Friday, June 30, 2006

Conservative Pundits Argue For Renewing U.S. Office Of Censorship

A U.S. Office of Censorship?

It may sound like something out of a George Orwell novel. Many liberals would say the media censored itself during the run-up to the Iraq War, much the same way journalists censored themselves during World War II, the only time in U.S. history when an office of censorship existed.

Conservatives, following a string of front-page news articles in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and elsewhere, are barking loudly that censorship is what the country needs -- at least while we're fighting the "war on terror," for however long that lasts.

I wonder -- and I'm not being completely facetious -- how fondly the right-wing fringe remember the 1940s. The country was at war, and the nation didn't question FDR's decisions. FDR was able to prevent refugees from Europe from entering the country. And we had a government office for censoring the press. Good times?

Fox New Radio host Brian Kilmeade improbably argued that in the fight to defeat those who would take away our freedoms, the U.S. should take away our freedoms instead.

Kilmeade, on yesterday's broadcast of Fox News Radio's Brian & The Judge, told co-host Andrew Napolitano:

KILMEADE: See, I'm more into the ends justifying the means. And what they do is you can sunset this, Judge. The same way they have the Patriot Act sunsetted. You put up the Office of Censorship. You get a consensus to journalists to analyze and then you realize what FDR realized early. Winning is everything. ... You're in love with the law, but I'm in love with survival.

***

Perhaps not coincidentally, E.D. Hill, co-host of Fox News Channel's Fox & Friends, brought up the Office of Censorship concept yesterday. Hill, who usually co-hosts the show with Kilmeade, had this exchange with Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ):

HILL: What about -- in the past, we have had, at times, an Office of Censorship, where people review what is about -- is something that was -- it's going to be big, you've got to run it through and say, "OK. Does this hurt our country or is it of, you know, news value?

Thankfully, Hayworth still believes in the First Amendment.

HAYWORTH: Well, E.D., I don't know that we need an Office of Censorship.

Bush Accuses Democrats Of "Waving The White Flag Of Surrender." Does He Think The Same Of Casey?

Speaking at a June 28 fundraiser, President Bush attacked congressional Democrats, accusing the opposition of "waving the white flag of surrender" in Iraq.

"There's a group in the opposition party who are willing to retreat before the mission is done," he said. "They're willing to wave the white flag of surrender. And if they succeed, the United States will be worse off, and the world will be worse off."

According to the Washington Post, Bush has been using the "white flag of surrender" at fundraisers throughout the month, "adopting the more cutting approach of his senior political adviser, Karl Rove."

The applause line is red meat for conservative-friendly audiences willing to pledge millions for re-election campaigns. But it's out of date -- a point the Post fails to mention.

Bush, of course, was briefed on Friday by the top American commander in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, on his plan to reduce U.S. troops in Iraq, with the first cuts perhaps coming by September, and much deeper cuts coming in 2007. The plan is conceptually similar to one offered by Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Jack Reed (D-RI) -- a plan that was lambasted by conservatives as a "cut and run" policy, and ultimately rejected by the Senate.

Bush won't admit that the top American commander is proposing something akin to what his party snidely called "cut and run." It would ruin a good applause line, and hurt fund raising.

***

Here's a suggestion: Instead of lying about Democrats to raise money, maybe Bush could repeat his March, 2004, stand-up routine on not being able to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq! That would bring home the big bucks, right?

Remember that laugh riot? With some 500 U.S. troops dead in Iraq, Bush stood before the 60th annual Radio and Television Correspondents Association dinner and showed "candid" images of him looking behind drapes, under his desk, and elsewhere in the White House, offering applause lines like: "Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere."

Or here's a better idea: Maybe Bush could just tell the truth -- that a majority of Americans want troop redeployment, the Iraqi leadership wants troop redeployment, and his own top general believes it's time for troop redeployment. It may not get as many applause lines, but it would give Bush a chance to be an actual leader for the entire U.S.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Liberal Media Bias? CBS, CNN Reporters Buy Into Conservative Jargon

Reporters for CNN and CBS -- ofted cited by conservative pundits as major sources of "liberal media bias" -- lazily repeated the conservative jargon "cut and run" to describe Democratic proposals for U.S. troop redeployment from Iraq, while failing to use the term to describe a similar proposal being considered by the Bush Administration.

CNN host Paula Zahn and congressional correspondent Dana Bash each adopted the conservative description "cut and run" for the Democratic proposals -- prior to the news that the top American commander in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, had briefed the administration on a similar plan.

Zahn, interviewing Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE) on June 20, asserted that the Democratic Party is "getting creamed as the party of cut-and-runners, the wobbly, the weak."

The next day, Bash reported: "(W)e've heard it over and over again and we'll hear it many times today, the term 'cut and run.' They will say the Democrats want nothing more than to cut and run from Iraq."

But what excuse does CBS Evening News correspondent Joie Chen have for this report on June 25 -- after it became known that Casey's plan was conceptually similar to one offered by Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Jack Reed (D-RI)?

Here's how Chen describes Casey's proposal:

CHEN: It's not a cut-and-run strategy, but the report suggests the Pentagon is contemplating a sharp change in direction, a way out for some forces. The New York Times says General George Casey, the top man in Iraq, last week laid out a plan that would slash the 14 combat brigades now in Iraq down to five or six by next December.

As media watchdog Media Matters noted: "Chen did not say how she thought Casey's reported plan differs from what the White House and Senate Republicans have labeled the Democrats' 'cut-and-run' proposals."

Why not? Because conservatives can't give a substantive reason why the plans differ. As a result, Chen lazily repeats the conservative spin as fact.

"Liberal media bias?" Hardly.

What makes this worse, of course, is that Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell admitted on June 25 -- prior to Chen's report -- that Republican lawmakers were aware of Casey's plan before voting against, and badmouthing, the Levin-Reed proposal.

In other words, even though Republicans knew a similar plan was being hatched by Gen. Casey, they nonetheless took the partisan route by shouting "cut and run" over and over -- enough times, apparently, that it has sunk in with key parts of the supposedly "liberal media."

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

McConnell Admits GOP Knew About Casey's Redeployment Proposal, Even As They Blasted Democrats' Similar Plan

See if you can follow along with the "conservative" version of logic.

Last week, Senate Republicans -- following the Bush Administration's wishes -- led an effort to kill a proposal by Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Jack Reed (D-RI) that would have required a redeployment to begin by the end of the year but not set a timetable for a complete withdrawal.

