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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

McCain Uses Swift Boat Vet Bud Day To Rebut Wesley Clark

Sen. John McCain's campaign on Monday launched the McCain "Truth Squad" - a group of political and Vietnam contemporaries who would counter attacks on the Senator's military record.

In hopes of nipping any criticism in the bud, the campaign brought on board a man quite familiar with how these types of attacks gain legs: Bud Day, a fellow POW who was part of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth that worked so hard to defame Sen. John Kerry's own Vietnam record.

On the conference call, Day - in addition to the other participants - decried comments made by Gen. Wesley Clark over the weekend, in which he questioned whether McCain's war experience really qualified him to be commander-in-chief. Defending McCain's service, Day was quick to personalize his remarks, attacking Clark's military record in the process.

"Things were very difficult for [McCain]," he said. "He was horribly wounded in his extremities, and it was questionable if he would survive his experience. He set a high standard for himself because the Vietnamese tried to release him and he showed courage by refusing that to come about. We had an opportunity to watch a president in office, a Democrat who was extremely ineffective during those years. [McCain] learned an awful lot from that... General Clark spent a month in Vietnam, got badly wounded and was evacuated, that was his experience. I say let's hold the two of them up and compare them."

That Day would politicize Vietnam in his defense of McCain is not surprising. During the 2004 campaign, he said of Kerry: "My view is he basically will go down in history sometime as the Benedict Arnold of 1971." And after appearing in a national advertisement for the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign, Day formed the Vietnam Veterans Legacy Foundation, an extension of the Swift Boat effort.

Asked to compare the attacks he helped launched against Kerry in 2004 to those being waged at McCain today, Day said the defining issue was truthfulness.

"The Swift Boat attacks were simply a revelation of the truth, the similarity does not exist here. What the Swift Boat campaign was about was to lay out John Kerry's record. John Kerry has never produced any evidence to deny that. We are producing the evidence of these attacks right now to show that those remarks were completely inaccurate."

The irony of it all is that McCain publicly deplored the Swift Boat ads back in 2004, saying they were reminiscent of the smear campaigns launched against him during his initial White House run in 2000.

"It was the same kind of deal that was pulled on me," said the Senator.

Not willing to let the irony go unnoticed, Kerry lashed out at McCain, on Monday, for using the same smear merchant he once decried.

"Colonel Day's comments today only further highlight the McCain campaign's disregard for a new kind of politics," said Kerry. "John McCain condemned these kinds of attacks in 2004 when he called the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth 'dishonest and dishonorable.' Senator McCain should condemn these remarks and cut ties with the Colonel and anyone else connected to SBVT. Day's comments only serve to disparage all those who served on swift boats in Vietnam."

Even prior to then, however, Obama had taken steps to distance himself from Clark's remarks. In a statement, spokesman Bill Burton, wrote: "As he's said many times before, Senator Obama honors and respects Senator McCain's service, and of course he rejects yesterday's statement by General Clark."

UPDATE: Here is a link to the audio of the McCain campaign conference call.

Right On, General Clark. Do Not Back Down.

Boy, talk about your echo chamber in the media. Yesterday, General Wesley Clark went on CBS' Face the Nation, and repeated something he's said many times before. If you missed it, here's the full quote in context :

Bob Schieffer: Well you, you went so far as to say that you thought John McCain was, quote, and these are your words, "untested and untried," And I must say I, I had to read that twice, because you're talking about somebody who was a prisoner of war. He was a squadron commander of the largest squadron in the Navy. He's been on the Senate Armed Services Committee for lo these many years. How can you say that John McCain is un- untested and untried? General?

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: Because in the matters of national security policy making, it's a matter of understanding risk. It's a matter of gauging your opponents, and it's a matter of being held accountable. John McCain's never done any of that in his official positions. I certainly honor his service as a prisoner of war. He was a hero to me and to hundreds of thousands and millions of others in Armed Forces as a prisoner of war. He has been a voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and he has traveled all over the world. But he hasn't held executive responsibility. That large squadron in Air- in the Navy that he commanded, it wasn't a wartime squadron. He hasn't been there and ordered the bombs to fall. He hasn't seen what it's like when diplomats come in and say, 'I don't know whether we're going to be able to get this point through or not. Do you want to take the risk? What about your reputation? How do we handle it-'

Bob Schieffer: Well-

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK: ' -it publicly.' He hasn't made those calls, Bob.

