Senators John McCain and Barack Obama are facing off again. During his speech on Iraq today at Virginia Military Institute, Senator McCain used Obama in an attempt to shame Democrats to support funding for the war:
“When the President vetoes, as he should, the bill that refuses to support General Petraeus’ new plan, I hope Democrats in Congress will heed the advice of one of their leading candidates for President, Senator Obama, and immediately pass a new bill to provide support to our troops in Iraq without substituting their partisan interests for those of our troops and our country.”
Senator Obama responded sternly:
“Progress in Iraq cannot be measured by the same ideological fantasies that got us into this war, it must be measured by the reality of the facts on the ground, and today those sobering facts tell us to change our strategy and bring a responsible end to this war."
"No matter how much this Administration wishes it to be true, the idea that the situation in Iraq is improving because it only takes a security detail of 100 soldiers, three Blackhawk helicopters, and two Apache gunships to walk through a market in the middle of Baghdad is simply not credible or reflective of the facts on the ground."
"What we need today is a surge in honesty. The truth is, the Iraqis have made little progress toward the political solution between Shiia and Sunni which is the last, best hope to end this war. I believe that letting the Iraqi government know America will not be there forever is the best way to pressure the warring factions toward this political settlement, which is why my plan begins a phased withdrawal from Iraq on May 1st, 2007, with the goal of removing all combat troops by March 31st, 2008."
(via Greg from TPMCafe)
For more information on NDN's coverage of the 2008 Presidential election, click here.
Following up on this morning's encouraging post on Rudy Giuliani's pillars for prosperity, two articles (here and here) highlight the former Mayor and GOP frontrunner's recommendation of Bernard Kerik and the White House's sound judgment - including that of Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez - in pursuing his nomination. The Washington Post notes:
A reconstruction of the failed nomination, assembled through interviews with key players, provides new details and a fuller account of the episode -- how Giuliani put forward a flawed candidate for high office, how Bush rushed the usual process in his eagerness to install a political ally and how Gonzales, as White House counsel, failed to stop the nomination despite the many warning signs. "The vetting process clearly broke down," said a senior White House official. "This should not happen."
Newsweek adds fuel to the already cumbersome fire, shedding light on the reasoning behind Kerik's withdrawal. Citing his past connections with a businessmen allegedly tied to the mafia, as well as a prison guard with whom he had an affair, the article explains:
Federal prosecutors in New York have informed Kerik that he is a "target" of a criminal investigation into possible tax problems, illegal wiretapping and making false statements in an FBI questionnaire connected to Kerik's nomination. Earlier this year, said two legal sources (who asked for anonymity due to the ongoing investigation), Kerik's lawyers agreed with prosecutors to extend the statute of limitations for the Kerik probe until next October.
...such an honest and compassionate vetting process!
NDN needs your help to update our agenda. Last week we began the important process of updating the NDN Agenda for Hope and Progress, the document that defines our governing philosophy and is at the center of all our advocacy work. This week we are asking for your feedback on the first section of the NDN agenda "Meeting the Challenges of the 21st Century Economy." After you read the section below, sign-up for an NDN Blog account, if you haven't already, and share your ideas with us in the comments section.
From NDN's Agenda for Hope and Progress...
Meeting the Challenges of the 21st Century Global Economy: Enact a 21st century economic strategy that will help all Americans succeed in the global economy and create broad-based prosperity and opportunity; restore fiscal responsibility and genuine progressivity in the tax code; champion free and fair trade; ensure the integrity and vitality of America's capital markets and the U.S. dollar; promote entrepreneurship, innovation and broad access to capital; update national telecommunications policy to foster universal broadband; enact a new national energy strategy; raise the minimum wage; prepare for the retirement of the baby boom; and protect and promote the retirement security of all Americans.
New Mexico Governor, statesman and Presidential candidate Bill Richardson reported significant progress at the end of his four day trip to North Korea. From the BBC:
[Richardson] was leading a delegation to retrieve the bodies of US soldiers killed during the Korean War.
He said officials in Pyongyang had assured him that once the funds were made accessible, the North would act swiftly to enact its pledge to shut down Yongbyon.
"The North Korean government told us that with that issue resolved, [it] would move promptly, within a day after receiving the funds," he said.
"And therefore, within that day, [it would] invite the [UN nuclear inspectors] to Pyongyang to draft the terms for shutting down the Yongbyon reactor," he added.
Mr Richardson said he was "optimistic" about the North's willingness to shut the reactor, which was part of a deal agreed in February.
Under that landmark agreement, North Korea said it would "shut down and seal" Yongbyon in return for energy aid and other incentives from its dialogue partners - the US, China, Russia, South Korea and Japan.
But the deal has been delayed because of the financial dispute involving $25m (£12.7m) of North Korean funds, which was frozen in Macau-based Banco Delta Asia (BDA).
The deadlock looked to have been resolved on Tuesday when the US Treasury Department said the Macau authorities would lift the freeze, allowing North Korea to obtain the money.
Senator McCain just gave a major speech on Iraq at the Virginia Military Institute. He bashed Democrats and praised the stay the course route. Is he going to be the Mondale of the Republican primary season? Read more here.
The WAPO coverage of President Bush's immigration speech was pretty fair. It gave him credit for pushing for comprehensive immigration reform, while emphasizing his frustrating reluctance to move past soundbites "family values don't stop at the Rio Grande" and focus on specifics. Read NDN's response to the President's speech here.
President Bush outlined the latest version of his plan to overhaul the nation's immigration laws Monday, renewing his support for a guest-worker program for those with low skills and issuing a vague call for a resolution of the legal status of the estimated 12 million undocumented workers in the country.