Many conservatives labeled the Levin-Reed proposal a "cut-and-run" policy.

At the time, the conventional wisdom was that this was partisanship, but at the same time signified a policy difference between the parties. Democrats wanted a timetable to allow for the gradual withdrawal of U.S. troops -- in keeping with Bush's frequent statements that as the Iraqi troops "step up," the U.S.-led coalition will "step down," the wishes of Iraqi leaders (here, here and here, among others), and the wishes of a majority of Americans.

Republicans, it appeared, disagreed. And that was fine -- a clear policy difference that may have been a campaign issue come November.

But then Americans learned that at roughly the same time that Senate Republicans were denouncing the Levin-Reed proposal, the top American commander in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, had briefed the administration on a plan to reduce U.S. troops in Iraq, with the first cuts perhaps coming by September, and much deeper cuts coming in 2007.

Although the plan was conceptually similar to the one proposed by Levin and Reed, the same conservatives said it was not a "cut-and-run" policy.

Why label one but not the other?

The simple answer is that these conservatives are employing a double standard. The official reasons -- the ones being spouted by those Republican Congressman who last week thought name calling was good public policy -- seem murky. Read the quotes from most conservative Republicans, and you won't find much information on substantive differences between the plans. Instead, you'll hear partisan politics.

For example, Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told ABC's This Week that "Congress ought not to be dictating to the generals what the tactics are."

That may be true. But it doesn't explain why one plan is "cut and run" and the other isn't.

Furthermore, McConnell said that Republican lawmakers were aware of Casey's plan before voting against the Levin-Reed proposal. In other words, even though Republicans knew a similar plan was being hatched by Gen. Casey, they nonetheless took the partisan and immature route -- substituting name-calling for reasonable debate.

(This also apparently confirms that JABBS' speculation from a few days ago was correct -- that Vice President Cheney also knew about Casey's gameplan when he told CNN's John King that the Democrats' plans for troop redeployment were "the worst possible thing we could do.")

***

If the Democrats are smart, they'll remind voters again and again that "we're in sync with General Casey," as Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) told CBS. And they'll remind voters that Republicans cared more about partisan politics than policy -- at a time when more than 2,500 U.S. troops have been killed.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Reporter to Rice: "We Love You Here In Greensboro"

Nancy McLaughlin's June 14 interview with Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice was a lot of things -- but an example of so-called "liberal media bias" was not among them.

McLaughlin, the religion writer for the Greensboro News & Record, covered Rice's speech at the Southern Baptist Convention in the North Carolina city. And maybe she was just giddy at the chance to interview a national figure, but McLaughlin couldn't have been more unprofessional.

The seven-minute interview started this way:

QUESTION: Secretary Rice, thank you. As a brilliant and accomplished woman who has risen to the highest office of public life, what would you say to the Convention which would limit your abilities as a woman?

And it ended this way:

SECRETARY RICE: I thank you very much.

QUESTION: We love you here in Greensboro. I just wanted to say that with my time.

SECRETARY RICE: Well, thank you. Really nice to meet you. Thank you. Want to take a picture together?

QUESTION: Yeah, sure.

***

It's positively Jeff Gannon-esque. No wonder the State Department posted the interview online.

Just imagine what might have happened if a reporter was caught on-record framing questions that way for, say, Sen. Hillary Clinton?

Oh, the "conservative media" would have a field day. It'd be the talk of hundreds of blogs. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin and the rest would offering heated criticism.

But do a Google search, and you'll find nary a conservative blogger saying boo about McLaughlin.

***

Perhaps worse is that McLaughlin wasn't even given a slap on the wrist for her actions -- which either showed her to be a sycophant or not ready for prime time.

Editor John Robinson, in his blog on the paper's Web site, started off by scolding his reporter:

ROBINSON: "Nancy's closing comment to Rice -- 'We love you here in Greensboro' -- was inappropriate, to say the least, and she shouldn't have said it. She knows it, too.

Then came some spin:

ROBINSON: "She told me that her mouth outran her brain and that she intended to convey respect for Rice's accomplishments. Didn't come out that way. And while it wasn't meant as a political endorsement, I can see how it will be read that way."

You know that wouldn't fly if McLaughlin had been interviewing Sen. Clinton.

Robinson then ends the post with what I guess was an attempt at humor:

ROBINSON: "To avoid any perception of preferential treatment, Nancy won't be covering stories about Rice or the State Department."

Of course she won't. McLaughlin, remember, is the religion writer.

I guess that's the way they do things in Greensboro.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Did Cheney Know Of Casey's Redeployment Plan When He Said Democrats' Redeployment Plan Was "Worst Possible Thing?"

Vice President Dick Cheney, in a Thursday interview, told CNN's John King that the Democrats' plans for troop redeployment were "the worst possible thing we could do."

"No matter how you carve it -- you can call it anything you want -- but basically, it is packing it in, going home, persuading and convincing and validating the theory that the Americans don't have the stomach for this fight," Cheney said.

At about the same time, Senate Republicans -- following the administration's wishes -- led an effort to kill a proposal by Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Jack Reed (D-RI) that would have required a redeployment to begin by the end of the year but not set a timetable for a complete withdrawal. (Note: A second proposal calling for a near-complete withdrawal by next year, from Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Russ Feingold (D-WI) was overwhelmingly defeated.)

A clear statement by the Bush Administration, right?

But, as we now know, the top American commander in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, has also drafted a plan to reduce U.S. troops in Iraq, with the first cuts perhaps coming by September, and much deeper cuts coming in 2007.

Now, of course, the administration may reject the plan, but assuming it doesn't, it's fair to say that what Casey is reportedly planning and what Levin and Reed proposed is conceptually similar. Specific details may vary -- no two proposals are going to be identical -- but the idea is that the U.S. begin withdrawing troops gradually, in keeping with Bush's frequent statements that as the Iraqi troops "step up," the U.S.-led coalition will "step down."

Something tells me that the Republicans who denounced Democrats aren't going to turn around and denounce Casey.

***

Here's a question I'd like to see answered: Did Cheney know about Casey's gameplan when he denounced Levin and Reed's similar proposal?

It's doubtful that the multitudes of Republicans who denounced the Democrats' proposal -- some blasting it as a "cut and run" policy -- were aware of Casey's classified briefing.

However, it's not nearly as hard to believe one well-placed Republican -- Cheney -- was aware of Casey's briefing when he denounced the Democrats.

