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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Can America Afford a McCain First Term?

One of the common Republican criticisms directed at a potential Obama presidency is that its first two years will be marked by instability, poor management, and inexperience. But if managing an enterprise as large and politically complex as a presidential campaign is any indication of how either of these candidates will perform day one in the White House, it is McCain's campaign, not Obama's that should be worrying American voters.

Since announcing his candidacy last April, McCain has been unable to get control of his organization. The campaign's messaging, strategic planning, grassroots, and fundraising operations all have been mired in disarray. Most of the mess is attributable to the candidate's inability to establish a clear chain of command at the top and to quell infighting among senior staff, a somewhat stunning revelation when considering McCain's stature in the Party and past experiences as a presidential contender. But while the chaotic state of McCain headquarters has become a well worn subject over the past two weeks, with a litany of Republican elected officials and strategists questioning the candidate's chances in November, as well as mainstream media figures such as Bill Kristol and Adam Nagourney writing pieces chronicling the myriad and ongoing staffing problems, few seem focused on the more substantive issue of what all of this means for a McCain first term if he is actually elected.

With only 110 days left in the election, there is no discernible answer as to what a McCain presidency would look like, who would be the key players organizationally, where the primary policy focus would be directed, and how he would avoid the mistakes of management and judgment that have thus far pervaded his campaign. In fact, if the past year of inner circle shakeups is any proxy at all for how a first term might be run under McCain leadership, it is a disquieting reality.

  • First, McCain Campaign Version 1.0 was run literally into the ground by July of 2007 by advisors John Weaver and Terry Nelson, who under McCain's supervision mismanaged his finances so badly that they bankrupted the campaign. Overspending on offices, staff (Weaver hired his fiancée and her brother), polling, and consultants (Weaver increased his fees to $20,000 a month even as the campaign stumbled) forced the campaign to take out private loans, a matter now under FEC investigation, simply to stay afloat.
  • Then came Campaign Version 2.0 in August 2007, which continued on uninterrupted through June 2008 with McCain's hiring of lobbyist Rick Davis and number two Charlie Black. Far from achieving the goal of correcting the earlier mistakes of the Weaver/Nelson era, Davis and Black instead exposed more deeply than ever McCain's organizational ineptitude, including his unwillingness to completely banish or fire past advisors no matter how incompetent, his failure to define clear roles through established hierarchy, and his inability to provide a philosophical framework from which his campaign could launch a coherent attack on Obama. As Nagourney's piece last week pointed out, early missteps by McCain were not met with decisive action, but rather by incorporating a "swirl of competing spheres of influence, clusters of friends, consultants and media advisers who all represented a matrix of clashing ambitions and festering feuds."
  • Finally, Campaign Version 3.0 arrived in early July 2008, when McCain announced a third campaign shakeup that almost inconceivably fell exactly on the 1 year anniversary of his 2007 ousting of John Weaver. This latest "adjustment" appears to have firmly passed control from Rick Davis to Bush-Rove era veteran Steve Schmidt (incidentally in the process making McCain even more vulnerable to claims that his campaign is being cast in the mold of a Bush third term). But if McCain believes that the promotion of Schmidt will finally put to rest the problems of the past, he is likely to be disappointed again. His inner circle remains filled with people who have been demoted without losing their official titles, like Davis, who continues to occupy the title of campaign manager even as Steve Schmidt manages the campaign, a complicating fact that guarantees infighting will persist. Even more concerning is the revelation that McCain himself may still be unsettled with his inner circle even today, a point highlighted by Bill Kristol's article implicating the lingering influence of former McCain senior aide Mike Murphy over McCain. With all of this it seems likely that McCain Campaign Version 4.0 or some hybrid thereof is not far off.


Contrast this against the Obama organization and the differences are stark. They remain focused, organized, and well managed. Notwithstanding some shuffling of his policy team earlier in the year, Obama has made no major changes to his inner circle since announcing his candidacy. Moreover, the chain of command is defined and clear. At the top of the campaign sits David Alexrod and David Plouffe, with the former focused on message and communications and the latter on operations, political, and grassroots. There is no question as to their ability to make decisions on behalf of the candidate. This structural coherence has allowed the campaign to largely avoid the political infighting between staff that so paralyzes McCain's efforts. But perhaps even more impressive has been Obama's steady hand at the helm. He has maneuvered and managed his unlikely campaign through difficult waters in the primaries, defeating the Clintons, and so far effectively defending against the early attacks of McCain leading into the general. He also has adeptly unified the two houses of the campaign effort, the presidential campaign and the DNC, typically a messy business and a logistical nightmare. This organizational leadership augurs well for Obama's ability to execute a seamless convention later this Summer and enter the general with a strong party infrastructure behind him. Even more important is what it says about how he might manage his first few years in the White House if elected. With the Fall approaching and the campaigning reaching its peak, McCain's current political team will no doubt ratchet up the charges of inexperience and youth against Obama. But these cries will likely fall on deaf ears if Obama continues to deliver a consistent message and organize effectively through November. Who knows, though, maybe McCain Campaign Version 4.0 has something better up their sleeves that we haven't yet seen.

Original here

McCain Leaks Details Of Obama's Iraq Trip

Republican presidential candidate John McCain said on Friday that his Democratic opponent, Barack Obama, is likely to be in Iraq over the weekend.


The Obama campaign has tried to cloak the Illinois senator's trip in some measure of secrecy for security reasons. The White House, State Department and Pentagon do not announce senior officials' visits to Iraq in advance.

"I believe that either today or tomorrow -- and I'm not privy to his schedule -- Sen. Obama will be landing in Iraq with some other senators" who make up a congressional delegation, McCain told a campaign fund-raising luncheon.

Josh Marshall points out that there's something very wrong with this:

The Reuters piece hints at it. But if Obama is going to be in Iraq this weekend, this is a major breach on McCain's part. As a knowledgeable insider notes ...


"If it is true that Obama is going to Iraq this weekend, it is a very serious mistake for McCain to have disclosed it publically. Even for run-of-the-mill CODELs the military gives guidance like, "Please strongly discourage Congressional offices from issuing press releases prior to their trips which mention their intent to travel to the AOR and/or the dates of that travel or their scheduled meetings. Such releases are a serious compromise to OPSEC." If Obama is going to Iraq this weekend, I can not begin to imagine how much this is complicating the security planning for the trip."

