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The LiberalOasis Blog
The daily view from the oasis

August 12, 2005 PERMALINK
The Right Question
(posted Aug. 12 2:30 AM ET)

It has been 763 days since Karl Rove violated his obligations under Standard Form 312 without the White House taking “corrective action.”

The beauty of Cindy Sheehan’s Crawford protest is that it is based on exactly the right question: “What was the noble cause that [my son] died for?”

Americans are still confused by the Bush Administration’s shifting rationales for war.

If Americans accepted what Bush now says is the mission, then they would be more willing to accept increasing casualties in the name of the mission.

The fact that political support for the war continues to sink is evidence that people do not accept, let alone understand, what Bush says about the mission.

That’s why Sheehan’s question is so perfect, and her protest is resonating so widely.

It’s not just her question. It’s the question everybody wants answered.

Bush is incapable of satisfactorily answering, having changed his story so many times. (His latest attempt this past June was a bust.)

That gives the war’s critics the opportunity to fill in the blanks for Bush. That’s what the next step of the Sheehan protest should be.

If the anti-war movement and/or the Democratic Party can effectively answer what is Bush’s actual cause, they can then solidify American opposition to the war, and open to door to discuss superior solutions to reconstruct Iraq, promote credible democracy and stabilize the region.

Sheehan has offered what she believes the real reason is, in the LA Times:

If [Bush] gave the real answer, people in this country would be outraged — if he told people it was to make his buddies rich, that it was about oil.

This is not the tack that LiberalOasis would take.

While oil is unquestionably a significant factor, it is overly simplistic to reduce the entire war to just profits.

As LO has stressed repeatedly, permanent military bases is the best focus, because it crystallizes the GOP goal of unilateral military, political and economic control of the Gulf region -- fostering resentment that harms our national security.

And it allows us to articulate a different strategy based on peace, stability and true self-determination for the Iraqi people -- fundamentally enhancing our long-term national security.

Another grieving mother sought to advance that sort of argument on The O’Reilly Factor Wednesday night:

BILL O’REILLY: I believe your son died in a noble cause, that your son died to give other people freedom ... Do you believe that?

DOLORES KESTERSON: He was willing to do that. I don’t believe that ... we’re freeing these people, when we’re building all kinds of major military bases in Iraq.

While LiberalOasis prefers Kesterson’s direction on this key question, obviously Sheehan deserves enormous credit.

She has single-handedly forced the media to revisit these pressing questions about the war’s true origins and goals.

But one woman can only do so much.

In order for the protest to be more than just news filler for the dog days of August, we all have to do what we can to help answer Sheehan’s question in the months to come.

QUICK HIT

More Moms And Wives Being Heard

The Sheehan protest is sparking local media coverage of other military moms and wives who are speaking out against the war, more evidence of the protest’s resonance.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports on Mary Ann MacCombie, a Missouri mom who lost her son in 2004 and is stepping up her anti-war activism.

KCEN-TV, the Central Texas NBC affiliate, talked to Killeen, TX resident Cathleen Fox and her son Christopher. Both came to Crawford to back Sheehan, even though Christopher is shipping back out to Iraq in a few months.

The Springfield, Missouri News-Leader covered Valerie Fletcher, whose son is in Iraq, and who is on her way to Crawford.

WISH-TV, the CBS affiliate in Indianapolis, interviewed Jari Sheese, a military wife who supports Sheehan’s protest.

August 11, 2005 PERMALINK
NARAL Joins Amnesty's Good Company
(posted Aug. 11 3 AM ET)

It has been 762 days since Karl Rove violated his obligations under Standard Form 312 without the White House taking “corrective action.”

Here we go again.

Back in May, Amnesty International called our Guantánamo Bay prison a gulag, prompting Dubya and his right-wing cronies to rip into Amnesty.

The punditocracy lamented Amnesty’s “outrageous metaphor,” claiming it hurt Amnesty’s credibility and would let Bush duck the substance of the charges.

But the opposite was true.

Amnesty refused to back down, seized the spotlight, and kept pounding away at the human rights problems of Gitmo and other prisons created in the terror war.