On Fox News Sunday, Levin told host Chris Wallace that "General Casey at the Pentagon a few days ago said he believes there will be fairly substantial troop reductions this year." The New York Times reported on Saturday that Casey "met this week" with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

In other words, Rumsfeld and Pace were aware of Casey's briefing days before Cheney and various Congressional Republicans made their denouncements.

Should we assume that Cheney -- by various accounts a hands-on player since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and noted to be one of the architects of the Iraq War -- was not in the loop about Casey's briefing to Rumsfeld and Pace? It's extremely far-fetched.

The only other excuse is extreme naivete -- the assumption that Casey's plan would not be known by the public for several months, or after the Republicans had successfully linked the idea of "Democrats = white flag" in the minds of voters.

***

If true, it would be the latest example of Cheney putting partisan politics above Iraq War policy.

Last week, Cheney either lied or showed unconscionable ignorance when he suggested no one "anticipated the level of violence" from an Iraqi insurgency. And he played Americans for fools when he redefined his infamous "last throes" comment of a year ago.

Someone who so brazenly plays with the facts could certainly be capable of denouncing the Democrats' plan, while simultaneously being aware of Casey's similar plan, right?

Two GOP Senators Denounce Description of Democrats As Party of "Retreat" And "Cut and Run"

President Bush has long said that as the Iraqi troops "step up," the U.S.-led coalition will "step down." Separately, Bush and others in the administration have said that Iraqis are increasingly ready to defend themselves against the insurgency.

And, Iraqi leaders have repeatedly said (here, here and here, among others) that it's time to begin discussing troop redeployment.

Given those "facts," Democrats last week offered two proposals on troop redeployment -- one called for troops to be withdrawn by yearend, the other setting a mid-2007 deadline.

Wacky "liberal" thinking? Hardly. Polls last week from Pew Research Center and CNN show that a majority of Americans favor setting a timetable for redeployment; an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll from earlier this month found a majority of Americans want the U.S. to reduce its troop level in Iraq.

Yet some Republicans, looking for an angle to improve their diminishing chances of retaining control of Congress, have turned to name calling, saying the plans amount to little more than "cut and run" or "retreat."

You'd think Republican leaders would move beyond name-calling while the country is at war, and U.S. troop casualties and injuries continue to mount. But this is an election year, and "buzz words" like "cut and run" are easy to digest -- and Republicans en masse are clearly hoping that voters will falsely link Democrats with a white flag being raised.

At least two Republicans in the Senate have a conscience.

During his June 21 statement on the Senate floor, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) criticized the "catchy political slogans" put forth by his Republican colleagues:

HAGEL: "It should be taken more seriously than to simply retreat into focus-group tested buzz words and phrases like "cut and run," catchy political slogans that debase the seriousness of war."

Sen. Gordon H. Smith (R-OR), while disagreeing with the Democrats' proposals, similarly complained that "I want to express to my colleagues on the other side that the rhetoric is too heated" on the issue and said, "[M]y soul cries out for something more dignified. ... I don’t believe their dissent is unpatriotic."

***

The comments from Hagel and Smith came before a New York Times report yesterday saying that top American commander in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, has drafted a plan to reduce U.S. troops in Iraq -- beginning next year! I wonder if Casey, too, is guilty of wanting to "cut and run."

Friday, June 23, 2006

Bush Says "Boutique Fuels" Cause Higher Gas Prices, But EPA Study Disagrees

Back in April, President Bush said that the wide variety of so-called boutique fuels "tends to cause the price to go up."

Not so, according to a soon-to-be-released study from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The study -- based on input from the states and the Energy and Agriculture departments and written by the EPA -- "did not reveal any studies or empirical data confirming that boutique fuels presently contribute to higher fuel prices or present unusual distribution problems."

Boutique gasoline blends help states meet clean air rules. The state-required fuels "have served an important role" in helping states meet federal air quality standards, the report said.

In April, Bush said the U.S. needs to "confront the larger problem of too many localized fuel blends" which has led to "an uncoordinated, overly complex set of fuel rules (that) tends to cause the price to go up."

You have to wonder why the president made this point, part of a "fact sheet" still available at whitehouse.gov.

Could it be that the energy industry feels burdened by rules regarding "localized fuel blends"?

Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, two weeks ago sought a plan to reduce the number of boutique fuels, which he said was necessary in "staving off even greater price spikes and supply disruptions."

Barton, it should be noted, is a top recipient of campaign donations from the energy industries -- a traditional ally of Republicans. In 2004, Barton was second only to disgraced former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) in contributions from the oil industry, and since joining the House in 1989, he's received $1.9 million in campaign contributions from oil, gas and electric companies.

With the EPA's conclusions now available, will Barton nix his gameplan for boutique fuels? Will the President have his thoughts on boutique fuels removed from the White House "fact sheet"? Or will this issue continue to be promoted by Republicans as part of what Barton calls a "step ... to create a greater energy security for this country"?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

NewsMax Conducts Poll To Gauge Interest In Coulter ... With Whom They Have a Marketing Tie-In. Isn't That The Definition of "Bias"?

Newsmax, the conservative "news" site, is conducting "an urgent national online poll" regarding Ann Coulter and her new book, Godless: The Church of Liberalism.

Among the questions is this loaded gun:

5) Of the three, who would you trust for news and information?

The choices given are Katie Couric, Ann Coulter and Al Franken.

Forget the fact that this is a choice of apples, oranges and pears. Why did NewsMax pick this threesome? Hmmm. Couric replaced the CBS Evening News' Dan Rather -- perhaps the most-hated journalist among the "conservative media," working for perhaps the most-hated news network among the "conservative media." Franken is perhaps the most-hated liberal pundit among the "conservative media."

Coulter, meanwhile, has been championed by those who hate Rather and Franken.

***

Amazingly, when you submit your answers, you are taken to this page, which features an advertisement allowing you to buy Godless for $4.99, or $23 below the retail price. You also get a free four-month trial subscription to NewsMax Magazine -- which you are then expected to renew and renew and renew.

Could you imagine the reaction from NewsMax or other "conservative media" if the New York Times or Washington Post were to publish a poll that was conducted with a tie-in to buy the product? How loudly would "conservative media" scream if, for example, a CBS News poll were conducted about President Bush's popularity, with participants able to receive a discount on Michael Moore's Farenheit 9/11?

Isn't what NewsMax is doing the very definition of "bias"?