It's known that Obama is leaving on his foreign trip this weekend and the Journal OpEd page this morning said that Obama could arrive in Iraq "as early as this weekend." And with a slew of reporters in tow, it's not exactly highly classified information. But there is a reason definite information about these sorts of trips aren't released in advance.

Hypothetically, maybe McCain was just guessing. But even so it would still be a serious lapse of judgment on his part.

In fact, McCain was furious when the press reported on his son serving in Iraq -- he feared the coverage would make him a target.

Original here

Johann Hari: We have everything to fear from McCain

When the almost six billion of us outside the US watch the contest for The Most Powerful Man in the World, we tend to focus on the candidates' foreign policies. If I was Iranian, say, I'd be anxious that John McCain keeps joking in public about killing me. As a bravo-bow after singing "bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran" to the tune of the Beach Boys melody Barbra Ann, he responded to being told exports of cigarettes to Iran are high by guffawing: "That's a way of killing them!"

But there's a way in which the next US president will affect you even more directly than foreign policy. By his economic decisions, the next president will help swing the price of the food you eat and the wages you earn – wherever you live on earth.

So it's a little worrying that John McCain – who still has a reasonable chance of winning – says: "The issue of economics is not something I've understood as well as I should... To be honest, I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues. I still need to be educated."

This is a man who can't tell his Sunni from his Shia, and who opposed the Northern Ireland peace process as a capitulation to terrorism. And he admits he knows even less about the economy than that. On one occasion, he let his irritation with the subject slip by referring to it as "the credit cunt".

When he is forced to talk about the economy, McCain has always given the same answer: "I rely on the circle I have developed over many years – people like Phil Gramm." He has Herbert Hoovered-up his slivers of economic theory from this man – but who is Gramm? Until he briefly sputtered into the headlines a few days ago, nobody had cared to look.

Phil Gramm is an ornery old ex-Texas senator who seems to have swooped out of the most scathing H L Mencken sketch. He became McCain's "best friend in politics" – and started speaking to him every day – when they linked arms to stop Hillary Clinton's 1993 push to extend healthcare to poor Americans.

He calls for "ruthlessly" slashing government spending – but only focuses on spending on the poor. When he was told paying for healthcare plunged many 80-year-olds into poverty, he said: "Most of us don't have the luxury of living to be 80 years old, so it's hard for me to feel sorry for them."

Later, one of those very 80-year-olds approached him because she was terrified she wouldn't be able to pay her medical bills. Gramm laughed and told her to find herself a rich husband. He chuckled: "People say I don't have a heart. I do. I keep it in a quart jar on my desk."

But most relevant to those of us outside the US is that Gramm – more than any other figure in American politics – made the two great financial scandals of our time possible, and nearly brought the global economy down with him.

How? Gramm says government regulation of the economy is "akin to communism", and must be destroyed. His first great step towards this goal came in the 1990s, when he championed and pushed through the law that exempted Enron from both government regulation and public disclosure, on the grounds these were "unacceptable fetters on the free market". Enron was his biggest campaign contributor, and employing his wife to the tune of a million bucks.

So thanks to Gramm, nobody was watching over Enron any more. As a result, they embarked on a massive programme of fraud and pillage. After taking over the electricity market in California, they deliberately engineered blackouts in entire cities to drive up the price for power. In a surreal move, Gramm blamed "environmental extremists" – the nearest bogeyman to hand – even after it was proven Enron execs had paid the power plants to "get creative" in turning out the lights.

Gramm learned from the Enron scandal – to go further and push harder. He turned his attention (and his fund-raising) to the mortgage companies. Since the 1930s, there had been an unwritten deal in US politics: the government would rescue the banks if they grew sick, but in return the banks had to take the sensible medicine of regulation. Gramm thought this was "crazy": why would banks ever need to be rescued in a free market?

So in 2000, while everybody was riveted by the Gore vs Bush stand-off in Florida, Gramm slipped into a vast 3,000-page bill 268 pages radically deregulating the banking system. A legal textbook later called this "a stunning departure from normal legislative practice"; few lawmakers noticed it was there when they voted. Suddenly, the roles that had been reserved in the US for regulated banks were handed over to a vast network of unregulated financial institutions called the "shadow banking system." They began to offer wildly unsustainable mortgages to the poor at supersonic interest rates. Through accountancy-acrobatics, they then bundled these risky loans into exotic packages of derivative commodities.

All this was only legal because of Gramm's legislative footwork. He swiftly moved on from the Senate to a megabucks job at UBS, one of the banks raking in billions from his changes.

Within a few years, the entire system began to collapse without the support beams of state regulation. Sub-prime mortgages predictably fell apart, with 2 million Americans – mostly black and Hispanic – facing repossession. The state has had to step in with a much heavier hand than before – and even that will not prevent a recession now.

The billionaire Warren Buffet pointed out that Phil Gramm has twice tossed "financial weapons of mass destruction" into the US economy. Yet instead of shunning him, McCain made Gramm the co-chair of his presidential campaign, and hinted he might make him Treasury Secretary. McCain – the supposed scourge of buying influence – was even happy for Gramm to be simultaneously a paid lobbyist for the mortgage industry and helping to write his speeches about the mortgage crisis. The Gramm-grip on McCain's policies shows: incredibly, the wannabe-president responded to the credit crunch caused by deregulation by calling for even more deregulation.

The biggest question in US politics should be: would you buy a mortgage from this man? But it's a sign of how shallow the media coverage is that Gramm's ideological fanaticism passed almost without comment; he only became an issue when he made a silly verbal gaffe, claiming America is only in a "mental recession". (In CEO-Land, this is true: they are walking away with $100m bonuses from their failures.) Only then did McCain distance himself.

So it seems for this putative president, causing two major economic crises is fine – but speaking about them crudely is a step too far. Yessir: if you liked the credit crunch, you'll love McCainomics.

Original here

Bill Clinton: I'm Ready To Campaign For Obama

NEW YORK — Former President Clinton said Thursday he is eager to campaign for Barack Obama whenever the Democrat needs him, but has not given any thought to whether he wants to speak at the party convention in Denver.

"I told him that whenever he wanted me to do it, I was ready, and so it's basically on their timetable," Clinton said. "He's got a lot of things to do between now and the convention, of which this is simply one, so I'll do whatever I'm asked to do, whenever I can do it."

