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Friday, May 16, 2008

President Bush committed political treason today

I've seen a lot of sad things in American politics in my lifetime -- the resignation of a president who became a national disgrace after he oversaw a campaign of break-ins and cover-ups, another who circumvented the Constitution to trade arms for hostages, and yet is now hailed as national hero. And those paled to what we have seen in the last seven years -- flagrant disregard for the Constitution, the launching of a "pre-emptive" war on false pretenses, and discussions about torture and other shocking abuses inside the White House inner sanctum.

But now it's come to this: A new low that I never imagined was even possible.

President Bush went on foreign soil today, and committed what I consider an act of political treason: Comparing the candidate of the U.S. opposition party to appeasers of Nazi Germany -- in the very nation that was carved out from the horrific calamity of the Holocaust. Bush's bizarre and beyond-appropriate detour into American presidential politics took place in the middle of what should have been an occasion for joy: A speech to Israeli's Knesset to honor that nation's 60th birthday.

But here's what he said:

JERUSALEM (CNN) – In a particularly sharp blast from halfway around the world, President Bush suggested Thursday that Sen. Barack Obama and other Democrats are in favor of "appeasement" of terrorists in the same way U.S. leaders appeased Nazis in the run-up to World War II.

"Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along," said Bush, in what White House aides privately acknowledged was a reference to calls by Obama and other Democrats for the U.S. president to sit down for talks with leaders like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"We have heard this foolish delusion before," Bush said in remarks to the Israeli Knesset. "As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American Senator declared: 'Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided.' We have an obligation to call this what it is — the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history."

As a believer in free speech, I think Bush has a right to say what he wants, but as a President of the United States who swore to uphold the Constitution, his freedom also carries an awesome and solemn responsibility, and what this president said today is a serious breach of that high moral standard.

Of course, there are differences of opinion on how America should handle Iran, and that's why we're having an election here at home, to sort these issues out -- hopefully with respect and not with emotional and inaccurate appeals. Not only is the president's comment a gross misrepresentation of Barack Obama's stance on the issue, but ironically, it comes just a day after his own Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, said of Iran: "We need to figure out a way to develop some leverage . . . and then sit down and talk with them." Is Gates a Nazi appeaser-type, too? And Bush has been hardly consistent on this point, either. Look at his own dealings with oil-rich Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, linked to deadly terror attacks like Pan Am Flight 103.

But what Bush did in Israel this morning goes well beyond the accepted confines of American political debate, When the president speaks to a foreign parliament on behalf of our country, his message needs to be clear and unambiguous. Our democracy may look messy to outsiders, and we may have our disagreements with some sharp elbows thrown around, but at the end of the day we are not Republicans or Democrats or liberals or conservatives.

We are Americans.

And you, Mr. Bush, are the leader of us all. To use a diplomatic setting on foreign soil to score a cheap political point at home is way beneath your office, way beneath your country, and way beneath the people you serve. You have been handed an office once uplifted to great heights by fellow countrymen from Washington to Lincoln to Roosevelt to Eisenhower, and have plunged it so deeply into the Karl-Rove-and-Rush-Limbaugh-fueled world of political destruction and survival of all costs that have lost all perspective -- and all sense of decency. To travel to Israel and to associate a sitting American senator and your possible successor in the Oval Office with those who at one time gave comfort to an enemy of the United States is, in and of itself, an act of political treason.

In another irony, this comes from an administration that has already committed such grave abuses that its former officials are becoming fearful of traveling overseas, lest they be arrested for war crimes. Despite the alleged crimes and misdemeanors of the Bush administration, the Democrats who control the House have until now been restrained in their use of the impeachment process, hoping that the final eight months of our American nightmare can pass by quickly. Indeed, one has to wonder how much of Bush's outrageous statement this morning arose from fear -- fear that a President Obama will go after his wrongdoing in 2009.

Today, it's a whole new ballgame. I believe this treacherous statement by a U.S. president in Israel is a signal to the Democrats in the House in Washington, that it's time to play its Constitutional role in ending this trauma, before even greater acts against the interest of America are wrongly committed in our name.

Original here

NPR Poll: McCain Loses to Obama, Tops Clinton

New NPR poll (May 7,8,10) conducted by the Republican firm Public Opinion Strategies and the Democratic firm Greenberg Quinlan Rosner shows John McCain losing to Barack Obama in the general election by five points but nipping Hillary Clinton by a single point:

Obama 48
McCain 43

McCain 46
Clinton 45

Overall, Obama leads McCain in the RCP General Election Average by 4.5%. Clinton leads McCain in the RCP General Election Average by a slightly smaller margin of 3.2%.

Other notables from the NPR poll:

* Right Direction 16%, Wrong Track 80%

* Bush job approval 33%, disapproval 65%


*Congress job approval 23%, disapproval 73%

Original here

Hypocrisy on Hamas

If the recent exchanges between President Bush, Barack Obama and John McCain on Hamas and terrorism are a preview of the general election, we are in for an ugly six months. Despite his reputation in the media as a charming maverick, McCain has shown that he is also happy to use Nixon-style dirty campaign tactics. By charging recently that Hamas is rooting for an Obama victory, McCain tried to use guilt by association to suggest that Obama is weak on national security and won't stand up to terrorist organizations, or that, as Richard Nixon might have put it, Obama is soft on Israel.

President Bush picked up this theme yesterday. Without naming Obama during his speech last night to Israel's Knesset, Bush suggested that Democrats want to "negotiate with terrorists" while Republicans want to fight terrorists.

