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July 8, 2005 PERMALINK
Responding To The London Attacks
(posted July 8 1:30 AM ET)

Three interesting reactions to the terror attack in London from three conservatives yesterday.

Media Matters For America flagged two of them, from different Fox News hosts.

Morning host Brian Kilmeade’s initial reaction, following remarks from Tony Blair, was:

This is [Blair’s] second address in the last hour.

First to the people of London, and now at the G8 summit, where their topic Number 1 -- believe it or not -- was global warming, the second was African aid.

And that was the first time since 9-11 when they should know, and they do know now, that terrorism should be Number 1.

But it's important for them all to be together. I think that works to our advantage, in the Western world's advantage, for people to experience something like this together, just 500 miles from where the attacks have happened.

In the afternoon, Fox’s Managing Editor Brit Hume, discussing the attack’s effect on the financial markets, candidly offered his gut feelings:

...my first thought when I heard -- just on a personal basis, when I heard there had been this attack and I saw the futures this morning, which were really in the tank, I thought, "Hmmm, time to buy."

Finally, George W. Bush, at the G-8:

The contrast between what we've seen on the TV screens here, what's taken place in London and what's taking place here is incredibly vivid to me.

On the one hand, we have people here who are working to alleviate poverty, to help rid the world of the pandemic of AIDS, working on ways to have a clean environment.

And on the other hand, you've got people killing innocent people.

And the contrast couldn't be clearer between the intentions and the hearts of those of us who care deeply about human rights and human liberty, and those who kill...

...We will find them, we will bring them to justice, and at the same time, we will spread an ideology of hope and compassion that will overwhelm their ideology of hate.

The first two comments from the FOXers represent your two basic conservative caricatures.

One is the warmonger conservative, who believes violence can solve most anything. And what it can’t, isn’t his concern.

He reacts in near-glee that such sissy issues like global environmental catastrophe and widespread poverty will be overshadowed so we can get back to blowing stuff up.

The other is the cynical conservative, who doesn’t believe much of anything can ever get solved.

He is happy to simply sit back make money on whatever misfortune transpires.

The third comment, from Bush, isn’t a conservative reaction at all.

As The Nation’s John Nichols correctly notes, it is a decidedly liberal approach to terror that Bush articulates: to understand that even if military force is necessary, it is not sufficient in defeating an ideology.

Nichols treats this as something new and different out of Bush’s mouth, but it isn’t. Bush has always swiped liberal rhetoric to mask/justify his conservative foreign policy.

Bush’s failing is not the rhetoric, it’s the policy. If he was sincerely pursuing the liberal goals of democracy and freedom, we’d all be a lot better off.

But it is interesting to note that Bush feels the need to sound liberal.

He recognizes that the cold, soulless tone of his Fox allies is not what the people, both here and around the world, want to hear in yet another time of crisis.

What’s tragic is that he has a golden opportunity to make the terrorists look especially foolish, while strengthening the political hand of his wingman Blair, that he will undoubtedly pass up.

By acquiescing to Blair on African aid and global warming.

That might upset Mr. Kilmeade, but backing up the rhetoric will some dramatic action could actually sway some hearts and minds.

But if everyone is intent on responding in military fashion, here’s an idea.

Apparently, the CIA knows where Osama is.

Have we considered in this fresh moment of crisis, telling Pakistan that they no longer have a veto over our national security, and can no longer prevent us from sending our troops in to get a wanted man?

Granted, getting Osama three years too late is of limited practical benefit.

Especially since the CIA told us last year that the Al Qaeda ideology is spreading far and wide even without Osama’s direct involvement:

The steady spread of Usama bin Ladin's anti-US sentiment – [through] the wider Sunni extremist movement and through the broad dissemination of al-Qa`ida's destructive expertise - ensures that a serious threat will remain for the foreseeable future[,] with or without al-Qa'ida in the picture.

But if nothing else, he’s a criminal who has been on the loose far too long. His freedom is a mockery of justice.

July 7, 2005 PERMALINK
Miller Serving Time
(posted July 6 11:45 PM ET)
(edited July 7 12:45 AM ET)

A few observations on Judith Miller's jailing...

Bottom Line

LiberalOasis laid out last week why Matt Cooper and Judith Miller should talk.

In that vein, today is a sad day because Miller isn’t talking. Miller in jail, while necessary at this point, doesn’t get us closer to identifying the leaker(s).

Hopefully, Cooper’s testimony will be enough to advance the investigation and obtain the evidence needed to lock up the criminal(s) in the White House.

Judith Miller, First Amendment Hero!

