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The LiberalOasis Blog
The daily view from the oasis

September 16, 2005 PERMALINK
Rebuilding Right
(posted Sept. 16 2 AM ET)

It has been 798 days since Karl Rove violated his obligations under Standard Form 312 without the White House taking “corrective action.”

Last night, Dubya gave the sort of speech he should have made in the first place: taking responsibility for past failures, articulating what needs to be done going forward.

In turn, the address should stop his political bleeding.

Though since it took him so long to get to this point, much of the damage to his credibility is done. One speech won’t get him back over 50%.

But short-term political analysis doesn’t mean a thing to the victims of Katrina.

Bush may have said a lot of the right things last night, but for the people affected, the devil is in the details.

And as we shift into rebuild and recovery mode, it is the Democratic Party’s job to stay on top of those details.

Much like Iraq, the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast is not a short-term project, and Dems need to articulate how they would do a better job.

Fortunately, the Gulf Coast differs from the Iraq War in that the Dems are not split on how to proceed.

Senate Dems and House Dems have released similar rebuilding plans, Dem leaders Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Nancy Pelosi called for a Gulf Coast “Marshall Plan.”

How do the Dem plans and the Bush plan stack up in some key areas?

Jobs

Rebuilding means lots of jobs, but who will get them, and what will they pay?

The Senate Dem plan says “Private employers should be given an incentive to hire displaced victims by temporarily qualifying them for the Work Opportunity Tax Credit...In addition, the Federal government should establish a temporary preference for hiring displaced victims who are qualified for jobs.”

The Bush plan says we “must ensure that as many of the rebuilding jobs as possible go to the people of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama,” but makes no promises regarding how we will actually do it.

(Frankly, the Dem plan could be stronger in promising jobs for locals, but at least they have thought of something to help the situation.)

On wages, the House Dem plan says “Require contractors using disaster assistance to pay employees prevailing wages... Federal funds should not be used to drive down workers’ wages.”

Bush has already suspended the rule guaranteeing that contractors pay the region’s prevailing wage.

Housing

Among other proposals, the House and Senate Dem plans include emergency “Section 8” low-income housing vouchers to help survivors quickly find rental units.

According to The New Republic (via Political Animal), since Bush has “tried to gut Section 8”, his housing strategy “seems to involve mobile homes. Lots of them.”

Conveniently, the Shaw Group – whose lobbyist is Bush crony Joe Allbaugh -- just got a no-bid contract to build mobile homes.

Health Care

Both House and Senate Dem plans call for full access to Medicaid to cover health insurance needs.

As the House plan words it, “Provide Katrina survivors with health coverage through Medicaid, with full federal funding to states so they don’t face massive new burdens."

The Bush language is shadier: “A number of states have taken in large numbers of evacuees and provided them with health care. The Federal government will issue waivers to reimburse these states for their extra Medicaid and uncompensated care expenses incurred through January 31, 2006.”

That’s a pledge to reimburse states (fully? partially?) that have taken on new cases, but it’s not a pledge to cover the health care needs of all the victims.

With Karl Rove running the reconstruction, there will be more details and more devils.

It’s up to the Dems to call out the devils and show how to rebuild the Gulf Coast the right way.

September 15, 2005 PERMALINK
Not Enough Moments
(posted Sept. 15 1:30 AM ET)

Yesterday was an unsurprising but still disappointing day, as Senate Judiciary Cmte Dems generally failed to reverse the “fait accompli” conventional wisdom regarding John Roberts.

Once again, Sen. Joe Biden was essentially alone in doing what needed to be done, crystallizing the problem with Roberts’ evasive testimony in one neat sound bite: “We are rolling the dice with you.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer had some moments yesterday. In particular, he nailed Roberts on privacy, showing how his seemingly pro-privacy testimony tracked what the anti-privacy Clarence Thomas disingenuously said 13 years ago.

That, in theory, would be useful in making the case that Roberts’ testimony is fundamentally misleading.

But there are simply not enough moments, not enough drama to help illuminate the problems with a Chief Justice Roberts (*shudder*).

And without the Judiciary Cmte Dems successfully changing the “fait accompli” dynamic, the rest of the Dems aren’t going to come together to rally public opinion and make the case against Roberts.

Can anything else be done at this point? Perhaps.

Assuming the Judiciary Cmte Dems have been put off enough by the slippery Roberts to vote No next week, they could band together and urge their caucus to filibuster until the White House relents and turns over docs from Roberts time in the first Bush White House.

If there’s one thing Senate Dems have consistently fought for – filibustered for -- is their right to get docs that they request.

They throttled the Miguel Estrada appeals court nomination and they refused to give John Bolton a vote for UN Ambassador over the same issue (Estrada withdrew his nomination and Bolton got a “recess appointment” when the Senate was in recess).