The pounding was too much to duck. Republicans started talking about shutting down Gitmo to end the PR fiasco, talks which continue to this day.

Then it was Amnesty. Now it’s NARAL Pro-Choice America.

NARAL aired a hard-hitting ad in opposition to John Roberts, pointing out that he was on the same side as violent anti-abortion protesters in a 1991 Supreme Court case.

Again, the Right whined up a storm, accusing NARAL of fabrications, abetted by the misnamed FactCheck.org.

And again, people who should know better are swallowing the right-wing spin.

The head of Catholics for a Free Choice went out of her way to contact the NY Times and attack NARAL, a selfish, short-sighted backstabbing move.

The NY Times also quotes former Clinton Solicitor General Walter Dellinger calling the ad “unfair.” (The paper failed to note that Dellinger is a old backer of Roberts, supporting his nomination to the federal appeals court.)

The NY Times also reports that other liberal groups had “considerable uneasiness” but would not go on the record with it.

Well, LiberalOasis has considerable uneasiness that NARAL is the only group that is going after Roberts with any force.

LiberalOasis has considerable uneasiness that except for the NARAL ad, there are no other hard-hitting anti-Roberts ads on the air driving coverage of the nomination.

David Sirota is (correctly) lamenting that all the Roberts attention is on social issues and not the economic issues that are leading Corporate America to swoon over.

Well maybe if labor, environmental and consumer groups adopted NARAL’s attitude, the discussion would broaden and Roberts would be further on the defensive.

While everyone else seems to pondering how not to upset Fox News and FactCheck.org, NARAL appears to going to the mat to save our Supreme Court from the right-wing.

LiberalOasis advice to NARAL: you’ve already properly defended yourself, so stay on the offense. Take advantage of the spotlight, and get a second ad on the air while the iron is hot.

(Perhaps on his “so-called right to privacy” comment, or more narrowly, on how Roberts threatens the “life and health of the mother” standard, as LiberalOasis discussed on NARAL’s Bush V. Choice blog last week.)

LiberalOasis advice to everyone else: NARAL is not the target. Roberts is. Get with the program.

August 10, 2005 PERMALINK
Can't Anyone Here Play This Game?
(posted Aug. 10 1 AM ET)

It has been 761 days since Karl Rove violated his obligations under Standard Form 312 without the White House taking “corrective action.”

Who is the bigger screw-up?

In the Right corner, we have White House officials.

They admitted to the W. Post that because they were caught off-guard by the right-wing John Roberts memos that found daylight, they now are withholding additional Reagan-era memos from the public until they can vet them for more “surprises,” and continue to refuse to release Bush I-era memos.

In the Left corner, we have Dem Sen. Ron Wyden.

Wyden, after meeting with Roberts, talked to the NY Times an hour later and relayed some of Roberts’ mostly moderate-sounding comments.

In a sane world, the transparently political handling of what should be public information by the House would attract broad criticism from opposition party Senators, editorial boards who despise secrecy, and American citizens who demand to know more about a nominee for a lifetime appointment.

But because the Democratic Party does not appear to have agreed on any sort of strategy to fight Roberts (and appears to be playing a “we’ll wait and see” game by default), they are not pouncing on and magnifying White House mistakes.

(Hell, the right-wing activists are complaining more about the White House than the Dems, calling the Roberts effort a “stumbling campaign” according to the W. Post.)

And so, that’s why Wyden’s actions are more relevant.

If there was an organized effort to stop Roberts, no Dem would go out his or her way to make Roberts seem moderate.

(The DNC website is becoming fairly aggressive towards Roberts, but it's not in sync with the congressional Dems, undercutting its effectiveness.)

Dems have no obligation to regurgitate Roberts’ sweet talk.

Of course he’s going to do all he can to sound moderate in one-on-one interviews, as well as in next month’s hearings.

But he’s already damaged his credibility. He misled the public about his ties to the Federalist Society. He advised his boss in the Reagan Administration to lie to Coretta Scott King.