The Obama campaign was right to criticize the president for his remarks and for engaging in partisan politics while overseas. Many presidents have said things abroad that could be construed as violating this unwritten rule of American politics. But it is hard to remember any president abusing the prestige of his office in as crude a way as Bush did yesterday. Charging your opponents with appeasement and likening them to Neville Chamberlain in the Knesset is a brutal blow. It is bad enough that Republicans use the politics of personal destruction here at home, but to deploy that kind of political weapon at an occasion as solemn as an American president addressing the parliament of a friendly government marks a new low.

McCain, meanwhile, is guilty of hypocrisy. I am a supporter of Hillary Clinton and believe that she was right to say, about McCain's statement on Hamas, "I don't think that anybody should take that seriously." Unfortunately, the Republicans know that some people will. That's why they say such things.

But given his own position on Hamas, McCain is the last politician who should be attacking Obama. Two years ago, just after Hamas won the Palestinian parliamentary elections, I interviewed McCain for the British network Sky News's "World News Tonight" program. Here is the crucial part of our exchange:

I asked: "Do you think that American diplomats should be operating the way they have in the past, working with the Palestinian government if Hamas is now in charge?"

McCain answered: "They're the government; sooner or later we are going to have to deal with them, one way or another, and I understand why this administration and previous administrations had such antipathy towards Hamas because of their dedication to violence and the things that they not only espouse but practice, so . . . but it's a new reality in the Middle East. I think the lesson is people want security and a decent life and decent future, that they want democracy. Fatah was not giving them that."

For some Europeans in Davos, Switzerland, where the interview took place, that's a perfectly reasonable answer. But it is an unusual if not unique response for an American politician from either party. And it is most certainly not how the newly conservative presumptive Republican nominee would reply today.

Given that exchange, the new John McCain might say that Hamas should be rooting for the old John McCain to win the presidential election. The old John McCain, it appears, was ready to do business with a Hamas-led government, while both Clinton and Obama have said that Hamas must change its policies toward Israel and terrorism before it can have diplomatic relations with the United States.

Even if McCain had not favored doing business with Hamas two years ago, he had no business smearing Barack Obama. But given his stated position then, it is either the height of hypocrisy or a case of political amnesia for McCain to inject Hamas into the American election.

The writer, an adjunct professor at Columbia University's School of International Affairs, was an assistant secretary of state and the State Department's chief spokesman during the Clinton administration.

Original here

[Update w/Video] McCain Lies, Says Reagan Didn't Negotiate With Iran

Look at what John McCain, Mr. Foreign Policy Experience, said today while agreeing with Bush's repulsive remarks in Israel:

“Yes, there have been appeasers in the past, and the president is exactly right, and one of them is Neville Chamberlain,'’ Mr. McCain told reporters on his campaign bus after a speech in Columbus, Ohio. “I believe that it’s not an accident that our hostages came home from Iran when President Reagan was president of the United States. He didn’t sit down in a negotiation with the religious extremists in Iran, he made it very clear that those hostages were coming home.'’

The Obama campaign and we in the liberal blogosphere need to jump on these comments. Once again, McCain has demonstrated a complete lack of knowledge about foreign policy and American history. First he got confused over Sunnis and Shiites, now this.

McCain seems to be forgetting something kind of important that happened during the Reagan administration.

It's called the Iran-Contra Scandal.


I'll let Wikipedia tell the story:

The Iran-Contra affair was a political scandal which was revealed in 1986 as a result of earlier events during the Reagan administration. It began as an operation to increase U.S.-Iranian relations, wherein Israel would ship weapons to a moderate, politically influential group of Iranians opposed to the Ayatollah Khomeni; the U.S. would reimburse Israel with those weapons and receive payment from Israel. The moderate Iranians agreed to do everything in their power to achieve the release of six U.S. hostages, who were being held by the terrorist group Hezbollah. The plan eventually deteriorated into an arms-for-hostages scheme, in which members of the executive branch sold weapons to Iran in exchange for the release of the American hostages, without the authorization of President Ronald Reagan. Large modifications to the plan were conjured by Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North of the National Security Council in late 1985. In North's plan, a portion of the proceeds from the weapon sales was diverted to fund anti-Sandinista and anti-communist rebels, or Contras, in Nicaragua. While President Ronald Reagan was a supporter of the Contra cause, he did not authorize this plan, nor was he aware that the funds were being sent to the Contras.

After the weapon sales were revealed in November 1986, Ronald Reagan appeared on national television and stated that the weapons transfers had indeed occurred, but that the United States did not trade arms for hostages. The investigation was compounded when large volumes of documents relating to the scandal were destroyed or withheld from investigators by Reagan administration officials. On March 4, 1987, Reagan returned to the airwaves in a nationally televised address, taking full responsibility for any actions that he was unaware of, and admitting that "what began as a strategic opening to Iran deteriorated, in its implementation, into trading arms for hostages."

John McCain was in Congress during the 1980s, in fact he was moved up to the Senate in 1986, so surely he couldn't have forgotten about this. Iran-Contra was the biggest scandal of the Reagan administration. They traded arms to Iran in the hopes that the Iranians and Hezbollah would release U.S. hostages. John Kerry, who was one of the lead Senate investigators into Iran-Contra, should be the go-to man for the Obama campaign on this.

[Update:] - Thanks to The Jed Report for this great video clip putting it all together:

Regarding the 1981 release of hostages, McCain also misses the facts. Again, from Wikipedia:

In 1979, Iranian students took hostage 52 employees of the United States embassy in Iran. On January 20, 1981, the day Ronald Reagan became President, the hostages were freed following the Algiers Accords.

