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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Vets For Freedom Won't Reveal Donors

The issue-advocacy group Vets for Freedom officially launched a $1.5 million ad campaign on Wednesday, touting of the Iraq surge policy and pushing a not-so-subtle dig at Barack Obama.

"We changed strategy in Iraq, and the surged worked," says the spot, a spliced testimony of more than a dozen veterans. "Now that is change you can believe in."

And yet, despite hitting the airwaves in Ohio, Virginia, Michigan, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania, and looking to expand even further, the group refused to reveal exactly who was funding its effort, citing no legal obligation to do so as a 501c4.

"I don't want to have to print out names of thousands of Americans for everyone to dish through," said Pete Hegseth, executive director for Vets for Freedom, "nor have they signed on saying this is something we have to disclose."

Hegseth insisted that the group was funded by thousands of backers, primarily through the Internet. Another official posited that groups like Vets for Freedom never offer such levels of financial disclosure. But the refusal of VFF divulge any details including, for example, the size of the largest donation, will undoubtedly fuel speculation that the organization is operating as a front for McCain-backing conservative financiers.

There is already concern within Democrat circles that like-minded advocacy organizations will be the central actors in GOP attacks. As evidence, they note several ties between Vets for Freedom and the McCain campaign. Sens. Joseph Lieberman and Lindsey Graham both hold chairs with the Arizona Republican's candidacy and served on VFF's board of advisers before stepping down due to the campaign's conflict of interest policy.

On Tuesday, moreover, it was reported that VFF's ad buy in Virginia was for a slot that McCain had just vacated. Democrats pounced on this as potential evidence of an illegal coordination of efforts and a stain on the Senator's reputation of standing up to interest groups. Vets for Freedom call the ad slot sequence a "complete coincidence."

Whether in cahoots with McCain or not, the group has clearly not shied away from taking jabs at Obama. In late May, VFF put out a web advertisement ripping the Senator for not meeting combat veterans, not traveling to Iraq in more than two years, and not sitting down with Gen. David Petraeus. On Wednesday, Hegseth criticized Obama not just for calling for an Iraq withdrawal, but also for not meeting with a member of his group: "Senator Obama was indeed in his office and we tried to get a meeting for more than a month. We never were able to and when our veterans went there they weren't allowed a meeting. They met with a low-level staffer."

UPDATE: The Washington Post reports (as emailed out by the Obama campaign) on another instance that seemed like collaboration between Vets for Freedom and the McCain camp.

Today... there appears to be another, similar coincidence in the way Vets for Freedom's ads are going up, just as McCain's ads are going down. According to a Democratic media firm, Vets for Freedom purchased advertising time in three Michigan television markets, Flint, Grand Rapids and Traverse City, covering July 10 to July 16. At the same time, the McCain campaign decreased its advertising in those three markets for the period from July 8 to July 14.

Coordination between the group and the campaign would be illegal.

Original here

Jesse Jackson Apologizes for Crude Obama Remarks


The Rev. Jesse Jackson, shown here holding a Barack Obama campaign sign in February, apologized Wednesday for remarks he made about Obama to FOX News. (AP Photo)

Rev. Jesse Jackson apologized Wednesday for saying Barack Obama is “talking down to black people” during what Jackson thought was a private conversation before a FOX News interview Sunday.

Jackson was speaking to a fellow guest at the time about Obama’s speeches in black churches and his support for faith-based charities. Jackson added before going live, “I want to cut his nuts off.”

His microphone picked up the remarks.

VIDEO: Click here to watch Jesse Jackson’s comments

At a hastily arranged news conference Wednesday evening in Chicago, Jackson said he supports Obama “unequivocally” and that he hopes to “get this behind me.”

“I have great passion for this campaign and traveled across the country … arguing the case for the campaign,” Jackson said. “And this thing I said in a hot-mic statement that’s interpreted as a distraction, I offer apology for that. I don’t want harm or hurt to come to this campaign.”

He said, “They were hurtful and wrong … but we have a relationship that can survive this.”

Jackson said in a written statement he was trying to emphasize that Obama’s moral message should “not only deal with the personal and moral responsibility of black males, but to deal with the collective moral responsibility of government and the public policy.”

Jackson said the conversation “does not reflect any disparagement on my part for the historic event in which we are involved or my pride in Senator Barack Obama, who is leading it, whom I have supported by crisscrossing this nation in every level of media and audience from the beginning in absolute terms.”

The Obama campaign took a measured response to the incident, contending in a statement that Obama has spoken for many years about parental responsibility as well as “jobs, justice and opportunity for all.”

“He will continue to speak out about our responsibilities to ourselves and each other, and he of course accepts Rev. Jackson’s apology,” Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton said.

Jackson told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he doesn’t remember exactly what he said Sunday but that he was “very sorry” for his comments about Obama. He called his comments “a side light in a broader conversation about urban disparities.”

Jackson said he has called Obama’s campaign to apologize.

Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton noted that the Illinois senator grew up without his father and has spoken and written at length about the issues of parental responsibility and fathers participating in their children’s lives, and of society’s obligation to provide “jobs, justice and opportunity for all.

“He will continue to speak out about our responsibilities to ourselves and each other, and he of course accepts Reverend Jackson’s apology,” Burton said.

After Obama’s camp responded, Jackson told FOX News he was grateful the candidate saw through the incident.

“Let me say how happy I am that Obama was quick to respond and to accept my apology, which is relieving to me. My support for him has been long standing and unequivocal because I believe he represents the fulfillment of our civil rights dream,” Jackson said, adding that Obama has “the biggest moral platform any presidential candidate has had ever.”

Jackson’s comments sparked something of a family feud. His son, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., said he was disappointed by his father’s “reckless statements.”

“His divisive and demeaning comments about the presumptive Democratic nominee — and I believe the next president of the United States — contradict his inspiring and courageous career,” the younger Jackson said.

The comments are not the first the elder Jackson has had to explain after believing he was off the record.

In 1984, he called New York City “Hymietown,” referring to the city’s large Jewish population. He later acknowledged it was wrong to use the term, but said he did so in private to a reporter.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Original here

McCain's Top Economic Adviser Describes "Mental Recession," Calls America "Nation Of Whiners"

Hmmmm. This really won't do much to allay John McCain's big disadvantage among voters who cite the economy as a leading concern.