Relations between Clinton and Obama have only just began to thaw since Obama defeated the former president's wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, in the bruising Democratic primary that ended last month. Throughout that bare-knuckle race, Bill Clinton had portrayed Obama as too inexperienced to be president.

Since Obama clinched the nomination, it has remained an open question as to what role Clinton would play in the campaign.

Just weeks ago, Obama called the former president to ask for his help in winning the White House.

At a news conference for his foundation's work, Clinton said he had not thought about whether he would like to be a convention speaker. Typically former presidents get a prime-time speaking spot at the party gathering.

Clinton said he had a "good talk" with Obama on the phone and is eager to get out on the road for the Illinois senator.

Clinton also was asked whether he had spoken to the Rev. Jesse Jackson regarding the crude off-air remark Jackson made about Obama in what he thought was a private conversation during a taping of a "Fox & Friends" news program.

Clinton said he had not spoken with Jackson, but added that Jackson was right to apologize to Obama for the comments. He also was a bit sympathetic.

"If all of us lived on live mics, then 100 percent of us in this room would be embarrassed from time to time," Clinton said.

Original here

Why One Casualty In Iraq Is One Too Many


Jonathan Schulze was a proud Marine who loved his daughter, Kayley, and was described as willing to help “…anyone in need.”

During a tour in Iraq in May 2004, he wrote his parents that “I bet I easily pray over a dozen times a day…Our vehicle elements and Marines on patrols are getting hit hard by these bombs the Iraqis plant all over…”

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His death in 2005 was not attributed to any foreign insurgency. Despite dying in his own apartment, hanging from an electrical cord, it’s hard not to blame the Iraq conflict for his death.

The United States Army classifies a casualty as “Any person who is lost to the organization by reasons of having been declared dead, missing, captured, interned, wounded, injured, or seriously ill.”

By this definition, the Pentagon has concluded that the Iraq war has produced over 34,000 casualties, 4,100 of which were fatalities.

A Blurry Line

The most ideal setting in any urban conflict is to limit casualties only to those carrying guns. Unfortunately, history has never shown this to be the case.

With over 100,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans being granted disability by the Veterans Affairs (VA), men like Mark Benjamin, writer for Salon.Com, have begun to question how the pentagon classifies a casualty.

Benjamin says that these disability claims may indicate a much larger casualty count, and are the basis for AntiWar.org’s estimate of 100,000 casualties.

But veterans’ benefit awards do not provide a clear picture of which veterans are directly affected by the conflict. While the Pentagon may overlook a finger when reporting casualties, the VA may award benefits for non-combat related hearing loss, or a back injury sustained in the gym.

The only prerequisite is that the injury occurred or was exacerbated during military service.

While one could believe that there are 70,000 unsung casualties, scraping to get by, one could just as easily surmise that 70,000 are considered partially disabled due to a botched bench press. The Department of Veterans Affairs does not make individual case details readily available.

Collateral Damage

The dead and wounded aren’t only from bullets and bombs. Soldiers such as Captain Gussie M. Jones, a medic who volunteered in 2004, die from non-combat causes. Though still under investigation, Gussie is believed to have succumbed to a heart attack. She was 41.

Broken soldier / Photo Hagit Berkovich

To date, over 700 of Iraq’s fatalities have been listed as non-hostile. Non-hostile, non-fatal wounds are not tracked by the government.

The most ideal setting in any urban conflict is to limit casualties only to those carrying guns. Unfortunately, history has never shown this to be the case.

In the Iraq conflict, civilians have continuously suffered losses at the hands of insurgents and coalition troops alike.

The question of how many civilians casualties inflicted can elicit fuzzier answers than troop casualties. There is no reliable way to track the number of civilians that have died due to the conflict. This has given rise to a variety of numbers that are easily bent in either direction to feed political means.

The Lancet published a study by John Hopkins University and Al-Mustansiriya University in 2006 that placed the Iraqi civilian death toll between 426,369 and 793,663 since the start of the war.

Many have attacked the study on two separate occasions for lacking the hallmarks of good research. This study does not differentiate security forces and police death from their numbers.

Counting The Dead

On the other end of the spectrum, some organizations try to use only news reports to derive an accurate estimate.

Perhaps the most chilling number about Iraqi casualties doesn’t come from the Pentagon, but rather our accounting offices.

The Associated Press currently 31,245 dead and 35,436 wounded between April of 2005 and March of 2008.

The Iraq Coalition Casualty Count (ICCC) estimates 42,563 based on news reports in the same time frame, but differentiate security forces from regular civilians.

Perhaps the most chilling number about Iraqi casualties doesn’t come from the Pentagon, but rather our accounting offices. In instances of accidental death by American forces, the Foreign Claims Act allows for a token payment to the surviving family, usually not in excess of $2,500.

As of early 2007, over 32 million dollars in such payments were made, not including condolence payments made at the discretion of unit commanders. In a best-case scenario, that’s 12,800 “Oop’s,” that cost a life; war does not typically operate in best-case scenarios.

Only The Dead See The End Of War

There are other numbers to consider, particularly with relation to our history of warfare.

In World War Two, for example, the pentagon reported as total of 405,399 deaths and 671,846 “not mortal” wounds. Though the number is large compared to the current conflict, the ratio is most intriguing.

Funeral for a Soldier / Photo Scott Spitzer

By the end of that war the ratio was little more than one wounded for every one that came home in a body bag (or not at all). In the Iraq conflict over 7 come home wounded.

Does this cheapen the cost of war? Or does it create a larger base for dissent?

Plato said, “Only the dead have seen the end of war”, but the wounded might get recycled once they recover. Can we justify further conflict simply because fewer have died now than in similar scenarios?

The only consistent facet of casualties seems to be their ability to support a cause.

Anti-war activists will find no shortage of flag-draped coffin pictures and disgruntled vet quotes to support a pullout. Pro-war advocates will dismiss casualty numbers, finding pictures of smiling Iraqi children posing with American soldiers as proof that freedom is taking hold.

Some—such as Gerard Alexander, associate professor of Political Science at the University of Virginia—will even argue that more people have been saved by the ousting of Saddam Hussein than have been collectively killed.

The Power Of One

At the end of the day, though, our views on war, death, pain and suffering are shaped by a single number.