Obviously, even though the principle is the same, the stakes are much higher here, meaning it’s more likely enough Dems will flinch on the principle to sink the strategy.

The only way to stiffen Dem spines is for outside groups to put some money on the table.

The biggest groups fighting Roberts -- People for the American Way, Alliance For Justice and MoveOn.org -- have refused to run major ad campaigns against Roberts. (NARAL Pro-Choice America is the lone group to make a significant ad buy.)

They’re sitting on resources they initially expected to spend.

Granted, they will want to save some cash for the next nominee, but a good-sized one-week ad buy shouldn’t empty their coffers.

Such an ad buy should reinforce why the “turn over the memos” principle matters.

That the public should know all there is to know about a guy who’s going to be Chief Justice for possibly 30 years, before consenting to his appointment.

That Roberts and his allies have done all they can to hide his judicial philosophy from the public.

That deftly dodging questions is no way to earn the trust of the public.

That the public has no obligation to “roll the dice” with Roberts. It is Roberts that has to open up and prove himself.

If the outside groups don’t put the money on the table, and show that they are doing all they can to rally public opinion, don’t expect the overly-cautious accommodationist Senate Dems to stick their necks out.

Either everybody goes to the mat, or no one will.

QUICK HIT

Roberts on Eisenstadt v. Baird

A follow-up to yesterday’s post about Roberts’ statements on privacy.

LiberalOasis noted that Roberts only gave limited support to the landmark privacy ruling in Griswold, just embracing a marital right to use contraception, while saying nothing about Eisenstadt v. Baird, which extended that privacy right to singles.

Yesterday, he was asked about Eisenstadt directly. Roberts said “I don't have any quarrel with that conclusion in Eisenstadt.”

Roberts, who has been choosing his words very carefully all week, is getting into “definition of ‘is’ is” territory.

While Roberts did not explicitly embrace the underlying reasoning of Griswold, he unequivocally endorsed the result, saying “I agree with the Griswold court's conclusion...”.

“I don’t have any quarrel” is far more qualified than “I agree with”.

It could simply mean that while he has no love for Eisenstadt, he is not actively seeking to overturn it – a safe statement to make since it is unlikely that contraception cases will return to the Supreme Court.

But it by no means assures that he truly embraces the fundamental right to privacy.

Further, the fact that Roberts yesterday refused to distance himself from Clarence Thomas’ view that there is no “general right to privacy,” while continuing to insist that Thomas supports privacy rights, also showed how meaningless and misleading Roberts’ statements are.

September 14, 2005 PERMALINK
"His Answers Are Misleading"
Don't Buy Roberts' Privacy Talk
(posted Sept. 14 12:30 AM ET)

Much is being made of John Roberts’ claim that he believes there is a right to privacy in the Constitution.

But it was a meaningless statement.

Here’s what Roberts said in an exchange with Sen. Joe Biden:

BIDEN: Do you agree that there is a right of privacy to be found in the liberty clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?

ROBERTS: I do, Senator. I think that the court's expressions, and I think if my reading of the precedent is correct, I think every justice on the court believes that, to some extent or another. [emphasis added]

If Roberts' definition of privacy rights encompasses the views of "every justice" -- including Justices Scalia, Thomas and the late William Rehnquist -- then it has nothing to with the privacy right that currently underpins the right to an abortion and the right to be gay.

Because the three tried to squelch those rights.

Even Roberts’ seemingly explicit embrace of Griswold v. Connecticut was shady.

Griswold is the case which concluded there is a broad right to privacy inherent in the Constitution, and was a precursor to Roe v. Wade.

But when Roberts endorsed Griswold, he did not endorse its ruling that there is a broad right to privacy.

He only said, “I agree with the Griswold court's conclusion that marital privacy extends to contraception.” Just marital privacy!

(Keep in mind that in between the Griswold and Roe rulings was Eisenstadt v. Baird, which said single people have the same privacy right to use contraception. Roberts said nothing about Baird.)

Finally, Roberts talked in detail about his respect for the “stare decisis” principle (which gives great weight to Supreme Court precedents) and specifically said he would use the principle if he had to revisit Roe.

But “stare decisis” hasn’t stopped the right-wing judicial activists from their stated desire to overturn Roe. Like anything else abstract, it can be distorted beyond recognition.

In fact, when the Supreme Court upheld Roe in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Rehnquist’s dissent (joined by Scalia and Thomas) said up front: “We believe that Roe was wrongly decided, and that it can and should be overruled consistently with our traditional approach to stare decisis in constitutional cases.”

Add all that up.

Toss in Roberts’ disingenuous refusal to state his views on the past decisions of Roe and Casey, even though he expressed his views on other past cases.

Top it off with the Family Research Council statement “Applaud[ing] John Roberts' Roe v. Wade Response”

And you get one nasty anti-privacy sundae.