If journalists cannot be trusted to keep confidences, then journalists cannot function and there cannot be a free press.
-- Judith Miller, 7/6/05

One incident that still rankles happened last April, when Miller co-bylined a story with Douglas Jehl on the WMD search that included a quote from Amy Smithson, an analyst formerly at the Henry L. Stimson Center.

A day after it appeared, the Times learned that the quote was deeply problematic.

To begin with, it had been supplied to Miller in an e-mail that began, “Briefly and on background”—a condition that Miller had flatly broken by naming her source.

Miller committed a further offense by paraphrasing the quote and distorting Smithson’s analysis.

One person who viewed the e-mail says that it attributed views to Smithson that she clearly didn’t hold. An embarrassing correction ensued.
-- New York Magazine, 6/7/04

In addition to New York Magazine's fine profile of Miller, check out these:

Alternet’s “The Sins of Judith Miller”

Salon’s “Not Fit To Print”

Slate’s “Miller Time (Again)”

Rove IS Cooper’s Source...Someone Please Tell His Lawyer

Today’s NY Times:

Mr. Cooper's decision to drop his refusal to testify followed discussions on Wednesday morning among lawyers representing Mr. Cooper and Karl Rove, the senior White House political adviser, according to a person who has been officially briefed on the case.

Mr. Fitzgerald was also involved in the discussions, the person said.

In his statement in court, Mr. Cooper did not name Mr. Rove as the source about whom he would now testify, but the person who was briefed on the case said that he was referring to Mr. Rove and that Mr. Cooper's decision came after behind-the-scenes maneuvering by his lawyers and others in the case.

Those discussions centered on whether a legal release signed by Mr. Rove last year was meant to apply specifically to Mr. Cooper, who by its terms would be released from any pledge of confidentiality he had made to Mr. Rove, the person said.

Today’s Washington Post:

In an interview yesterday, [Karl Rove’s attorney Robert Luskin] said Rove was not the source who called Cooper yesterday morning and personally waived the confidentiality agreement.

"Karl has not asked anybody to treat him as a confidential source with regard to this story," Luskin said.

Another Side Benefit

Bill Sammon of the Moonie-owned Washington Times said on Fox News yesterday:

I think this is a terrible, terrible precedent. It’s already starting to dry up sources.

I spent the day in our newsroom, and we have a lot of people that get national security sources and Pentagon sources and all kinds of sources all over this town. It’s already starting to have a chilling effect...

See? Already, government officials are afraid to spoon-feed their lies to the house propaganda organ.

No wonder Judith is so concerned. Where will she get her “scoops” when she gets out?

QUICK HIT

House of Scandal

Check out the expanded Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee site House of Scandal.

When it debuted several weeks ago, it focused on the web of Tom DeLay scandals.

Now, it also includes six new print ads targeting DeLay and five other ethically-challenged GOPers that you can help get into local newspapers by donating.

July 6, 2005 PERMALINK
Supreme Court Notebook
(posted July 6 1:30 AM ET)

Ideology Mattters

Yesterday, both Atrios and Daily Kos note The Stakeholder’s astute assessment that conservatives are insisting upon an ideologically conservative judge while attacking Dems for discussing ideology.

In the same vein, Think Progress recently highlighted quotes from two notables essentially accepting the Senate’s prerogative to use ideology as a criteria: from current GOP Sen. Arlen Specter and Founding Father George Washington.

And Alliance For Justice has a comprehensive compilation of quotes from GOPers and Dems all acknowledging that judicial philosophy is a legit subject for debating judicial nominees, including none other than William Rehnquist.

In 1959, he directed the Senate to “restore its practice of thoroughly informing itself of the judicial philosophy of a Supreme Court nominee before voting to confirm him.”

And there’s another guy who wants the debate centered on the nominee’s views: George W. Bush.

I would hope that the groups involved in this process — the special-interest groups — will help tone down the heated rhetoric and focus on the nominee's credentials and philosophy. [emphasis added]

Conservatives Now Lying...About Conservatives!

The Family Research Council sent an email to its members yesterday entitled “Encourage President Bush to name a CONSERVATIVE Justice”

To impress upon their members the urgency of the situation, FRC wrote that “Justice O'Connor was the deciding vote on many 5-4 decisions ... that strike at the heart of our Judeo-Christian heritage.”

The clear implication was that getting a CONSERVATIVE (as opposed to a “conservative”) could reverse these anti-Judeo-Christian decisions.

Like what?

FRC said: “She was part of the 5-4 majority striking down sodomy laws two years ago potentially paving the way for same-sex marriage.”

This is not true.