Ten thousands stories are never as horrifying as the one we experience for ourselves.

The friend, the colleague, the schoolmate, the battle buddy, the spouse, the parent or—perhaps the worst—the child that has suffered from this conflict will haunt our views for generations. Ten thousands stories are never as horrifying as the one we experience for ourselves.

Thomas McDonough of Minnesota earned one of these gold stars when his son, was killed in action. He now campaigns in support of the war as a member of Vets for Freedom.

Cindy Sheehan also bears the weight of a gold star. The death of her son, Casey Sheehan, prompted numerous peace protests, ranging from campouts in a ditch outside of President’s Crawford, Texas ranch, to her chaining herself to the fence of the White House.

Today, she seeks to replace Nancy Pelosi as the congressional representative for California’s 8th district, citing Pelosi’s inability to successfully impeach President Bush.

It seems that tallies, semantic arguments and statistics are designed entirely for politicians, think-tanks, strategists and advocacy groups. No one probably thinks of Jonathan Schulze’s daughter, Kayley, when they weigh 4,100, 40,000 or even 400,000 casualties.

For those personally affected, the tally will never really get higher than that one, nor will it ever have to.

Original here

George W. Bush Sewage Treatment Plant renaming qualifies for November ballot.»

The Presidential Memorial Commission of San Francisco has just recently submitted signatures to city election officials “hoping to place on the ballot an initiative that would rechristen the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant as the George W. Bush Sewage Plant.” SFist reports that the initiative has now officially qualified. From the Commission’s press release:

Officials at the Department of Elections announced today that the citizens’ initiative to rename the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant the George W. Bush Sewage Plant has qualified for the November 4th San Francisco ballot. Voters will decide on the measure in the general election alongside the presidential election, numerous statewide initiatives, and an expected 20 to 30 local measures.

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CREW RELEASES NEW STUDY - Those Who Dared: 30 Officials Who Stood Up for Our Country

Those Who Dared

16 Jul 2008 // Today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has released its newest study, Those Who Dared: 30 Officials Who Stood Up for Our Country, recognizing the brave individuals who have acted and spoken out against unethical and dishonorable conduct in the Bush administration.

The actions of those named in the report are as varied as the people themselves and cut across the federal government. Some, like Glenn Fine at the Department of Justice and John Higgins at the Department of Education, are inspectors general who have been the only check on agency-wide corruption, misconduct and undue political influence. Others are included for a single act of courage, such as Army Specialist Joseph Darby who turned over to authorities the now infamous pictures of detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib, and former Deputy Attorney General James Comey, who rushed to Attorney General Ashcroft’s hospital bedside to prevent top White House officials from pressuring the Attorney General to approve an illegal surveillance program.

In creating the list, CREW reviewed hundreds of news articles, inspector general reports, and congressional reports, and considered the impact of each individual’s actions, the changes they wrought, and the risks they faced.

Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW said today “As the Bush administration draws to a close, CREW commends those who stood up against the full weight of the federal government to do the right thing, risking their livelihoods and, in some cases, even their lives. These individuals personify the American values of honesty and integrity.” Sloan continued, “Although some have already been recognized as heroes, others have been vilified for daring to say what no one else would. By publicly recognizing the courage of these people, CREW hopes others will be encouraged to join the fight against government misconduct.”

While CREW has tried to be comprehensive, there may well be inadvertent omissions. CREW will update Those Who Dared on-line as other individuals who exhibited the same level of integrity are identified.

Original here

Kucinich to investigate police surveillance of protest groups

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), who has figured prominently in recent political news for his attempts to begin impeachment hearings against President George W. Bush, today announced that the congressional subcommittee he chairs will look into reports of peace groups being surveilled by police and private investigators.

"[M]ost people would be upset to know that police were spying on lawful citizens and infiltrating peaceful organizations, rather than chasing down real criminals," said Kucinich in a press release delivered to RAW STORY. "At a minimum, such police spying is clearly a waste of taxpayer dollars and a diversion from the mission of protecting and serving the people.

"I want the subcommittee to determine how widespread these activities are and who ordered them," the Ohio Democrat and former presidential candidate said.

Kucinich chairs the House Domestic Policy Subcommittee of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The press release referred to reports that Maryland state police officers infiltrated peace and anti-death penalty groups and that private investigators working on behalf of "several large corporations" had surveilled environmental groups.

Such surveillance is apparently not limited to law enforcement and private investigators. In January 2007, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a report showing "widespread Pentagon surveillance of peace activists."

Original here

Iglesias: Rove Won’t Testify ‘To Keep Himself From Being Indicted’»

Last week, Karl Rove ignored a subpoena and refused to testify before Congress, choosing instead to take a trip abroad. This morning, David Iglesias, one of the U.S. Attorneys politically purged under Alberto Gonzales, told MSNBC’s Mike Barnicle he believed Rove “had information that…would show illegal activity” and thus will refuse to testify “to keep himself from being indicted”:

IGLESIAS: Which I believe is the reason why he is refusing to testify in front of the Congress. He has information that I believe would show illegal activity, interfering with ongoing federal criminal investigations. So Rove is not testifying I think basically to keep himself from being indicted.

Barnicle also asked Iglesias whether Rove played a role in his firing, to which Iglesias replied, “Absolutely”:

BARNICLE: Do you think he has anything to do with your being dismissed?

IGLESIAS: Absolutely. The evidence is clear that he relayed, he took a call from Pete Domenici about me that he talk to the state party chairman here. He was very involved in something he had no business being involved in which is, you know, the oversight of a federal investigation and a federal prosecutor.

Watch it:

But Rove’s involvement in the politicization of the Justice Department may extend further. Besides his alleged interference in the prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, Marcy Wheeler recently revealed a June letter from special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald in which he suggested that Rove tried to fire him in 2005, in the middle of his investigation of Rove.

Last week, Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA) insisted that if Rove continued to ignore her committee’s subpoena, he “absolutely” should go to jail.

Transcript:

BARNICLE: In your discussions with the other U.S. Attorneys, does the name Karl Rove ever come up?

IGLESIAS: Many, many times. Which I believe is the reason why he is refusing to testify in front of the Congress. He has information that I believe would show illegal activity, interfering with ongoing federal criminal investigations. So Rove is not testifying I think basically to keep himself from being indicted.

