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Sunday, July 27, 2008

McCain To Obama: Welcome Home, Troop Hater


John McCain is welcoming Barack Obama back to America with a hard right cross.

The message of the Republican's new attack ad that debuted Saturday both perfects and makes more harsh a theme that his campaign has been developing for weeks: specifically, that the Illinois Democrat does not care about American troops. Drawing from Obama's one tactical misstep during his week-long trip abroad -- a canceled visit with wounded troops in Germany, the cause of which was a debate with the Pentagon over political propriety -- the McCain campaign nevertheless believes they have a useful new plot point at their disposal.

When viewed alongside the 900 days that elapsed between visits to Iraq, and his symbolic vote against one round of funding for the war, the McCain camp now hopes the canceled visit in Germany provides a three-act structure to their dramatic imagining of a conflict between Obama and the troops.

Of course, in one particular aspect, McCain's playwrights have resorted to wholesale fiction in order to craft their narrative. However complicated the issue of Obama's canceled troop visit has become, no one -- not the campaign, and not the Pentagon -- has cited a prohibition on "bring[ing] cameras" along with Obama as a reason for the trip's scuttling.

In another distortion that could be viewed as funny were it no so manipulative, McCain's video editor selected footage of Obama sinking a three-point shot to represent time spent at the gym instead of with troops. Of course, that footage was taken in Kuwait, not Germany, at an event for ... troops.

"John McCain is an honorable man who is running an increasingly dishonorable campaign," said Obama campaign spokesman Tommy Vietor in an email to reporters Saturday evening, adding: "Senator McCain knows full well that Senator Obama strongly supports and honors our troops, which is what makes this attack so disingenuous. Senator Obama was honored to meet with our men and women in uniform in Iraq and Afghanistan this week and has visited wounded soldiers at Walter Reed numerous times. This politicization of our soldiers is exactly what Senator Obama sought to avoid, and it's not worthy of Senator McCain or the 'civil' campaign he claimed he would run."

The Obama campaign also sent along an excerpt from the Congressional Record meant to embarrass McCain for his present tactics. In a floor speech from May 2007, the Arizona Republican said:

"How can we possibly find honor in using the fate of our servicemen to score political advantage in Washington? There is no pride to be had in such efforts. We are at war, a hard and challenging war, and we do no service for the best of us-those who fight and risk all on our behalf-by playing politics with their service."

In June, McCain apologized for using the image of Gen. David Petraeus in a political mailer, saying that politicization of the military would "not happen again" in his campaign.

Still, it appears that there's something of a pattern to the recent ads coming out of McCain's campaign. Compare the latest to another from last week, entitled "Troop Funding":

Is it a coincidence that such consistency of message on a blunt force topic like support for troops comes in the first month after Karl Rove protégé Steve Schmidt took over the day-to-day reins of McCain's campaign? If so, look for much more of this between now and November.

Script For "Troops" (TV :30)

Anncr: Barack Obama never held a single Senate hearing on Afghanistan.

He hadn't been to Iraq in years.

He voted against funding our troops.

And now, he made time to go to the gym, but cancelled a visit with wounded troops.

Seems the Pentagon wouldn't allow him to bring cameras.

John McCain is always there for our troops.

McCain. Country first.

John McCain: I'm John McCain and I approve this message.

UPDATE: Rhode Island Democrat Sen. Jack Reed responds to McCain's ad:

I was with Senator Obama last week as we met privately with troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Senator Obama listened to their concerns and expressed his gratitude for their service without press or fanfare. He cares for our troops deeply and has worked hard to give them not only the resources they need, but also honor their service with a clearly defined mission and by providing them with the support they have earned when they come home. And just as Senator McCain's support of President Bush's veto of funding for our troops doesn't mean he does not support them, neither does Senator Obama's insistence that we not give George Bush a blank check.

Original here

MCCAIN: 16 MONTHS A 'GOOD TIMETABLE'

From NBC's Mark Murray
In an interview on CNN today -- which the DNC is passing around -- McCain said that withdrawal from Iraq in 16 months is "a pretty good timetable."

That answer came when McCain was asked about Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki's earlier claim to Der Spiegel that Obama's 16-month plan "would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes."