Who negotiated the Algiers Accords? Warren Christopher and the Carter administration. Ronald Reagan had nothing to do with it.

Unless...John McCain is accidentally giving credence to the "October Surprise" conspiracy theory. You know, the one that says the Reagan campaign secretly negotiated with Iran to prevent the release of hostages until Reagan took office?

The October Surprise conspiracy was an alleged plot that claimed representatives of the 1980 Ronald Reagan presidential campaign had conspired with Islamic Republic of Iran to delay the release of 52 Americans held hostage in Tehran until after the 1980 U.S. Presidential election. In exchange for their cooperation, the United States would supply weapons to Iran as well as unfreeze Iran's monetary assets being held by the US government.

Jimmy Carter had been attempting to deal with the Iran hostage crisis and the hostile regime of the Ayatollah Khomeini for nearly a year. Those who assert that a deal was made allege that certain Republicans with CIA connections, including George H. W. Bush, arranged to have the hostages held through October, until Reagan could defeat Carter in early November, and then be released, thereby preventing an “October surprise” from the Carter administration in which the hostages would be released shortly before the election. The hostages were released the day of Reagan's inauguration, twenty minutes after his inaugural address.

No matter how you interpret McCain's remarks, they are completely out of step with history. This needs to get major play now, and the only way that will happen is if we raise a ruckus.

[Cross-posted at Old Man McCain]

Original here

Chris Matthews Stumps Right-Wing Radio Host: ‘Tell Me What Chamberlain Did?’ ‘I Don’t Know’»

On MSNBC’s Hardball tonight, right-wing radio host Kevin James attempted to defend President Bush’s comments comparing Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) to Nazi appeasers because he favors talking with our enemies. James compared Obama to Neville Chamberlain, about whom James could only cry: “He’s an appeaser!”

Matthews pressed James at least 19 times over five minutes to simply explain what Chamberlain had done in 1938 and 1939 to make him an “appeaser.” James could only shout his talking point over and over, prompting Matthews to threaten to end the interview:

MATTHEWS: You don’t know what you’re talking about, Kevin. You don’t know what you’re talking about. Tell me what Chamberlain did wrong.

JAMES: Neville Chamberlain was an appeaser, Chris. Neville Chamberlain was an appeaser, all right? […]

MATTHEWS: I’ve been sitting here five minutes asking you to say what the president was referring to in 1938 at Munich.

JAMES: I don’t know.

MATTHEWS: You don’t know, thank you.

Watch it:

Matthews was trying to prompt James to explain that Chamberlain signed the Munich agreement with Hitler in 1938, which allowed Hitler to occupy part of Czechoslovakia in exchange for peace with Britain.

Matthews rebuked his clueless guest — and the entire Bush administration — for being “blank slates in terms of history”:

You don’t understand there’s a difference between talking to the enemy and appeasing. What Chamberlain did wrong, most people would say, is not talking to Hitler, but giving him half of Czechoslovakia in 1938. That’s what he did wrong. Not talking to somebody. Appeasement is giving things away to the enemy.

Matthews’s other guest, Mark Green, advised James: “When you’re in a hole, stop digging.”

Original here

Why is Pat Buchanan on television?

He's having a racial paranoia meltdown on MSNBC right now. I'm going to post it it on YouTube soon.

In meantime, I'll leave you with these words written by Buchanan in March:

First, America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known.

::

Update: Here's the clip.


View the full ten-minute segment here.

Choice quotes:

What were the African-American community in Philadelphia that gave him 90% voting on if not the fact that Barack Obama was one of them. West Virginia, Hillary, was one of us. That's the same thing. But West Virginia gets trashed, and Philadelphia is wonderful.

And:

If Barack Obama were not an African American he would have been beaten by John Edwards. He would not be the nominee. It is far more of a positive for him, not only in the African-American community, but with the Chris Matthews' of the world and in the liberal suburbs far more than it is a negative.

When is MSNBC going to fire this guy? It's long overdue.

::

Update 2:

Karl Rove said that the long history of the KKK in West Virginia politics played a role in the vote (he was of course careful to point out that he didn't mean it in disparaging way):

Original here


McCain's wife sells Sudan-related investments

Republican presidential candidate John McCain waves to the crowd after his arrival at a town hall meeting on the campus of Oakland University on Wednesday, May 7, 2008 in Rochester, Mich. Cindy McCain stands to the right. (AP Photo/Jerry S. Mendoza)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Cindy McCain, whose husband has been a critic of the violence in Sudan, sold off more than $2 million in mutual funds whose holdings include companies that do business in the African nation.

The sale on Wednesday came after The Associated Press questioned the investments in light of calls by John McCain, the likely Republican presidential nominee, for international financial sanctions against the Sudanese leadership.

Last year, at least four presidential candidates divested themselves of Sudan-related holdings.

According to McCain's personal financial disclosure, Cindy McCain's investments include two mutual funds — American Funds Europacific Growth fund and American Funds Capital World Growth and Income fund — that are listed by the Sudan Divestment Task Force as targets for divestment.

"Those have been sold as of today," said McCain spokesman Brian Rogers.

Both funds have holdings in Oil & Natural Gas Corp., an India-based company that does business in Sudan. The American Funds Capital World Growth & Income Fund also has holdings in Petrochina, a Chinese government-owned oil company with vast investments in Sudan.