BARNICLE: Do you think he has anything to do with your being dismissed?

IGLESIAS: Absolutely. The evidence is clear that he relayed, he took a call from Pete Domenici about me that he talk to the state party chairman here. He was very involved in something he had no business being involved in which is, you know, the oversight of a federal investigation and a federal prosecutor.

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O’Reilly: ‘Do I Have To Buy You Dinner Before You Use The Birth Control?’»

Yesterday, Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly agreed with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and argued that it was fair for insurance companies to cover Viagra but not birth control because “birth control is not a medical condition”:

OK, listen up. Viagra is used to help a medical condition. That’s why it’s covered. Birth control is not a medical condition. It is a choice. Why should I or anybody else have to pay for other people’s choices? Do I have to buy you dinner before you use the birth control?

Watch It:

Although O’Reilly may not know it, preventing unwanted pregnancies is not just another “choice.” It is “central to good health care for women.” According to NARAL, 98 percent of women “use some form of birth control during their reproductive years” to “control the timing and spacing of their pregnancies, which in turn reduces the incidence of maternal death, low birth weight babies, and infant mortality.”

Failure to cover birth control also places women at an unfair disadvantage “by singling out for unfavorable treatment a health insurance need that only they have.” According to the National Women’s Law Center:

Failure to cover contraception forces women to bear higher health care costs to avoid pregnancy, and exposes women to the unique physical, economic, and emotional consequences that can result from unintended pregnancy.

With opinions like these, O’Reilly won’t have to worry about buying anyone dinner.

Original here

McCain In 2003: We Can ‘Muddle Through In Afghanistan’»

Our guest blogger is Jon Soltz, chairman of VoteVets.org and veteran of the Iraq war.

Today, video was unearthed in which Senator John McCain in 2003 says we can just “muddle through in Afghanistan.” Watch it:

The video offers a glimpse into the true thinking of those, like McCain, who backed launching the war in Iraq and committing our forces there indefinitely. Particularly, they believed that Afghanistan wasn’t a concern and we didn’t need to take it seriously. In fact, just a year earlier, on CBS’ Face the Nation, McCain said capturing Osama bin Laden wasn’t “that important.”

Five years later, we now see where that poor judgment and lack of insight has gotten us. The Taliban has regained large swaths of Afghanistan, al Qaeda has reconstituted itself, Osama bin Laden still is free, and Afghanistan is in crisis. All of that lends itself to our nation being that much less secure, and in much greater danger of another terrorist attack from extremists from the Pakistan/Afghanistan region.

This is not the way to win the war on terror and keep America safe. That’s why it is so important that we get this strategy right now.

Think about it. Had we not gone into Iraq, as Senator McCain thought we should, our forces would have been concentrated in Afghanistan, we would have crushed al Qaeda, probably captured or killed Osama bin Laden, and secured the country all the way to the Pakistani border.

Had we sent the Iraq surge brigades to Afghanistan, instead of to Iraq, and shown a real commitment there, perhaps our NATO allies wouldn’t have pulled their troops from Afghanistan. And, again, we could have decimated al Qaeda, secured the border region, and maybe captured or killed Osama bin Laden.

And now, we’ve got a third chance to get this right. Unfortunately, while it’s laudable that Senator McCain has suddenly discovered there’s a war in Afghanistan, his hands are tied. A couple of days ago, he called for more combat brigades to be sent there. A few minutes later, the Washington Post reported he pulled back on that and said NATO would have to supply the troops, because we would have to keep our forces in Iraq. Well, the Administration’s commitment to endless war in Iraq and its political unpopularity throughout Europe is what caused our NATO allies to pull troops from Afghanistan in the first place. That’s unlikely to change if McCain continues the Bush policy.

That brings us back to the video. John McCain got it horribly wrong in 2002 and 2003 and showed poor judgment in the real war on terror that led us to where we are today. And now, he’s having a problem figuring out how to get it right. The knowledge of “how to win wars?” I just don’t see it.

Original here

Dalai Lama: Bush Has Lack of Understanding of Reality

Dalai Lama image Courtesy of The News Journal/Suchat Pederson

The Dalai Lama, in a lecture in Philadelphia yesterday, told a group of about 2,000,

Things are not black and white. Things are relative. Things are interdependent. When we look at a situation we have to consider all the factors.


Many world disasters, including war, including the Iraq war, are due to lack of this holistic nature (looking at all the factors). Like Saddam Hussein -- ending things for him. Reality is not that simple.


Of course, I have great respect for, in fact, I love President Bush, because he is very frank, very straightforward. His intentions are good, but some of his policy in spite of his sincere motivation and right goal, and some of his method becomes unrealistic because of lack of understanding about reality.

He went on to explain,

"You cannot look in one direction. In order to see reality, (you) have to see in three or four or seven dimensions" and that this applies in the economical field, political field and international relations."

The Philadelphia talk was sponsored by the Mongolian Kalmyk Buddhist order, which his holiness, the Dalai Lama, said was very close, teachings-wise, to Tibetan Buddhism and to the challenge of maintaining its culture, having left its homeland.

The main message the Dalai Lama presented was the idea of aiming for world peace through inner and outer disarmament. He explained that to reach a point where nations would outwardly disarm, people must first inwardly disarm, by becoming compassionate, not just with friends, but with all people, including those perceived as enemies.

About 2000 people attended the event at the Kimmel center. Upon finishing his talk, he was presented with a large birthday cake which was shared with all the attendees-- a Dalai Lama cake.

Original here

GOP cyber-security expert suggests Diebold tampered with 2002 election

A leading cyber-security expert and former adviser to Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) says he has fresh evidence regarding election fraud on Diebold electronic voting machines during the 2002 Georgia gubernatorial and senatorial elections.

Stephen Spoonamore is the founder and until recently the CEO of Cybrinth LLC, an information technology policy and security firm that serves Fortune 100 companies. At a little noticed press conference in Columbus, Ohio Thursday, he discussed his investigation of a computer patch that was applied to Diebold Election Systems voting machines in Georgia right before that state's November 2002 election.

Spoonamore is one of the most prominent cyber-security experts in the country. He has appeared on CNN's Lou Dobbs and ABC's World News Tonight, and has security clearances from his work with the intelligence community and other government agencies, as well as the Department of Defense, and is one of the world’s leading authorities on hacking and cyber-espionage.