Of course, McCain did stress that such a withdrawal would "have to be based on conditions on the ground." But calling 16 months a "good timetable" is something McCain hasn't said before -- and probably never would have said a week ago.

The transcript:
BLITZER: What if Maliki persists? You're president and he says he wants US troops out and he wants them out, let's say in a year or two years or 16 months or whatever. What do you do? Do you listen to the prime minister?

MCCAIN: He won't. He won't. He won't. Because it has to be condition-based.

BLITZER: How do you know?

MCCAIN: Because I know him. And I know him very well. And I know the other leaders. And I know -- I've been there eight times, as you know. I know them very, very well.

BLITZER: So why do you think he said that 16 months is basically a pretty good timetable?

MCCAIN: He said it's a pretty good timetable based on conditions on the ground. I think it's a pretty good timetable, as we should -- or horizons for withdrawal. But they have to be based on conditions on the ground.

Original here

Out of touch? McCain needs cue card to remember milk prices

John Aravosis at AMERICAblog sent over a tip that John McCain had needed a crib sheet to talk about milk prices during his photo opportunity Wednesdayyesterday at a Bethlehem, Pennsylvania supermarket.

Sure enough...


Original here

McCain's Double Standard on Campaign Visits to Military Bases

Barack Obama canceled a pre-planned visit to the troops in Germany yesterday after being told by the Pentagon that the trip would violate a Pentagon policy prohibiting campaign stops on military installations. No problem there.

However, the McCain campaign is now blasting Obama:

The McCain camp has nonetheless been using Obama's canceled trip to insinuate that he's anti-troops. "Barack Obama is wrong," McCain spokesperson Brian Rogers said in a statement yesterday. "It is never 'inappropriate' to visit our men and women in the military."

The problem here is that the McCain campaign was denied a visit to a military base under the same policy back in April. Of course, there was no outcry or false outrage from Brian Rogers at that time.

From CNN:

With Department of Defense rules prohibiting political campaigning on military bases, it was determined that in some cases McCain could visit the installations as a senator but could not engage in any political activity or have news media present.


McCain campaign officials said Thursday they intentionally did not campaign on military property.

"We follow the rules," said senior McCain adviser Steve Schmidt.

Because all three presidential candidates are sitting senators, DoD officials have privately noted for some weeks that the whole matter of drawing the line between Senate business and campaigning is sensitive.

A U.S. Army official told CNN there are no pending requests from any of the campaigns to visit Army bases at this time. He noted that Sen. Barack Obama recently visited Fayetteville, North Carolina, but did not go to Fort Bragg; and Sen. Hillary Clinton visited Killeen, Texas, but did not go to Fort Hood.

For his Wednesday visit to the U.S. Naval Academy -- of which he is a graduate -- McCain was allowed to make a political appearance at the academy's football stadium because it is privately owned property and is not owned or run by the U.S. military.

Earlier in the day, when McCain had breakfast with midshipmen on academy grounds, it was closed to the press and considered a private event.

The military spokesman points out that any U.S. senator could also request to visit the academy or any military installation.

But the Navy declined a McCain campaign request to speak at the Naval Aviation Museum at the naval base in Pensacola, Florida, because it is a military owned installation and is located on the base, the official said.

McCain did attend an airshow over the weekend at the Navy base in Meridian, Mississippi, because it was open to the general public. But he declined to answer political questions from reporters traveling with him.

I understand that the McCain campaign is disorganized and pathologically clueless when it comes to utilizing the media, but they're clearly being dishonest in this case. McCain is demonstrably criticizing Obama for following a Pentagon rule to which the McCain campaign itself has been subjected recently. That's a fact. So this seems to be a simple cheap shot at Obama, in the hopes that the media won't be internet savvy enough (i.e., able to use Google) to figure out the whole story.

"We follow the rules," Steve Schmidt from the McCain campaign said.

Exactly. And they have no problem attacking Obama for doing the same. That's the very definition of "double standard."

Regardless, the Pentagon will now be under more pressure to keep the playing field even--and to keep the policy consistent on both sides.