***

Why the tie-in? That's how Coulter's book has seen such amazing sales -- tie-ins to conservative magazine subscriptions, free books in exchange for donations to conservative causes, giveaways by conservative radio talk show hosts.

Such tie-ins artificially jack up Coulter's numbers. Truth is, people are willing to pay very little for Coulter's diatribe. Ask them to pay $28, and Coulter's book sales would be significantly less.

For Defense Contractor, It Pays To Have Friends (Formerly) In High Places

Former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft's lobbying firm has been hired by General Dynamics to represent it on "trade and defense issues," O'Dwyer's PR Daily reports in its June 15 edition.

Check out the team Ashcroft's firm, The Ashcroft Group, has built to represent the defense contractor:

-- Juleanna Glover Weiss, Vice President Dick Cheney's former press secretary

-- Lori Day Sharp, former director of intergovernmental affairs under Ashcroft at the Justice Department

-- Willie Gaynor, a former Commerce Department official who was western finance director for the 2004 Bush campaign

-- Susan Richmond, former chief of staff for management at the Department of Homeland Security

General Dynamics has hardly been hurting for business from the Bush Administration. The Washington Times reported June 13 that "the steady stream of orders from the U.S. Army -- which now total about 25 percent of the company's sales -- provides a solid base that will continue for years." The defense contractor's net sales have more than doubled since 2000 to $21.24 billion last year.

But it hired Ashcroft because, as one industry analyst noted: "You want someone who knows the inner workings of homeland security because it's such a tangled mess."

There's a tangled mess of companies lobbying government for contracts related to homeland security, too. The number grew by nearly 600 percent from 2001 to 2004, according to the Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan watchdog group.

***

A growing number of people -- liberals and conservatives -- have criticized the "revolving door," in which Ashcroft, various former Senators and House members and a wide variety of administration and congressional staffers have left government jobs to become lobbyists.

Ashcroft, who set up his lobbying firm last September, is at the center of that criticism, with some saying that for the nation's chief law enforcement officer to move to K Street was as undignified as it was unusual. Ashcroft is the first former attorney general to become a registered lobbyist.

Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, told the New York Times that because Ashcroft had worked only in government, "he cannot claim to have any business expertise."

"What is he selling, other than connections and knowledge of how to game the system from being attorney general?" Brian asked.

Consider this: After helping prosecute executives at Enron and WorldCom, Ashcroft now says he can counsel similar troubled companies to avoid similar fates -- to be "someone who can take threatening circumstances and neutralize them."

No wonder he needs so many former Bush Administration officials at his side.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Cheney, Saying The Obvious, Admits Underestimating Iraqi Insurgency. But Then Came Spin, Spin, Spin!

The conservative spin after Vice President Dick Cheney's June 19 comments at the National Press Club was that he was being honest with the American people, telling us that he wrongly underestimated the strength of the Iraqi insurgency.

But take a closer look at what Cheney said, and you see that this one obvious nod to reality was part of a larger set of comments that can only be described as spin, spin and more spin.

UNDERESTIMATING THE INSURGENCY

MODERATOR: Do you think that you underestimated the insurgency’s strength?

CHENEY: I think so. I guess if I look back on it now, I don’t think anybody anticipated the level of violence that we have encountered.

This small concession was lauded by conservative pundit Tony Blankley, who said on that night's edition of MSNBC's Hardball:

BLANKLEY: "It‘s obvious, there‘s no other statement one could make at it point, given the characterizations that they made in 2002 and early 2003. ... So he made the concession to reality, which is what ... adults do."

Cheney's small nod to reality followed a similar epiphany in March from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who decided it was time to stop predicting when U.S. forces would be out of Iraq, after making several pre-war predictions that in hindsight looked ridiculous, such as in early 2003, when he said: "It is unknowable how long that conflict will last. It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months."

NO ONE "ANTICIPATED THE LEVEL OF VIOLENCE"?

Hardball guest host Norah O'Donnell failed to see through Cheney's spin: Was it true that no one "anticipated the level of violence that we have encountered"? Hardball viewers never found out, because O'Donnell never bothered to ask.

The Associated Press' coverage, widely carried in newspapers nationwide, also used the Cheney spin without fact-checking it.

The Washington Post, however, reported that many respected people anticipated the possibility of a violent resistance.

For example, specialist at the Army War College predicted: "The possibility of the United States winning the war and losing the peace is real and serious. ... Successful occupation will not occur unless the special circumstances of this unusual country" are heeded, they warned.

Also, 70 national security experts and Middle East scholars at the National Defense University issued a report concluding that occupying Iraq "will be the most daunting and complex task the U.S. and the international community will have undertaken since the end of World War II."

Did the administration take these warnings to heart? Of course not. Army Col. Paul Hughes, sent a copy of the National Defense University report to the office of Douglas J. Feith, then the undersecretary of defense for policy, but "never heard back from him or anyone else," Hughes told the Post.

REDEFINING "THE LAST THROES"

Bloomberg News reported: "Asked if he still believed the insurgency was in its final throes, as he said in a CNN interview on May 31, 2005, Cheney said, 'I do.'' He cited election of an interim government, a constitutional referendum and parliamentary elections in December that established a unity government as evidence the insurgency is being pushed to the margins. (Click here for a full transcript of the response.)

But, as the website News Hounds notes: Cheney's original remarks were not referring to elections, a unity government, or a Constitution.

"I think we may well have some kind of presence there over a period of time," Cheney said then. "The level of activity that we see today from a military standpoint, I think, will clearly decline. I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency."

Unfortunately, the AP story didn't fact-check this Cheney spin, either, so it wound up in newspapers nationwide -- uncontested. The cable chatfests also skipped over this inconsistency.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

You Can't Make This Stuff Up ...

"I'm thrilled that Speaker Denny Hastert is here, and Leader Bill Frist. ... We got a fabulous Speaker and leadership team in the United States House of Representatives and a great leader in Bill Frist in the United States Senate. ... If you want your taxes low, keep Denny Hastert and Bill Frist as leaders of the House and the Senate. ... I want to thank you for helping make sure that Denny Hastert and Bill Frist remain in their positions in the Senate and the House."

-- President Bush, speaking in Washington, June 19

One problem: Frist is retiring from the Senate in November.

Maybe we're already seeing the effects of the planned departure of top Bush aide and speechwriter Michael Gerson.

Senior White House Advisor Karl Rove called Gerson a "once-in-a-generation" aide -- if that's true, expect more "once-in-a-generation" gaffes from Bush.