So, in short, General Clark respects John McCain's service, calls him a hero to millions, but notes that experience doesn't make him qualified to be Commander in Chief.

Now, isn't getting into the presidential race, but I don't see what is so wrong about what General Clark said. And yet, immediately and unsurprisingly, the McCain campaign let loose with a response that expressed shock and dismay. Almost right after that, all of the media was up in arms about how 'wrong' this was. Pretty disappointingly, even progressive surrogates couldn't muster the strength to back up General Clark on TV.


This wasn't a swift boating, or any low politics. General Clark called McCain a hero to millions for his sacrifice. And, that's a pretty big statement coming from a man who, himself, left Vietnam on a stretcher. But, facts are facts:

• Senator McCain's service and experience, both as a POW and as a Senator apparently hasn't infused him with a dose of good judgment.

• Senator McCain's experience hasn't led him to realize that the war in Iraq and it's continuance has empowered and emboldened Iran, and destabilized the region.

• Senator McCain's experience hasn't caused him to recognize that we're losing ground in Afghanistan, and Osama bin Laden is still out there, plotting.

• Senator McCain's experience didn't lead him to support the 21st Century GI Bill -- he opposed it. It didn't even make him feel the need to get back to Washington to vote on this -- one of the most important veterans' bills this Congress. He twice skipped votes on the GI Bill, to fundraise.

• Senator McCain's experience didn't help him empathize with troops are overstretched and overdeployed, when he voted against the bipartisan Webb-Hagel "Dwell Time Amendment," which would have given troops as much time at home as in the field.

Senator McCain is running on his experience, saying it makes him ready to lead right away. By doing so, he is asking people to look at what that experience taught him. By looking at Senator McCain's positions and votes (or lack of them), it seems that experience has not given him the right judgment on important issues of our time. And, while we should all honor Senator McCain's service, that doesn't mean we should necessarily honor it by putting him in the White House to take up George W. Bush's third term.

So, General Clark is 100 percent absolutely right, and he should not back down. I'd hope that some of the so-called progressives on television back him up on this, and not get intimidated by the media and McCain campaign press releases. These are important times, and deserve a blunt and honest debate.

In some circles, that's just called 'straight talk.'

UPDATE: Since a lot of you are sending words of support on here for General Clark, we started a petition where you can sign to thank him, and tell him to keep it up. We will take the petition to General Clark, personally. Also, it's important to sign, so we can show the media that we've got his back.

Original here

Political Freelancers Use Web to Join the Attack

CULVER CITY, Calif. — The video blasted across the Internet, drawing political blood from Senator John McCain within a matter of days.

Produced here in a cluttered former motel behind the Sony Pictures lot, it juxtaposed harsh statements about Islam made by the Rev. Rod Parsley with statements from Mr. McCain praising Mr. Parsley, a conservative evangelical leader. The montage won notice on network newscasts this spring and ultimately helped lead Mr. McCain, the likely Republican presidential nominee, to reject Mr. Parsley’s earlier endorsement.

In previous elections, an attack like that would have come from party operatives, campaign researchers or the professional political hit men who orbit around them.

But in the 2008 race, the first in which campaigns are feeling the full force of the changes wrought by the Web, the most attention-grabbing attacks are increasingly coming from people outside the political world. In some cases they are amateurs operating with nothing but passion, a computer and a YouTube account, in other cases sophisticated media types with more elaborate resources but no campaign experience.

So it was with the Parsley video, which was the work of a 64-year-old film director, Robert Greenwald, and his small band of 20-something assistants. Once best known for films like “Xanadu” (with Olivia Newton-John) and the television movie “The Burning Bed” (with Farrah Fawcett), Mr. Greenwald shows how technology has dispersed the power to shape campaign narratives, potentially upending the way American presidential campaigns are fought.

Mr. Greenwald’s McCain videos, most of which portray the senator as contradicting himself in different settings, have been viewed more than five million times — more than Mr. McCain’s own campaign videos have been downloaded on YouTube.

“If you had told me we would have hit one million, I would have told you you were crazy,” said Mr. Greenwald, who said he had no ties to the Democratic Party or Senator Barack Obama’s campaign.

Four years ago, the Internet was a Wild West that caused the occasional headache for the campaigns but for the most part remained segregated from them. This year, the development of cheap new editing programs and fast video distribution through sites like YouTube has broken down the barriers, empowering a new generation of largely unregulated political warriors who can affect the campaign dialogue faster and with more impact than the traditional opposition research shops.