Check out what Phil Gramm, the top economic adviser to McCain, had to say in a new interview:

"You've heard of mental depression; this is a mental recession," he said, noting that growth has held up at about 1 percent despite all the publicity over losing jobs to India, China, illegal immigration, housing and credit problems and record oil prices. "We may have a recession; we haven't had one yet."

"We have sort of become a nation of whiners," he said. "You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline" despite a major export boom that is the primary reason that growth continues in the economy, he said.

Out of touch much? McCain's top economic adviser thinks we are in a "mental recession" and thinks America is a "nation of whiners."

This is becoming a pattern. As Think Progress points out, McCain recently said that a lot of our problems are "psychological." And as we noted here the other day, when asked if we are in a recession, McCain could only bring himself to say that "I would imagine that we are."

Original here

Flummoxed By Vietnam Vet, McCain Falsely Claims He ‘Received Every Award From Every Vets Organization’»

Posing the first question in a Denver town hall meeting yesterday, a Vietnam veteran challenged Sen. John McCain on his Senate voting record regarding veterans issues, remarking he had voted against increasing vets health funding four years in a row. Ignoring the veteran’s point, McCain testily — and repeatedly — insisted that he had “received every award from every major veteran’s organization in America”:

MCCAIN: I’ve received every award from every major veteran’s organization in America. I received every organization in America their awards. … The reason why I have a perfect voting record from organizations like the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion and all the other veterans service organizations is because of my support of them. […]

VETERAN: You do not have a perfect voting record by the DAV and the VFW. That’s where these votes were recorded. These votes were proposals by your colleagues in the Senate to increase health care of the VA in 2003, 4, 5, and 6 for troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. And you voted against those proposals. […]

MCCAIN: I’ve been endorsed in every election by every veterans organization that do that, I’ve been supported by them, and I’ve received their highest awards from all of those organizations. So I guess they don’t know something you know.

Watch the video, via AHiddenSaint:

McCain has made the exact same claim before — and it is just a false today as it was then. As ThinkProgress documented, McCain’s so-called “perfect” record has been roundly criticized by prominent veterans groups: He received a grade of D from the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and a 20 percent vote rating from the Disabled Veterans of America; Vietnam Veterans of America noted McCain had “voted against us” in 15 “key votes.”

As for the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars — with whom McCain claims to have a “perfect voting record” — both groups vigorously supported Sen. Jim Webb’s (D-VA) GI Bill that McCain tirelessly opposed.

Later in the town hall, McCain admitted he does “not have a perfect voting record,” but then declared that questions about veterans issues were off limits: “I will be glad to debate a lot of things, but not that one,” McCain said.

Original here

The Week That Should Have Ended McCain's Presidential Hopes

This is the week that should have effectively ended John McCain's efforts to become the next president of the United States. But you wouldn't know it if you watched any of the mainstream media outlets or followed political reporting in the major newspapers.

During this past week: McCain called the most important entitlement program in the U.S. a disgrace, his top economic adviser called the American people whiners, McCain released an economic plan that no one thought was serious, he flip flopped on Iraq, joked about the deaths of Iranian citizens, and denied making comments that he clearly made -- TWICE. All this and it is not even Friday! Yet watching and reading the mainstream press you would think McCain was having a pretty decent political week, I mean at least Jesse Jackson didn't say anything about him.

But let's unpack McCain's week in a little more detail.

1. McCain unambiguously called Social Security "an absolute disgrace." This is not a quote taken out of context. John McCain called one of the most successful and popular government programs, which uses the tax revenues of current workers to support retirement benefits for the elderly "an absolute disgrace." This is shocking - and if uttered from Obama's mouth would dominate the news coverage and the Sunday shows, as pundits would speculate about the massive damage the statement would cause him among retirees in Florida.

2. McCain's top economic policy adviser calls Americans a bunch of "whiners" for being worried about the slumping economy. Words cannot fully explain how devastating this statement should be from Phil Gramm. You would think it would be enough to sink McCain's campaign. Of course McCain only thinks that the economic problems are psychological.

3. Iraqi leaders call for a timetable for U.S. withdrawal, McCain gets caught in a bizarre denial and flip flop. The Iraqis now want us to begin planning our withdrawal - McCain however wants to stay foooorrreeevvveerrrr. So what does McCain say - First, he refuses to accept Maliki's statement as being true. Then he concedes that it was an accurate statement, but was probably just a political ploy to curry favor with his own people and WOULD NOT influence his determination to keep US troops in Iraq indefinitely. Yet, McCain in 2004 at the Council on Foreign Relations said that if the Iraqis asked us to leave, we would have to go. No matter what. But that was apparently a younger and less experienced John McCain.

But let's just look at his comment that Maliki's statement is "just politics." If that is true, then it must also be true that the American military presence in Iraq is so unpopular with Iraqis that the government is forced to push for a timetable in order to survive at the ballot box. That's a reason to stay for 100 years.

4. McCain's economic plan to cut the deficit has no details and is simply not believable. There are so many things here. McCain pledges he would eliminate the deficit by the end of his first term (the campaign latter flip flop flipped about whether it was four years or eight years), but does not provide any details about how he would do it. Economists on both sides of the political aisle said that this was simply not believable, especially given McCain's other proposals to a) cut individual and corporate taxes even further, b) extend the Bush tax cuts and c) massively increase defense spending on manpower (200,000 more troops) and d) maintain a long-term sizable military presence in Iraq.

5. McCain's deficit plan includes bringing the troops home represents a major Iraq flip-flop.
Speaking of the long-term military presence - a story that has gotten absolutely no attention is that McCain now believes the war will be over soon. The economic forecasts made by his crack team of economists predict that there will be significant savings during McCain's first term because we will have achieved "victory" in Iraq and Afghanistan. The savings from victory (ie the savings from not having our troops there) will then be used to pay down the deficit. The only way this could have any impact on the deficit in McCain's first time is if troop withdrawals start very soon. So McCain believes victory is in our grasps and we can begin withdraw troops from Iraq pretty much right away -- doesn't sound that different from Obama's plan does it. Someone should at least ask McCain HOW HE DEFINES VICTORY - and why he thinks we will achieve it in the next couple of years.