Last year, in a speech on energy policy to the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, McCain cited China's investments in Sudan as an example of regimes that survive off free-flowing petro dollars.

"The politics of oil impede the global progress of our values, and restrains governments from acting on the most basic impulses of human decency," he said. "There is only one reason China has opposed sanctions to pressure Sudan to stop the killing in Darfur: China needs Sudan's oil."

On Wednesday, Rogers said: "Senator and Mrs. McCain remain committed to doing everything possible to end the genocide in Darfur."

For the McCains, the Sudan-related investments are among scores of different investments listed in his financial disclosure documents. Cindy McCain is heiress to a Phoenix-based beer distributing company whose fortune is in the $100 million range.

Sen. McCain is regularly ranked among the richest lawmakers in Congress, but under the terms of a prenuptial agreement, much of the family's assets are in Cindy McCain's name. While the disclosure reports provide the identity of income and assets held by candidates and their spouses, they only offer a range of the amount of the holding. Indeed, the report lists Cindy McCain's investments in the two mutual funds as simply "over $1,000,0000."

In tax returns he released last month, the Arizona senator reported a total income of $405,409 in 2007.

But Cindy McCain files separate tax returns which she has not made public. On Sunday, she stressed that she would not make her returns public even if her husband won the presidency.

The Sudan-related investments illustrate the hazards for wealthy candidates whose vast holdings undergo thorough scrutiny during a presidential campaign.

A year ago, several presidential candidates divested themselves of Sudan-related holdings. Among them were Democrats Barack Obama and John Edwards and Republicans Sam Brownback and Rudy Giuliani.

In 2006, Brownback was among members of Congress who wrote 44 governors to urge them to divest their employee pension funds from businesses linked to Sudan. He is now serving as a top adviser to McCain's campaign.

At the time, Obama placed the total value of his divestitures at $180,000. The sales of the investments were recorded in their financial disclosures.

According to Giuliani's financial disclosure, he invested between $500,000 and $1 million in a Vanguard Wellington Fund. Data compiled by the Sudan Divestment Task Force shows that Vanguard Wellington has a small percentage of stock in Schlumberger Ltd., a French oil field services company that does business in Sudan.

Edwards sold stock he and his wife owned in Schlumberger for between $40,000 and $100,000. He also invested $50,000 to $100,000 in Evergreen Equity Income Fund, another fund identified by the divestment task force as having stock in Sudan-related companies.

Original here

Bush Uses Holy Land Pulpit to Launch Smear Campaign

George W. Bush is unworthy of the presidency. He is a disgrace to himself, our Nation, and the high office he holds.

In a speech to the Israeli Knesset on Thursday, Mr. Bush forfeited the last scraps of his moral authority, dishonoring himself by using one of the world's most important pulpits to launch a false and vicious political attack against Barack Obama.

I am such a strong supporter of Israel that when I worked in the White House some of my friends called me a "Likkud Democrat." It is especially appalling to supporters of Israel that Mr. Bush would stand on a hilltop in Jerusalem to invoke the Holocaust in order to make a cheap and deeply dishonest political point.

I am a person of faith, so it is especially galling that a man who calls himself a brother in faith would stand in the Holy Land and violate one of the Commandments God gave to Moses: "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor."

This is what Mr. Bush said, according to the text released by the White House:

"Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: "Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided." We have an obligation to call this what it is - the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history."

His attack was disgraceful, demeaning and dishonest. Bush's own government has repeatedly conducted negotiations with terrorists and radicals, including:

  • Iran. Bush sent Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, then posted to Baghdad, to negotiate with Iran over security issues affecting Iraq. Bush's current Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, told ABC News, "We are willing to sit down with Iran face to face for talks on Iraqi security at the invitation of the Iraqi government. We've had three rounds of those talks and we've told them we are ready to again."
  • Libya. Although Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi was behind the December, 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie Scotland, which killed 270 people, most of them Americans, the Bush Administration conducted months of negotiations with the terrorists, culminating in a 2003 agreement to dismantle Libyan long-range missiles and weapons of mass destruction;
  • North Korea. The Bush Administration, led by Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, has held numerous direct negotiations with the North Korean regime, a charter member of Mr. Bush's "axis of evil."

It should be noted that in each instance, the negotiations actually advanced America's security position. So even the Bush administration, by its actions, attests to the efficacy of negotiating with evildoers.

All this is to say George W. Bush is a hypocrite. So deep is his cynicism that he would go on foreign soil to invoke history's greatest crime to condemn conduct he himself has engaged in.

As an American I am ashamed that such a man represents me.

I say this as someone who has not supported Barack Obama in the Democratic primaries; someone who has reservations about Sen. Obama's plan to engage Iran in talks without any preconditions. But there comes a time when intra-party rivalries must yield, and all of us must stand together against the degradation of the Office of the Presidency.

Original here

Bush Compares Obama To Nazi Appeasers


*** UPDATED BELOW ***

President Bush has said repeatedly that he would not insert himself into the presidential race, but that stance changed dramatically today during his trip to Israel. After likening Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Osama bin Laden, Bush compared Barack Obama to Nazi appeasers:

"Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along," said Bush, in what White House aides privately acknowledged was a reference to calls by Obama and other Democrats for the U.S. president to sit down for talks with leaders like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.


"We have heard this foolish delusion before," Bush said in remarks to the Israeli Knesset. "As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American Senator declared: 'Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided.' We have an obligation to call this what it is -- the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history."