In 1995, Spoonamore received a civilian citation for his work with the Department of Defense. He was again recognized for his contributions in 2004 by the Department of Homeland Security. Spoonamore is also a registered Republican and until recently was advising the McCain campaign.

Spoonamore received the Diebold patch from a whistleblower close to the office of Cathy Cox, Georgia’s then-Secretary of State. In discussions with RAW STORY, the whistleblower -- who wishes to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation -- said that he became suspicious of Diebold's actions in Georgia for two reasons. The first red flag went up when the computer patch was installed in person by Diebold CEO Bob Urosevich, who flew in from Texas and applied it in just two counties, DeKalb and Fulton, both Democratic strongholds. The source states that Cox was not privy to these changes until after the election and that she became particularly concerned over the patch being installed in just those two counties.

The whistleblower said another flag went up when it became apparent that the patch installed by Urosevich had failed to fix a problem with the computer clock, which employees from Diebold and the Georgia Secretary of State’s office had been told the patch was designed specifically to address.

Some critics of electronic voting raised questions about the 2002 Georgia race even at the time. Incumbent Democratic Sen. Max Cleland, who was five percentage points ahead of Republican challenger Saxby Chambliss in polls taken a week before the vote, lost 53% to 46%. Incumbent Democratic Governor Roy Barnes, who led challenger Sonny Perdue in the polls by eleven points, lost 51% to 46%. However, because the Diebold machines used throughout the state provided no paper trail, it was impossible to ask for a recount in either case.

Concerned by the electoral outcome, the whistleblower approached Spoonamore because of his qualifications and asked him to examine the Diebold patch.

McCain adviser reported patch to Justice Department

The Ohio press conference was organized by Cliff Arnebeck and three other attorneys, who had filed a challenge to the results of that the 2004 presidential election in Ohio in December, 2004. That challenge was withdrawn, but in August 2006 Arnebeck filed a new case, King Lincoln Bronzeville Neighborhood Association v. Blackwell, alleging civil rights violations in the 2004 voting. The case was stayed in 2007. On Thursday, Arnebeck filed a motion to remove the stay and allow fresh investigation.

Individuals close to Arnebeck's office said Spoonamore confirmed that the patch included nothing to repair a clock problem. Instead, he identified two parallel programs, both having the full software code and even the same audio instructions for the deaf. Spoonamore said he could not understand the need for a second copy of the exact same program -- and without access to the machine for which the patch was designed, he could not learn more. Instead, he said he took the evidence to the Cyber-Security Division of the Department of Justice and reported the series of events to authorities. The Justice Department has not yet acted on his report.

Allegations surrounding Ohio in 2004

At the Ohio press conference yesterday, the former McCain adviser said Michael Connell, of the Republican Internet development firm New Media Communications, had designed a system that made possible the real-time "tuning" of election tabulators once Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell had outsourced the hosting of vote counting on the same server which hosted GOP campaign IT systems. He said he didn't believe Connell was behind the alleged fraud, but that he should be considered a key witness.

Spoonamore also confirmed he's working with Connell on overseas election issues and that Connell is now working as John McCain's IT developer.

Connell has a long history with the Republican Party's IT infrastructure. In 2001, for example, he set up MajorityWhip.gov for then House Majority Whip Tom DeLay. He also helped built georgewbush.com, as well as the Ohio GOP site Spoonamore referenced.

Sources close to Spoonamore said he was very concerned that he would lose his contracts as a result of coming forward and would take a "large financial hit." These sources added that, despite his concerns, Spoonamore felt obligated to reveal what he knows to the public. "He felt he had no choice as an American citizen but to come forward, and he also knows the likely consequences of him doing so," one source said.

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Ashcroft: Waterboarding ‘Consistently’ Seen As Legal, Refuses To Say Use On U.S. Troops Is ‘Unacceptable’»

During a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee today, former Attorney General John Ashcroft falsely claimed that waterboarding has “consistently” been defined as “not torture” and refused to agree that the use of enhanced interrogation techniques — including waterboarding — on captured U.S. soldiers is “unacceptable” or “criminal.”

REP. MAXINE WATERS: Do you think that if these techniques were used on American soldiers that they would be totally unacceptable and even criminal? […]

ASHCROFT: My job, as Attorney General, was to try and elicit from the experts and the best people in the Department definitions that comported with the statues enacted by the Congress and the Constitution of the United States. And those statutes have consistently been interpreted so as to say, by the definitions that, waterboarding, as described in the CIA’s request, is not torture.

Watch it:

In fact, waterboarding “has been prosecuted in U.S. courts since the late 1800s and was regarded by every U.S. administration before this one as torture.”

Further, Ashcroft’s non-answer with regard to the torture of captured American service men and women is reminiscent of State Department Legal Adviser John Bellinger’s refusal to condemn “the use of water boarding on an American national by a foreign intelligence service.” His comments are also in line with the sentiments of Guantanamo Bay’s legal adviser, Brigadier General Thomas W. Hartmann, who refused to answer whether or not the use of waterboarding by Iranians on U.S. service men and women would constitute torture.

In the words of former JAG officer Lt. Cmdr. Andrew Williams, Ashcroft and his fellow travelers have “sold all the soldiers and sailors at risk of capture and subsequent torture down the river.”

Transcript:

WATERS: Based on all of that information, those descriptions, your understandings, and the conclusions, if in fact these pactices were applied to American soldiers do you think that conclusion would be a good one or do you think that if these techniques were used on American soldiers that they would be totally unacceptable and even criminal?

ASHCROFT: My subscription to the memos and my belief that the law provides the basis for these memos persisted even in the presence of my son serving two tours of duty overseas in the Gulf area as a member of our armed forces. I know that his training included a number of activities that I think would be very, very difficult for any of us to sustain, including having to deal with evil chemistry and the like.

But my job, as Attorney General, was to try and elicit from the experts and the best people in the Department definitions that comported with the statues enacted by the Congress and the Constitution of the United States. And those statutes have consistently been interpreted so as to say, by the definitions, that waterboarding, as described in the CIA’s request, is not torture.

Original here

Congressional hearing to examine 'Bush Imperial Presidency'

Update: Kucinich to testify

In a release Thursday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) announced he will hold a hearing July 25 examining "the imperial presidency of George W. Bush and possible legal responses."