6. McCain campaign misled about economists support. In the major press release the McCain campaign issued to tout its Jobs for America economic plan that would balance the budget in 4 years, it included the signatures of more than 300 economists who the campaign claimed to support the plan. Only problem is that the economists were actually asked to sign up to SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. Um, hello?

7. McCain makes a joke about killing Iranians. Haha... that's just McCain being McCain. I am sure that is exactly how it is being reported in Tehran. This guy is running for President not to become a talk radio pundit. Yet according to the AP this was just a humanizing moment between candidate and spouse - I am not sure when joking about the deaths of civilians became humanizing.

8. McCain denies, flatly, that he ever said that he is not an expert in economics. Are you kidding?


9). McCain distorts his record on veterans benefits in response to a question from Vietnam Veteran, who then proceeds to call McCain out on it.

10.) McCain demonstrates he knows nothing about Afghanistan and Pakistan. McCain said "I think if there is some good news, I think that there is a glimmer of improving relationship between Karzai and the Pakistanis." Pat Barry notes how crazy this comment is..."Just what "glimmer" is McCain talking about?? Maybe he's referring to President Karzai's remarks last month, which threatened military action in Pakistan if cross-border attacks persisted? Or maybe McCain is talking about Afghanistan's allegations that Pakistan's ISI was involved in a recent assassination attempt on Karzai? Maybe in McCain's world you could call that a silver-lining, but in reality-land I'd call it something else."

Any one of these incidents and comments would dominate the news cycle if they came from the Obama campaign. Yet McCain barely gets a mention. The press like to see themselves as political referees - neutral observers that call them like they see em'. But they want this to be a horse race and so all the calls right now are going one way. How else can you explain the furor last week over the Obama "refine" comment - which represented zero change in Obama's position on Iraq - and the "swift boat" mania over Wesley Clark's uncontroversial comments (psss... by the way McCain exploits his POW experience in just about every ad - yet he says he doesn't like to talk about it).

This Sunday expect the ten incidents above to get short shrift from pundit after pundit, because after all Jesse Jackson said he wanted to cut Obama's nuts off.

Original here

FISA Fight: Attack Of The Epic Failure


Today is going to go down as a dark day in our nation's history, as the Senate completes its total capitulation to the Bush administration and its corporate masters, through passing legislation that dramatically expands the government's surveillance powers and immunizes the companies responsible for illegally spying on us from any form of legal redress for the victims.

Iran Resolution Must Change

Over the past several weeks, there has been a growing debate in Congress, the blogosphere and throughout the media about a controversial non-binding resolution (House Concurrent Resolution 362), which expresses the sense of Congress regarding the threat Iran's nuclear pursuit poses to international peace, stability in the Middle East, and the vital national security interests of the United States.

This resolution's introduction and the subsequent debates that have taken place across the country have come at a time when the United States faces grave security challenges. It also comes at a time when Congress and the US must be especially careful -- given the monumental foreign policy failures of President Bush -- and remain vigilant in deciding which direction to take our nation, especially as it relates to our policy in Iran.

In the coming weeks, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, of which I am a member, may vote on House Concurrent Resolution 362. Given my growing concerns regarding this resolution, including its failure to advocate for direct American engagement with Tehran and open language that could lead to a US blockade of Iran, I will lead an effort to make changes to this resolution before it comes to the Foreign Affairs committee for a vote. Despite being a cosponsor of this resolution -- these changes will ultimately determine whether or not I will continue to support H. Con. Res. 362.

My rationale for originally supporting H. Con. Res. 362, which currently has 230 cosponsors, was to urge the Bush administration to pursue a policy to place additional economic, political and diplomatic pressure on Iran as part of an international endeavor to prevent Tehran from moving forward on its nuclear program. Given my intense distrust of President Bush and his administration's disastrous foreign policy record, I also sponsored legislation (H. R. 3119), which if passed into law would prohibit the use of funds for military operations in Iran unless authorized by Congress and prevents the president from unilaterally going to war.

It is still my belief that it is in America's strategic interest to use strong diplomacy and directly engage Iran in order to prevent the Iranian government from developing nuclear weapons and to avoid a third regional war. However this diplomatic surge will only be successful if the US takes the lead role along with our European allies in directly engaging Iran. American engagement with Iran must be done from a position of strength and with sufficient leverage. In this vein, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman recently pointed out in a May 2008 article, "When you have leverage, talk. When you don't have leverage, get some -- by creating economic, diplomatic or military incentives and pressures that the other side finds too tempting or frightening to ignore. That is where the Bush team has been so incompetent vis-à-vis Iran."

It should have been an American representative last week along with European Union High Representative Javier Solana sitting down with Iranian leaders and offering an incentives package as part of an international effort to suspend a key part of Iran's nuclear program. It is my goal to add language to H. Con. Res. 362 highlighting a more effective American strategy that calls for direct engagement with Tehran for the purpose of thwarting Iran's nuclear weapons program and ending its support for international terrorism.

It is clear that despite carefully worded language in H. Con. Res. 362 that "nothing in this resolution should be construed as an authorization of the use of force against Iran" that many Americans across the country continue to express real concerns that sections of this resolution will be interpreted by President Bush as "a green light" to use force against Iran.

The language that is most disconcerting in the resolution is the third resolved clause, which demands that the president initiate among several things an "international effort to impose stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran."

I firmly believe it was not the intention of the authors of this resolution to open the door to a US blockade or armed conflict with Iran. However, I fully understand and share the American public's mistrust of President Bush and his administration, which has abused its executive powers, willfully misled this nation into a disastrous war in Iraq and disturbingly continues to beat the Iran war drum.

To that end, I am not willing to leave even the "slightest crack" open for this president to unilaterally set this nation down another disastrous path of war in Iran. It is unacceptable for Congress once again to leave the door open for President Bush to exploit -- as he did when Congress authorized the use of military force against Iraq in a 2002 resolution. I believe it is essential that Congress remove the language in H. Con. Res. 362 that could lead to president Bush's unilateral imposition of a blockade on Iran.