Obama himself quickly responded to the comparison, calling it a false attack and listing past presidents who didn't think that diplomacy was such a bad idea:

"It is sad that President Bush would use a speech to the Knesset on the 6Oth anniversary of Israel's independence to launch a false political attack. It is time to turn the page on eight years of policies that have strengthened Iran and failed to secure America or our ally Israel."


"Instead of tough talk and no action, we need to do what Kennedy, Nixon and Reagan did and use all elements of American power -- including tough, principled, and direct diplomacy -- to pressure countries like Iran and Syria. George Bush knows that I have never supported engagement with terrorists, and the President's extraordinary politicization of foreign policy and the politics of fear do nothing to secure the American people or our stalwart ally Israel."

It was only yesterday that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates argued that United States needed to engage with Iran:

"We need to figure out a way to develop some leverage . . . and then sit down and talk with them," Gates said. "If there is going to be a discussion, then they need something, too. We can't go to a discussion and be completely the demander, with them not feeling that they need anything from us."

UPDATE: What are the odds? Sen. Lieberman sides with Bush on this one:

"President Bush got it exactly right today when he warned about the threat of Iran and its terrorist proxies like Hamas and Hezbollah. It is imperative that we reject the flawed and naïve thinking that denies or dismisses the words of extremists and terrorists when they shout "Death to America" and "Death to Israel," and that holds that--if only we were to sit down and negotiate with these killers--they would cease to threaten us. It is critical to our national security that our commander-in-chief is able to distinguish between America's friends and America's enemies, and not confuse the two."

UPDATE: Obama's communication director has also weighed in on what he calls "cowboy diplomacy":

In a telephone interview on CNN just a few minutes ago, Robert Gibbs, the communications director for Senator Barack Obama, called Mr. Bush's remarks "astonishing" and an "unprecedented political attack on foreign soil."

UPDATE: Rahm Emanuel has chimed in as well:

The tradition has always been that when a U.S. President is overseas, partisan politics stops at the water's edge. President Bush has now taken that principle and turned it on its head: for this White House, partisan politics now begins at the water's edge, no matter the seriousness and gravity of the occasion. Does the president have no shame?

UPDATE: Howard Dean has called on McCain to reject Bush's statements:

"On the same day John McCain is talking about putting partisanship aside, the President launched a cheap political attack while on a state visit honoring the 60th anniversary of Israel, one of America's greatest allies. Bush's outrageous comments are an embarrassment to our country, not based in fact and bring us no closer to our goal of ending terrorist attacks against Israel and bringing peace to the region. If John McCain is really serious about being a different kind of Republican, he'll denounce these remarks in the strongest terms possible."

UPDATE: John McCain isn't listening to Dean. He has agreed with President Bush's statements, and even thrown in a reference to Neville Chamberlain:

"Yes, there have been appeasers in the past, and the president is exactly right, and one of them is Neville Chamberlain,'' Mr. McCain told reporters on his campaign bus after a speech in Columbus, Ohio. "I believe that it's not an accident that our hostages came home from Iran when President Reagan was president of the United States. He didn't sit down in a negotiation with the religious extremists in Iran, he made it very clear that those hostages were coming home.''


Asked if he thought that former President Jimmy Carter, who struggled with the hostage crisis, was an appeaser, Mr. McCain replied: "I don't know if he was an appeaser or not, but he terribly mishandled the Iranian hostage crisis.''

UPDATE: Nancy Pelosi has echoed Howard Dean and Rahm Emanuel's comments:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that Bush's remarks were "beneath the dignity of the office of the president and unworthy of our representation" at the celebration of Israel's 60th anniversary.


Referring to Sen. John McCain, Pelosi said: "I would hope that any serious person that aspires to lead the country, would disassociate themselves from those comments."

UPDATE: Sen. Reid has joined the pile on:

"Not surprisingly, the engineer of the worst foreign policy in our nation's history has fired yet another reckless and reprehensible round. More than seven years into his Presidency and in the sixth year of the directionless Iraq war, President Bush has yet to learn that his brand of divisive partisan rhetoric is precisely what has made America and our allies less secure. And for the President to make this statement before the government of our closest ally as it celebrates a remarkable milestone demeans this historic moment with partisan politics.


"President Bush's own actions demonstrate that he believes negotiations - at the right moment, under the right conditions and with the right leaders - can both show strength and produce results. He has relied on negotiations with North Korea and Libya, two state sponsors of terror. And by conducting discussions with Russia, China, Libya, North Korea and Iran in recent years, President Bush has demonstrated his belief that negotiations can be a tool to advance America and Israel's national security interests. I call on the President to explain the inconsistency between his Administration's actions and his words today."

UPDATE: John Kerry has responded on TPMCafe:

First, it's absolutely shameless that an American President would use a speech in front of a foreign government to launch such a petty political attack. President Bush has abused the dignity of the office in ways that make especially ironic his long ago pledge to "restore dignity and integrity to the Oval office."


Perhaps worse -- he's not even right on the facts, and he knows it. Like Representatives Boehner and Cantor, President Bush just makes up policies to attack. Barack Obama opposes negotiating with terrorists. And always has. This is just another example of the disingenuous habit of this administration to create "some people" whom they can argue against, strawman arguments that they can use in their disgusting political attacks.

"This is bullshit, this is malarkey. This is outrageous, for the president of the United States to go to a foreign country, to sit in the Knesset ... and make this kind of ridiculous statement."

UPDATE: Biden calls bullshit:

"He is the guy who has weakened us," he said. "He has increased the number of terrorists in the world. It is his policies that have produced this vulnerability that the U.S. has. It's his [own] intelligence community [that] has pointed this out, not me."