Original here

State Dept. Double Standard: Diplomats Barred From Obama’s Berlin Speech, But Not McCain’s In Ottawa»

wilkinsmccainweb.jpgYesterday, the Washington Post reported that the U.S. Embassy in Berlin “instructed Foreign Service personnel stationed there not to attend Sen. Barack Obama’s [D-IL] public rally” in Tiergarten Park because the event is “‘partisan political activity‘ prohibited under its regulations for those serving overseas.”

The diplomats’ union objected to the ruling, calling it an “unnecessarily narrow interpretation” of the Foreign Affairs Manual. “The fact that you are working for the U.S. government overseas should not preclude political activity that you could engage in in the United States,” one retired senior Foreign Service officer said. But a State official explained the ruling:

But “we always maintain that no U.S. government Foreign Service person overseas should be seen to be advocating one side or the other,” State Department Undersecretary for Management Patrick Kennedy said, adding that “it has nothing to do with who” the candidate is.

“When a German sees you there, they’re not going to think, ‘Oh, he or she is on their off time.’ It’s ‘Oh, they are a Democrat, a Republican, an independent,’ God knows what,” Kennedy said in an interview.

But the ruling — which Kennedy admitted is unprecedented — appears to indicate a double standard from the State Department. Last June, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) delivered a speech to the Economic Club of Canada in Ottawa. The event was reportedly organized in part by U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Wilkins, whom President Bush appointed in 2005. But more than that, the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa confirmed to ThinkProgress that Wilkins also attended the event.

Not only did McCain make clear references to and critiques of Obama’s policy positions in the speech, but he also referred to his own presidential campaign six times.

Although both the McCain and Obama campaigns denied their respective speeches in Ottawa and Berlin were political, the State Department only prohibited diplomats from attending Obama’s event. The fact that Wilkins attended McCain’s speech without worries that he would “be seen to be advocating one side or the other,” undermines Kennedy’s justification for barring Foreign Service personnel from attending Obama’s speech.

Original here

The parade of "shrill, unserious extremists" on display at today's impeachment hearings

Former Reagan DOJ official, constitutional lawyer, and hard-core conservative Bruce Fein was one of the first prominent Americans to call for George Bush's impeachment in the wake of the illegal NSA spying scandal. Back in late 2005 and 2006, when even safe-seat Democrats like Chuck Schumer were petrified even of uttering the words "broke the law" when speaking of the Bush administration -- let alone taking meaningful action to investigate and putting a stop to the lawbreaking -- Fein wrote a column in The Washington Times forcefully and eloquently arguing:

Volumes of war powers nonsense have been assembled to defend Mr. Bush's defiance of the legislative branch and claim of wartime omnipotence so long as terrorism persists, i.e., in perpetuity. Congress should undertake a national inquest into his conduct and claims to determine whether impeachable usurpations are at hand.
In 2006, Russ Feingold called Fein as one of his witnesses in support of Feingold's resolution to censure President Bush for his lawbreaking. Today, Fein is one of the witnesses who will testify before the House Judiciary Committee in favor of Dennis Kucinich's impeachment resolutions (joined by Elizabeth Holtzman, Bob Barr and several others). As KagroX details here, that the House is holding hearings on Kucinich's resolution is not, in any way, an indication that the Congress is prepared to take those resolutions seriously. Manifestly, they are not.

Yesterday, Jane Hamsher spoke with Bruce Fein on BloggingheadsTV about why the Democrats have, in general, failed to hold the Bush administration accountable for their multiple crimes (Slate yesterday detailed some of the many Bush crimes). Here is what Fein -- echoing an argument I made a couple of weeks ago -- said on that topic:



Jane also asked Fein about Obama adviser Cass Sunstein's recent statements that Bush officials should not be prosecuted for their illegal detention, interrogation and spying programs. To get a sense for why this matters, National Journal this morning listed Sunstein as one of a small handful of likely Supreme Court appointees in an Obama administration. But -- similar to Fein's point regarding Jay Rockefeller, Jane Harman and comrades -- Sunstein has long been one of the most vocal enablers of Bush radicalism and lawlessness, having continuously offered himself up over the last seven years to play the legal version of the TNR role of "even-liberal-Cass-Sunstein-agrees-with-Bush."

