Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Pushing Back the Stoopid


Sadly, we need a lot more media reports like the one above if we are to move forward...
A tri-partisan energy bill being crafted by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) is still pending in the Senate. The odds have been against it, and this week, it looks as if success is getting further away.

Just last week, Graham explained, "[F]rom a Republican point of view, you've got the best chance you'll ever have to get meaningful energy independence. From the Democratic left point of view, you've got the best chance you'll ever have to have carbon pollution controls. Don't let [the opportunity] pass."

It looks likely that lawmakers will ignore Graham's good advice.

Record snowfall has buried Washington -- and along with it, buried the chances of passing global warming legislation this year.

Cars are stranded in banks of snow along the streets of the federal capital, and in the corridors of Congress, climate legislation also has been put on ice.

Democratic senators say a bill that was once a top priority for the party and for President Barack Obama cannot be dug up again during 2010.

It seems mind-numbing, but Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) said snowfall in D.C. has had an effect on policymakers' attitudes. "It makes it more challenging for folks not taking time to review the scientific arguments," said Bingaman, chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

"People see the world around them and they extrapolate," he added. "I think that it's hard to see an economy-wide cap-and-trade [proposal] of the type that passed the House could prevail."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters last week that he'd like to see the final language on Kerry/Graham/Lieberman fairly soon, with hopes for a floor debate in the Spring. "Lawmakers," The Hill reported, "are growing increasingly skeptical of that plan."

And given that Republicans -- who tend to believe all of the scientific data is part of an elaborate conspiracy/plot, and deserves to be rejected -- are likely to make meaningful gains in the midterm elections, it may be many years before Congress even tries to limit emissions and combat global warming.

As the threat of the crisis grows more intense, Congress cannot act. The environmental consequences are likely to be severe and unforgiving.

Ezra Klein: What Obama could learn from Bush

Last night, Craig Becker's nomination to the National Labor Relations Board was approved, with 52 senators voting in favor of Becker and 33 voting against him.

Wait, sorry, I got that wrong. It was rejected with 52 senators voting in favor of Becker and 33 voting against. How? Well, the filibuster, grasshopper. This led some lions of the Senate to take aim at the practice. "I think [the filibuster] will either fall of its own weight -- it should fall of its own weight -- or it will fall after some massive conflict on the floor," Carl Levin told the Huffington Post. "The reason the filibuster rule has been supported all these years is people have used it responsibly," Pat Leahy said. "This is unprecedented."

But the big news is that Barack Obama is finally threatening some recess appointments. Unlike on legislation, the president is not powerless before obstruction of his nominees. He, like most every president before him, can invoke his constitutional right to appoint during a congressional recess. By this point in his term, George W. Bush had recess appointed 10 nominees, including one to the National Labor Relations Board in August of his first year. We're in February of Obama's second, he has more than twice as many nominees held up as Bush did, and he's only threatening his first recess appointment.

Bush had this right. In his first year in office, he was using recess appointments and running major legislation through the reconciliation process. That normalized those moves for the rest of his administration. Using those tools wasn't a story. The Obama White House, by contrast, is holding those moves in reserve, which has allowed Republicans to paint them as extraordinary measures. But they're not extraordinary measures. They're basic elements of governance in an era of polarization and procedural obstructionism, and the White House should treat them that way.

  • from the comments:

    The Boston Globe, focusing on the Scott Brown angle, actually had a blurb on their from page that said "Scott Brown was in a 52-33 majority to reject a pro-union pick for the NLRB," and yet you wonder why most people don't understand what's going on with the filibuster.

    Posted by: _SP_ | February 10, 2010 12:39 PM
Sully: Tomorrow Belongs To Her, Ctd

A reader writes:

I was born, raised, and educated in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, an exemplary Whitopia. I grew up listening to Rush Limbaugh, watching Fox News and had a "Proud Member of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy" bumper sticker on my debate tub. I was lucky though. I did well enough in school to be eligible to attend one of those evil elite East Cost universities on scholarship. I defended Bush, idiotically, all the way until my senior year, when I studied abroad in both China and England. I was forced, over and over, by classmates and those I met in other countries to confront the grotesque neo-con mindset I had thought was so obviously right.

It took crossing both oceans, a comprehensive study of the history of religion and government, and four years of college to change my perspective. As someone who moved from one extreme to the other, I can tell you the one thing that saved me was the conservative impulse to be self critical, to avoid hubris and arrogance. The other was my parents teaching me to love science. My first break with Whitopia doctrine was when I argued with my church's youth group leader over the reality of evolution. That someone could deny something so obvious baffled me. It has been a slow and painful process since then, testing and retesting my beliefs.