Biden noted that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have both suggested that the United States ought to find a way to talk more with its enemies.

"If he thinks this is appeasement, is he going to come back and fire his own cabinet?" Biden asked. "Is he going to fire Condi Rice?"

Original here

Why John Edwards Endorsed Obama Today

A lot is being said right now to the effect of, "What took him so long?" Some people are criticizing John Edwards for not endorsing sooner. I happen to think that today is the perfect day for Edwards to endorse, not so much because he was trounced in West Virginia yesterday, but because of the current state of the race and because of past statements made by John Edwards and his top advisers.

John Edwards said that he would not make an endorsement until the race was over -- until the nominee was determined. Then, today, after Obama received a trouncing in West Virginia, he announces his endorsement.

Some have questioned this, asking why he is going back on his word and endorsing before the race is over. I don't think he is going back on his word at all. He is sending a message, and that message is, "The race is over."

John Edwards is saying, let's circle the wagons. Obama is our guy. The people have spoken. The race for Democratic presidential nominee is over.

Yesterday, I wrote a Daily Kos diary about an article that Joe Trippi wrote in Campaigns and Elections Magazine. He expressed regret that he had advised Edwards to follow his heart when asked for advice of whether to withdraw from the presidential race. He said he wished he had told him to stay in the race. But, he added (and this is important):

"The senator questioned why he'd be remaining in the race. Would he be grinding out delegates only to be in a position to cut a deal at the convention for his own gain? That wasn't why he had gotten into the race for president. He had entered it to push causes like ending poverty, championing health care for every American and fighting for working people, and it just wasn't him to turn it into a selfish quest. I really respect that, and it helps explain why I so fervently wanted John Edwards to become president. The man cared deeply about those causes, and he did not want to see them tarnished because of a string of embarrassing losses."

Trippi would not have written such an article without running it by Edwards first. They are reportedly close friends, and insiders say that Trippi is extremely loyal to Edwards. This seems to be a concerted message, "When it is clear you cannot win, staying in the race is for personal gain."

Trippi's admission that he wishes he had advised Edwards to stay in the race could be taken as a nod to Hillary Clinton that it's ok to stay in the race, but I don't think so. I think it was simply meant to soften the blow of these specific words:

"Would he be grinding out delegates only to be in a position to cut a deal at the convention for his own gain?"

Of course, Trippi will be on the media circuit over the next few days, answering questions about Edwards, and I'm sure this will come up. We'll see how it plays out, but I'm betting that he'll be asked about these words. I'm betting that he'll say over and over that Edwards exited the race for the good of the country -- this will be a hint to Clinton.

Of course, this also takes the wind out of Clinton's sails from her win yesterday.

Yes, the timing is perfect.

Dawn Teo posts at Daily Kos. She's a supporter of Barack Obama.

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Chris Matthews Tears Up Kevin James on Hardball


Biden calls Bush comments 'bulls**t'

From

(CNN) — The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Joe Biden, D-Delaware, called President Bush’s comments accusing Sen. Barack Obama and other Democrats of wanting to appease terrorists "bulls**t” and said if the president disagrees so strongly with the idea of talking to Iran then he needs to fire his secretaries of State and Defense, both of whom Biden said have pushed to sit down with the Iranians.

“This is bullshit. This is malarkey. This is outrageous. Outrageous for the president of the United States to go to a foreign country, sit in the Knesset…and make this kind of ridiculous statement,” Biden said angrily in a brief interview just off the Senate floor.

“He’s the guy who’s weakened us. He’s the guy that’s increased the number of terrorists in the world. His policies have produced this vulnerability the United States has. His intelligence community pointed that out not me. The NIE has pointed that out and what are you talking about, is he going to fire Condi Rice? Condi Rice has talked about the need to sit down. So his first two appeasers are Rice and Gates. I hope he comes home and does something.”

He quoted Gates saying Wednesday that we “need to figure out a way to develop some leverage and then sit down and talk with them.”

Filed under: Joe Biden

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Gay marriage opponents vow to fight Calif. ruling


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Even as same-sex couples across California begin making plans to tie the knot, opponents are redoubling their efforts to make sure wedding bells never ring for gay couples in the nation's most populous state.

A conservative group said it would ask California's Supreme Court to postpone putting its decision legalizing gay marriage into effect until after the fall election. That's when voters will likely have a chance to weigh in on a proposed amendment to California's constitution that would bar same-sex couples from getting married.

If the court does not grant the request, gay marriages could begin in California in as little as 30 days, the time it typically takes for the justices' opinions to become final.

"We're obviously very disappointed in the decision," said Glen Lavy, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, which is pushing for the stay. "The remedy is a constitutional amendment."

With a stroke of a pen Thursday, the Republican-dominated court swept away decades of tradition and said there was no legally justifiable reason why the state should withhold the institution of marriage because of a couple's sexual orientation.

The 4-3 opinion written by Chief Justice Ronald George said domestic partnerships that provide many of the rights and benefits of matrimony are not enough.

"In contrast to earlier times, our state now recognizes that an individual's capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual's sexual orientation," George wrote for the majority in ringing language that delighted gay rights activists.

Gay marriage opponents, meanwhile, derided the ruling as an example of judicial overreaching in which the opinions of a few justices trumped the will of Californians.

The last time the state's voters were asked to express their views on same-sex marriage at the ballot box was in 2000, the year after the Legislature enacted the first of a series of laws awarding spousal rights to domestic partners.