The word "impeachment" was not mentioned in the announcement, but it appears the hearing is going to examine issues raised by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) in his resolution to impeach Bush. A Judiciary Committee spokesman tells RAW STORY Kucinich will testify at the hearing.

“Over the last seven plus years, there have been numerous credible allegations of serious misconduct by officials in the Bush Administration,” Conyers said in a news release. “At the same time, the administration has adopted what many would describe as a radical view of its own powers and authorities. As Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I believe it is imperative that we pursue a comprehensive review commensurate to this constitutionally dangerous combination of circumstances. Next Friday’s hearings will be an important part of that ongoing effort.”

Conyers did not say who would testify at the hearing, but he laid out a variety of abuses that would be examined, including:


(1) improper politicization of the Justice Department and the U.S. Attorneys offices, including potential misuse of authority with regard to election and voting controversies;

(2) misuse of executive branch authority and the adoption and implementation of the so-called unitary executive theory, including in the areas of presidential signing statements and regulatory authority;

(3) misuse of investigatory and detention authority with regard to U.S. citizens and foreign nationals, including questions regarding the legality of the administration’s surveillance, detention, interrogation, and rendition programs;

(4) manipulation of intelligence and misuse of war powers, including possible misrepresentations to Congress related thereto;

(5) improper retaliation against administration critics, including disclosing information concerning CIA operative Valerie Plame, and obstruction of justice related thereto; and

(6) misuse of authority in denying Congress and the American people the ability to oversee and scrutinize conduct within the administration, including through the use of various asserted privileges and immunities.

After the committee ignored Kucinich's first impeachment attempt last month, the former Democratic presidential candidate re-introduced a single article on Tuesday. In response, Conyers promised a hearing that would accumulate "all the things that constitute an imperial presidency."

However, Conyers indicated his unwillingness to actually vote on impeachment, regardless of Kucinich's presentation.

While no one has really asked lately, the White House has previously brushed off questions about impeachment in the past.

"I'm not going to comment on something as ridiculous as that," Bush spokeswoman Dana Perino said last year when asked about impeachment.

Kucinich has been relentless in his push to impeach Bush. On Tuesday, the House formally sent his latest impeachment resolution to the Judiciary Committee. Its title: "Deceiving Congress with Fabricated Threats of Iraq WMDs to Fraudulently Obtain Support for an Authorization of the Use of Military Force Against Iraq."

He also suggested in an interview with Congressional Quarterly that the Judiciary hearing could serve as a forum for some new revelations.

“I’ve been contacted by representatives of a U.S. ally who are seeking an opportunity to appear before the Judiciary Committee,” he told CQ's Molly K. Hooper.

“Legislative leaders of a foreign capital” have a “new angle that I haven’t thought of before but is relevant,” he said. “This interest in whether we’ve been told the truth has extended to other countries.”

Original here

Impeachment: On the Table But Not for Consumption

Impeachment is on the table.

But Congress is not allowed to bite.

The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on one of Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich's 35 articles of impeachment against President Bush. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders in the chamber have signaled that they do not want the committee -- let alone the full House -- to take a vote on impeachment.

How's that?

The Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on the president's abuses of power -- perhaps as soon as next week. Expert witnesses will be called. Kucinich says that a foreign official -- who he has not named -- is willing to testify regarding presidential wrongdoing. And Judiciary Committee chair John Conyers, the veteran Michigan Democrat who actually believes in presidential accountability but has had a hard time getting other top Democrats to embrace that belief, suggests that the hearing will review evidence of "all the (Bush administration actions) that constitute an imperial presidency."

But, when all is said and done, the committee is only supposed to "accumulate" the evidence of imperial over-reach, not to act upon it.

This will frustrate ardent advocates for presidential accountability. And rightly so.

But the opportunity presented by the Judiciary Committee hearing ought not be dismissed or diminished. Conyers and his staff have been working for several years to quantify evidence of abuses, excesses and lawless acts committed by President Bush, Vice President Cheney and their aides.

Needless to say, Conyers and his staff have accumulated a lot of information -- more than enough to fill a book.

A thoughtful review of that information, in a formal setting, will make clear the extent of which this president and those around him have engaged in precisely the sort of wrongdoing that the founders imagined when they gave the House the power to impeach members of the executive branch.

Achieving that clarity -- ideally on live television -- is an imperfect, yet essential, step in the arduous process of getting reluctant members of the House to uphold an oath of office that requires them to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic."

Original here

Legal scholar: Evidence suggests Bush committed crimes

Law professor rebukes Democrats for letting Bush off hook

Nancy Pelosi needs to hold meaningful impeachment hearings that will focus on evidence that President Bush has committed crimes in office, constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley said Wednesday.

Turley was speaking with MSNBC's Keith Olbermann about the House Speaker's indication that she would let the Judiciary Committee hold an hearing to consider an impeachment article introduced by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH).

The problem, Turley says, is that Pelosi has already rendered a "not guilty" verdict on the impeachment question, and the hearing organizers are making sure they won't be exposing any additional criminal activity. This makes the whole exercise more like a "fancy dress ball," than a criminal prosecution, he said.

Recalling his testimony to an impeachment hearing during the Clinton administration, Turley said the Republican Congress was focused on its goal of impeaching the president in a way the Democrats simply are not.

"It covered crimes," Turley said of Clinton's congressional inquisition. "What [Pelosi and others are] already saying is that they'll be talking about a wide array of abuses by the president.

"An impeachment hearing needs to be focused and it needs to deal with things directly and frankly, as whether the president committed crimes," he continued, "And there is considerable evidence to say that the answer is yes."

This video is from MSNBC's Countdown, broadcast July 16, 2008.


Original here

Pelosi calls Bush a 'total failure'

From

CNN

Watch portions of Pelosi's interview with Wolf Blitzer.

(CNN) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday called President Bush "a total failure" — among the California Democrat's harshest assessments to date of the Commander-In-Chief.

"God bless him, bless his heart, President of the United States — a total failure, losing all credibility with the American people on the economy, on the war, on energy, you name the subject," Pelosi told CNN's Wolf Blitzer in an exclusive interview.

The comments came two days after the president sharply criticized Congress over what he described as relative inaction over the course of the legislative term. In a press conference at the White House Tuesday, Bush noted there was only 26 legislative days left in the fiscal year and said Congress would need to pass a spending bill every other day to "get their fundamental job done."