Dems should not take everything he says at face value, and should tell the public why.

But Wyden was not looking to challenge his credibility. He seemed all to eager to tell the Times about his moderate rhetoric.

Perhaps Wyden -- freelancing in absence of a Dem strategy -- thought he was helping drive a wedge between Roberts and the fringe fundamentalists.

But that’s a fool’s errand.

For one, the Right smells that sort of tactic a mile away, and they ain’t budging.

And two, by helping Roberts make himself seem moderate, you take away your ability to argue the relevance of his right-wing memos and judicial opinions.

The White House is making mistakes. It was misleading and defensive about the Federalist Society. It was unprepared for the first round of Reagan era memos, and is now compounding that mistake by holding back more memos.

But Dems aren’t doing anything to take advantage of those mistakes, and that’s the biggest mistake of all.

QUICK HIT

More “Settled Law”

The one halfway decent thing Wyden did is tell the NY Times that Roberts said “settled law depends to a degree on the bench on which you sit” further confirming what Roberts said back in 2000.

Since Roberts said he viewed Roe v. Wade as “settled law” back in 2003 when he up for a lower court seat, those comments widen the door for a real grilling on the right to privacy and related issues.

If this was all Wyden told the NYT, that could have been the headline, putting Roberts and the White House even more on the defensive.

But at least, Wyden got the comment on the record, which should be useful later.

August 8, 2005 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted Aug. 8 12:30 AM ET)

It has been 759 days since Karl Rove violated his obligations under Standard Form 312 without the White House taking “corrective action.”

Following the 34 military deaths in Iraq during the first week of August, mostly from one town in Ohio, the war was the dominant topic on the Sunday shows.

Republicans, like Rep. Duncan Hunter (CBS), Sen. Dick Lugar (Fox) and Sen. George Allen (CNN) saying stay the course (though with polls showing increased disapproval of the war, they added a splash of optimistic “draw down” talk.)

And Democrats offering polite criticism, with Sen. Joe Biden (Fox) talking about troop levels, Sen. Barbara Boxer (CNN) noting the slow pace of training for Iraqi soldiers, and Sen. Jack Reed (CBS) worrying about the lagging economic development.

So, not a whole lot that’s new. Except for this one morsel.

Biden, who voted for the war, who has often given Bush political cover for the war, who has foolishly praised the “transformative capability of military power” who is probably running for prez in ’08, said on Fox News Sunday the following:

...instead of talking about drawing down and a timetable to do that, I think we should be making clear to the Iraqi people what our objectives are.

One is, we should state forthrightly, "We have no desire to have a permanent base there."

Two, "We have no desire to deal with their oil."

We should be giving declarative statements to make clear to the Iraqis and broadcast it far and wide what our objective is.

LiberalOasis is not aware of Biden previously stating he does not support permanent military bases in Iraq.

This is significant.

Even though he has spoken out against any sort of withdrawal timetable, and has said the war “will take years,” making clear his end objective is not permanent bases distinguishes himself from the Administration and from the neocons.

As LO has argued before, the stance on permanent bases in Iraq should be the clear bright line that separates Dems from GOPers on Iraq and foreign policy in general.

Dems can disagree on what the best way to eventually withdraw should be, but they should all agree that never withdrawing is dangerous foreign policy.

Unfortunately, not every Dem has agreed.

Sen. Joe Lieberman is explicitly for permanent military bases, and Sen. Hillary Clinton has left the door open to supporting them.

Biden is not in their camp. That’s worth something.

QUICK HIT

More Roberts Clues

ABC’s This Week dug up a July 2000 interview of John Roberts by ABC’s Dallas affiliate. According to George Stephanopoulos, “he was there to analyze the Supreme Court term that just ended from a conservative perspective.”

For the most part, Roberts functioned as an analyst and not an advocate, so you couldn’t take much of what he said as evidence of his judicial philosophy.

But there were a couple of things worth noting.

First one involves the concept of “settled law.”

Roberts invoked this phrase at his appellate court nomination hearing when asked about Roe v. Wade.