Proposition 22, which strengthened the state's 1978 one-man, one-woman marriage law with the words "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California," passed with 61 percent of the vote.

The Supreme Court's ruling Thursday struck down both statutes.

Still, backers of a proposed November ballot measure that would allow Californians to vote on a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage said the court's decision would ultimately help their cause.

"(The ruling) is not the way a democracy is supposed to handle these sorts of heartfelt, divisive issues," said Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage, one of the groups helping to underwrite the gay marriage ban campaign. "I do think it will activate and energize Californians. I'm more confident than ever that we will be able to pass this amendment come November."

To date, 26 states have approved constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage.

In the past few years, courts in New York, Maryland and Washington state have refused to allow gay marriage, and New Jersey's highest court gave the state lawmakers the option of establishing civil unions as an alternative.

Massachusetts is the only other state to legalize gay marriage, something it did in 2004. More than 9,500 same-sex couples in that state have wed. The California ruling is considered monumental because of the state's population - 38 million out of a U.S. population of 302 million - and its historical role as the vanguard of many social and cultural changes that have swept the country since World War II.

California has an estimated 108,734 same-sex households, according to 2006 census figures.

"It's about human dignity. It's about human rights. It's about time in California," San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom told a roaring crowd at City Hall after the ruling was issued. "As California goes, so goes the rest of the nation. It's inevitable. This door's wide open now. It's going to happen, whether you like it or not."

The case was set in motion in 2004 when Newsom threw open City Hall to gay couples to get married in a calculated challenge to California law. Four thousand wed before the Supreme Court put a halt to the practice after a month.

Two dozen gay couples then sued, along with the city and gay rights organizations.

Gareth Lacy, a spokesman for Attorney General Jerry Brown, whose office argued to uphold the ban, said Brown would "work with the governor and other state agencies to implement the ruling."

The justices said they would direct state officials "to take all actions necessary to effectuate our ruling," including requiring county marriage clerks to carry out their duties "in a manner consistent with the decision of this court."

By Thursday afternoon, gay and lesbian couples had already started lining up at San Francisco City Hall to make appointments to get marriage licenses. The county clerk's office in Los Angeles issued a statement saying it was awaiting legal analysis of the ruling and a timeline for implementation.

California's secretary of state is expected to rule by the end of June whether the sponsors of the anti-gay marriage ballot measure gathered enough signatures to put the amendment on the ballot.

Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has twice vetoed legislation that would have granted marriage to same-sex couples, said in a statement he respected the court's decision and "will not support an amendment to the constitution that would overturn this state Supreme Court ruling."

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Senate Moves Forward on Orwellian "Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act"

In the wake of Senator Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and Susan Collins' (R-ME) alarmist report, "Violent Islamist Extremism, the Internet, and the Homegrown Terrorism Threat," the Senate may be moving towards passage of the Orwellian "Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007" (S. 1959).

A companion piece of legislative flotsam to the House bill, "The Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007" (H.R. 1955), the Democrat-controlled Congress seems ready to jettison Constitutional guarantees of free speech and assembly. The bill passed the House by a 404-6 vote in October. Twenty-three congress members abstained, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers.

Under cover of studying "violent radicalization," both bills would broaden the already-fluid definition of "terrorism" to encompass political activity and protest by dissident groups, effectively criminalizing civil disobedience and non-violent direct action by developing policies for "prevention, disruption and mitigation."

Call it COINTELPRO 2.0.

Crafted by former House Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Jane Harman (D-CA), the legislation would create a domestic commission, a university-based "Center of Excellence" that would study and then, target domestic "radicalization" as a "threat" to the "homeland."

David Price, a professor of anthropology at St. Martin's University who studies state surveillance and the harassment of dissident scholars, told Jessica Lee of New York's Indypendent newspaper last year that Harman's bill "is a shot over the bow of environmental activists, animal-rights activists, anti-globalization activists and scholars who are working in the Middle East who have views that go against the administration."

Evoking disquieting memories of political witchhunters ensconced in the House Committee on Un-American Activities and Senator Joseph McCarthy's Senate Subcommittee on Investigations, the anti-radicalization commission would be empowered to "hold hearings and sit and act at such times and places, take such testimony, receive such evidence, and administer such oaths as the Commission considers advisable to carry out its duties."


With the power to subpoena and compel testimony from anyone, the commission would create the (intended) impression that a person forced to publicly testify before a congressionally mandated star chamber must be involved in "subversive" or illegal activities.

According to Naomi Spencer,

The commission would be composed of appointees, one chosen each respectively by Bush, Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff, the Senate and House majority and minority leaders, and by the ranking majority and minority members of the two congressional homeland security committees. Such a selection process would certainly result in an extremely right-wing panel. ("US House passes Democrat-crafted 'homegrown terrorism prevention' legislation," World Socialist Web Site, 1 December 2007)

When one considers that elite consensus favoring "muscular" strategies for fighting "terror"--homegrown or otherwise--emerge during a period when the Bush regime has illegally wiretapped phone calls, sifted e-mails, spied on political and religious organizations, and conducted extensive data mining of financial and other personal records, it becomes clear that the corporate police state is shifting into high-gear in a desperate move to criminalize ideological "thought crimes."

The intent of the proposed legislation, however, goes far beyond an academic exercise. According to Jessica Lee, Harman stated that "the National Commission [will] propose to both Congress and [Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael] Chertoff initiatives to intercede before radicalized individuals turn violent."