"This is not a record to be proud of and I think the American people deserve better," Bush said.

In the interview, Pelosi said the president was in no position to criticize Congress and brushed aside the criticisms as "something to talk about because he has no ideas."

"For him to be challenging Congress when we are trying to sweep up after his mess over and over and over again — at the end of the day, Congress will have passed its responsibility to pass legislation," she said.

But Pelosi's comments come as a new Gallup poll registers the lowest level of congressional approval among Americans in the polling organization's 30-year history of conducting that survey.

That poll showed its approval rating had reached an anemic level 14 percent — while more than 70 percent said they disapproved of the job Congress is doing.

The House Speaker said she doesn't consider those numbers a negative referendum on the Democrats in charge, saying she thinks they stem largely from Congress' failure to end the war in Iraq.

"Everything I see says this is about ending the war — I disapprove of Congress' performance in terms of ending the war," she said. "In the House, we, of course, have over and over, five or six times, sent to the Senate legislation for a time certain to reduce our deployment in Iraq, and bring our troops home safely, honorably and soon. We haven't been able to get it past the Senate or the President of the United States.

"So on the basis of that, count me among the 70-some percent," she continued. "But that is one measure. The other measure that I'm more interested in is the one that talks about what is their view of Democrats. And the generic, who do you prefer to run the country on all of these issues. We're in double digits in any poll that you can take."

Republican National Committee spokesman Alex Conant derided Pelosi's comments as "the sort of partisan politics that Democrats once decried and promised to change."

“Rather than personally critique others, Speaker Pelosi should reconsider her own out-of-touch stance against oil exploration, he said. "With Americans paying record prices at the pump and Congress in gridlock, this is no time for the Speaker to only offer personal attacks.”

In the wide-ranging interview, the entirety of which will air Sunday on CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer, Pelosi also reiterated her longtime opposition to lifting a congressional ban on offshore drilling as well as opening up areas such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska for oil exploration. Bush and congressional Republicans have pushed for those two policy changes.

Pelosi has long opposed drilling offshore — a popular policy position among Californians, many of whom fear its environmental consequences along the state's coastline.

But a recent CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll showed more than 73 percent of Americans approved of lifting the 1981 ban, and the move holds support among many in Pelosi's own party whose constituents are growing increasingly angry over rising gas prices.

Pelosi said the oil industry is not aggressively exploring large amounts of federal areas already leased to them and approved for drilling — including 33 million offshore acres and 68 million acres in the lower 48 states. She has sponsored legislation calling on oil companies to increase their production in those expanses before they are allowed to go into the offshore areas currently banned.

"Thirty-three million acres offshore are allowed for leasing," she said. "And we're saying to them, use it or lose it. You have the opportunity to drill there. When you have exhausted those remedies then you can talk about something else."

She's also calling on the president to release 10 percent of the more than 700 million barrels of oil housed in the country's Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

On Tuesday, Bush said he is against any release from the SPR — saying that stash is for emergencies only. He also disputed it would have any effect on lowering gas prices.

"What we are saying is, Mr. President, free our oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve," Pelosi said. "We're saying, let's take 10 percent of that, which has been paid for by the American taxpayer, and use that to put on the market so that we increase supply, reduce price."

"And when the price comes down, we can buy back the oil at a lower price, put it in the SPR, use the spread for renewable energy resources."

The House speaker has faced heavy criticism from House Republican leader John Boehner, who is leading a congressional delegation to ANWR this weekend and has said Pelosi's action does not adequately address the problem.

He's also said Pelosi is leading the moderate faction of her party "off a cliff" by refusing to allow a vote in the House on offshore drilling.

"Just because John Boehner, who is my friend, has my respect, says it, doesn't make it so," she responded, while reiterating she will block any vote to allow lifting the ban.

Original here

House Speaker Pelosi calls Bush 'a total failure'

WASHINGTON - President Bush has been a "total failure" in everything from the economy to the war to energy policy, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday. In an interview on CNN, the California Democrat was asked to respond to video of the president criticizing the Democratic-led Congress for heading into the final 26 days of the legislative session without having passed a single government spending bill.

Pelosi shot back in unusually personal terms.

"You know, God bless him, bless his heart, president of the United States, a total failure, losing all credibility with the American people on the economy, on the war, on energy, you name the subject," Pelosi replied. She then tsk-tsked Bush for "challenging Congress when we are trying to sweep up after his mess over and over and over again."

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino defended Bush.

"What the president said is a fact — this is the longest a Congress has gone in 20 years without passing a single spending bill, so it's clear that the speaker is feeling some frustration at their inability to do so."

Pelosi's outburst was a departure. Her usual practice in public has been to call Bush's policies a failure — not his presidency or him, personally. Pelosi's remarks are the latest evidence of the Democrats' throw-caution-to-the-wind approach to Bush in the waning days of a presidency weighed down by an unpopular war and soaring gasoline prices.

Election Day, after all, is just over four months away; Bush's successor takes his seat on Jan. 20.

Pelosi's counterpart in the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid, long ago took off the rhetorical gloves. Last month, he ridiculed Republicans who sided with Bush on a Medicare bill.

"Who would be afraid of him?" Reid, D-Nev., said as many senators looked on. "He's got a 29 percent approval rating."

The public's view of Congress is even worse. Its approval rating has hit a new low of just 18 percent, down from 23 percent last month, according to a new AP-Ipsos poll. Bush's approval is at 28 percent, about even with the 29 percent rating last month.

Only 16 percent of those surveyed thought the country was moving in the right direction, a new low as well, although statistically the same as last month's 17 percent.

Last week Reid and other Democrats dropped any pretense of trying to fight the president on battles they were likely to lose — even on the most important part of their jobs, which is passing spending bills that keep the government running.

Of the 12 annual appropriations bills, Congress is likely to pass one or two and send Bush a temporary spending fix for the rest. That would have to suffice until a new president takes office, Reid told reporters.

Privately, Democrats have said that either candidate for president — Democrat Barack Obama or Republican John McCain — would be easier to make laws with than Bush. But Reid made clear which he'd prefer.

"I would hope that before we would leave here this year that we would do a continuing resolution that would get us (through) until after Senator Obama becomes president," he said.

Original here