During my Democracy Now debate with him, Sunstein said: "I'd be honored but surprised if the military commissions cite some of my academic articles." But as Talk Left's Armando documented, Sunstein would be an ideal and highly likely "legal scholar" for the Bush administration to cite as part of its military tribunals, as Sunstein was an early and outspoken supporter of the theory that Bush had the authority to order military commissions (a theory which the Supreme Court rejected in Hamdan). Identically, while Sunstein now pretends to disagree with Bush's theory as to why he had the power to spy on Americans in violation of the law (Sunstein said on Democracy Now: "while I agree with Senator Feingold that the President's position is wrong"), Sunstein defended those theories as "very reasonable" when he was on right-wing talk radio with Hugh Hewitt in late 2005 during the height of the NSA controversy.

It's really hard to imagine a worse person on whom Obama could be relying as a legal adviser, let alone a potential Supreme Court nominee, and here is what Fein had to say about Sunstein's view of things:



The destruction of the CIA interrogation videos in 2005 that Fein referenced there seems particularly malicious -- plainly criminal -- in light of the new documents obtained yesterday from the CIA by the ACLU. One of those documents -- an August 4, 2004 CIA memo (.pdf) -- explicitly warns "of possible future judicial review of the Program and of these issues," meaning the CIA's interrogation methods and the legality of the Bush administration's behavior. Destroying evidence relevant to a future criminal proceeding is the very definition of obstruction of justice -- a crime for which ordinary people are regularly prosecuted and imprisoned -- yet we have the Cass Sunsteins of the world, speaking on behalf of our political and media class, insisting that it would be terribly unfair and disruptive to treat any of this as a criminal matter (and -- as is true for many of the episodes of Bush lawbreaking -- key Congressional Democrats were briefed on the possible destruction of the interrogation videos as well).

Most revealingly of all, the Kucinich impeachment hearing today is like a parade of those whom the Beltway class mocks as Shrill, Unserious losers and Leftist radicals -- people who actually use overly excitable words like "crimes" and "prosecutions" when talking about our leaders or who, like the ACLU, actually object that most of what our Government does occurs in total secrecy. Serious, responsible Beltway establishment leaders know that courtrooms and prosecutions are only for the common people and -- for our own good -- our leaders cannot, must not and should not be exposed to any of that, and must continue to be able to shield what they do from public scrutiny.

* * * * *

NPR this morning has a story, both radio and print, regarding the left/right Strange Bedfellows citizen coalition and Money Bomb campaign targeting those responsible for the erosion of civil liberties, constitutional protections and the rule of law. The NPR story includes this:

Earlier this month, Congress passed a rewrite of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA. Opponents say it gives the president too much power to tap private communications without court oversight. That argument was made none too subtly by a TV ad that ran in the home district of Chris Carney, a Pennsylvania Democrat who supported the new FISA law.

"Chris Carney is surrendering to Bush and Cheney the same un-American spying powers they have in Russia and communist China," the ad says.

Apparently, the ad hit a nerve. A Carney spokeswoman called the ad a "smear campaign" and said NPR should not do a story about it. But the ad was paid for by Carney's fellow Democrats.

Blue America is a political action committee promoted by Democratic bloggers like Jane Hamsher. She is disappointed with Congress since it went Democratic.

"I'm very upset with my party right now," Hamsher says. "They were given the majority, and they have a 9 percent approval rating right now for a reason."

Apparently, NPR isn't Comcast -- at least not in this instance -- and it thus ran the story despite Carney's pleas.

UPDATE: To be clear, it's far from certain, obviously, that Obama would appoint Cass Sunstein to anything, let alone to the Supreme Court. And as I've said before, the precarious 5-4 Supreme Court balance is reason enough, just standing alone, to strongly prefer an Obama administration to a McCain administration. But Sunstein -- both due to his relationship to Obama and, independently, to his new marriage -- is one of the most inside of Obama insiders. That he has simultaneously been such an unusually vocal defender of some of the worst Bush radicalism is obviously worth noting, and is self-evidently disturbing. Today, Matt Stoller reviews Sunstein's latest book and several of the odd ideas in it.