We are in a unique moment in American history because the misgivings about the Bush administration's intentions and policies run so deep that the President is not trusted to carryout security policies that are in the best interest of our nation. As we debate H. Con. Res. 362, it has become clear that Congress must counter the Administration's tendencies of preferring armed conflict over diplomacy, and we must make every effort to change the text of this resolution. The stakes are too high for Congress to kowtow to this Administration; therefore, I am preparing to offer amendments to H. Con. Res. 362 and articulate a responsible policy that places America in the strongest possible diplomatic position to thwart Iran's nuclear program and the difficult security challenges we face.

Original here

Rove avoids subpoena by fleeing the country.»

This morning, Karl Rove refused to appear before the House Judiciary Committee to testify about the politicization of the Justice Department, despite a subpoena. During the hearing, Rep. Chris Cannon (R-UT) revealed that Rove had not only skipped out of the hearing, but had skipped out of the entire country. Watch it:

When ThinkProgress contacted Rove’s lawyer, his office confirmed that Rove was out of the country “on trip scheduled long before the subpoena was sent.” Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) said Rove’s attorney “never mentioned” this trip to the committee. Rove’s bogus claims of executive privilege were rejected by the Committee as “not valid” by a 7-1 vote. The committee gave Rove five days to comply with the subpoena.

Original here

Feingold: FISA law a ‘black mark’ on country, ‘terrible piece of legislation.’»

Yesterday, the Senate approved surveillance legislation that grants immunity to telecommunications companies for their role in the administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. Yesterday on MSNBC’s Countdown, Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) — who voted against the bill — remarked, “This is a sad moment,” calling the bill a “black mark” on “the history of our country”:

This is a terrible piece of legislation. It’s one of the greatest assaults on the Constitution I think in the history of our country. We are going to have to fix it, but it is a dark hour for the Constitution.

Watch it:

“Even more serious” than the immunity clause is that the legislation gives the administration the “ability, potentially, to suck up all bulk communications, all international calls, all e-mails, all text messages, that any American might make,” he added.

Original here

McCain: The Iraqis are not asking for a timetable for withdrawal.»

This week, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki urged a timetable for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. “The direction we are taking is to have a memorandum of understanding either for the departure of the forces or to have a timetable for their withdrawal,” he said. In an interview yesterday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who has rejected these calls already, flatly denied that Iraqis requested a withdrawal timeline:

Q: Senator, with Iraqi leaders now calling for a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawals

McCAIN: Actually, the Iraqis are not. The Iraqis were widely reported as short a time ago as a couple of weeks ago that there would be no status of forces agreement, and Maliki would say that, and it got headlines, and of course it turned out not to be true.

Listen to it:

Iraqi National Security Adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie also remarked, “We would not accept any memorandum of understanding with [the U.S.] side that has no obvious and specific dates for the foreign troops’ withdrawal from Iraq.”

Original here

Bush's Banned Interview: An Insight Into Insanity

While surfing the net on 'Stumble', I came across an interview with President Bush on Irish television that caused a bit of a storm in 2004. The interview conducted by the tenacious Carol Coleman of Radio Television Ireland was not aired on American television, and Bush's press officers apparently complained vociferously about the rigorous questioning.

The video shows Bush at the absolute peak of his arrogance -- convinced of his own rhetoric about Iraq, flooded with confidence from international subservience to American power, and high off a crushing military victory that reinforced his childish fantasies of American power and preeminence.

The problem was, Coleman was having none of it, and what transpired was a unique insight into the warped brain of the least respected and most hated president in the history of the United States.

"Mr. President," she asked the stone faced Coleman. "You're going to arrive in Ireland in about 24 hours' time, and no doubt you will be welcomed by our political leaders. Unfortunately, the majority of our public do not welcome your visit because they're angry over Iraq, they're angry over Abu Ghraib. Are you bothered by what Irish people think?"

Other than stutter, the president managed only to answer in vacant homilies about 'the great values of our country.'

"We are a compassionate country," he asserted. "We're a strong country, and we'll defend ourselves -- but we help people."

And that was about the depth of his explanation for the invasion of Iraq. Supremely satisfied with his own answers, Bush expected Coleman to be bowled over with his 'good ol' plain speakin' English', but Coleman, not infected with the American media's insatiable appetite to service power, had other ideas.

She continued to grill Bush about the rising violence in Iraq, increased world wide threat of terrorism, and failure to find the weapons of mass destruction. Flustered and unaccustomed to serious challenges to his power, Bush displayed flashes of anger, and an increased reliance on catch phrases to argue the unarguable.

"These people are willing to kill innocent people," he answered testily in response to questioning about the Iraqi death toll. "They're willing to slaughter innocent people to stop the advance of freedom. And so the free world has to make a choice: Do we cower in the face of terror, or do we lead in the face of terror?"

Coleman cut through the simplistic slogans about evil doers and freedom loving Americans and continued to ask Bush serious questions about the illegal war he had just launched. It fast became evident that this was a man who really had no idea what he was doing -- someone so removed from reality that he failed to even understand what he was being asked.

The world in Bush's mind exists of good and evil, right and wrong, and America and everyone else. He could not fathom anyone disagreeing with his nobility, and simply refused to acknowledge that a different account of reality existed.

The interview took place almost four years ago, but is the perfect illustration of a man elected purely on name recognition, dirty money, and no discernible talent. Four years ago, there were still enough Americans who believed Bush's infantile bluster was charming and direct. Now, even Republicans do not waste their time with him, quietly wishing he would disappear and stop embarrassing their party.

The interview with Coleman should go down on record as definitive proof of Bush's utter incompetence, a priceless picture of a madman who had no business occupying the highest office of the land.

Watch below:

Ben Cohen is the editor of www.thedailybanter.com and a contributing writer to www.espn.com and Boxing Monthly Magazine. He can be reached at thedailybanter@gmail.com

Original here

Report: Judiciary may hold hearings on impeachment

After insisting for nearly two years that impeachment was strictly "off the table," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi may be changing her tune.

The Democratic leader said Thursday that the House Judiciary Committee could be holding hearings on impeachment articles introduced by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) sometime in the near future. After introducing 35 articles of impeachment against President Bush last month, Kucinich is planning to introduce another single article Thursday, accusing the president of misleading the country into war with Iraq.

