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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Bill Clinton: It's the experience, stupid

Bill Clinton appeared on Charlie Rose [video pending] last night and, like any good surrogate would, he hammered Obama on the "experience" front (the final message Hillary would like Iowans to hear over and over again).

I actually think the experience hit on Obama is a legitimate one (though I do question how much actual experience Hillary brings to the table). Seeing as how I lean Obama (and to a lesser degree Edwards), I buy Obama's answer to the experience question: that you can have all the experience in the world, but sometimes judgment, good judgment--judgment not based on the political winds of the time, trumps experience. Hillary's experience, and her politically motivated judgment, got us into Iraq. Obama was at least prescient enough to be against the whole boondoggle from the word go. Bill answered that contrast last night, but I take issue with his analogy. From E&P:
[Clinton] also hit back at the charge that experienced politicians had helped get us into the Iraq war, saying that this was "like saying that because 100 percent of the malpractice cases are committed by doctors, the next time I need surgery I'll get a chef or a plumber to do it."
No, Bill, all malpractice cases may be committed by doctors, but some doctors have never committed malpractice. There are plenty of politicians who did not commit Iraq malpractice and I would turn to one of them, long before I turn to Hillary, whose experience did nothing to shape her judgment, except insofar as to read the political tea leaves which told her, wrongly, that she needed to be on the hawk side with respect to Iraq.

Now, I don't want this post to devolve into an anti-Hillary, anti-Bill screed--the right is already having a field day with this interview, but Bill raises one more point worthy of mention. Again, from E&P:
"I guess I'm old fashioned," [Clinton] said, in wanting a president who had actually done things for people. He said some people could "risk" taking someone who had served just a year in the Senate if they chose.

When Rose said that all this seemed to add up to Clinton hinting that people would be "rolling the dice" if they picked Obama, the former president replied: "It's less predictable, isn't it?"
Yes, an Obama presidency would be "less predictable," but that's exactly what I'm looking for. We can "predict" that Hillary's presidency would be more hawkish, more poll-driven, more cautious, less audacious, more polarizing, and, well, more of the same.

This week is the last for any real political maneuvering before the voting finally begins, and this Charlie Rose interview is going to play out in a big way. Marc Ambinder has more, including the inside word that the Clinton people themselves thought Bill was going a bit too far.

Update: Obama answers back.

Holding Patterns

A couple months ago when debate about the fate of FISA legislation passed in August was rekindled, Sen. Chris Dodd won high praise from the blogosphere for declaring his intent to not only place a hold on but if necessary filibuster any bill that sought to grant retroactive immunity to telecommunication companies that aided the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program. Now it seems Dodd might have to make good on his promise now that Senate Majority Leadership Harry Reid has signaled that a FISA bill granting immunity will come up for a vote on Monday despite Dodd's hold.

Now Reid of course does not have to honor the hold but traditionally the practice is frowned upon as, along with the filibuster, it is a way of ensuring the minority party's views are expressed and considered. And given it is being issued by a fellow Democrat, one would think Reid wouldn't have been so willing to forgo tradition. Some might say that Reid is just doing what is necessary to unclog the bottleneck which has plagued the Congress for some time now but when you consider that not a peep has been mentioned about not honoring a similar hold placed on a bill banning waterboarding by Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, any claims that Reid just wishes to keep the debate rolling along just doesn't wash.

Anyone else think it might be time that Reid be applied the appropriate label?

See Glenn, Christy, and Libby on Reid and Digby has the last work on Huckleberry Graham.

(Plucked from a folder at The Xsociate Files)

Friday, December 14, 2007

Say goodnight, Rudy

Goodnight, Rudy.
Mitt Romney’s strategy for winning the Republican nomination was to win the early states and build momentum. Rudy Giuliani’s plan was to accept defeats in the early states and come back strong on January 29 in Florida and in many large states on February 5.

The latest Rasmussen Reports polling in the state of Florida suggests that Giuliani might need to work on a “Plan B.’ Mike Huckabee now leads in the Sunshine State Primary with 27% of the vote. He is trailed closely by Romney at 23% and Giuliani at 19%. [emphasis gladly mine]
I don't really have anything to add, except that this makes me very, very happy.