Original here

Mayer: Top DOJ Lawyers Spoke ‘In Codes’ For Fear Of Being Wiretapped By White House ‘Lunatics’»

Last night on PBS, Bill Moyers interviewed investigative journalist Jane Mayer and mentioned that in Mayer’s new book, she notes that FBI agents refused to participate in the CIA’s interrogation of terror suspects at Guantánamo Bay because they determined it to be “borderline torture.” Moyers then asked, “Who were some of the other conservative heroes, as you call them, in your book?”

Mayer remembered one top Justice Department lawyer and “very conservative member of this administration” who said that after participating in White House meetings authorizing torture, he believed that “lunatics had taken over the country.”

Mayer said two other top DOJ lawyers had to develop a system of speaking codes because they feared they were being wiretapped while others described an “atmosphere of intimidation,” mainly from Vice President Dick Cheney:

MAYER: There was such an atmosphere of intimidation. … They felt so endangered in some ways that, at one point, two of the top lawyers from the Justice Department developed this system of talking in codes to each other because they thought they might be being wiretapped…by their own government. They felt like they might be kind of weirdly in physical danger. They were actually scared to stand up to Vice President Cheney.

Watch it:

Mayer later said that “there is a paper trail” documenting U.S. torture policies “that goes right to the top of our govenment” and that Congress “is beginning to” get to the truth and “piece it together.”

Mayer added that the truth to the White House policies is “a humungous jigsaw puzzle” because “there are many, many secrets we still don’t know. There are legal memos that nobody’s ever seen.”

Original here

Citizens’ Arrest of Karl Rove Attempted in Iowa

By Michael Lang

Four Iowans were arrested today while attempting to make a Citizens’ Arrest of Karl Rove in Des Moines, Iowa. Citing Iowa Code provisions for making Citizen’s Arrests as well as citing Federal Statute violations they claimed Rove had violated, the four were stopped at the gate of the Wakonda Country Club in Des Moines where Rove was scheduled to speak at a Republican Fundraiser.

The four arrested were retired Methodist minister and Peace and Justice Advocate, Rev. Chet Guinn, 80, as well as three Des Moines Catholic Workers, Edward Bloomer, 61, Kirk Brown, 25, and Mona Shaw, 57. All four were cited for trespassing and released.

The four maintained that they were acting within the guidelines of Iowa Code that obligate private citizens to make such an arrest if they believe a felony has been committed and turn Rove over to police officials to bring Rove before a judge for formal indictment. By law, a federal judge should consider the charges and determine if an indictment should be made.

Brown and Shaw made a similar attempt last March when Rove spoke at the University of Iowa, Iowa City. Brown and Shaw were arrested and released without charges following that attempt. Deaths in the Middle East since the March attempt number in the thousands including, 151 more US troops have been killed in Iraq, and 284 killed in Afghanistan as well as far more citizens of those two nations.

Rove remains unindicted and recently refused to cooperate with a Congressional subpoena in the Valerie Plame leak investigation. Despite mounting evidence of Rove’s wrongdoing concerning leading the U.S. to war as well as other actions, Congress and the U.S. judicial system remain reluctant to bring charges against either Rove or the Bush administration. Recent evidence includes Articles of Impeachment that will again was presented by Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich today.

AROUND THE BLOGOSPHERE:

CATHOLIC WORKERS TO MAKE SECOND ARREST ATTEMPT ON KARL ROVE - Deaths in the Middle East since the March attempt to place Rove under arrest number in the thousands including, 151 more US troops have been killed in Iraq, and 284 killed in Afghanistan as well as far more citizens of those two nations …

Catholics Attempt to Arrest Karl Rove - Well this is pretty funny. I guess we shall learn how this went today.