Borger: White House Press Corps "Suckers" Who Get "Used" By Bush Administration

Sometimes, you can't make this stuff up.

CBS News' Gloria Borger, who has at times mouthed White House spin ( here, here, and here, among others) admitted to host Howard Kurtz on the June 18 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources that the White House Press Corps were "suckers" who were being "used" by the Bush Administration.

KURTZ: Gloria Borger, are journalists suckers for this kind of secret trip to Baghdad stuff? I mean, Bush was there less than six hours but got an avalanche of mostly positive coverage.

BORGER: I think we are suckers. Particularly if you're the one who gets to go on the pool, Howie, and gets to travel with the president on a secret trip to Baghdad. We do like these secret trips. Believe it or not, we kind of like to be surprised, but I think if you're a bureau chief in Washington, you may be asking, "Gee, why didn't we have more information?" ... So you know you're being used, but in a way you kind of like it because it's good pictures.

Gee, why don't the White House press corps get more information? Could it be that it's "frightening" to ask tough questions, as Elisabeth Bumiller, the former White House reporter for the New York Times, said last year. Could it be because White House reporters who do their jobs and ask tough questions of the administration and its spokesmen, such as NBC's David Gregory, are immediately chastised by the conservative media as "liberal?" Are they so envious of Fox News Channel's ratings that they are willing to imitate Bush buddies like Fox's Carl Cameron? Could it be that they're so scared of being ostracized by the administration that they are willing to lambaste a Bush critic, but look the other way when the President says something offensive? That they are willing to amplify conservative anger over jokes at the president's expense, but not provide the same coverage of jokes at the expense of the president's opponent?

The White House press corps does not consist entirely of "suckers," as Borger suggests. It does not consist entirely of people "used" by the Bush Administration -- or any earlier administration, for that matter. Such sweeping stereotypes are useless, like suggesting the entire media apparatus is "liberal" or "un-American" or "treasonous."

But don't kid yourself. The "suckers" among them -- the Borgers, Bumillers and Camerons of the world -- make "suckers" of all of us, every time we trust that they are doing their jobs.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Boehner's Weapon For November: Setting Up Democratic Straw Men To Knock Down

The names may change, but the strategy remains the same.

When John Boehner (R-OH) replaced the disgraced Tom DeLay (R-TX) as House Majority Leader, the spin was that Boehner offered "a fresh alternative to a House GOP leadership team sullied by lobbying scandals." Boehner himself told NBC's Tim Russert after his ascension: "Tom and I have a different approaches."

But with polls showing the Democrats' chance of regaining control of the House improving, it seems Boehner has resolved to turn to a bag of tricks that would make DeLay proud.

A June 13 memo from Boehner starts off innocently enough. Citing some recent "positive developments" in Iraq -- including the killing of insurgency leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi -- Boehner urges his fellow House members: "We should not refrain from touting such progress."

No problem there. Let Republicans defend the administration on the Iraq War, and the greater "war on terror." Let the American people decide whether the country is heading on the right track, or whether Democrats would do a better job of handling an array of issues, from when to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq (and how much) to how our government treats veterans and their families.

Democrats welcome that debate. A CNN poll, released June 16, shows that a minority of Americans support the Bush Administration's handling of the Iraq War and the greater "war on terror."

But Boehner isn't interested in an honest debate. Instead, he proposes that Republicans frame the issue this way:

BOEHNER: "In a post-9/11 world, do we confront dangerous regimes and the threat of terrorism with strength and resolve, or do we instead abandon our efforts against these threats in the hopes that they will just fade away on their own?"

Hmmm. In other words, do we fight the terrorist, or do we hide under our covers and cry like little wussies? Which Democratic leaders actually believe that? Which Democratic leaders have suggested that we not fight the threat of terrorism? Which Democratic leaders have said that if we don't fight terrorism, the problem will "fade away"?

None. And Boehner no doubt knows this. But rather than have an honest debate, Boehner is suggesting House Republicans create straw men -- creating the impression that a minority or fringe opinion reflects the views of all opponents -- that can easily be knocked down.

The facts are easy: Democrats overwhelmingly supported giving President Bush the right to "use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001." Democrats overwhelmingly supported creating of the Department of Homeland Security. Just last week, Democrats overwhelmingly supported yet another huge emergency spending bill for continued operations in Iraq and Afghanistan -- even though Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona criticized the use of such emergency spending bills, which he said have treated the $320 billion of Iraq-created costs as "free money."

In other words, Democrats have been side-by-side with Republicans, supporting the troops, supporting the concept of Homeland Security, and helping give the president a blank check.

Meanwhile, Democrats have sought to be partners with the Republicans, proposing a plan that sought to improve our nation's management of the war, as well as the greater issues of national security. The mainstream media chose instead to repeat the conservative spin that the Democrats lack a plan. The Democrats have proposed for several years running increased funding for port security, rail security, Federal Air Marshals, firefighters and first responders, Coast Guard operations and security of chemical plants. But the Republicans haven't allowed the various pieces of legislation to get to the House or Senate floor.

Do the parties agree on everything? Of course not. But dissent is not only allowed in our country, it's imperative in a healthy democracy. Questioning wrong-headed decisions by our leadership, mis-statements of fact, or waste and fraud in spending is not treasonous. It's what has kept our country strong for more than 200 years.

BOEHNER: Americans will recognize that on the issue of national security, they have a clear choice between a Republican Party aware of the stakes and dedicated to victory, versus a Democrat Party without a coherent national security policy that sheepishly dismisses the challenges America faces in a post- 9/11 world.

How did Boehner learn to so brazenly lie about the opposition party? Perhaps it's the same person who taught President Bush to create straw men in his speeches.

The Associated Press in March provided an astute analysis of the way President Bush rhetorically argues. The AP's conclusion: Bush creates fictional "straw men" that can be easily knocked down.

Why create straw men? Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, made this key point: "You would expect people to do that as they feel more threatened."

Saturday, June 17, 2006

To Defend Bush's Low Poll Numbers, Limbaugh Lies About Clinton, Reagan and Carter

It often amazes me how conservative pundits create alternate realities for their listeners. These fact-challenged realities make great radio -- no one lies to weaken an argument -- but ultimately do listeners a great disservice.

Case in point: On the June 6 edition of his popular radio show, Rush Limbaugh so desperately wants to defend President Bush's continued unpopularity that he offers a "parallel" to former Presidents Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter that simply doesn't exist.