Already there are signs that these less formal and more individual efforts are filling a vacuum created by a decline in activity among the independent advocacy groups — so-called 527s and similar operations — that have played a large role in negative politics in the last several election cycles. Especially on the conservative side, independent groups have reported trouble raising money, and some of the biggest players from 2004 have signaled that they will sit it out this time around.

The shift has by no means gone unnoticed by the campaigns. And while strategists in both parties suspect that traditional political operatives affiliated with the campaigns or parties frequently pose as independent grassroots participants by hiding behind anonymous Web identities, few have been caught this year.

The change has added to the frenetic pace of the campaign this year. “It’s politics at the speed of Internet,” said Dan Carol, a strategist for Mr. Obama who was one of the young bulls on Bill Clinton’s vaunted rapid response team in 1992. “There’s just a lot of people who at a very low cost can do this stuff and don’t need a memo from HQ.”

That would seem to apply to people like Robert Anderson, a professor at Elon University in North Carolina whose modest YouTube site features videos flattering to Mr. Obama and unflattering to Mr. McCain, or Paul Villarreal, who from his apartment in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., has produced a harsh series of spots that attack Mr. Obama and make some claims that have been widely debunked.

Counting the audience for such videos can be tricky, as sites like YouTube list only the number of times they have been viewed, not the number of people who view them. That said, according to YouTube, Mr. Villarreal’s video was viewed about 50,000 times. And it cost him just $100 to produce, for software, he said. He said he had no connection to the Republican Party or the McCain campaign, though he said he had reached out to them and not heard back.

The better-circulated political videos have generally come from people with some production experience. One of the most widely seen anti-Obama videos was created by Jason Mitchell, who produces evangelical Christian programming in Durham, N.C.

A conservative-leaning version of YouTube called has recorded millions of hits on the video. But as is often the case with such videos, how many of the viewers come to sneer rather than applaud is hard to tell.

“Four years ago I would just be a ‘political activist,’ ” Mr. Mitchell said. “Now, they call me a ‘communications political strategist,’ and that’s only because of the Internet.”

Mr. Mitchell, 29, said his cash expenses to make and distribute the segment were about $50, a fraction of the roughly $100,000 that it would cost to broadcast a 30-second spot on a television news program with an audience of a few million, like “Meet the Press.” “That’s dirt cheap for an ad,” Mr. Mitchell said.

Mr. Mitchell said he was motivated by what he said were deep-rooted misgivings about Mr. Obama on social issues, his level of experience and background. But it is unlikely any television station would have accepted the video if he had tried to run it.

The segment’s announcer notes that Mr. Obama’s father was Muslim, asserts that the candidate attended a Muslim grammar school in Indonesia for two years, and asks, “When we are at war with Islamic terrorism, can Americans elect a man with not one, not two, but three Islamic names?” One onscreen image shows Mr. Obama’s face morphed with that of Osama bin Laden.

Mr. Mitchell says he sticks close to the factual record, but the video has been widely criticized as over the line. Mr. Obama is a Christian. The school he attended in Indonesia was secular.

Three weeks ago, the Obama campaign started a Web site called “Fight the Smears” to, among other things, debunk portrayals of Mr. Obama as Muslim. It allows its users to e-mail the information easily to friends.

“What we’re really trying to do is knock down important things that are wrong, which also diminishes the power of the next set of rumors,” said Mr. Carol, the Obama aide.

With Web-based attacks proliferating, campaigns are leaving behind the assumption that to respond to highly negative or false accusations is to needlessly publicize them. “It poses a more complicated version of the age-old dilemma that campaigns always find themselves in,” said Phil Singer, who was the press secretary for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign. “Do you address something head on and risk making it a mainstream phenomenon? Or ignore it and risk allowing it to take on a life of its own?”

The presidential campaign of former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts developed an effective if labor intensive technique. It flooded YouTube with positive videos of Mr. Romney. “The new model of response is to dominate the market share of information about your candidate,” said Kevin Madden, Mr. Romney’s former press secretary.

Several Republican communications strategists, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that was precisely what Mr. McCain might have to do. He is coming under harsh attack on YouTube in videos that, some Republicans say, take his words out of context. A simple search of his name automatically produces several negative videos. Mr. Greenwald, whose shop is responsible for many of them, said he was determined to keep it that way.