How did the Dems do in the face of such dishonesty?

Frankly, only Biden did what was needed: spark a dramatic exchange that exposed the dishonesty of Roberts’ carefully crafted remarks.

He quoted Ruth Bader Ginsburg from her confirmation hearings on specific past cases (including Roe) to show how Roberts was dodging questions.

And Biden refused to politely nod when being played, flatly announcing that “his answers are misleading.”

That’s what needed to be done to take the shine off of Roberts.

That’s not to say others didn’t make some effort.

Sen. Ted Kennedy had some tough words about Roberts’ views on voting rights, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein said afterwards that she’s “disappointed that Judge Roberts was not more forthcoming.”

But like LiberalOasis said last month, unless Senators create some fireworks, spark some pointed exchanges, they won’t break through the news clutter and won’t change the dynamic of this nomination.

Only Biden did that yesterday.

And since Dems and the Establishment liberal activist groups have dug such a big hole for us in advance of these hearings, we need more than one guy to step it up this week.

September 12, 2005 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted Sept. 12 2:30 AM ET)

Perhaps the Bushies still think they have a chance to win the “blame game” they’ve been playing/decrying.

But yesterday's aggressive move by Dem Sen. Mary Landrieu -- calling out the White House tactics on the Sunday shows – may signal the effective end of the blame game, with Bush as the loser.

On CBS’ Face The Nation, Landrieu said:

While the president is saying he wants to work together as a team, I think the White House operatives have a full-court press on to blame state and local officials, whether they're Republicans or Democrats, whether it's [MS Gov.] Haley Barbour or [LA Gov.] Kathleen Blanco, whether it's [New Orleans] Mayor [Ray] Nagin or a Republican mayor from Mississippi.

And on Fox News Sunday, she said:

I'm asking the White House to stop sending out press releases blaming local and state officials.

The salvo generated coverage in the AP, Reuters, Chicago Tribune and W. Post, putting the White House in a defensive position.

The problem for the Bushies is that perceptions have already formed.

Their initial spin was automatically contradicted by the images on TV, destroying their credibility.

The “reassignment” of FEMA chief Michael Brown was an implicit admission that things were botched at the federal level (and the failure to explicitly admit as much further corroded their credibility.)

So (excuse the mixed metaphor) the Bushies were already behind the 8-Ball, and Landrieu simply kept the boot on their collective neck.

In turn, it doesn’t really matter that Landrieu’s claims were mocked on Fox.

Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace became openly derisive, at one point interrupting her with “this works better if I get to ask some questions here,” which he followed not with a question, but an accusation: “you're the one who's done the finger-pointing.”

And in Fox’s pundit roundtable, Brit Hume practically had a temper-tantrum trying to undercut Landrieu with the latest right-wing talking point: Gov. Blanco deserves the most blame because right after the storm hit, she wouldn’t let the Red Cross in New Orleans to deliver supplies.

When Mara Liasson rightly noted that Blanco’s was trying to avoid problems in getting people out of New Orleans, and got screwed when buses promised by FEMA didn’t arrive fast enough, Hume snapped, “Oh please.”

And when Juan Williams noted “the failure of FEMA to take action,” Hume sputtered, “Juan, you have no idea what you're talking about.”

Such childish retorts were the best Hume could do.

Fox and the right-wing blogosphere failed last week to push their Blanco/Red Cross story into the mainstream press, and for good reason.

It’s a mere piece of a story. Without connecting it to FEMA’s broken promise of buses, it’s an extremely misleading story.

And since so many reporters are deeply involved in the larger story, and get the big picture, it’s harder for the Right to inject an out-of-context hit piece into the media bloodstream.

In turn, all Hume could do was rant.

And though Hume’s ranting probably helped solidify the perceptions of die-hard conservatives who only watch Fox, he did not generate any fresh mainstream press criticizing state officials that could change the overall dynamic of the story.

While Landrieu’s salvo did get press and made it tougher for right-wing cheap shots to stick to state officials.

The blame game is pretty much over, with Brownie sent to the corner, and the tick-tock stories showing the slow federal response already in the can.

Attention will soon turn to recovery and rebuilding.

And since the Bushies lost the blame game, and lost credibility and political support, they will have a much harder time steering contracts to their buddies and scrimping on help for the poor and displaced.

(UPDATE 9/12/05 11 AM ET -- A couple of readers wrote in to note that Bush is already doling out crony contracts and screwing the poor by suspending wage laws for contractors. To clarify, it's not that Bush won't continue to try to do such things.

It's that now the focus will shift from "what went wrong" to "what next." While Bush was taking a beating during the "what went wrong" phase, he could sneak some "what next" items by without drawing too much additional attention.

As the focus shifts, it will be harder to make similar moves without taking political heat.

That doesn't mean he won't still try to do it.)