LIMBAUGH: The latest USA Today/Gallup update on George W. Bush's presidential job approval rating finds 36 percent of Americans approving of the job the president's doing; 57 percent disapprove. This represents a modest improvement in that measure from recent weeks, a finding mirrored in several other national surveys. In early May, just 31 percent approved of Bush, marking the low point of his administration to date. ... (I)f you went back and looked at several other second-term presidents at this time in their terms, you'd find almost parallel poll results. We know that Bill Clinton was down in the 20s at one point. Jimmy Carter was way down. Reagan was down. This is really -- really not unique.

Let's look at the stupidity of this argument. First, of course, is that Jimmy Carter never had a second term.

But what about Clinton and Reagan? Did Americans ever give them approval ratings of 36% -- the poll figure Limbaugh cited -- in their second terms? No.

According to the polling archive of the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, Clinton's lowest approval rating was 36% -- in his first term. In his second term, Clinton's approval rating never dropped below 52% in any poll. And in the "parallel" year -- the second year of his second term, or 1998 -- Clinton's approval ratings ranged from 53% to 73%.

What about President Reagan? His lowest approval rating was 35%, in 1983 -- again, in his first term. In his second term, Reagan's approval rating never dropped below 43% in any poll. And in the "parallel" year -- the second year of his second term, or 1986 -- Reagan's approval ratings ranged from 47% to 64%.

Limbaugh has long praised himself as being among the most influential players in politics today, and has been given credit for providing momentum to help usher in the "Gingrich Revolution" of 1994, when Republicans took 75 seats to gain control of the House of Representatives.

Roughly 13.5 milion people listen to Limbaugh daily -- more than the number watching the nightly news on any of ABC, CBS or NBC. Want to know why surveys have found that listeners and viewers of "conservative media" are consistently less informed than, say, listeners of NPR or viewers of PBS? Limbaugh's "parallel year" argument is a clear example why.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Gore Remains Unpopular, But Americans Catching On About Global Warming

A new poll found that although Al Gore's popularity remains modest, more Americans are concerned about global warming -- the issue he brought back to the front burner in the new documentary An Inconvenient Truth.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, conducted June 15, found that 59% of Americans said either that global climate change is "a serious problem, and immediate action is necessary" or "climate change is taking place and some action should be taken." That' s up from 51% the last time the question was asked, in 1999.

Should Gore be given full credit for this uptick in concern? No. More scientific data has become easily accessible on the Internet. Other politicians and pundits have written and spoken about it, especially after last year's tsunami in Southeast Asia and the series of hurricanes striking the Gulf Coast, including Katrina. But no doubt the documentary, and the lengthy news coverage and pundit debates surrounding it, have crystallized many Americans' views on the question.

The poll also found that 28% of Americans believe more research should be done before any action is taken, and 9% felt "concern about global climate change is unwarranted." Those numbers are each down from the 1999 poll.

The poll also suggested that concern over global warming is not the result of loyalty to Gore. Only 30% of Americans said they had a positive opinion of Gore, compared with 42% who had a negative opinion.

That's better than Gore's nadir in the survey, in 2002, when Gore's positive/negative was 25-59, but well below his peak in the poll, in 1993, when his positive/negative was 55-15.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

And Now For Something Completely Different ...

Voters in South Dakota will be given the opportunity to overturn the "strictest abortion ban in the nation."

In March, Gov. Mike Rounds, a Republican, signed legislation to ban the procedure, even in cases of rape or incest. The law, which was slated to take effect on July 1, targets doctors in South Dakota by making it a felony for them to perform any abortion, except to save the life of a pregnant woman.

South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families filed a petition on May 30 to put the decision to the voters with more than 38,000 signatures -- they only needed 16,728. As a result, the abortion ban has been suspended pending the outcome of the November election.

South Dakota passed its abortion ban earlier this year with the explicit intention of getting the Supreme Court to reconsider Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision. Eleven other states saw bills introduced in 2005-06 legislative sessions aimed at criminalizing abortion, according to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

After the South Dakota law was signed, a survey by state polling firm Robinson & Muenster reported 57 percent were opposed to the law, while 35 percent supported it.

Anytime voters get the chance to overturn a law that doesn't represent the will of the majority, that's "good news."

Plagiarism or Sloppiness? Coulter Fails To Attribute Questionable List From Anti-Abortion Group

The website The Raw Story has apparently uncovered another example of conservative pundit Ann Coulter playing hard and fast with her "facts" about liberals.

According to a June 13 post, in the seventh chapter of Godless: The Church of Liberalism, Coulter apparently offers a list of "successful treatments achieved by adult stem cell research" without providing proper attribution.

Fiifteen of Coulter's examples are nearly identical to a list of seventeen compiled by the Illinois Right To Life on its website, which has been available since at least September of 2003.

(It should be noted that the anti-abortion website itself doesn't provide attribution for the examples. Coulter apparently doesn't let that get in the way of her argument.)

Who does Coulter credit for the list? In an endnote, she cites conservative author Michael Fumento, providing a link to a page on his website. While one of the 16 items Coulter lists in Godless does appear to come from Fumento, "A Raw Story examination of the numerous articles by Fumento linked at the address provided by Coulter found no comparable list. Articles by Fumento that did contain lists of adult stem cell "breakthroughs" (2001 article, 2004 article) employed far different language."

So at best, this is another example of Coulter being sloppy. At worst, it's plagiarism, which is defined as "a piece of writing that has been copied from someone else and is presented as being your own work."

***

Of course, the conservative media isn't interested in such things. For example, Lisa De Pasquale of the conservative website Human Events Online lauded Coulter for the lifted list.

"Coulter puts together an impressive list of successful achievements using adult stem cells," De Pasquale wrote.

Not All House Republicans On Board With Boehner's Spin

"As a result of our efforts during this debate, Americans will recognize that on the issue of national security, they have a clear choice between a Republican Party aware of the stakes and dedicated to victory, versus a Democratic Party without a coherent national security policy that sheepishly dismisses the challenges America faces in a post-9/11 world."

-- Memo from House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-OH), June 14

"I can't help but feel through eyes of a combat-wounded Marine in Vietnam, if someone was shot, you tried to save his life. ... While you were in combat, you had a sense of urgency to end the slaughter, and around here we don't have that sense of urgency. To me, the administration does not act like there's a war going on. The Congress certainly doesn't act like there's a war going on. If you're raising money to keep the majority, if you're thinking about gay marriage, if you're doing all this other peripheral stuff, what does that say to the guy who's about ready to drive over a land mine?"

-- Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD), as quoted by the Washington Post, June 15

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Why Does Coulter Succeed? "Seeing Hate-Speech Pop Out Of A Blonde ... Makes For Compelling Viewing"

Ann Coulter's "current book, Godless: The Church of Liberalism, is heading to the best-seller lists in part because she has a significant constituency and in part because no other author in American publishing is better at weaponizing words.

'Every single book she has done has become an instant best-seller,' said Bob Wietrak, a vice president for merchandising at Barnes & Noble. 'Her fan base is phenomenal and she is in the media constantly. When she is in the media, it creates more media coverage. And every single day, the book sells more.'

All manner of televised talkfests, including Today, welcome Ms. Coulter's pirate sensibilities back aboard whenever she has something to peddle, in part because seeing hate-speech pop out of a blonde who knows her way around a black cocktail dress makes for compelling viewing.

Without the total package, Ms. Coulter would be just one more nut living in Mom's basement. You can accuse her of cynicism all you want, but the fact that she is one of the leading political writers of our age says something about the rest of us."

-- New York Times' media columnist David Carr, June 12

Stewart Fact Checks O'Reilly's False Claim About Guantanamo "Prisoners Of War"

One would think, after umpteen times of being caught as fact-challenged, Fox News Channel blowhard Bill O'Reilly would learn to stick with the truth.

Not so, as viewers of the June 13 edition of Comedy Central's The Daily Show With Jon Stewart learned.

O'Reilly on Monday ranted on the divide between the Bush Administration and its critics on treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba -- he implies such critics are all "liberals," which other conservatives acknowledge isn't true.

O'Reilly suggested the Bush Administration considers those at Guantanamo "prisoners of war." Stewart and the Daily Show gang knew better.

Here's a partial transcript:

STEWART: O'Reilly was there to refute Guantanamo's critics, who clearly don't understand the situation down there.

O'REILLY: The Guantanamo controversy is easy to define. The Bush Administration sees the 460 detainees as prisoners of war. The liberal press and some human rights groups believe they are criminals who are entitled to due process.

STEWART: It's simple, you stupid f***s! The Bush Administration sees them as prisoners of war, and liberal commies see it otherwise. ... Oh, I'm sorry. Condoleeza Rice -- you had something to say?

RICE (in June 19, 2005 interview with CNN): (T)hese people at Guantanamo are unlawful combatants - that is, they're not prisoners of war.

STEWART: Me thinks Bill O'Reilly needs to pay closer attention to what the White House wants him to say.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Levin Latest Conservative Pundit To Hypocritically Attack Durbin


Radio clown Mark Levin isn't afraid to offer opinions. Too bad he sometimes forgets to provide facts to back those opinions up.

On yesterday's edition of his conservative radio show, Levin blasted critics of controversial conservative pundit Ann Coulter, then asked where those critics were -- he assumes they are liberals, although that isn't true -- when Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) made questionable comments last year on the Senate floor about Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba.

Ironically, a minute later Levin praised Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), calling him a good man and a friend.

And thus, the latest example of fact-challenged hypocrisy by a conservative pundit.

Let's review. As JABBS wrote last June, conservatives were quick to jump on Durbin after a June 14, 2005, speech on the Senate floor, in which he quoted from an FBI agent's report on the deplorable conditions at Guantanamo, then said: "'If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings." Durbin later apologized.

By comparison, conservatives did not roar after Santorum speaking on the Senate floor May 19, 2005, said that Democratic complaints about the "nuclear option" to ban judicial filibusters are "the equivalent of Adolf Hitler in 1942 saying: I'm in Paris, how dare you invade me, how dare you bomb my city. It's mine." Santorum also apologized.

***

Amazing that Levin -- a year after Durbin's apology -- continues to reference his Senate floor speech, but fails to note that his "friend" Santorum made a similar Nazi comparison during a Senate floor speech less than a month earlier.

And what about that "liberal media" that Levin harps on incessantly. Did they collectively fail to write about Durbin? Of course not. But

The media covered the story, and the apology. In fact, some newspapers were extremely critical of Durbin's comments, while others criticized Durbin for the apology, too. The Washington Post provided an overview of why Durbin was the latest politician who failed to realize it's nearly impossible to make a Nazi comparison without stepping on toes -- a point the Daily Show with Jon Stewart also offered

So, in fact, the media was all over the Durbin saga -- in its collective news coverage and via a host of editorials.

Levin doesn't tell listeners that, because it goes against the myth he and others push daily -- that the media is liberal and unfair in its coverage. But hey, why let facts get in the way of a quest for ratings?

Coulter Guilty Of Plagiarism? You Be The Judge

"Ann Coulter has a bad habit. And that habit ... is that she appears to like to copy whole sentences from other sources without putting them in as quotes or even citing where she might have "paraphrased" from. You judge for yourself:

Here's Coulter from Chapter 1 of Godless: The Church Of Liberalism: The massive Dickey-Lincoln Dam, a $227 million hydroelectric project proposed on upper St. John River in Maine, was halted by the discovery of the Furbish lousewort, a plant previously believed to be extinct.

Here's the Portland Press Herald, from the year 2000, in its list of the "Maine Stories of the Century": The massive Dickey-Lincoln Dam, a $227 million hydroelectric project proposed on upper St. John River, is halted by the discovery of the Furbish lousewort, a plant believed to be extinct.

Strangely similar, no? By the way, that's a story from 1976. Coulter doesn't tell you that little tidbit, making you think it happened last week."

-- The Rude Pundit blog, June 9

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Who Does Coulter Speak For?


"These broads (Kristen Breitweiser, Lorie Van Auken, Mindy Kleinberg and Patty Casazza) are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by grief-arazzis. I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much."

-- Ann Coulter, in her new book, Godless: The Church of Liberalism

"I must ask my colleagues on the other side of the aisle: Does Ann Coulter speak for you when she suggests poisoning not Supreme Court Justices or slanders the 9/11 … widows? If not, speak now. Your silence allows her to be your spokesman."

-- Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL), on the House floor, June 8

"I agree with her point. But I think it's repugnant and repulsive and gutless to -- and cheap and cheesy to call these women all these names. I mean, it's just -- whether it's right or not, I mean, you just -- that's just something -- you know, you just don't go there."

-- Conservative-friendly radio host Don Imus, June 9

"Far worse than insensitive. ... I have spoken with many, many grieving family members, and the hurt is real. The pain is real."