Speaking at the dedication of a state-of-the-art Border Patrol station here, a few miles from the U.S.-Mexican border, Bush called on Congress to pass the type of comprehensive immigration legislation that he has been pushing with little success since his earliest days as president. Bush said the overhaul should combine increased border security and added pressure on employers who hire illegal immigrants with a legal avenue for large numbers of guest workers to come into the country, while resolving the status of undocumented workers already here.
"Congress can pass a comprehensive bill, and I can sign it into law this year," Bush said, without offering a detailed proposal.
Since becoming president, Bush has viewed immigration as an issue on which he could make his mark as a "compassionate conservative" while extending the reach of the Republican Party to the fast-growing ranks of Latino voters, who tend to lean Democratic. But the swirling politics surrounding the emotional issue have left Bush groping for a viable path toward a solution, even as his political capital continues to be drained by the war in Iraq.
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform announce that they are going to investigate two high-profile events in recent US military history. Those two events: the friendly-fire death of US Army Ranger and former NFL star Cpl. Pat Tillman and the rescue of Pvt. Jennifer Lynch. In Tillman's case, there are clear signs of a serious cover-up over the circumstances of his death, and Lynch's story which was spread far and wide appears to be one part fairy tale, one part exploitative propaganda. It'll be the committees job to investigate misbehavior and see how high up in the chain of command, military and civilian, it went. We'll be following this story closely at NDNblog, as we continue to look at the failures of the period of conservative ascendency.
Very interesting article in the NYT today, looking at a recent report from the Election Assistance Commission, a federal panel empowered to research elections. Apparently there was some serious scrubbing of their look at voter fraud, moving the findings from the consensus view, to a position more in-line with conservative Republican views.
A federal panel responsible for conducting election research played down the findings of experts who concluded last year that there was little voter fraud around the nation, according to a review of the original report obtained by The New York Times.
Instead, the panel, the Election Assistance Commission, issued a report that said the pervasiveness of fraud was open to debate.
The revised version echoes complaints made by Republican politicians, who have long suggested that voter fraud is widespread and justifies the voter identification laws that have been passed in at least two dozen states.
Democrats say the threat is overstated and have opposed voter identification laws, which they say disenfranchise the poor, members of minority groups and the elderly, who are less likely to have photo IDs and are more likely to be Democrats.
Though the original report said that among experts “there is widespread but not unanimous agreement that there is little polling place fraud,” the final version of the report released to the public concluded in its executive summary that “there is a great deal of debate on the pervasiveness of fraud.”
The topic of voter fraud, usually defined as people misrepresenting themselves at the polls or improperly attempting to register voters, remains a lively division between the two parties. It has played a significant role in the current Congressional investigation into the Bush administration’s firing of eight United State attorneys, several of whom, documents now indicate, were dismissed for being insufficiently aggressive in pursuing voter fraud cases.
The report also addressed intimidation, which Democrats see as a more pervasive problem.
And two weeks ago, the panel faced criticism for refusing to release another report it commissioned concerning voter identification laws. That report, which was released after intense pressure from Congress, found that voter identification laws designed to fight fraud can reduce turnout, particularly among members of minorities. In releasing that report, which was conducted by a different set of scholars, the commission declined to endorse its findings, citing methodological concerns.
A number of election law experts, based on their own research, have concluded that the accusations regarding widespread fraud are unjustified.
Buried in the middle of the artically is Karl Rove's use of Latin American stereotypes to justify disenfranchising voters. Real classy, Karl:
The Republican Party’s interest in rooting out voter fraud has been encouraged by the White House. In a speech last April, Karl Rove, Mr. Bush’s senior political adviser, told a group of Republican lawyers that election integrity issues were an “enormous and growing” problem.
“We’re, in some parts of the country, I’m afraid to say, beginning to look like we have elections like those run in countries where the guys in charge are colonels in mirrored sunglasses,” Mr. Rove said. “I mean, it’s a real problem.”
According to the WAPO, the Bush Administration has approached at least three retired four-star generals to ask them if they would accept a War Czar position giving them strategic oversight over the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. All of them have said no." Marine General (Ret.) John J. "Jack" Sheehan put it best:
The very fundamental issue is, they don't know where the hell they're going," said retired Marine Gen. John J. "Jack" Sheehan, a former top NATO commander who was among those rejecting the job. Sheehan said he believes that Vice President Cheney and his hawkish allies remain more powerful within the administration than pragmatists looking for a way out of Iraq. "So rather than go over there, develop an ulcer and eventually leave, I said, 'No, thanks,' " he said.
And Gen. Sheehan works for Bechtel right now on "developing oil projects in the Middle East." When the was profiteers want out, maybe it's time to take a second look...
The new Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell is having similar problems:
Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell has been unable to find a deputy acceptable to the White House during his first six weeks in office.
Several candidates approached by McConnell either turned down the job or were rejected by the White House, according to current and former administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not supposed to discuss the matter.
The position of deputy director of national intelligence has been vacant since May, when Gen. Michael V. Hayden left to become the director of the CIA. Lt. Gen. Ronald L. Burgess Jr., who was appointed to replace Hayden, had to vacate the post in January because regulations limit how long a person can hold the position without Senate confirmation.
While the matter lingers on, McConnell said this week, he has been working 18-hour days "at least six days a week" to handle the crush of work.
The general unwillingness on the part of qualified people to join the Bush Administration is threatening the operations of our government, particularly in areas critical to national security. The end of the Bush years can't come quick enough.