In the context of the post-Constitutional "New Normal" paradigm, Harman and her acolytes evoke images of Philip K. Dick's Department of Precrime in his dystopian novella, The Minority Report. Only here, in the bizarro world of outsourced "homeland security," mutant precogs are replaced by high-end--and taxpayer funded--data-miners, psychological profilers and social network analysts in the employ of dodgy security firms linked to America's military-intelligence complex.

The legislation specifically singles out the Internet as a "weapon" for domestic radicalization. When she introduced her bill to the Senate last November, Harman remarked, "There can be no doubt: the Internet is increasingly being used as a tool to reach and radicalize Americans and legal residents."

Equating America's web-surfacing habits with the threat of ideological infection by Islamist pod-people, Harman avers that the Internet allows Americans "to become indoctrinated by extremists and to learn how to kill their neighbors ... from the comfort of their own living rooms."

(Britney, Paris, better move over... there's a new truck-bombing instructional posted over on YouTube! OMG!)

Harman's ludicrous pronouncement is considerably ramped-up by the Lieberman and Collins report, based on--what else-- "expert testimony" during hearings held by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Lieberman and Collins claim that,

...the report assesses the federal government's response to the spread of the violent Islamist message on the Internet and concludes that there is no cohesive and comprehensive outreach and communications strategy in place to confront this threat. The report does not discuss relevant classified tools and tactics employed by the law enforcement and intelligence communities, but does recognize that there is no plan to harness all possible resources including adopting new laws, encouraging and supporting law enforcement and the intelligence community at the local, state, and federal levels, and more aggressively implementing an outreach and counter-messaging campaign on the Internet and elsewhere.


In other words, "independent" Democrat Lieberman and "maverick Republican" Collins are proposing new "tools" for regulating the Internet through a counter-propaganda campaign that would create "message force multipliers" that "support law enforcement" initiatives to crush the radical "threat."

By targeting the Internet, House and Senate thought police claim that "the Internet has aided in facilitating violent radicalization, ideologically based violence, and the homegrown terrorism process in the United States by providing access to broad and constant streams of terrorist-related propaganda to United States citizens."

But as the American Civil Liberties Union wrote last week,

Experience has demonstrated that in the event of a terrorist attack, the results of this report will likely be used to recommend the use of racial, ethnic and religious profiling. This will only heighten, rather than decrease, the spread of extremist violence. As an organization dedicated to the principles of freedom of speech, we cannot in good conscience support this report or any measure that might lead to censorship and persecution based solely on one’s personal beliefs.

The ACLU is concerned that identifying the Internet as a tool for terrorists will lead to censorship and regulated speech -- especially since the Internet has become an essential communications and research tool for everyone. Indeed, some policy makers have advocated shutting down objectionable websites in violation of the First Amendment. It is an unworkable solution. (American Civil Liberties Union, "ACLU Skeptical of Senate Report on "Homegrown" Terrorism," Press Release, May 8, 2008)

Precisely. But wait, there's more! Citing the New York City Police Department (NYPD) as "experts" in the area of "homegrown radicalism," the report avers:

After more than two years of research into homegrown terrorism cases in the United States and around the world, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) developed a model to explain how this core enlistment message, and the "jihadi-Salafi" ideology that provides the foundation for that message, drive the domestic radicalization process -- transforming "unremarkable people" into terrorists.

Perhaps Lieberman and Collins should have consulted the family of Sean Bell as to the NYPD's "expertise" on analogous crime "modeling." Murdered by trigger-happy cops after a bachelor party the morning of his wedding, Bell's life was snuffed-out after he and his friends were shot some 50 times. The cops--surprise!--were recently found "not guilty" on all counts by a New York judge.

We can dismiss senatorial allusions to NYPD's acumen in the area of "counterterrorist analysis" with the contempt it deserves. But let's be clear on one thing: the sole purpose of the "Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act" is to target the American people's constitutionally-protected right to say No.

If the U.S. House and Senate care to examine the "root causes" of terrorism today, they need look no further than the on-going U.S. slaughter in Iraq--a "preemptive" war of choice to which they infamously gave their consent with eyes wide open.

Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly, Love & Rage and Antifa Forum, he is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military "Civil Disturbance" Planning, distributed by AK Press.

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California Supreme Court overturns gay marriage ban


Ellen Pontac, left, and Shelly Bailes, of Davis, Calif., celebrate on the steps of the State Supreme Court after the court's decision legalizing marriage between same-sex couples, announced May 15 in San Francisco, Calif. They have been together 34 years and were married in San Francisco before it was ruled illegal.
In a 4-3 decision, the justices rule that people have a fundamental 'right to marry' the person of their choice and that gender restrictions violate the state Constitution's equal protection guarantee

SAN FRANCISCO -- -- The California Supreme Court struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage Thursday in a broadly worded decision that would invalidate virtually any law that discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation.

The 4-3 ruling declared that the state Constitution protects a fundamental "right to marry" that extends equally to same-sex couples. It tossed a highly emotional issue into the election year while opening the way for tens of thousands of gay people to wed in California, starting as early as mid-June.

The majority opinion, by Chief Justice Ronald M. George, declared that any law that discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation will from this point on be constitutionally suspect in California in the same way as laws that discriminate by race or gender, making the state's high court the first in the nation to adopt such a stringent standard.

The decision was a bold surprise from a moderately conservative, Republican-dominated court that legal scholars have long dubbed "cautious," and experts said it was likely to influence other courts around the country.

But the scope of the court's decision could be thrown into question by an initiative already heading toward the November ballot. The initiative would amend the state Constitution to prohibit same-sex unions.

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