I am now everything I grew up thinking I should hate:

I live in New York, go to NYU, and I study feminist and queer theory. I am horrified by the insane ramblings of Palin and the small government ideas she mutilates on a daily basis. I have lots of friends back in CDA, and lots of friends from high school who "got out." Those of use who escaped treat our home town as a place we love filled with people we don't understand or relate too. Most of us who "got out" are liberal or libertarian (I'm the latter). Most of us are deeply ashamed of how we used to view the world and, in many cases, how our friends and families still do.

If you really want know fear, all I can tell you is that Coeur d'Alene was downright progressive compared to the surrounding towns.

Keep hammering Palin. Those of use who grew up in Whitopia know her kind and understand how seductive her anti-logic can be. Thank you thank you thank you for exposing her.

Sargent: White House: Kit Bond’s Call For Brennan’s Resignation Is “Pathetic”

As you may have heard, Senator Kit Bond is calling for Obama counter-terror chief John Brennan to step down, largely because Brennan has taken the lead in pushing back against GOP efforts to paint Obama as weak on terror.

The White House is now dismissing Bond’s efforts as “pathetic,” and pointing to Brennan’s lifetime of professional intelligence experience as proof that Bond is putting politics over our national security. Asked for comment on Bond’s broadside, White House spokesman Nick Shapiro emails over a brief and dismissive comment:

“Through his pathetic attack on a counter-terrorism professional like John Brennan who has spent his lifetime protecting this country under multiple Administrations, Senator Bond sinks to new depths in his efforts to put politics over our national security.”

The conventions of political journalism for some reason discourage doing this, but it’s worth pointing out that the White House is right.

Bond’s position, quite literally, is that Brennan should step down because he’s fought back aggressively against GOP efforts to paint Obama’s policies as weak on terror. As Bond put it: “We have to wonder whether we can trust [Brennan] after he has been a mouthpiece for the political arm that I thought only came out of the White House press office.”

Yet Brennan boasts a 25-year career in intelligence and counter-terrorism. He joined the CIA as an intelligence director in 1980, subsequently holding a series of positions at the agency in America and abroad. He led counter-terrorism efforts for various agency programs in the 1990s.

Brennan was appointed CIA deputy executive director in March 2001 and served in that post until 2003 — under notorious terror sympathizer George W. Bush. He moved to the National Counter-Terrorism Center in 2004, revamping the system for monitoring terrorist activity. Etc., etc.

Yet Bond wants this man to step down, and take his counter-terrorism experience with him, because he won’t roll over before Bond’s efforts to paint him and his boss as … weak on terror. Interesting priorities.

Elliott (TPM): The Obama-GOP Miranda Showdown: Everything You Think You Know Is Wrong

On close scrutiny, this week's intense debate over Miranda rights for Umar Abdulmutallab -- culminating in GOP calls for a top Obama aide to resign -- largely falls apart.

The key point of dispute -- whether four Republican leaders should have assumed that the Christmas bombing suspect had been Mirandized after a phone call from Obama aide John Brennan, in which the GOPers were told that Abdulmutallab was in FBI custody -- is moot in light of the facts of the case.

That call occurred sometime in the evening of Christmas Day after the incident in the skies above Detroit. The Republicans maintained this week, in sniping eagerly picked up by the media, that the phone calls from Brennan were brief and informal, and they had no way of knowing that the suspect was read his rights.

What's been lost in the debate is that on the afternoon of the very next day, Dec. 26, the Justice Department announced Abdulmutallab had been criminally charged in federal court. At that point, less than 24 hours after the Brennan phone calls, there could be no doubt not only that the suspect was being handled by the criminal justice system, but also that he had been read his rights.

But none of the four Republicans made an issue out of it until at least several days after criminal charges were brought, according to our search of news archives.

Let's go back and look at what happened in more detail.

The current round of debate started Sunday when Brennan, the deputy national security adviser, said on Meet The Press that he had called Sens. Mitch McConnell and Kit Bond and Reps. John Boehner and Pete Hoekstra the night of the attempted bombing.

"I explained to them that he was in FBI custody, that Mr. Abdulmutallab was, in fact, talking, that he was cooperating at that point. They knew that 'in FBI custody' means that there's a process then you follow as far as Mirandizing and presenting him in front of a magistrate," Brennan said.

"None of those individuals raised any concerns with me at that point. They didn't say, 'Is he going into military custody? Is he going to be Mirandized?' They were very appreciative of the information, we told them we'd keep them informed, and that's what we did."

The four GOPers angrily fired back with different versions of, "but he didn't mention Miranda specifically!" "At no point did he ever talk to me about legal strategies," Hoekstra told Politico.

Bond said in a statement, "Brennan never told me any of plans to Mirandize the Christmas Day bomber -- if he had, I would have told him the administration was making a mistake."

Said McConnell's spokesman: "Senator McConnell was given a heads up that Abdulmutallab was in custody, but little else. He wasn't told of the decision to Mirandize Abdulmutallab."

Asked about the matter by TPMmuckraker earlier this week, Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith dismissed "Brennan's claim that 'in FBI custody' somehow means Miranda rights have been read," pointing to an article about a non-operational interrogation team that would potentially not read suspects their rights.