Exercise in Futility

I'm back to my one trick pony propensity again but given the serious of the subject matter -- the subjection to and potential cover up of the torture of US detainees -- I feel a bit of harping is warranted. But as with most things the Congress does these days, they just aren't thinking far enough ahead.

Yesterday, the House took the advice of a phalanx of retired Army and Navy officers to ignoring President Bush's threat to veto and passed by a ban on the practice of waterboarding.
The House approved legislation yesterday that would bar the CIA from using waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics, drawing an immediate veto threat from the White House and setting up another political showdown over what constitutes torture.

The measure, approved by a largely party-line vote of 222 to 199, would require U.S. intelligence agencies to follow Army rules adopted last year that explicitly forbid waterboarding. It also would require interrogators to adhere to a strict interpretation of the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war. The rules, required by Congress for all Defense Department personnel, also ban sexual humiliation, "mock" executions and the use of attack dogs, and prohibit the withholding of food and medical care.

The measure still must make it through the Senate, which given that some members have already signaled their willingness to downplay even the most heinous of practices, remains very much in doubt.

But even if it were to reach full passage, it would be -- as my post title suggests -- utterly meaningless. For you see the Congress has already affirmed such a ban. It was a little thing called the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005. And we all remember how long that "ban" lasted (hint: as long as it took the ink to dry on the "Only if I want to" note Bush attached to it).

So while we can applaud Congress for once again seeking to clear up the issue of just which practices are acceptable but we must realize that until we banish the Bogart, this latest affirmation won't matter one bit.

More from DHinMI and Carpetbagger.

(Plucked from a folder at The Xsociate Files)

Hillary's negative downfall

The fallout from Wednesday's Obama drug-use bomb is still raining down on the Clinton campaign. If the public buys Hillary's apology maybe the polls won't react, but if the public permanently attaches the smear to Hillary, if they hold her responsible for ordering the hit, then her numbers will continue to decline. We may be watching the beginning of the end of the Hillary campaign.

As for the flip side of the smear, the Obama side of it, Hillary may have gotten the drug conversation back into the headlines, but I agree with Tony Newhouse: "the fact that Obama used drugs in his youth only humanizes him." Which is exactly the quality Hillary lacks.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Opening The Files: 12/12/07

You Can't Torquemada Anything

Sorry for the Mel Brooks pun but I felt that some levity was in order given the tortuousness of extracting even a modicum of information from the Bushies. The President still feigns ignorance of what some have taken to calling "Tapegate". This is despite the person he once deemed worthy of a spot on the Supreme Court being intimately involved in discussions with the CIA over the fate of the tapes. It would appear the Bush Bubble is now so opaque that it no longer permits light to penetrate, let alone reality.

There have been some rather inane defenses for why this issue isn't a big deal. And the depths to which the right will plunge in defense of torture shows there really is nothing that should ever be considered verboten.

Which is perhaps the biggest travesty in all of this. Because our leaders can no longer state unequivocally that we will treat our prisoners with a decency that the enemy may never show theirs, we've seceded any claim to being "better than that".

While the Bushies may not be able to come up with a clear instance in which torture "saved lives", Cenk Uygur reminds us of a clear instance in which it had the opposite effect.

Robert Scheer wonders if in destroying those tapes of harsh interrogations, we may have lost out on learning the truth behind the event that supposedly warranted the harshness in the first place.

Digby says that all the Bushies have succeeding in doing is blurring the moral clarity on an issue which requires a far more focused stance.

Scarecrow says it looks like the spooks at Langley aren't willing to be the fall guys anymore.

I'd have to agree with Micheal that Kit Bond really is the craziest Repub of the day for his claim that waterboarding is just the latest water sport craze. Is a name change in order?

Bob Cesca documents the righties attempt to downplay waterboarding as an "exercise in restraint" which isn't all that restrained after all.