The Blog Wire
Tracking the liberal blogosphere

The Red Cross is accepting donations to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina

ASPCA is taking donations for its disaster relief fund

Huffington Post's George Lakoff: "The moral of Katrina is mostly being missed. It is not just a failure of execution (William Kristol), or that bad things just happen (Laura Bush). It was not just indifference by the President, or a lack of accountability, or a failure of federal-state communication, or corrupt appointments in FEMA, or the cutting of budgets for fixing levees, or the inexcusable absence of the National Guard off in Iraq. It was all of these and more, but they are the effects, not the cause. The cause was political through and through — a matter of values and principles. The progressive-liberal values are America’s values, and we need to go back to them."

The Stakeholder: Tom DeLay's PAC indicted

Think Progress: Mississippi local repeats famous Cheney quote to Cheney on CNN

Salon: "[Bush's] distance from local disaster-relief officials is by design. [Bush has] been determined to move away from the coordinated state/local/federal disaster-relief approach used by Clinton ... Joe Allbaugh, Bush's first FEMA dirctor, told a congressional panel in 2001, Bush wanted to pull the federal government out of the disaster-relief business and aimed to 'restore the predominant role of state and local response to most disasters.' ... State and local disaster-relief officials have been complaining about [it] for some time..."

Talking Points Memo: "Back on Monday I told you how the Bush crony catastrophe contracts bonanza would be so big it might even tempt Bush fixer Joe Allbaugh to bring his influence-peddling racket back stateside. Well ... that ship's already sailed."

Daily Kos, Whiskey Bar, Salon's War Room and Eschaton on Bush's use of Utah firefighters in a photo-op

Your Right Hand Thief flags this post from the conservative Bayou Buzz: "In recent days, defenders of the Bush administration have been trying to shift blame to Democrats like Governor Kathleen Blanco, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard. But, in the view of this conservative Republican, all three of these individuals have acted admirably and have been working literally 24 hours a day since well before the hurricane hit ... Bush should accept responsibility for these deadly foul-ups and fire the officials who failed."

Ezra Klein: "A good person, a person with a bare minimum of empathy, would be appalled that Americans were satisfied being exiled to an overcrowded stadium. ... Barbara Bush joked about it on NPR."

The American Street uncovers Mon. 8/29 Nightline interview with FEMA's Michael Brown: "I think New Orleans is the one that got off easy ... what we would have seen had it hit the bull’s eye ... is widespread flooding, breeches of all of the levees."

Talking Points Memo and Think Progress on Halliburton's Katrina contract

Hullabaloo: "The government's job is to give money and recognition to charity organizations, not to actually do anything except encourage people to start a telephone prayer tree or squeeze their eyes shut tight and wish with everything they have not to die. After all, everybody wants the government out of their lives. This is clearly the philosophy of FEMA under George W. Bush"

Black Commentator asks if New Orleans will still be an African-American city after its rebuilt: "the prevailing model for urban development is to get rid of poor people. The disaster provides an opportunity to deploy this model in New Orleans on a citywide scale, under the guise of rebuilding the city and its infrastructure."

Your Right Hand Thief posted in June '05: "Is there a South Louisianan who would still trade their Bush tax cuts for poorer flood and coastal protections? ... The state of Louisiana is literally disappearing. It has the most to lose if hit by a hurricane: wetlands, ports, oil infrastructure, the seafood industry ... not to mention New Orleans itself"

Effect Measure: "The [public health] system is in worse shape now than four years ago and possibly the worst shape it has been in for forty years."

Attytood: "after 2003, the flow of federal dollars toward [the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project] dropped to a trickle. The [Army] Corps [of Engineers] never tried to hide the fact that the spending pressures of the war in Iraq, as well as homeland security -- coming at the same time as federal tax cuts -- was the reason for the strain." (via MyDD)

Pacific Views: "Under Clinton, [FEMA] was reengineered to focus on helping people facing natural disasters ... [Today,] FEMA has been hijacked by the Republicans to focus almost exclusively on everything but natural disasters" (via The Left Coaster)

Tapped: "[Do] cities with evacuation plans need to make better contingencies for their poorer residents, especially those without cars, who tend to be disproportionately African-American"

Informed Comment: "Al-Watan [a Saudi newspaper] reports that one Sunni member of the parliamentary drafting committee told it that Washington at one point promised $5 million apiece to tthe Sunnis on the committee if they would sign off on the constitution."

WorldChanging: "there is some evidence that increased intensity of hurricanes is related to global warming"; Gristmill: "There is no solid scientific case tying current hurricane frequency or severity to global warming. Global warming is widely expected to increase the severity ... in coming years"

Political Animal on the latest poverty data: "what's the point of a strong economy if it produces higher poverty rates, declining private sector healthcare coverage, and stagnant incomes?"

MaxSpeak: Notes Of A Hurricane Wonk

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

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