this way of explanation, not rationalization.

There are several natural follow up stories to the Downing Street memo that we should be pursuing right now.

But the fact that an American reporter used his precious question at yesterday’s Dubya-Poodle presser (only two US and two UK reporters were called on) to ask Bush about the memo for the first, and the NY Times gave the response a headline, shows that dynamic may be changing.

And like the few previous times reporters have asked Republicans about the memo, the response remains wholly unsatisfying:

BLAIR: No, the facts were not being fixed in any shape or form at all.

And let me remind you that that memorandum was written before we then went to the United Nations...

BUSH: ...somebody said, Well, you know, we had made up our mind to go to use military force to deal with Saddam. There’s nothing farther from the truth....

...this meeting, evidently it took place in London, happened before we even went to the United Nations – or I went to the United Nations.

Clearly, a coordinated talking point. And an extremely weak one at that.

As Think Progress notes, the fact that the memo was written before the UN process is irrelevant.

The UN didn’t pass the resolution that Bush wanted, and Bush went to war anyway. That only enhances the argument that minds were made up in advance.

The question now is, will reporters continue to respond to pressure, recognize that they are not getting satisfactory responses, and pound at this story?

Morley subtly offered one possible avenue for reporters to pursue:

The Senate Intelligence Committee did not interview [key Downing Street Memo figure] Richard Dearlove and they didn't interview many of the U.S. policymakers with whom he was dealing.

[S]o we really don't know why he came away from consultation with the administration saying that "the facts and the intelligence" would be fixed to meet the policy.

If Dearlove was fantasizing about the intentions of U.S. policymakers, then the minutes of his meetings kept by the U.S. side should show that.

On the other hand, such minutes might confer Dearlove's account.

Those minutes, needless to say, are highly classified...

...This story is all about the public's right to know. We have the right to the information that will enable us to determine if the Downing Street minutes are accurate or not.

Will the media tip forward, in the direction of pursuit of these minutes?

Or will they tip backward, taking Bush’s denials at face value and calling it a day?

June 6, 2005 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted June 6 12 AM ET)
(minor edits June 6 12 PM ET)

The head of the US chapter of Amnesty International, William Schulz, did what more people should do when up against the right-wing attack machine:

Go into the belly of the beast and attack right back.

On Fox News Sunday, Schulz faced a particularly abominable Chris Wallace, yet calmly swatted back Wallace’s loaded questions.

Wallace started with a straightforward question, if Schulz would “stand by the comparison to the Soviet gulag.”

While Schulz noted that Amnesty is not arguing that the situations are identical, he stuck by the heart of the charge:

SCHULZ: The United States is maintaining an archipelago of prisons around the world, many of them secret prisons into which people are being literally disappeared -- held in indefinite incommunicado detention, without access to lawyers or a judicial system or to their families.

And in some cases, at least, we know that they are being mistreated, abused, tortured and even killed.

And those are similar at least in character, if not in size, to what happened in the gulag...

Later, when Wallace tried to scold Schulz for the rhetoric, Schulz nicely turned the tables and slapped Fox for ignoring the larger human rights issue:

WALLACE: Is it possible, sir, that by excessive rhetoric ... that you have hurt, not helped, your cause?

SCHULZ: Chris, I don't think I'd be on this station, on this program today with you if Amnesty hadn't said what it said and President Bush and his colleagues haven't responded as they did.

If I had come to you two weeks ago and said, "Chris, I'd like to go on Fox with you just to talk about U.S. detention policies at Guantanamo and elsewhere," I suspect you wouldn't have given me an invitation.

WALLACE: So you're saying, if you make irresponsible charges, that's good for the cause?

SCHULZ: I don't believe that they're irresponsible.

I've told you the ways in which I think that there are analogies between the Soviet prison system and the United States.

And he turned the tables on Donald Rumsfeld as well, after Fox played a clip of Rummy saying, “those who make such outlandish charges lose any claim to objectivity or seriousness”:

SCHULZ: ...the United States applauds Amnesty when we criticize Cuba and North Korea and China.

Indeed, that's Secretary Rumsfeld, who just called us reprehensible.

That is the same person who quoted Amnesty regularly in the run-up to the Iraq war when we reported for 20 years on Saddam Hussein's violations -- years during which Rumsfeld himself was courting Hussein for the U.S. government.

Despite Schulz's steely performance, he got screwed by a blatantly inaccurate Reuters report, which said:

Despite highly publicized charges of U.S. mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo, the head of the Amnesty International USA said on Sunday the group doesn't "know for sure" that the military is running a "gulag."

Go back and read the above excerpts. Schulz said nothing of the sort.

When Schulz said “we don’t know for sure,” he was not referring to the gulag description.

He merely noting that Amnesty doesn't know every last thing there is to know about Gitmo, because the Bushies won't let them in to check it out:

WALLACE: According to the Pentagon, there have been more than 28,000 interrogations at Guantanamo Bay.

There have been 10 -- I repeat, 10 -- confirmed cases of detainee abuse, all of them, according to the Pentagon, relatively minor in their physical nature.

Question: Where is the systematic torture at Guantanamo Bay?

SCHULZ: ... You just said according to the Pentagon.