With a budget of $900,000 from donations, Mr. Greenwald has built a mini-factory of anti-McCain propaganda at his firm, Brave New Films. He takes no payment for his efforts, which are regulated by laws governing nonprofit groups and include other subjects, like critiques of Fox News.

In a darkened room here, three young assistants edit digital images on equipment that barely takes up a full desk, trolling the Web for political news and culling through Mr. McCain’s past and present statements. A system of hard drives catalogs cable news.

Mr. Greenwald was not always so politically active. He gave money to politicians or groups sporadically, but was not among Hollywood’s elite donor class.

Mr. Greenwald said he had a political awakening after Sept. 11 and dedicated himself to making liberal films, an endeavor he said he could afford having been “lucky enough to have been majorly overpaid in commercial film and television relative to any rational measure.”

His highest impact has been with his video about Mr. Parsley. The montage was created with help from David Corn, Washington Bureau chief for Mother Jones, who unearthed video of Mr. Parsley inveighing against Islam and saying, “America was founded in part with the intention of seeing this false religion destroyed.”

Mr. Greenwald’s team combined it with video of Mr. McCain calling Mr. Parsley, “one of the truly great leaders in America, a moral compass, a spiritual guide.” The montage spread quickly across liberal Web sites, and made its way onto ABC News. Mr. McCain released a statement rejecting Mr. Parsley’s endorsement shortly thereafter.

“For years I sat in conversations with people who said the only way we can be effective is we have to raise $1 billion and buy CBS,” Mr. Greenwald said. “Well, Google raised a couple of billion and bought YouTube, and it’s here for us, and it’s a huge, huge difference.”

Original here

Reminder: Obama Told Us To Judge Him, and Pressure Him

I chatted with the Washington Post on Friday about Barack Obama's recent moves to the right. You can read what I told them in the Post's big story from yesterday. It juxtaposes nicely with an important post from Chris Bowers at OpenLeft, in which he urges us to judge Obama on his actions -- and not come up with wild theories to explain them away. I can't agree more.
If this populist uprising moment is going to be harnessed into a real progressive movement, we need to see candidates as means for the movement -- not ends unto themselves.

To follow up on Chris's terrific post, I want to point out that Barack Obama told me that progressive activists should judge him explicitly by what he does -- and not come up with wild theories that absolve him. Here's the money quote from my article on him in The Nation two years ago:

"You should always assume that when I cast a vote or make a statement it is because it is what I believe in," Obama said.

So by Obama's own admission, when he casts, say, an anti-progressive vote on civil liberties, we shouldn't whip up wild fantasies about him supposedly doing it because he actually is progressive on civil liberties. We should believe that he is, in fact, anti-progressive on civil liberties. That is, we should judge him on his actions.

Of course, in the same interview, Obama then said this:

"The thing that bothers me is the assumption that if I make a judgment that's different from yours, then it must mean I am less progressive or my goals are different, meaning I must be not really committed to helping people but rather I am trying to triangulate or drift toward the DLC [Democratic Leadership Council]."

This struck me as odd in that he is simultaneously saying we should judge him by his votes, but then saying we shouldn't. I take this latter comment as him just being a politician who doesn't like pressure (or, in his words, is "bothered" by it), and is therefore trying to pre-empt it.

It's the first comment imploring us to take him at his word that I think we need to take most to heart. Obama is telling us very clearly: If and when he moves to the right on key issues, we should take off the partisan blinders, shy away from the excuses, judge him by his concrete actions -- and apply pressure accordingly. This comes on top of Obama's talk about the need to build a movement to hold him and others in public office accountable.

That makes things pretty clear: Those who think they are being Obama loyalists by either concocting apologist rationales about his behavior or telling everyone to shut up when he runs over the progressive movement are not just harming the progressive movement by supplanting it with Partisan War Syndrome. They are actually being disloyal to Obama by defying what Obama himself says he wants us to do.

Original here

Obama Supporters Take His Name as Their Own

Emily Nordling has never met a Muslim, at least not to her knowledge. But this spring, Ms. Nordling, a 19-year-old student from Fort Thomas, Ky., gave herself a new middle name on, mimicking her boyfriend and shocking her father.

“Emily Hussein Nordling,” her entry now reads.

With her decision, she joined a growing band of supporters of Senator Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, who are expressing solidarity with him by informally adopting his middle name.