Politico reports Kucinich's efforts may be paying off:

Pelosi has said previously that impeachment "was off the table," so her comments this morning were surprising, and clearly signaled a new willingness to entertain the idea of ousting Bush, although no one in the Democratic leadership believes that is likely since the president has only six months left in this term.

"This is a Judiciary Committee matter, and I believe we will see some attention being paid to it by the Judiciary Committee," Pelosi told reporters. "Not necessarily taking up the articles of impeachment because that would have to be approved on the floor, but to have some hearings on the subject."

Pelosi added: "My expectation is that there will be some review of that in the committee."

Kucinich has scheduled a press conference on Capitol Hill for 2 p.m. Thursday. RAW STORY will provide further details from there upon its conclusion.

Original here

Clinton: Why I Voted No On FISA


The Senate passed a revamped version of FISA legislation on Wednesday. But that conclusion was never in doubt. The real intrigue surrounded which Democrats would buck the compromise, which included immunity for telecommunications companies, and what side Sen. Hillary Clinton would come down on.

Late this afternoon, Clinton voted against the bill, putting her at odds with the party's presumptive nominee, Barack Obama. In a statement put out by her Internet guru, Peter Daou, the New York Democrat struck a similar chord as her Illinois counterpart, describing the compromise as legislation that will "strengthen oversight of the administration's surveillance activities over previous drafts." She also, like Obama, pinpointed shortcomings in oversight, immunity, and other aspects of the compromise. But, in the end, she, unlike Obama, was persuaded to vote no.

"[A]ny surveillance program must contain safeguards to protect the rights of Americans against abuse, and to preserve clear lines of oversight and accountability over this administration. I applaud the efforts of my colleagues who negotiated this legislation, and I respect my colleagues who reached a different conclusion on today's vote. I do so because this is a difficult issue. Nonetheless, I could not vote for the legislation in its current form."

[snip]

"Congress must vigorously check and balance the president even in the face of dangerous enemies and at a time of war. That is what sets us apart. And that is what is vital to ensuring that any tool designed to protect us is used - and used within the law - for that purpose and that purpose alone. I believe my responsibility requires that I vote against this compromise, and I will continue to pursue reforms that will improve our ability to collect intelligence in our efforts to combat terror and to oversee that authority in Congress."

Full Statement Below

One of the great challenges before us as a nation is remaining steadfast in our fight against terrorism while preserving our commitment to the rule of law and individual liberty. As a senator from New York on September 11, I understand the importance of taking any and all necessary steps to protect our nation from those who would do us harm. I believe strongly that we must modernize our surveillance laws in order to provide intelligence professionals the tools needed to fight terrorism and make our country more secure. However, any surveillance program must contain safeguards to protect the rights of Americans against abuse, and to preserve clear lines of oversight and accountability over this administration. I applaud the efforts of my colleagues who negotiated this legislation, and I respect my colleagues who reached a different conclusion on today's vote. I do so because this is a difficult issue. Nonetheless, I could not vote for the legislation in its current form.

The legislation would overhaul the law that governs the administration's surveillance activities. Some of the legislation's provisions place guidelines and restrictions on the operational details of the surveillance activities, others increase judicial and legislative oversight of those activities, and still others relate to immunity for telecommunications companies that participated in the administration's surveillance activities.

While this legislation does strengthen oversight of the administration's surveillance activities over previous drafts, in many respects, the oversight in the bill continues to come up short. For instance, while the bill nominally calls for increased oversight by the FISA Court, its ability to serve as a meaningful check on the President's power is debatable. The clearest example of this is the limited power given to the FISA Court to review the government's targeting and minimization procedures.

But the legislation has other significant shortcomings. The legislation also makes no meaningful change to the immunity provisions. There is little disagreement that the legislation effectively grants retroactive immunity to the telecommunications companies. In my judgment, immunity under these circumstances has the practical effect of shutting down a critical avenue for holding the administration accountable for its conduct. It is precisely why I have supported efforts in the Senate to strip the bill of these provisions, both today and during previous debates on this subject. Unfortunately, these efforts have been unsuccessful.

What is more, even as we considered this legislation, the administration refused to allow the overwhelming majority of Senators to examine the warrantless wiretapping program. This made it exceedingly difficult for those Senators who are not on the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees to assess the need for the operational details of the legislation, and whether greater protections are necessary. The same can be said for an assessment of the telecom immunity provisions. On an issue of such tremendous importance to our citizens - and in particular to New Yorkers - all Senators should have been entitled to receive briefings that would have enabled them to make an informed decision about the merits of this legislation. I cannot support this legislation when we know neither the nature of the surveillance activities authorized nor the role played by telecommunications companies granted immunity.

Congress must vigorously check and balance the president even in the face of dangerous enemies and at a time of war. That is what sets us apart. And that is what is vital to ensuring that any tool designed to protect us is used - and used within the law - for that purpose and that purpose alone. I believe my responsibility requires that I vote against this compromise, and I will continue to pursue reforms that will improve our ability to collect intelligence in our efforts to combat terror and to oversee that authority in Congress.

Original here

Waxman threatens AG with contempt unless he gets FBI's Cheney transcripts

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) says his committee will vote next week to hold Attorney General Michael Mukasey in contempt if the Bush appointee continues to refuse to hand over transcripts of an FBI interview with Vice President Dick Cheney.

Waxman says the interview transcript is vital to the Oversight Committee's investigation of the outing of former CIA agent Valerie Plame. In a letter to Mukasey (.pdf), Waxman noted that Cheney's former aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby told the FBI it was "possible" that Cheney told him to expose Plame after her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, publicly undercut the administration's claim that Iraq was seeking uranium from Africa.

"The arguments you have raised for withholding the interview report are not tenable," Waxman told Mukasey. "When the FBI interview with the Vice President was conducted, the Vice President knew that the information in the interview could be made public in a criminal trial and that there were no restrictions on Special Counsel Fitzgerald's use of the interview."

Mukasey has invoked executive privilege -- the Bush administration's go-to response to Congress's attempts at oversight -- in refusing to hand over transcripts of the interviews with the president and vice president. The interviews were conducted in relation to Patrick Fitzgerald's probe of Plame's outing. Libby was the only person convicted as a result of that inquiry, although it eventually revealed that Karl Rove and former State Department official Richard Armitage also had leaked Plame's name.