Original here

McCain Embraces 16-Month Withdrawal: ‘I Think It’s A Pretty Good Timetable’»

Following Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s declaration of support for a 16-month withdrawal timeline from Iraq, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has been struggling to respond. He spent most of this week railing against any “artificial timetable” for withdrawal from Iraq, vaguely insisting that the U.S. will withdraw only “with victory”:

“[Obama showed] ‘a remarkable failure to understand the facts on the ground’ by continuing to call for a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq on a fixed timetable.” [Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/24/08]

An artificial timetable based on political expediency would have led to disaster and could still turn success into defeat,” Mr. McCain said. [New York Times, 7/19/08]

McCAIN: So the fact is that we have succeeded. We are winning. They’ll come home with honor. And it won’t be just at a set timetable. [CBS interview, 7/22/08]

But in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer today, McCain seemed to endorse the idea of a timetable. When asked if Maliki would “persist” in requesting a 16-month withdrawal timetable from Iraq, McCain responded, “He won’t. … I know him.” McCain then praised Maliki’s 16-month timetable:

BLITZER: So why do you think he said that 16 months is basically a pretty good timetable?

McCAIN: He said it’s a pretty good timetable based on conditions on the ground. I think it’s a pretty good timetable, as we should — or horizons for withdrawal. But they have to be based on conditions on the ground.

Watch it:

Indeed, as McCain told former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney during a presidential debate in January: “Timetables was the buzzword for those that wanted to get out.”

Original here

Impeachment a hot topic at 'not Impeachment' hearing

After spending long hours, sometimes late into the night, making his case for impeachment before a nearly barren House chamber, Rep. Dennis Kucinich finally got more of an audience for his case against President Bush Friday.

Even though Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers insisted early on that the panel's evaluation of Bush's "imperial presidency" was decidedly not an impeachment hearing, the prospect was not far from many minds during the six hours of testimony.

Kucinich formally introduced his articles of impeachment into the record of the committees proceedings -- although he did not utter the dreaded I-word, instead referring to the resolutions by their more legalistic titles "H. Res. 333, H. Res. 1258 and H. Res. 1345."

A committee aide tells RAW STORY that members were cautioned to abide by the Rules of the House, which prohibit lawmakers from "impugning" the president's character during official debate. Some apparently took this to mean they could not explicitly call for Bush' impeachment. None of this would stop Republicans from accusing the committee's majority of seeking just that.

The prepared text of Conyers opening remarks referred to Congress's "power to impeach." When he spoke before the committee, Conyers modified that line to the "power to remove through the constitutional process" officials who abused their powers.

Kucinich was similarly circumspect in his testimony to the committee.

"The question for Congress is this: what responsibility does the President and members of his Administration have for that unnecessary, unprovoked and unjustified war?" he asked. "The rules of the House prevent me or any witness from utilizing familiar terms. But we can put two and two together in our minds. We can draw inferences about culpability. ...

"I ask this committee to think, and then to act, in order to enable this Congress to right a very great wrong and to hold accountable those who misled this nation," he concluded.

Kucinich's colleague Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) was far more straightforward.

"Based on all of the things this administration has done, it is probably the most impeachable administration in the history of America,” said Hinchey, who appeared alongside Kucinich and North Carolina Reps. Walter Jones and Brad Miller.

The New York lawmaker even accused the administration of deliberately letting America's No. 1 enemy escape after 9/11.

"I think it is very clear they did not want to capture bin Laden," Hinchey told the committee.

That Hinchey referred to "they" was no accident. House rules forbid direct attacks on the president's individual character or motives, so most of the witnesses were sure to couch ther criticisms as aimed at members of the administration generally.

Hinchey explained his assertion to Politico.

"I think the evidence indicates that very clearly ... bin Laden was close to being captured [in December 2001], there was a clear understanding of where he was, heading up to Tora Bora, in those mountains. He could have been captured," Hinchey said. "But there was a decision that was made through the Pentagon, and probably that decision had been made outside the Pentagon as well, within the administration, not to aggressively pursue bin Laden."

Hinchey added: "I believe that the reason for that was that if bin Laden had been captured, it would have been very difficult, if not impossible, for this administration to then justify an attack against another country. Not Afghanistan, another country. And, of course, Iraq is the country. So I think that it was clear, based upon all of the evidence that we have, that this was a purposeful decision that was made not to capture bin Laden."