The result is a group of unlikely-sounding Husseins: Jewish and Catholic, Hispanic and Asian and Italian-American, from Jaime Hussein Alvarez of Washington, D.C., to Kelly Hussein Crowley of Norman, Okla., to Sarah Beth Hussein Frumkin of Chicago.

Jeff Strabone of Brooklyn now signs credit card receipts with his newly assumed middle name, while Dan O’Maley of Washington, D.C., jiggered his e-mail account so his name would appear as “D. Hussein O’Maley.” Alex Enderle made the switch online along with several other Obama volunteers from Columbus, Ohio, and now friends greet him that way in person, too.

Mr. Obama is a Christian, not a Muslim. Hussein is a family name inherited from a Kenyan father he barely knew, who was born a Muslim and died an atheist. But the name has become a political liability. Some critics on cable television talk shows dwell on it, while others, on blogs or in e-mail messages, use it to falsely assert that Mr. Obama is a Muslim or, more fantastically, a terrorist.

“I am sick of Republicans pronouncing Barack Obama’s name like it was some sort of cuss word,” Mr. Strabone wrote in a manifesto titled “We Are All Hussein” that he posted on his own blog and on

So like the residents of Billings, Mont., who reacted to a series of anti-Semitic incidents in 1993 with a townwide display of menorahs in their front windows, these supporters are brandishing the name themselves.

“My name is such a vanilla, white-girl American name,” said Ashley Holmes of Indianapolis, who changed her name online “to show how little meaning ‘Hussein’ really has.”

The movement is hardly a mass one, and it has taken place mostly online, the digital equivalent of wearing a button with a clever, attention-getting message. A search revealed hundreds of participants across the country, along with a YouTube video and bumper stickers promoting the idea. Legally changing names is too much hassle, participants say, so they use “Hussein” on Facebook and in blog posts and comments on sites like, and, the campaign’s networking site.

New Husseins began to crop up online as far back as last fall. But more joined up in February after a conservative radio host, Bill Cunningham, used Mr. Obama’s middle name three times and disparaged him while introducing Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, at a campaign rally. (Mr. McCain repudiated Mr. Cunningham’s comments).

The practice has been proliferating ever since. In interviews, several Obama supporters said they dreamed up the idea on their own, with no input from the campaign and little knowledge that others shared their thought.

Some said they were inspired by movies, including “Spartacus,” the 1960 epic about a Roman slave whose peers protect him by calling out “I am Spartacus!” to Roman soldiers, and “In and Out,” a 1997 comedy about a gay high school teacher whose students protest his firing by proclaiming that they are all gay as well.

“It’s one of those things that just takes off, because everybody got it right away,” said Stephanie Miller, a left-leaning comedian who blurted out the idea one day during a broadcast of her syndicated radio talk show and repeated it on CNN.

Ms. Miller and her fellow new Husseins are embracing the traditionally Muslim name even as the Obama campaign shies away from Muslim associations. Campaign workers ushered two women in head scarves out of a camera’s range at a rally this month in Detroit. (The campaign has apologized.) Aides canceled a December appearance on behalf of Mr. Obama by Representative Keith Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat and the first Muslim congressman.

Mr. Obama may be more enthusiastic, judging from his response at a Chicago fund-raiser two weeks ago. When he saw that Richard Fizdale, a longtime contributor, wore “Hussein” on his name tag, Mr. Obama broke into a huge grin, Mr. Fizdale said.

“The theory was, we’re all Hussein,” Mr. Obama said to the crowd later, explaining Mr. Fizdale’s gesture.

Some Obama supporters say they were moved to action because of what their own friends, neighbors and relatives were saying about their candidate. Mark Elrod, a political science professor at Harding University in Searcy, Ark., is organizing students and friends to declare their Husseinhood on Facebook on Aug. 4, Mr. Obama’s birthday.

Ms. Nordling changed her name after volunteering for Mr. Obama before the Kentucky primary.

“People would not listen to what you were saying on the phone or on their doorstep because they thought he was Muslim,” she said.

Ms. Nordling’s uncle liked the idea so much that he joined the same Facebook group that she had. But when her father saw her new online moniker, he was incredulous.

“He actually thought I was going to convert to Islam,” Ms. Nordling said.

Original here

An Open Letter To Senator Obama: Please Vote NO On Telecom Immunity - Get FISA Right

Senator Obama, you've asked of your supporters to believe not just in your ability to bring about change in Washington, but to believe in our ability to do the same, as concerned and caring American citizens who love our country.