And the Pentagon and the U.S. government have systematically precluded independent human rights groups from getting that answered.

Now, what we do know is that FBI agents themselves raised concerns about people being held in stress positions for up to 24 hours.

What we do know is that a Kentucky National Guardsman testified to prisoners have their heads slammed against the wall.

What we do know is that the International Red Cross protested prolonged sleep deprivation there.

Now, we don't know the full extent of the mistreatment there.

We know that in other U.S. detention facilities, there has been profound mistreatment, including 27 homicides ruled by medical examiners to be inflicted homicides.

So we don't know for sure what all is happening at Guantanamo, and our whole point is that the United States ought to allow independent human rights organizations to investigate...

Even though the Drudge Report flogged the Reuters headline yesterday, which will likely result in other wingnuts spreading the false info, other wire services such as the Associated Press and Agence France Presse reported Schulz’s comments accurately.

Overall, Amnesty’s aggressive posture throughout the past week, despite having a smaller megaphone than the White House, has helped them get the truth out.

One indication Amnesty’s message is resonating, according to the W. Post, “In the past week, traffic on Amnesty's Web site has gone up sixfold, donations have quintupled and new memberships have doubled.”

A good lesson for other organizations that may in the future face the wrath of the right-wing attack machine.

QUICK HIT

Biden, Edwards Backstab Dean

Here’s Sen. Joe Biden on ABC’s This Week, effectively raising the white flag on the Bolton nomination:

BIDEN: The bottom line here is the President can probably stiff us.

The president can probably refuse to give us this information, which we are completely entitled to as the United States Senate.

And that’s the reason why we were not letting the vote go forward.

He’ll probably be able to win a vote, somewhere between 45 and 47 votes against...

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: So you don’t have enough votes to keep the filibuster going?

BIDEN: I don’t know...I’m not at all certain we do.

And here’s Biden, stabbing his party chair in the back, claiming he knows best how one should speak for the Democrats (video at Crooks and Liars):

STEHPANOPOULOS: Is Howard Dean doing the party any good?

BIDEN: Not with that kind of rhetoric. He doesn’t speak for me with that kind of rhetoric, and I don’t think he speaks for the majority of Democrats.

This is in response to Dean’s jab that “a lot of [Republicans] have never made an honest living in their lives.”

Both Biden, and another ’08 wannabe John Edwards, publicly spat on Dean for the comment.

If either of them had a ounce of team play in their bones, they would have known that Dean expertly handled the flap in a CNN interview this past Friday:

DEAN: Here's a group of Republican leaders who think that they're appealing to working people.

They don't want a minimum wage increase. They're cutting police people off the beat. They're attacking Social Security.

Now comes out that people's private pensions are in trouble under this administration...

...It is as if the Republican leadership never had to work a day in their life.

What possible understanding could they have of what a working person in this country has to go through, if they're against everything that's good for working people?

BLITZER: But there are millions and millions of Republicans, more than 50 million of them, voted for President Bush's re-election.

Are you saying all these Republicans, they don't have to work for a living?

DEAN: No, no, no. Look, we don't go after voters.

Voters are the ones that pay our salaries. No matter whether they agree with us or not.

But we do go after bad leadership...we ought to go after the Republicans when they are once again hypocritical about what they're going to do for working people.

They do nothing for working people.

Like with the Amnesty controversy, when Dean was under fire from the Right, he conceded nothing, grabbed the spotlight and stayed on the offensive.

Other Dems should be following Dean’s lead in that situation, echoing his messages so they will be heard and have an opportunity to resonate.

The last thing they should be doing is giving the GOP a win by echoing their attacks on Dean.

And for Biden to get on his high horse about good politics, minutes after folding in the Bolton battle, is nothing short of ludicrous.

The Blog Wire
Tracking the liberal blogosphere

The Huffington Post's Jane Wells blogs from Darfur

Crooks and Liars has a video clip of LiberalOasis on MSNBC discussing the heroism of Deep Throat

SebiMeyer.com: "At first glance, the rejection of the European constitution in France and the Netherlands deals a deadly blow to Europe’s newfound identity. But upon closer examination, Europe remains unchanged and the respective countries’ rejection of the document has little to do with ill will toward the EU."

Sirotablog and Think Progress take down Bush's new SEC chief, Chris Cox

Yellow Dog Blog on "the startling similarity between states that tend to vote Democratic and those where people stand a better chance of making a living wage"

The Left Coaster: What's Really Behind The White House Stonewall Over Bolton Documents? (via TPM)

The Agonist has a post from Rep. Tim Ryan: "there are serious and growing consequences to the Chinese practice of undervaluing its currency ... Domestic manufacturers should not have to compete against what amounts to an illegal export subsidy"

Tapped: Sudan arrests two humanitarian workers after our #2 State Dept. official praised government: "... Zoellick’s comments contributed to an overall permissive environment that emboldened Khartoum ..."

Talk Left and David Corn on the Bush press conference

Think Progress: Where Are the Democrats on the Uzbek Massacres?

The Carpetbagger Report and The Reaction on "the ever-shifting Bush Doctrine"

Daily Kos and Pandagon: The Krugman-Okrent Debate

Scrutiny Hooligans: Venezuela's Populism Bodes Ill for U.S.

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