It was actually a 6-3 majority in Lawrence V. Texas that struck down those sodomy laws.

Five judges signed Anthony Kennedy’s sweeping opinion that overturned the infamous Bowers v. Hardwick ruling, saying “individual decisions concerning the intimacies of physical relationships, even when not intended to produce offspring, are a form of ‘liberty’ protected by due process.”

The sixth judge, O’Connor, pointedly did not sign Kennedy’s opinion and wrote her own.

Her main complaint was that the Texas law did not ban heterosexual sodomy along with homosexual sodomy. If it did both, in her view, then it wouldn’t be unconstitutionally discriminatory.

Further, she wrote, “Texas cannot assert any legitimate state interest here, such as ... preserving the traditional institution of marriage,” making it crystal clear that she does not believe gays have an equal right to marriage.

Not only does she reject equality for gays, her replacement won’t be enough to overturn Lawrence.

Apparently, it’s not enough to distort the positions of Democrats on gay marriage.

The Fringe Fundamentalists need to lie to their own supporters about a fellow conservative in order to whip up the requisite frenzy.

The Gonzales Factor: Screwing Up GOP Messaging

The Right would rather be focusing all of its energies at attacking Dems and manipulating the mainstream media to set favorable parameters for the upcoming debate.

But the possibility of a Gonzales nomination is getting in the way, as some (like the FRC) are spending time pressuring Bush not to pick Gonzales, some are defending Gonzales, and some don’t know what to do or say.

In the latter camp, is one the “Four Horsemen,” Jay Sekulow, who was asked about Gonzales on CNN yesterday:

DANA BASH: Do you think, though, that [Gonzales] would be unacceptable [to conservatives]?

SEKULOW: Well, I think the president was right in being concerned about attacks on any potential nominee, Al Gonzales or anybody else, before that nomination has even been made.

And to judge the Attorney General based on one case out of Texas is a bit of an overreach. We all agree with that.

Look, you've reported it, everybody has reported it. There is concern on the right, less-than-enthusiastic reception within some circles as to General Gonzales.

But, look, the president made it very clear, he's going to appoint someone to the Supreme Court that is conservative in their judicial philosophy, that's not going to legislate from the bench.

He's -- look at the nominees he has put forward on the Court of Appeals. I expect no different in the caliber or kind of judge he's going to nominate for the Supreme Court...

And that's where the test will come in, and that's where you'll see the interest groups right and left really engaging here.

This is -- realize, I mean, we're all talking about this. This is the warm-up. We don't even have the nominee yet.

BASH: So are you saying that you are or are not opposed to Alberto Gonzales? Would you be OK if President Bush picked Alberto Gonzales?

SEKULOW: That's a good way to answer the question -- ask the question. Let me give you my answer.

I'm an advocate before the Supreme Court of the United States, so I've got to be very careful about any potential justice that I'm going to appear before.

That kind of waffling is going to rightly make grassroots conservatives wonder, is Sekulow and his Horsemen speaking for the grassroots, or just spinning for Bush?

July 5, 2005 PERMALINK
What If It's Gonzales?
Thinking About The Endgame
(posted July 5 12 AM ET)

The Fringe Fundamentalists are openly concerned that Bush will pick Alberto Gonzales.

Does that mean, if it happens, that we should be for Gonzales?

No.

As a substantive matter, he’s not only morally reprehensible because of his pro-torture views.

His record from his short time on the Texas Supreme Court was actually much like his former colleague Patricia Owen.

Both took money from corporate donors. Then, when cases involving those donors came before them, they did not recuse themselves and voted in the donors’ favor.

In some cases, Gonzales took money while a donor’s case was in progress. One case even involved Halliburton.

Texans for Public Justice calls the donations “prejudgment premiums.”

Furthermore, while the Right doesn’t trust Gonzales on abortion and affirmative action, that’s based on very little info – his rulings on Texas' parental notification law and rumors about his private role in crafting a White House affirmative action legal brief.

But that’s not nearly enough to put us at ease.

Gonzales lacks a significant paper trail. He wasn’t on the Texas Supreme Court for very long, less than two years. We have no idea what he might do.

Even that one ruling when he allowed a minor to get an abortion without notifying her parents may not have larger meaning.

Gonzales, accurately, said, “It wasn’t a constitutional issue. It was purely a statutory interpretation question.”

As a political matter, a Gonzales nomination would be an opportunity to drive a wedge between the two pillars of the conservative base: the corporate Fat Cats and the Fringe Fundamentalists.

While the Fringe Fundamentalists have made loud and clear that they don’t want Gonzales, the very corporate C. Boyden Gray, one of the Right’s “Four Horsemen,” has said he would back Gonzales.