Waxman said the committee was willing to relent on its demand for Bush's interview transcript, but he would not let up on Cheney because of the vice president's potential orchestration of the campaign.

Original here

Congress votes to immunize lawbreaking telecoms, legalize warrantless eavesdropping

(updated below - Update II)

The Democratic-led Congress this afternoon voted to put an end to the NSA spying scandal, as the Senate approved a bill -- approved last week by the House -- to immunize lawbreaking telecoms, terminate all pending lawsuits against them, and vest whole new warrantless eavesdropping powers in the President. The vote in favor of the new FISA bill was 69-28. Barack Obama joined every Senate Republican (and every House Republican other than one) by voting in favor of it, while his now-vanquished primary rival, Sen. Hillary Clinton, voted against it. John McCain wasn't present for any of the votes, but shared Obama's support for the bill. The bill will now be sent to an extremely happy George Bush, who already announced that he enthusiastically supports it, and he will sign it into law very shortly.

Prior to final approval, the Senate, in the morning, rejected three separate amendments which would have improved the bill but which, the White House threatened, would have prompted a veto. With those amendments defeated, the Senate then passed the same bill passed last week by the House, which means it is that bill, in unchanged form, that will be signed into law -- just as the Bush administration demanded.

The first amendment, from Sens. Dodd, Feingold and Leahy, would have stripped from the bill the provision immunizing the telecoms. That amendment failed by a vote of 32-66, with all Republicans and 17 Democrats against (the roll call vote is here). The next amendment was offered by Sen. Arlen Specter, which would have merely required a court to determine the constitutionality of the NSA spying program and grant telecom immunity only upon a finding of constitutionality. Specter's amendment failed, 37-61 (roll call vote is here). The third amendment to fail was one sponsored by Sen. Jeff Bingaman, merely requiring that the Senate wait until the Inspector General audits of the NSA program are complete before immunizing the telecoms. The Bingaman amendment failed by a vote of 42-56 (roll call vote here). Both Obama and Clinton voted for all three failed amendments.

The Senators then voted for "cloture" on the underlying FISA bill -- the procedure that allows the Senate to overcome any filibusters -- and it passed by a vote of 72-26. Obama voted along with all Republicans for cloture. Hillary Clinton voted with 25 other Democrats against cloture (strangely, Clinton originally voted AYE on cloture, and then changed her vote to NAY; I'm trying to find out what explains that).

With cloture approved, the bill itself then proceeded to pass by a vote of 69-28 (roll call vote here), thereby immunizing telecoms and legalizing warrantless eavesdropping. Again, while Obama voted with all Republicans to pass the bill, Sen. Clinton voted against it.

Obama's vote in favor of cloture, in particular, cemented the complete betrayal of the commitment he made back in October when seeking the Democratic nomination. Back then, Obama's spokesman -- in response to demands for a clear statement of Obama's views on the spying controversy after he had previously given a vague and noncommittal statement -- issued this emphatic vow:

To be clear: Barack will support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies.
But the bill today does include retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies. Nonetheless, Obama voted for cloture on the bill -- the exact opposition of supporting a filibuster -- and then voted for the bill itself. A more complete abandonment of an unambiguous campaign promise is difficult to imagine. I wrote extensively about Obama's support for the FISA bill, and what it means, earlier today.

With their vote today, the Democratic-led Congress has covered-up years of deliberate surveillance crimes by the Bush administration and the telecom industry, and has dramatically advanced a full-scale attack on the rule of law in this country. As I noted earlier today, Law Professor and Fourth Amendment expert Jonathan Turley was on MSNBC's Countdown with Rachel Maddow last night and gave as succinct an explanation for what Democrats -- not the Bush administration, but Democrats -- have done today. Anyone with any lingering doubts about what is taking place today in our country should watch this:



What is most striking is that when the Congress was controlled by the GOP -- when the Senate was run by Bill Frist and the House by Denny Hastert -- the Bush administration attempted to have a bill passed very similar to the one that just passed today. But they were unable to do so. The administration had to wait until Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats took over Congress before being able to put a corrupt end to the scandal that began when, in December of 2005, the New York Times revealed that the President had been breaking the law for years by spying on Americans without the warrants required by law.

Yet again, the Democratic Congress ignored the views of their own supporters in order to comply with the orders and wishes of the Bush administration. It is therefore hardly a surprise that, yesterday, Rasmussen Reports revealed this rather humiliating finding:

Congressional Approval Falls to Single Digits for First Time Ever

The percentage of voters who give Congress good or excellent ratings has fallen to single digits for the first time in Rasmussen Reports tracking history. This month, just 9% say Congress is doing a good or excellent job. Most voters (52%) say Congress is doing a poor job, which ties the record high in that dubious category.

The Congress, with a powerful cast of bipartisan lobbyists and the establishment media class lined up behind telecom immunity and warrantless eavesdropping, looked poised to pass this bill back last December, but a large-scale protest was organized -- largely online -- by huge numbers of American who were opposed to warrantless eavesdropping and telecom immunity, and that protest disrupted that plan (the movement borne of opposition to this bill is only beginning today, not ending, here). Today, Sen. Chris Dodd, the leader of the opposition effort along with Russ Feingold, said this on the Senate floor:
Lastly, I want to thank the thousands who joined with us in this fight around the country -- those who took to the blogs, gathered signatures for online petitions and created a movement behind this issue. Men and women, young and old, who stood up, spoke out and gave us the strength to carry on this fight. Not one of them had to be involved, but each choose to become involved for one reason and one reason alone: Because they love their country. They remind us that the "silent encroachments of those in power" Madison spoke of can, in fact, be heard, if only we listen.
Today, the Democratic-led Senate ignored those protests, acted to protect the single most flagrant act of Bush lawbreaking of the last seven years, eviscerated the core Fourth Amendment prohibition of surveillance without warrants, gave an extraordinary and extraordinarily corrupt gift to an extremely powerful corporate lobby, and cemented the proposition that the rule of law does not apply to the Washington Establishment.