In his opening statement Friday, Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL), a Kucinich ally in his push's for impeachment, also threw caution to the wind, outlining an array of Bush administration abuses, he said "certainly include high crimes" including ordering illegal torture and authorizing warrantless wiretapping.

"I am convinced the most appropriate response ... is to hold hearings for impeachment," Wexler said.

Similarly undeterred from mentioning impeachment was Rep. Hank Johnson (D-TX), who echoed Wexler's sentiment and warned of the potential consequences of not pursuing impeachment now.

"If this administration during the last 6 months decides to attack the sovereign nation of Iran," he said, "then Americans will look back and think and rethink whether it would have been worth pursuing impeachment at this time, to deter any further misdoing by this administration."

Committee Republicans weren't having any of the Democrats' hesitance.

"These are impeachment hearings before the United States Congress," said Rep. Steve King (R-IA), pointing out that Conyers's essentially called for impeachment himself even if he didn't precisely say the word.

Several other Republicans echoed the same sentiment, defending Bush from accusations of "high crimes and misdemeanors" that weren't actually the primary issue Friday.

"To the regret of many, this is not an impeachment hearing," Conyers said, pointing out that the full House has not voted to authorize such an inquiry as House rules require.

Hundreds gather for hearing

More than 100 spectators, including dozens of representatives of anti-war group Code Pink, began assembling outside the hearing room more than an hour before the hearing began. The Capitol Hill hearing room was packed to capacity, leaving dozens of activists out in the hallway, unable to enter; some chanted "Shame!" or "We want in!"

The hearing began about 15 minutes after its scheduled start time with Conyers's opening statement.

"We know the executive branch can and does overreach during times of war," Conyers said. "As one who was included on President Nixon's enemies list, I am all too familiar with the specter of an unchecked executive branch. And the risks to our citizens' rights are even graver today, as the war on terror has no specific end point."

More than a dozen witnesses were scheduled to testify, beginning with Kucinich, who accuses Bush and Cheney of lying to Congress in their pursuit of war in Iraq, among a host of other abuses.

"The decision before us is whether Congress will endorse with its silence the methods used to take us into the Iraq war," Kucinich will say, according to his prepared testimony. "The decision before us is whether to demand accountability for one of the gravest injustices imaginable."

The committee's top Republican, Lamar Smith, mocked the proceedings, comparing them to last month's hearing featuring former White House spokesman Scott McClellan, who recently wrote a tell-all memoir about his time as Bush's spokesman.

"If last month it appeared we hosted a 'book of the month club,' this week it seems that we are hosting an anger management class," Smith said. "Nothing is going to come out of this hearing with regard to impeachment of the President. I know it, the media knows it, even the Speaker knows it. ... This hearing will not cause us to impeach the President; it will only serve to impeach our own credibility."

The American Civil Liberties union praised Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers for convening Friday's hearing.

"Every year this administration has been in power has compounded the damage to our ideals and Constitution," Caroline Fredrickson, director the ACLU's Washington legislative office, said in a press release. "An executive branch that demands and holds too much power tips the scales of our system of checks and balances."

A live Web-cast can be viewed here, and RAW STORY will be providing updates on the proceedings throughout the day.

DEVELOPING...

Rep. Wexler recommends impeachment hearings


Download video

Rep. Kucinich testifies at executive power hearing


Original here

GOP Stalwart Caught In Prostitution Sting

Peter Hong, a longtime Republican operative in Minnesota, was arrested Wednesday afternoon on a charge of soliciting prostitution in St. Paul.

Police spokesman Peter Panos said that the arrest came during the first day of a two-day sting operation during which "johns" and prostitutes responded to ads placed on the Internet and in print. Thirty-five people were arrested Wednesday and Thursday, Panos said today.

He declined to say where the undercover operation was based.

According to city and county records, Hong, 41, of Minneapolis, was arrested at about 3:40 p.m. on Wednesday and arrived at the Ramsey County jail just after 5 p.m. He was one of at least 19 men swept up during the first day of the sting, police records show.

Hong, reached by phone Thursday, said: "I don't have any comment."

Original here

Crimes and Misdemeanors

Slate's interactive guide: Who in the Bush administration broke the law, and who could be prosecuted?