But whatever side you take in this argument -- and given that its standard FBI policy to read Miranda rights to suspects, Brennan seems to have the upper hand on this one -- it really only bears on the 20 hours or so after the phone calls on Christmas evening.

That's because at around 3.p.m. ET the next day, the government announced that criminal charges had been brought against Abdulmutallab. The press release was sent out by the Justice Department. And an FBI agent's affidavit was attached.

So, that's when top Republicans fired off their own press releases slamming the decision to bring criminal charges and to -- one would have been right to assume -- Mirandize the suspect, right?

Not so much.

Lt. Col. David Frakt, a law professor at Western State University who has represented defendants before military commissions at Guantanamo, tells TPMmuckraker that if "FBI custody" wasn't a tip-off that Abdulmutallab had been Mirandized, the fact that he was criminally charged would remove all doubt.

"If the agents had not advised a person of their rights, which undoubtedly they would, then the judge will," Frakt says. "The judge will reiterate those rights and typically appoint counsel if it hasn't already been appointed."

The DOJ press release noted that Abdulmutallab "will make his initial court appearance later today." U.S. District Judge Paul D. Borman visited the hospital where the suspect was being treated that day and informed him of the criminal charges.

But as far as we can tell from searching news archives, the first time Hoekstra, Bond, Boehner, or McConnell made an issue of the fact that Abdulmutallab was going through the civilian system is a Dec. 30 statement from Hoekstra's office. That's four days after Abdulmutallab was charged in civilian court.

Hoekstra even wrote an op-ed that appeared in his hometown paper on on Dec. 29 taking Obama to task over counterterrorism policy and the Christmas bombing attempt. But the op-ed didn't criticize the fact that Abdulmutallab had been charged three days earlier in criminal court, nor that he was read his rights.

Bond, for his part, didn't come out against Abdulmutallab being in civilian courts until Jan. 3, about a week after he was charged, according to a Nexis search.

As for the Miranda question at the heart of this week's debate, none of the four seem to have mentioned the issue specifically until Hoekstra did on Jan. 13. That came only after the Miranda-specific attack had been initiated by Tom Ridge and Dick Cheney, as we explained yesterday.

The delayed GOP outrage may be explained by the fact that all previous cases of suspected terrorists captured on U.S. soil had been handled by the criminal justice system, as Attorney General Eric Holder noted last week.

Despite all this, Republicans are sticking to the Miranda attack. Amid calls by Bond and Hoekstra for Brennan to resign, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) told National Review that Brennan is "not being honest and forthright" about the phone call and the Miranda issue.

We asked spokespeople for the four Republicans why they didn't respond to the criminal charges against Abdulmutallab when they were brought on Dec. 26. We'll let you know if we hear back.


Last week, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee, unveiled a GOP budget blueprint that slashes Medicare and privatize Social Security. The same plan, incidentally, includes more tax breaks for the wealthy and a "consumption tax" of 8.5% that would unfairly burden the lower- and middle-class.

After presenting his plan, Democrats went on the offensive, noting how radical approach the House GOP prefers. Republican leaders slowly distanced themselves from the Ryan plan.

For his party, Ryan can't dismiss the criticism out of hand -- Democrats are describing his plan in an honest, accurate way -- but he can feel sorry for himself. Republican columnist Michael Gerson devoted his latest Washington Post piece to characterizing the GOP lawmaker as a victim.

The attack "came out of the Democratic National Committee, and that is the White House," Ryan told me recently, sounding both disappointed and unsurprised. [...]

To Ryan, the motivations of Democratic leaders are transparent. "They had an ugly week of budget news. They are precipitating a debt crisis, with deficits that get up to 85 percent of GDP and never get to a sustainable level. They are flirting with economic disaster."

I see. So the reason Democrats are pointing out the absurdities of Paul Ryan's plan is that Democrats are struggling to clean up the fiscal mess left by ... Republicans like Paul Ryan. It's quite a scheme.

Gerson finds this persuasive. Given that his column has basically become Fox News in print, that's not especially surprising.

But the entire pitch is nevertheless pretty silly. Ryan voted for budgetary and economic policies that added $5 trillion to the national debt over eight years. He supported the budgetary and economic policies that took a $230 billion surplus and turned it into a $1.3 trillion deficit. He was proud to endorse all kinds of measures -- including two wars and Medicare expansion -- that cost a bundle, but which Ryan and his cohorts never even tried to pay for.

But now Paul Ryan has decided it's time to clean up the mess he helped create, and to do so, he wants to go after Medicare and Social Security. When the left suggests that's ridiculous, Ryan concludes that Democrats are big meanies.

He's obviously well on his way to becoming a media darling. Gerson sounds ready to take a leave of absence to erect a statue in Ryan's honor.

No comments:

Post a Comment