Pro-choice advocates have correctly remarked that it’s a meaningless comment for an appeals court nominee, because they have to respect Supreme Court rulings, while Roberts’ supporters push the comment deflect attention to his anti-Roe views.

Which is why this exchange with Roberts is interesting.

Roberts had already commented that the 2000 Supreme Court term was evidence that the Rehnquist Court was not very conservative, prompting this question from co-host David Jackson:

JACKSON: Is the conservative counter-revolution on the Supreme Court over now, or can they regain momentum?

ROBERTS: Well, I think a lot will depend on new appointments, and the types of cases that do come before the court.

But first and foremost, this is a pragmatic court. Some of the defeats may not be as serious as they look.

The Miranda case for example, that really wasn’t a vote by all of these justices in favor of Miranda [the reading of rights to criminal suspects].

It was more a stare decisis [vote]: this has been part of our law for a long time, we’re not going to unsettle it.

So, the defeat for the conservatives this year, although I think they’re real, it’s not as extreme as you might imagine.

“Unsettle it.”

Roberts is saying that the ruling in that case was not as bad for conservatives as an explicit vote of support for Miranda would have been, because the opportunity still exists for Miranda to be “unsettled” later on.

He made clear that a “settled law” which conservatives deem insufficiently conservative can always be “unsettled” (undercutting the whole notion of “settled law.”)

At the upcoming hearings, he should not be allowed to slide by with any “settled law” responses about Roe or any other past rulings.

If he does, the follow-up question should be, “do you think that past Supreme Court ruling should be ‘unsettled?’”

The second one regards the ridiculous notion that Roberts is some sort secret gay rights supporter (see last week’s LiberalOasis posts here and at HuffPo.)

In the 2000 interview, Roberts praised the 5-4 decision overruling a New Jersey anti-discrimination law and permitting the Boy Scouts to dismiss gay troop leaders.

CARL LEUBSDORF: Any significant conservative victories from your point of view in these various rulings, some of the things you might feel you did win?

ROBERTS: Well, there were some important victories in the First Amendment area.

For example, the Boy Scouts case. People have the right to form groups like the Boy Scouts to promote particular values, and they can exclude people who don’t share those values.

The dissent noted that the Boy Scouts did not form in order to promote heterosexuality, and dismissing a gay troop leader did nothing to promote the Scouts’ stated values.

If any liberal is clinging to hope that Roberts is some kind of Souter, please get over it as soon as possible.

The Blog Wire
Tracking the liberal blogosphere

TalkLeft: "I think [Rove's lawyer] Luskin isn't as sure as he has been in the past that his client isn't morphing from a subject into a target - hence, his [recent] silence."

Mark A.R. Kleiman on reports that Rove's phone call with Matt Cooper wasn't logged: "In prosecutorese, that's called 'evidence of consciousness of guilt,' and it's extremely helpful in proving intent. We already know that Rove disclosed classified information to Cooper. The only remaining legally relevant question is whether he did so with the requisite criminal intent. The omission of the call from the log -- if the 'transferred call' explanation can be shown to be false -- would be a powerful help to a prosecutor." (via The Stakeholder)

Pharyngula takes down Dubya on Intelligent Design in science class

Nathan Newman: "progressives are still depending too much on scandal among GOP opponents ... and hard tactical mobilization of supporters for victory"

Bad Methodist: "over 400 families will lose benefits they currently have if [Arizona's] 'Protect Marriage' amendment passes in 2006"

Huffington Post's Jane Wells and Tapped explain the ramifications of the death of Sudan VP John Garang

Bush v. Choice, the NARAL Pro-Choice America blog, is redesigned and featuring a post from LiberalOasis on John Roberts

Tell Me A Secret, Iraqi blogger, describes his recent detainment (via Raed In The Middle)

Informed Comment: Parliamentary Debate on Iraqi Election System Collapses

Taking The Initiative: "This week's worst news was the passage, overwhelmingly, of an Energy Bill that makes almost every aspect of our lives worse."

MyDD: Ask John Roberts a Question

Think Progress: McClellan Spinning Out of Control on Bolton

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