If the Fringe Fundamentalists feel they’re being pressured to go against their principles so corporations can pad their pockets, that could severely weaken the conservative alliance.

Furthermore, if Gonzales lacks support from both the Left and Right, his nomination would likely collapse, weakening Bush’s hand.

Now, there will be temptation among Dems to accept Gonzales, on the assumption that if he was defeated, Bush’s second pick would likely be even more conservative, and Gonzales may be the best than can be expected.

That would only be the case if Gonzales was indisputably a moderate. He’s not, and should not be portrayed as such by us.

And if Bush keeps picking right-wingers, or stealth candidates with little record, Dems should keep opposing them and yes, filibustering them.

This will be easier to do if Dems lay out their substantive principles to the public, now.

While Republicans whine that judges shouldn’t be asked about their views (which comes across like they have something to hide), Dems have an easy opening to articulate fair principles that the public would support.

Can Dems really just keep opposing and opposing? Won’t they just look political and obstructionist?

Yes they can, and no they won’t, if the principles are clear and laid out from the beginning.

When principles slosh around from nominee to nominee, that’s when it looks political.

Republicans are trying to prevent Dems from dragging things out.

On Sunday, a talking point from Sens. Mitch McConnell and Orrin Hatch was that the average nomination process was 72 days long, to try to set a benchmark for excessive fighting.

But remember, Dems have successfully fought out a protracted nomination battle.

From the time when the right-wing Robert Bork was nominated in 1987, to when the merely conservative Anthony Kennedy confirmed in 1988, took more than 200 days.

(There was even an empty seat on the Court from October to February. The Court stayed in business and the Republic survived.)

And Kennedy was Reagan’s third attempt. (Granted, Dems got a little lucky, as the second right-wing pick, Douglas Ginsburg, withdrew because he smoked pot.)

If Dems want to, they can plant their flag, insist on a true moderate like Ed Prado, and fight and fight and fight until it happens.

Of course, the GOP may still go nuclear to get a right-winger on the Court.

But the Dems do their job articulating their principles, the public will not take kindly to such a move, and a backlash will follow.

Furthermore, Dems can always respond as they planned to before, by bottling up all that legislation drawn up by the corporate lobby.

That would be the ideal way for Dems and activists to map out the endgame. Insist on a proven impartial judge, and accept nothing less.

July 4, 2005 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted July 3 10:30 PM ET)

The preliminary stage of the Supreme Court Showdown began in earnest on the Sunday shows.

And there was one exchange that liberals and Dems should take note of and seek to replicate.

CBS’s Face The Nation featured Ralph Neas, head of the liberal People For The American Way and Jay Sekulow, head of the Pat Robertson-backed American Center for Law and Justice and one of Bush’s “four horsemen” spearheading the effort to reshape the courts.

At one point, Sekulow argued:

This idea of a consensus candidate, while it may sound laudable and within the American ideals, that's not the way the Constitution's set up...

...when [Bush] was running for president during the re-election, he ran with the concept that he is going to appoint ... conservative judges that are going to not legislate from the bench, that are going to interpret the Constitution.

So this idea that we've got to have a consensus candidate, I think, is ridiculous.

Soon after, the two had this exchange:

NEAS: What we need is Sandra Day O'Connor's America.

She's been the fifth vote on two dozen decisions to protect clean air and clean water, protect privacy, protect a woman's right to choose and reproductive health.

SEKULOW: But, Ralph.

NEAS: We want a consensus here...

SEKULOW: The Constitution doesn't say “a consensus,” Ralph.

Puting aside Neas’ glorification of O’Connor (which LiberalOasis could do without), this is the exact juxtaposition that we want.

If we’re talking about how these judges will affect people’s lives, and they’re talking about what Bush is owed, we should be able win the public opinion battle.

They’re acting as if democracy is only in effect on Election Day, and in between elections, people’s views don’t matter anymore.

Ergo, “Bush won. He gets his way. Don’t bother telling your representatives how you feel. You didn’t win nothing. So shut up.”

That attitude may have had a shot of working if Bush had rock solid approval in the 60s. But he doesn’t.

And regardless of poll numbers, if people are concerned that a nomination or a bill is going to hurt them, they really won’t care what happened on Election Day. They will speak up.

The other main part of the conservative message yesterday was the old standby about “legislating from the bench.”

Sekulow combined his “Bush can do whatever he likes” point with the “conservatives don’t legislate from the bench” point, as did his fellow “horseman” C. Boyden Gray on Fox News Sunday:

This sort of talking point is known as a “process” point, which is relatively abstract and wonky, and generally doesn’t resonate with the public well because it’s not clear how it would affect them.

