Thursday, December 31, 2009

Pushing Back Against Fearmongering

Rachel has rarely been better than this...
Shameless Cheney ignores own record to cast stones Dec. 30: Rachel Maddow holds Dick Cheney and Republican opportunists to account for their shameless hypocrisy, distortions and outright lies in criticizing President Obama's response to the attempted bombing of Flight 253 in the face of their abject, egregious failures to deal with terrorist threats to the United States when they were in power.

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  • This is the Republican response to this terrorist attack at the end of 2009.

    Again, my friends and colleagues in the media have two choices in covering this. You can just copy down what the Republicans and Vice President Cheney are saying, and click "send," call it journalism, or you can actually fact-check those comments and put them into context. Your choice. It’s your country.

It's understandable that the White House, any White House, wants to stay "above the fray." A president and his/her team have broader responsibilities that preclude tit-for-tat squabbles with petty partisans.

That said, some criticisms deserve responses. Dick Cheney, for example, isn't some two-bit radio shock-jock in a third-tier market -- he only acts like it -- but is rather the former vice president of the United States. His loathsome and spectacularly dishonest attack on the president yesterday was hard to ignore.

And with that in mind, White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer published an important item yesterday, offering a surprisingly forceful response to Cheney's latest vile nonsense. Pfeiffer noted at the outset that it's "telling" that Cheney and his right-wing cohorts "seem to be more focused on criticizing the Administration than condemning the attackers."

Just as important, Pfeiffer offered a "substantive context" for those who seem desperate to assign blame for a failed terrorist attack.

[F]or seven years after 9/11, while our national security was overwhelmingly focused on Iraq -- a country that had no al Qaeda presence before our invasion -- Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda's leadership was able to set up camp in the border region of Pakistan and Afghanistan, where they continued to plot attacks against the United States. Meanwhile, al Qaeda also regenerated in places like Yemen and Somalia, establishing new safe-havens that have grown over a period of years. It was President Obama who finally implemented a strategy of winding down the war in Iraq, and actually focusing our resources on the war against al Qaeda -- more than doubling our troops in Afghanistan, and building partnerships to target al Qaeda's safe-havens in Yemen and Somalia. And in less than one year, we have already seen many al Qaeda leaders taken out, our alliances strengthened, and the pressure on al Qaeda increased worldwide.

To put it simply: this President is not interested in bellicose rhetoric, he is focused on action. Seven years of bellicose rhetoric failed to reduce the threat from al Qaeda and succeeded in dividing this country. And it seems strangely off-key now, at a time when our country is under attack, for the architect of those policies to be attacking the President.

That's a rather diplomatic way of saying, "Dick, you had your shot and you failed. Now shut up while we clean up your mess. You can thank us later."

Cheney's disgusting missive also insisted that the president, by his estimation, doesn't realize we're "at war." Pfeiffer reminds us of several instances in which Obama has made it clear that, as far as this administration is concerned, we are very much at war.

There are numerous other such public statements that explicitly state we are at war. The difference is this: President Obama doesn't need to beat his chest to prove it, and -- unlike the last Administration -- we are not at war with a tactic ("terrorism"), we at war with something that is tangible: al Qaeda and its violent extremist allies. And we will prosecute that war as long as the American people are endangered.

Well said.

C&L: Rep. Eric Massa Smacks Down Dick Cheney--Challenges Him to a Debate

This was a thing of beauty. Ed Schultz takes a few swings at Dick Cheney himself and brings in Rep. Eric Massa who smacks down Cheney for politicizing the attempted terror attack and says he'll debate him any time, anywhere, even on Fox News if Cheney won't appear anywhere else. Just make sure you're in studio Congressman. They'll cut your mike if you're off the set.

And on the topic of Dick Cheney and his good little stenographer over at The Politico, Andrew Sullivan got this one right--Mike Allen, Cheney's Chief Spokesman:

There he goes again, the mouthpiece for Rove and Cheney, believing his "access" as a stenographer makes him a journalist. It doesn't. It makes him a stenographer.

I would be more than happy if everyone just started ignoring Dick Cheney and his stenographer Mike Allen. Cheney is a spineless hack who hides behind the shield of Fox News, and The Politico, or AEI or any of these other right wing neo-con think tanks that allow him to give speeches and take pot shots at Democrats. I agree with Rep. Massa and Ed Schultz. Let Dick Cheney come testify before Congress along with Janet Napolitano and let's see how he fairs defending their horrid record on terrorism.

Sully: Dissent Of The Day

A reader writes:

Your cultural hangover seems to extend to embracing unfortunate aspects of British nonsense as well:

`Let the jury consider their verdict,' the King said, for about the twentieth time that day. `No, no!' said the Queen. `Sentence first – verdict afterwards.'

Obama has already proved he’s not Bush, otherwise he would be clubbing down the press and political opponents by suggesting that any critique of government would embolden “the enemy”. Rather, Obama has conceded to a breakdown in the system and vowed to correct it. Can you conceive of Bush ever admitting to a mistake on his watch?

Demanding the immediate sacking of Napolitano as a symbolic gesture of accountability is akin to requiring idiotic new airline screening procedures – it provides the illusion of decisive action and does nothing except create a false sense of “something is being done”. If an investigation shows that she utterly failed at her job, then by all means she needs to go. However, to fire Napolitano without evidence of incompetence would be opportunistic, craven, and foolish (also trademarks of the Bush administration).

About a millisecond after Northwest Airlines Flight 253 was on the ground on Friday, federal officials took Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab into custody. He was soon after charged with attempted terrorism. Conservatives aren't happy about this for a variety of reasons, but one concern in particular is especially wrong.

Tom Ridge, for example, told Americans this week that Abdulmutallab will only provide information "if he volunteers it." Similarly, the Weekly Standard's Michael Goldfarb complained that "we can't interrogate" the suspected terrorist.

Obviously, no one should expect much from Goldfarb, but Ridge doesn't have any excuses -- he has a law degree and, not incidentally, he led the Department of Homeland Security, where presumably this issue came up more than once.

In reality, Abdulmutallab -- even after having been read his rights, and securing counsel -- can be, probably has been, and will be interrogated. As Spencer Ackerman explained yesterday, "Just because the guy lawyers up doesn't mean we can't interrogate him."

U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials I've talked to in the last several hours have been flabbergasted to hear this line of argument, because at its heart, it betrays a fundamental ignorance of the process. One who has experience in these matters called it "flat-out ignorance" to claim that the "criminal justice system or law enforcement methods impede the collection of actionable intelligence. There is no basis in fact."

Why? Let me turn this over to a U.S. official deeply familiar with intelligence matters who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the Abdulmutallab case. "I cannot speak from first-hand knowledge of the present matter, but if a terror suspect like Abdulmutallab invokes [his] right to silence, it does not mean law enforcement officials must cease the interview," the official said. "It simply means inculpatory information probably will not be used in court."

Got that? Mirandization is about admissibility in court. This ought to explain why law enforcement and intelligence officials aren't complaining about Abdulmutallab. It's just Obama's political enemies, who have no problem inventing a concern based on absolutely nothing and then promoting their ignorance about security matters to a pliant media.

If I had a nickel for every time Republican talking points reflected a "flat-out ignorance," I could retire a wealthy man.

It's possible, of course, that Republican activists like Ridge, Goldfarb, and others aren't hopelessly confused. Rather, maybe they understand the process very well, and are simply lying shamelessly this week in the hopes of scoring cheap points by exploiting public fear and confusion.

That, however, would be worse.

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