I hear your clarion call. And I believe that the American people, in this crucial time for the future of our country, are coming together to change its direction and to stand up for our freedoms.

The people who support you and who believe in you are speaking loudly and clearly. I believe you will hear them and will uphold your promise to oppose any FISA bill which includes immunity for the telecommunications companies which unlawfully went along with President George W. Bush's program of warrantless wiretapping of ordinary American citizens.

It is at times like these, with our country on the brink of losing some of the greatest attributes that define us as a nation, that we must step up to the crucial role that destiny has handed us.

This is a defining moment in the history of our country. Do we let ourselves be taken into an age of fear, mistrust, and paranoia, forever feeling that we are being watched and that everyone is a spy?

Or do we hold our heads up, unafraid, and as Americans declare that enough is enough?

We don't want any more of the paranoid culture of fear that is seemingly the Bush administration's meager vision of our future. We are tired of being told that as Americans we must mistrust and be afraid.

We must stand, tall and united, against those who seek to turn the United States into a surveillance society. We must stand up and say "NO!" to those who would turn us into a nation of fearful, isolated citizens, fearing each other, fearing the government, fearing the massive technological complex which has been turned to the ignoble end of monitoring our every word in some misguided attempt to provide an illusory security at the very real cost of our highest ideals.

A government which operates on the basic belief that it must keep its citizens silent and fearful through some sort of all-seeing, all-hearing intelligence apparatus is a government which has already destroyed that which it seeks to defend.

If we forsake our highest ideals of liberty in the name of defending ourselves from a foreign enemy which seeks to take our freedom, then we have already handed them the victory which they seek. For in so doing we have indeed allowed them to destroy our greatness and our freedom by intimidating us into doing their work for them.

A proud group of your supporters who believe in your call for hope and a new kind of politics, and who also realize the importance of the FISA telecom immunity issue, has come together and organized themselves on your website. We are among your most loyal and enthusiastic supporters. Our group has already grown to more than 5,000 members in just a few days, and it continues to grow as I write this. Right now, it is ranked as the fifth largest group on

Please, Senator Obama, reject the politics of fear on national security, vote against this bill and lead other Democrats to do the same!

A proud supporter,
Steve Elliott
Kingston, WA

To Those Who Want To Join The Group 'Senator Obama - Please Vote NO on Telecom Immunity - Get FISA Right'

In just three days, this has become the biggest Obama group centered around a specific issue, and the only group challenging one of Obama's positions.

If you already have an account at, just click on "Join Group" on the upper left portion of the page.

If you don't have an account, it's quick and easy to get one! Just click on "New Account" on the lower left portion of the page.

"That means no more illegal wire-tapping of American citizens... That is not who we are. And it is not what is necessary to defeat the terrorists. The FISA court works. The separation of powers works. Our Constitution works. We will again set an example for the world that the law is not subject to the whims of stubborn rulers, and that justice is not arbitrary. This Administration acts like violating civil liberties is the way to enhance our security. It is not. There are no short-cuts to protecting America..."

~ Senator Barack Obama, August 1, 2007

What Else Can You Do?

Click Here to learn what else you can do in the fight against telecom immunity provisions in FISA.

EFF Supports Senator Bingaman's Immunity Amendment: Congress Should Know What It is Immunizing

The Nation: Obama Network Organizes and Revolts Over Spying

Bush Signs War Supplemental

(The Politico) President Bush signed the last major war funding bill of his presidency Monday morning, culminating months of deliberations with Congress on a massive measure to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan well into next year.

"This bill shows the American people that even in an election year, Republicans and Democrats can come together to support our troops and their families," Bush said in a signing ceremony at the White House.

However, it wasn’t always all smiles, as the two sides of Pennsylvania Avenue spent months quarrelling over how much domestic spending to add on to the must-pass bill.

For months, the administration held firm on their $108 billion spending limit for the bill, prompting Congress to draft several different versions of the measure before finally reaching an agreement.

In the end, the $162 billion package funds the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan well into 2009, provides a 13-week extension of unemployment benefits and $2.7 billion in emergency flood relief for the Midwest.

However, the cornerstone of the agreement is an unprecedented expansion of education benefits for returning war veterans, which congressional Democrats pushed hard for throughout the negotiations.

Bush was joined at the ceremony by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, Veterans’ Affairs Secretary James Peake and John Walters, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Walters was on hand to hail the passage of over $400 million to help combat drug trafficking in Mexico, which was also included in the bill.