(Another one for the cabinet over at The Xsociate Files)


With Democrats set to cave beneath the weight of a lame duck president and his no-strings-attached war funding ways some in the Democratic leadership still try to spin victory out of spinelessness. They are pathetic. From CNN:
"What is for sure is he will not get all $200 billion," said one senior Democratic lawmaker. "Whatever number it is, it is much less than what the president asked for. For the first time in this war, he has received less than his request."
Hurrah! The president will get less than his request. Time to send this Congress to Disneyland.

Shootin' Thru The 'Tubes

I'm starved for ideas so here's what's Shootin' Thru The 'Tubes:

It must be Huck season because everyone seems to be gunning for the former Gov, which isn't all that surprising given his rise in the polls of late. But what exactly does his rise mean? Is he truly the easy target candidate the Dems wish to run against, as he who rules our world alleges? Is he a flash in the pan or will he go the distance? Perhaps we may know when the media finally decides to pay more attention to a candidate's character and less to the cut of their trouser or perfectly coiffed, though not too expensive, hairdo.

Then again, maybe keeping us uninformed about what things that really matter is their way of keeping the populace depression free. Ignorance may be bliss but when it comes to voting on who will be the next leader of the free world, learning a thing or two about how they may govern goes along way.

If only we'd taken such to heart prior to the last couple of elections. With the myriad of scandals seeping from the Bush White House, it's nice to get a refresher course from time to time.

Speaking of which, looks like Christmas isn't coming early for Scooter Libby, as his gift from The Decider seems to have gotten lost in the mail. But hey, there's always next year.

(Plucked from a folder at The Xsociate Files)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

US To World: Ignore Bush

The Bush administration is trying to prevent any real measures for cutting carbon at UN Climate talks.

Tell the world that President Bush doesn't speak for us. Sign the petition below to be delivered to delegates in Bali, Indonesia. It will remind the Bush administration that We The People want definitive and timely action taken to combat Global Warming, and it will tell the world that Bush administration statements do not represent the will of the American people.

Ready for progress on Climate Change? Sign the petition.


Silent Acquiescence

The latest from the NYT regarding the destroyed interrogation tapes is that the White House was in the legal loop for years, but just not when it counted.
The former intelligence official acknowledged that there had been nearly two years of debate among government agencies about what to do with the tapes, and that lawyers within the White House and the Justice Department had in 2003 advised against a plan to destroy them. But the official said that C.I.A. officials had continued to press the White House for a firm decision, and that the C.I.A. was never given a direct order not to destroy the tapes.

"They never told us, 'Hell, no,'" he said. "If somebody had said, 'You cannot destroy them,' we would not have destroyed them."
Of course, the White House wanted the tapes destroyed, and of course, they are trying to insulate themselves from any responsibility. It's classic Bush. When the mess gets ugly, bury your head and push the slop down the chain of command.

More from Drum, Attaturk, and Willis.

Necessary Roughness

The title of this post might suggest this is an homage to the Scott Bakula film of the same name (one of the few sports centric films I like). No the "necessary roughness" to which I speak of comes from a former CIA operative who claims that while practices such as waterboarding do constitute torture, it was nonetheless the right call given all the worthwhile information gleamed.
A leader of the CIA team that captured the first major al Qaeda figure, Abu Zubaydah, says subjecting him to waterboarding was torture but necessary.

In the first public comment by any CIA officer involved in handling high-value al Qaeda targets, John Kiriakou, now retired, said the technique broke Zubaydah in less than 35 seconds.

"The next day, he told his interrogator that Allah had visited him in his cell during the night and told him to cooperate," said Kiriakou in an interview to be broadcast tonight on ABC News' "World News With Charles Gibson" and "Nightline."

"From that day on, he answered every question," Kiriakou said. "The threat information he provided disrupted a number of attacks, maybe dozens of attacks."
Kiriakou says he struggled with the idea of which was more important: refusing to torture or learning valuable information in the hectic, post-9/11 scare. No doubt there are some who would view him as a Jack Bauer-esque figure, willing to do what was necessary to protect American lives. But as Kevin Drum reminds us just what we learned from Zubaydah via these tough love practices remains very much in doubt.

Kiriakou says he ultimately feels that waterboarding is torture and that as Americans "we're better than that". But that he would even allow that such may be necessary in some cases, he forfeits the seriousness of the claim. For when you open the gates, even seemingly out of necessity, you also risk moving into the "because we can" territory.