The recent release of Jane Mayer's book The Dark Side revealed that a secret report by the International Committee of the Red Cross determined "categorically" that the CIA used torture, as defined by American and international law, in questioning al-Qaida suspect Abu Zubaydah. The question of criminal liability for Bush-administration officials has since been in the news. It's also getting play because retired Gen. Antonio Taguba, lead Army investigator of the prison abuses at Abu Ghraib, wrote in a recent report, "There is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes." (Update: And today, the ACLU released three new memos from the Department of Justice and the CIA, which for the first time show DoJ explicitly authorizing "enhanced" interrogation tactics for use on specific detainees. One of the memos states, in this context, that "interrogation techniques, including the waterboard, do not violate the Torture Statute.")

One response to the amassing evidence is Nuremberg-style war-crime prosecutions. The opposite pole is blanket immunity for all lawbreakers in advance. Somewhere in the middle lies a truth-and-reconciliation commission that would try to ferret out the truth.

To enter into the debate, you might ask which Bush administration officials did what and which could actually be prosecuted. Slate has answers.

What kind of lawbreaking has happened on President Bush's watch, among his top and mid-level advisers? What hasn't? Who is implicated and who is not? Despite the lack of oral sex with an intern, the past seven years have yielded an embarrassment of riches when it comes to potentially prosecutable crimes. We have tried to sketch out a map of who did what and when, with links to the evidence that is public and notes about what we may learn from investigations that are still pending.

We looked specifically at the White House, the office of the vice presidency, the Department of Defense, the Justice Department, and the State Department. We started with a question about whether anyone could be prosecuted for war crimes relating to the torture identified by the International Committee of the Red Cross. We soon spiraled out to trace related loops: warrantless wiretapping and the destruction of CIA tapes of the interrogations of two high-level suspects. And then we added in scandals that involve many of the same players and that have spawned investigations: the firing of the U.S. attorneys in 2006 in the Justice Department as well as politicized hirings there. In the main, the laws and treaties we concentrated on were the Geneva Conventions, the War Crimes Act, the Convention Against Torture, obstruction of justice and destruction of evidence, perjury, lying to Congress, the Civil Service Reform Act, and the Hatch Act.

The accompanying diagram (click here or on the module above to launch it) highlights a truth of criminal conspiracy: Whenever legal liability is spread among many actors, it becomes difficult to ascertain with any specificity who's on the hook for what. This, to steal a phrase from Douglas Feith, is "the whole point."

Another truism of criminal prosecution is that it's easier to go after the coverup than the crime. For that reason, we think the likelihood that, say, Alberto Gonzales gets nicked for lying to Congress or that someone gets nailed for destroying the CIA tapes is higher than the chance that John Yoo ever goes to court for suggesting that an interrogation tactic is torture only if it causes pain on the level of organ failure. Or that David Addington or Gonzales—or Dick Cheney or President Bush—ever gets nailed for urging or accepting that advice. Whether that is fair or right or just is for you to judge.

Because our focus here was on the architects of the lawless acts, we have stayed high on the chain in command, rather than naming specific interrogators for acts of alleged torture or indicting specific telecoms for warrantless eavesdropping. The lower-level players we did include are those we think may have helped shape administration policy. Often, these underlings have been left holding the legal bag. In fact, a pattern emerges: Time and again it appears that fairly low-level or inexperienced lawyers were encouraged to write "blue sky" memos authorizing the broadest range of abusive or improperly partisan behaviors. Their superiors never seriously vetted those memos. And, again, that's the point: The higher-ups have cover. They can both claim that the memos were merely thought experiments and, if push comes to shove, leave the low-ranking attorneys in the line of fire. This, we think, helps explain why high-level officials like Jim Haynes, former DoD general counsel, have gone to such length to insist that the call to expand the interrogation arsenal came from the "bottom up," not the "top down."

How likely are the prosecutions that we make a theoretical case for or against? For the most part, that's a political question, not a legal one. In general, we doubt that we'll see a host of criminal prosecutions anytime soon, but we are also waiting on criminal investigations, several key inspector general's reports, and still-classified documents. Who knows—maybe this diagram will change shape over the coming months or years.

Original here