* * * * *

I was on the Brian Lehrer Show this morning debating the FISA bill with former Clinton National Security Advisor Nancy Soderberg (who favors the bill). Because of some technical difficulties, I wasn't on the show until roughly 7:30 in. That debate can be heard here. Tomorrow, at 10:00 a.m. EST, I'll be on NPR's On Point to discuss the Obama campaign and the FISA vote. That can be heard here.

UPDATE: The ACLU announced today that it will challenge this bill in court as soon as it is passed on the ground that its warrantless eavesdropping provisions violate the Fourth Amendment:

In advance of the president's signature, the ACLU announced its plan to challenge the new law in court.

"This fight is not over. We intend to challenge this bill as soon as President Bush signs it into law," said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project. "The bill allows the warrantless and dragnet surveillance of Americans' international telephone and email communications. It plainly violates the Fourth Amendment."

EFF, the other non-profit organization behind the telecom lawsuits, announced the same, emphasizing the unconstitutionality of the grant of immunity. That challenge will likely be on the ground that by resolving these pending lawsuits in favor of the telecoms, Congress has usurped the judicial function -- one which the Constitution, in Article III, assigns to the courts, not to Congress or the President ("The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish").

The effort to target those responsible for this travesty is here.

Become a StrangeBedfellow!

Those wishing to donate to the campaign (the objectives and strategies of which I detailed here) in advance of the August 8 Money Bomb can do so here.

UPDATE II: Democrats generally, and especially the vocal minority of all-justifying Obama supporters, defend behavior such as today's vote by arguing that it prevents the Republicans from depicting them as "weak" (see, for instance, this classic in that genre). Here are the headlines which, as usual, Democrats generated today with their full-scale complicity and capitulation:


Will Democrats ever learn that the reason they are so easily depicted as "weak" isn't because they don't copy the Republican policies on national security enough, but rather, because they do so too much, and thus appear (accurately) to stand for nothing? Of course, many Democrats vote for these policies because they believe in them, not because they are "surrendering." Still, terms such as "bowing," "surrendering," "capitulating," and "losing" aren't exactly Verbs of Strength. They're verbs of extreme weakness --- yet, bizarrely, Democrats believe that if they "bow" and "surrender," then they will avoid appearing "weak." Somehow, at some point, someone convinced them that the best way to avoid appearing weak is to be as weak as possible.

-- Glenn Greenwald

Original here

Senate Approves Bill to Broaden Wiretap Powers

rendan Smialowski for The New York Times

President Bush, in the Rose Garden on Wednesday, called the wiretapping bill "long overdue" and crucial to national security.

By ERIC LICHTBLAU

WASHINGTON — The Senate gave final approval on Wednesday to a major expansion of the government’s surveillance powers, handing President Bush one more victory in a series of hard-fought clashes with Democrats over national security issues.

The measure, approved by a vote of 69 to 28, is the biggest revamping of federal surveillance law in 30 years. It includes a divisive element that Mr. Bush had deemed essential: legal immunity for the phone companies that cooperated in the National Security Agency wiretapping program he approved after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The vote came two and a half years after public disclosure of the wiretapping program set off a fierce national debate over the balance between protecting the country from another terrorist strike and ensuring civil liberties. The final outcome in Congress, which opponents of the surveillance measure had conceded for weeks, seemed almost anticlimactic in contrast.

Mr. Bush, appearing in the Rose Garden just after his return from Japan, called the vote “long overdue.” He promised to sign the measure into law quickly, saying it was critical to national security and showed that “even in an election year, we can come together and get important pieces of legislation passed.”

Even as his political stature has waned, Mr. Bush has managed to maintain his dominance on national security issues in a Democratic-led Congress. He has beat back efforts to cut troops and financing in Iraq, and he has won important victories on issues like interrogation tactics and military tribunals in the fight against terrorism.

Debate over the surveillance law was the one area where Democrats had held firm in opposition. House Democrats went so far as to allow a temporary surveillance measure to expire in February, leading to a five-month impasse and prompting accusations from Mr. Bush that the nation’s defenses against another strike by Al Qaeda had been weakened.

But in the end Mr. Bush won out, as administration officials helped forge a deal between Republican and Democratic leaders that included almost all the major elements the White House wanted. The measure gives the executive branch broader latitude in eavesdropping on people abroad and at home who it believes are tied to terrorism, and it reduces the role of a secret intelligence court in overseeing some operations.

Supporters maintained that the plan includes enough safeguards to protect Americans’ civil liberties, including reviews by several inspectors general. There is nothing to fear in the bill, said Senator Christopher S. Bond, the Missouri Republican who was a lead negotiator, “unless you have Al Qaeda on your speed dial.”

But some Democratic opponents saw the deal as “capitulation” to White House pressure by fellow Democrats.

“I urge my colleagues to stand up for the rule of law and defeat this bill,” Senator Russ Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, said Wednesday as the outcome was all but assured.

The final plan, which overhauls the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act passed by Congress in 1978 in the wake of Watergate, reflected both political reality and legal practicality, supporters said.

Wiretapping orders approved by secret orders under the previous version of the surveillance law were set to begin expiring in August unless Congress acted. Heading into their political convention in Denver next month and on to the November Congressional elections, many Democrats were wary of handing the Republicans a potent political weapon.

The issue put Senator Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, in a particularly precarious spot. He had long opposed giving legal immunity to the phone companies that took part in the N.S.A.’s wiretapping program, even threatening a filibuster during his run for the nomination. But on Wednesday, he ended up voting for what he called “an improved but imperfect bill” after backing a failed attempt earlier in the day to strip the immunity provision from the bill through an amendment.

Mr. Obama’s decision last month to reverse course angered some ardent supporters, who organized an Internet drive to influence his vote. And his position came to symbolize the continuing difficulties that Democrats have faced in striking a position on national security issues even against a weakened president. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, who had battled Mr. Obama for the nomination, voted against the bill.

Senator John McCain, the likely Republican presidential nominee, was campaigning in Ohio and did not vote, though he has consistently supported the immunity plan.

Support from key Democrats ensured passage of the measure.

Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, the West Virginia Democrat who leads the intelligence committee and helped broker the deal, said modernizing the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was essential to give intelligence officials the technology tools they need to deter another attack. But he said the plan “was made even more complicated by the president’s decision, in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, to go outside of FISA rather than work with Congress to fix it.”