(Plucked from a folder at The Xsociate Files)

Monday, December 10, 2007

"If you've lost Oprah, you've lost Middle America"

Marty Kaplan nails the Oprah effect. I won't excerpt, just go read. But, the bottom Oprah-line is not about Obama and her effect on him, it's about the war and her effect on us.

I will add, as I read through all the Oprah/Obama talk today, that I am pleased she has finally stood up politically to try and make a difference. What has always infuriated me about Oprah, and I will say I do like and respect her, is that she had this huge platform to say something against the Bushies and against the war but she chose to stay neutral. In today's environment neutral is not an option and her endorsement of Obama is a step in the right, America-course-correcting, direction.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

They Knew

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing" - Edmund Burke

Yesterday everyone was up in arms over the destruction of interrogation tapes which may have depicted torture of US detainees. But turns out, some were a little less shocked than others since they'd been briefed on those same practices.
In September 2002, four members of Congress met in secret for a first look at a unique CIA program designed to wring vital information from reticent terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was given a virtual tour of the CIA's overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.

Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said.

This revelation is rightly causing outrage among many, despite protestations from the Democrats involved who claim their hands were tied due to secrecy clauses that prevented them from revealing what they had learned about the CIA program. While that excuse can only go so far, and indeed may not even be a valid one given the mechanisms available to Congress, the revelation is certainly likely to temper calls for investigation into CIA practices. And perhaps that was the reason this news was leaked in the first place.

In any event, we know one thing is for certain: The Democrats are now just as complicit as the Bushies.

(Plucked from a folder at The Xsociate Files)

Pantings the Opposition

Back in July, I made note of an article in the Fashion section of the Washington Post that tittered about Hillary Clinton's neckline and started a controversy over her conniving cleavage. It was a childish attempt to be cute and I suppose it was inevitable given the gender make up of the current crop of presidential hopefuls, discussion would eventually work its way south. The same author now seems to suggest that Clinton's choice of pants over skirts is a way of compensating for lacking the one trait endemic to all the other candidates vying for the presidency.

Digby and Carpetbagger have more on the latest bit of frivolous fluff from the fashionistas at WaPo.

(Plucked from a folder at The Xsociate Files)

A rumor seeps in

I learned some startling news tonight. Over dinner with my folks I learned that Barack Obama is Muslim. Yeah, I know, who would have thought? My mom explained that his middle name was Hussein so he had to be Muslim. My dad confirmed my mom's conviction. I was incredulous, then I remembered, my parents are FOX News watching Democrats and my incredulity slipped away. To make matters worse, even I after I set them straight, neither would ever consider voting for a Muslim anyway. Can I blame FOX News for their bigotry too?

Truth in Comics

If it's Sunday, it's Truth in Comics.

Torture, Lies and No Videotape

Speculation is continuing apace in the blogs and media over what exactly was depicted on interrogation tapes destroyed by the CIA, with calls for investigations ringing out seemingly from every quarter. Some speculate the tapes would have shown how truly harsh our "harsh interrogation" practices were and that they were destroyed to prevent their use in possible criminal prosecutions. Others wonder if possible revelations of connections to prominent foreign allies were the reason the tapes were destroyed despite multiple warnings that they be retained.

The Bushies for their part have been all over the map with excuses. First they said it was in line with CIA practices, then they said they knew nothing about the tapes existence (as equally an incredulous claim as Bush not knowing the contains of the latest NIE on Iran), and now they've seem to have found themselves a scapegoat in the form of a former director of operations. But the idea that a senior CIA official would sanction a restroom break, let alone the destruction of evidence, without authority is so laughable as to be almost not worth putting forth. Then again, passing the laugh test has never been a hindrance to the Bushies before.

I know there are some who are jaded, assuming that once again we will be subjected to endless investigations and inquests that may reveal much but ultimately will result in zero consequences. But on this issue, one which not only has implications on our status in the eyes of the world but also on how Americans may be treated aboard, we really do need to learn just what has been done in our name.

(Plucked from a folder at The Xsociate Files)