This particular point can be more potent if connected to specific Court rulings that people are mad about, but such anger is pretty much only found on the Right right now.

But the talking point does have potential value with the broad middle.

Because it suggests that these conservative judges will be very passive, and therefore, not mucking around in people’s lives.

That can undercut our best talking point, about how conservative judges will harm people. So, it needs countering.

The only Dem that did so yesterday was Sen. Joe Biden, also on Face The Nation:

Conservative today means an ideologue, and that's not what conservative meant in the past.

An activist is what they mean by conservative now.

This has been the most activist court in history, overruling seven major national pieces of legislation by a Congress signed by a president.

This turning of the tables must be done more.

We cannot let the Right get away with painting the Rehnquist Court as a liberal activist court, when it reality, it has tried to be the opposite (and was only sometimes restrained by O’Connor).

We need to make clear what the conservative activists want to do that would hurt Americans, and that they plan to do it by preventing the democratically elected Congress from passing laws that would benefit the public.

Unfortunately, yesterday there was far more procedural blather about “consultation” from Dems than there was about establishing clear principles for the fight ahead that the public could rally around.

In particular, Sen. Pat Leahy, on NBC’s Meet The Press and CNN’s Late Edition, was trying to butter up Bush, praising the fact that Bush called him on the phone the other day and planning a meeting with him and Sen. Harry Reid for Friday.

Now, some perfunctory politeness towards Bush is fine.

And laying down a nominal marker about consultation makes sense, because a failure to consult will give the Dems in the “Gang of 14” a plausible reason to filibuster under their agreement.

But there is no way, no how, that Bush names a consensus choice. So we have to prepare for the inevitable fight.

If people don’t get why we’re fighting it, and don’t believe we’re fighting it on their behalf, then we won’t win public opinion.

And making “consultation” our main talking point in this preliminary stage will not say anything to the public about why they should care.

The Blog Wire
Tracking the liberal blogosphere

MyDD live-blogged Live8, which urged people to give their voice to The ONE Campaign to make poverty history

Huffington Post's Lawrence O'Donnell: "If what I have reported is not true, if Karl Rove is not Matt Cooper’s source, Rove could prove that instantly by telling us what he told the grand jury. Nothing prevents him from doing that, except a good lawyer who is trying to keep him out of jail."

The Nation's Capital Games: "the Democrats and progressives may be placed in the position of having to oppose an experienced jurist whose opinions they do not like on policy grounds. They should fight such a nominee vigorously, and they should be upfront about their reasons ... they ought to argue that the Senate ought not to confirm a nominee who is likely to vote to curtail or eliminate abortion rights, to favor corporate polluters over consumers, or to restrict the federal government's ability to advance social justice. The 'extremist' strategy, I fear, is worn out and ineffective."

Nathan Newman: "The Supreme Court is the interpreter of legislative statutes and they can either enforce them strongly on behalf of the rights of middle class families or they can give corporations a free pass to loot pensions, poison the environment and violate their employees rights at work ... Let's remind people that only a few of the Supreme Court decisions are about hot-button social issues."

ACSBlog: What happens if more a conservative justice replaces Justice O'Connor?

Daily Kos: "Supreme Court: What You Can Do RIGHT NOW"

Sirotablog on the Rove strategy: "first nominate a wild-eyed lunatic ... either the lunatic gets appointed, or the lunatic loses, and then Bush puts up someone a shade less crazy - but equally as conservative - as the 'compromise.'"

Swing State Project posts a statement from PFAW: "With Justice O'Connor providing the swing vote on critical 5-4 decisions regarding privacy, reproductive rights, affirmative action, government neutrality toward religion, and more, we cannot overstate the profound impact her replacement could have on the direction of American law and society."

The Sideshow: "privatization is a way to make things more expensive, less efficient, and generally more of a rip-off. Today's example tells us how post-9/11 'security' went haywire once the administration decided to let the private sector handle it"

Informed Comment: "Taliban used some sort of rocket to shoot down a US helicopter in Afghanistan, killing all 17 servicemen aboard ... It is not clear if these are rocket propelled grenade strikes, which are difficult to pull off and therefore rare, or if Taliban and Iraqi guerrillas are getting hold of shoulder-fired missiles, which would be more dangerous to the US ... If the sophistication of the weaponry in Afghanistan and Iraq increases, it could signal a two-front, hard-fought war for the US."

Arran's Alley and Liberals Against Terrorism on an underreported story: American contractors in Iraq being detained and abused by American troops

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