He was referring to the secret program approved by Mr. Bush weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks that allowed the N.S.A, in a sharp legal and operational shift, to wiretap the international communications of Americans suspected of links to Al Qaeda without first getting court orders. The program was disclosed in December 2005 by The New York Times.

As Congress repeatedly tried to find a legislative solution, the main stumbling block was Mr. Bush’s insistence on legal immunity for the phone companies. The program itself ended in January 2007, when the White House agreed to bring it under the auspices of the FISA court, but more than 40 lawsuits continued churning through federal courts, charging AT&T, Verizon and other major carriers with violating customers’ privacy by conducting wiretaps at the White House’s direction without court orders.

The final deal, which passed the House on June 20, effectively ends those lawsuits. It includes a narrow review by a district court to determine whether the companies being sued received formal requests or directives from the administration to take part in the program. The administration has already acknowledged those directives exist. Once such a finding is made, the lawsuits “shall be promptly dismissed,” the bill says. Republican leaders say they regard the process as a mere formality to protect the phone carriers from liability.

Lawyers involved in the suits against the phone companies promised to challenge the immunity provision in federal court.

“The law itself is a massive intrusion into the due process rights of all of the phone subscribers who would be a part of the suit,” said Bruce Afran, a New Jersey lawyer representing several hundred plaintiffs suing Verizon and other companies. “It is a violation of the separation of powers. It’s presidential election-year cowardice. The Democrats are afraid of looking weak on national security.”

The legislation also expands the government’s power to invoke emergency wiretapping procedures. While the N.S.A. would be allowed to seek court orders for broad groups of foreign targets, the law creates a new seven-day period for directing wiretaps at foreigners without a court order in “exigent” circumstances if government officials assert that important national security information would be lost. The law also expands to seven days, from three, the period for emergency wiretaps on Americans without a court order if the attorney general certifies there is probable cause to believe the target is linked to terrorism.

Democrats pointed to some concessions they had won. The final bill includes a reaffirmation that the FISA law is the “exclusive” means of conducting intelligence wiretaps — a provision that Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House speaker, and other Democrats insisted would prevent Mr. Bush or any future president from evading court scrutiny in the way they say that the N.S.A. program did.

David Stout contributed reporting.

Original here

Senate Rejects Amendments That Would Have Stripped Telecom Amnesty From Spy Bill

By Ryan Singel

The U.S. Senate voted against removing retroactive immunity for lawbreaking telephone companies from the pending domestic spying bill Wednesday morning, and is expected to approve the legislation within hours.

An amendment sponsored by Senator Chris Dodd (D-Connecticut) that would have stripped immunity from the bill failed by a vote of 32 to 66, a tally nearly identical to a vote on a similar amendment in February that failed 31 to 67. The Senate also voted down an amendment that would have paused pending lawsuits and the amnesty provisions until after an Inspector General investigation into Bush's warrantless wiretapping program.

"This may be a historical embarrassment," senator Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania) protested Wednesday morning on the Senate floor. "Everyone knows we don't know what the program did, but here we are giving immunity to the telephone companies."

Specter noted that Congress was violating the constitutional principal of separation of powers by interfering with the courts.

Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin), one of the fiercest opponents of expanded spying and retroactive amnesty, had urged the Senate to allow the cases against the telecoms to continue in federal court.

"These civil suits may be the last opportunity to get a ruling on the legality of the warrantless wiretapping program," Feingold said Wednesday morning on the Senate floor.

But Senator Kit Bond (R-Missouri), the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, argued that the nation's telecoms shouldn't be punished for coming to the aid of the country.

"It is unfair to use telecoms as the punching bag to get at the administration," Bond said, arguing that anti-wiretapping suits should be filed against the government, not the telecoms. Bond failed to note the significant legal hurdles to suing the government, including the need to prove standing and overcome soverign immunity privileges.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco non-profit rights groups, plans to challenge the legality of the amnesty provision, arguing that Congress overstepped its authority by messing with the courts.

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Obama Joins Growing List of Mortgage "Sweetheart Senators"

Obama Joins Growing List of Mortgage "Sweetheart Senators"

Contact: Adam Brandon
Phone: 202-942-7612
Email: abrandon@freedomworks.org

Washington, DC - The scandal surrounding the Dodd-Countrywide mortgage bailout bill continues to grow, as news surfaced that Barack Obama received a suspicious deal on a home mortgage in 2005 from Northern Trust in Illinois. The massive $1.32 million loan, nicknamed a "super super jumbo" loan by mortgage lenders, allows Senator Obama to pay preferential, below market rates on his six-bedroom, four-car garage, home that includes a wine cellar and a solarium. This is the same controversial home Senator Obama bought with the help of a sweetheart land deal with convicted felon and political insider Tony Rezko.

While the average mortgage rate in Chicago in 2005 was an estimated 5.93-6 percent, the Obama-Northern Trust deal settled at a generous 5.6 percent. A reduction of this size was particularly favorable considering it did not require an origination fee or points.

For Obama, this discovery only adds fuel to the fire started by Jim Johnson, a close confidant and former senior member of Obama’s presidential campaign team, who abruptly resigned following a press story exposing his participation in the Countrywide "Friends of Angelo" VIP program last June. Since then Senators Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Kent Conrad (D-ND) have both been cited as preferential VIP loan recipients from Countrywide Financial. Senator Obama claims to have been "working with Senator Dodd" on the crafting of the bailout legislation.

Since federal law prohibits public officials from receiving special treatment from lenders, including Senators, these recent discoveries raise troubling questions about the motives behind the Dodd-Countrywide mortgage bailout bill.

FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe commented:

"When the Chairman of the Banking Committee, the Chairman of the Budget Committee, and the Democratic Senator competing for the oval office are all getting unique treatment not available to the general public, serious ethical issues are raised. Senator Obama needs to fully disclose how and why he obtained a mortgage not available to the general public and the involvement of Tony Rezko in the deal."

The final Senate vote on the Dodd-Countrywide mortgage bailout bill is expected to take place this week. If passed, the mortgage bailout will create $300 billion in new taxpayer liabilities, and allows banks to dump their worst performing and riskiest loans onto the FHA.

Original here