-- Gov. George Pataki (R-NY), June 7

***

The debate, of course, is not about free speech. Coulter has a right to her opinion. Crown Forum has a right to publish it. Let me clear that I would never support a boycott of Coulter's book, as suggested by two Democratic state assemblywomen last week in New Jersey -- home state to the four 9/11 widows in question.

Some conservatives also say the reaction to Ann Coulter's diatribes is proof that liberals lack a collective sense of humor. I guess it all depends on what you consider "humor." (Not helping: when mainstream publications advance this conservative myth.) Joking about 9/11 widows or killing a Supreme Court justice just doesn't make most Americans laugh -- liberal or otherwise.

Amazingly, I found myself agreeing with something conservative pundit Bill O'Reilly wrote June 8 for Foxnews.com: "The question then becomes, why does Ann Coulter do it? No doubt the publicity will sell her some books, but she is already well off and famous."

***
Where is the disgust among mainstream Republicans? Certainly there has to be a fear of a backlash -- not from the media, or even from Democrats, but from voters who are tired of "bomb-throwing" in partisan politics. As O'Reilly wrote: "Americans reject that kind of vitriol because it is mean and counterproductive." With an election just five months away, it's not far-fetched to think that Coulter's mean-spirited words could be used against Republicans in states affected directly by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks: New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland and Virginia.

The same conservative pundits and politicians who were quick to denounce Michael Moore and his docu-ganda, "Farenheit 9/11," are generally keeping quiet now.

It reminds me of July, 2004, when some conservatives were up in arms over dirty jokes that comedian Whoopi Goldberg told at a John Kerry fund-raiser, but generally remained silent a week later when comedian Dennis Miller, introducing President Bush at a Wisconsin rally, implied John Kerry and John Edwards had a gay relationship.

Then, as now, the debate was not about freedom of speech. It's about the double-standard among conservative pundits and politicians.

Democrats Taking Advantage Of National Displeasure With Republicans, Raising Big Bucks For November


Republican party leaders tell the Washington Post today that Democrats are doing a better job than ever of raising money for House and Senate candidates.

Democrats say they are tapping into widespread grievances among voters against President Bush and the Republican Congress. But, by all accounts, they are also using tactics that helped Republicans gain control of both houses of Congress: pushing for small donations from activists -- on the principle that small gifts can add up -- and pressuring elected members from safe seats to give financial help to colleagues.

The easier time Democrats have had raising money in 2006 -- timed, not coincidentally, with a slowdown in Republican fund-raising -- is being seen by some analysts as a sign that the political tides have changed.

In other words, some upset Americans -- who normally stay on the sidelines -- are putting their money where their mouths are and backing Democrats. Other upset Americans -- who normally would support Republicans -- are staying on the sidelines.

Amy Walter, a nonpartisan political handicapper for the Cook Political Report, agreed that Republicans' problems appear to be at the grass roots. "This mirrors the problems Republicans could have with turnout," she said.

***

The 2004 presidential election offered the first clues that Democrats could neutralize, if not overcome, the Republican money edge. Starting with then-presidential candidate Howard Dean (D-VT), Democrats raised more money over the Internet than strategists in either party anticipated.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee offers a case study of how Democrats are starting to catch up at the congressional level. Chairman Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) is widely considered the most effective fundraiser Democrats have placed in that job in years. A veteran of the Clinton White House, Emanuel has pressured Democratic members to give more money to their at-risk colleagues and has intensified efforts to squeeze more money from individual donors. In 2002, at this point in the election, the DCCC had raised $6.5 million from donors who gave less than $200. This year, Emanuel has tripled such donations to nearly $21 million. Other Democratic committees also have experienced growth.

"They have been so bad they can only get better," said National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Thomas Reynolds (R-NY). "What you have seen is Rahm put them on a path to do so."

Thursday, June 08, 2006

DeLay's Spokeswoman Spins To The Bitter End


Au revoir, Monsieur DeLay!

It's just a little bit ironic that disgraced former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's fellow Republicans from Texas chose an expensive contemporary French restaurant in Washington, Le Paradou, to say goodbye to their colleague.

The private dinner was held Tuesday night. DeLay's official last day is tomorrow, closing the book on a 22-year career.

DeLay, of course, has long been on the bandwagon using "French" as a derogatory term. During the 2004 presidential race, DeLay would open speeches saying: "Good afternoon, or, as John Kerry might say, Bonjour." (An ironic snicker for DeLay, who like Kerry is of French descent) After former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD) criticized President Bush, DeLay fired back: "Fermez la bouche, Monsieur Daschle," telling Daschle to shut up in French.

Amazingly, DeLay spokeswoman Shannon Flaherty was unhappy with any reporter references to Le Paradou as French.

The restaurant describes itself as "contemporary French" -- but why should a fact like that get in the way of Flaherty's spin?

"This is an American restaurant (last I checked the owner came here from France some 30 years ago) that serves French cuisine," she said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

To quote her boss: Fermez la bouche, Madame Flaherty!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Limbaugh Flips And Flops, But Ultimately Agrees With Caller On "Plan B"


When Jessica, a Southern California-based drug sales representative, woke up yesterday morning, I doubt she would have predicted the role she would play in the ongoing debate over women's reproductive rights.

But when conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh muddled the facts during a second day of lengthy remarks on abortion, birth control, and the use of levonorgestrel -- the drug nicknamed Plan B -- Jessica sprung into action.

What followed was an amazing back-and-forth between a caller who seemingly knew the facts -- and told listeners to do their own research, rather than believe her or listen to Limbaugh -- and Limbaugh, who found himself backtracking, sidestepping and generally sounding more uneducated than usual. Ultimately, Limbaugh, on his third or fourth flip-flop, found himself agreeing with his caller.

Limbaugh began discussing all of this Monday, when he commented on an anonymously written piece in the June 4 edition of the Washington Post, " What Happens When There Is No Plan B," a first-person account of a 42-year-old woman, "Dana L.," who claims she had an abortion because neither her doctor nor her internist prescribed Plan B.

The writer goes on to say that weeks later, she confirmed that she was pregnant. Given her age, and the fact that she was taking a variety of medications, she felt any pregnancy she had would be high-risk.

DANA L.: "Although I've always been in favor of abortion rights, this was a choice I had hoped never to have to make myself. When I realized the seriousness of my predicament, I became angry. I knew that Plan B, which could have prevented it, was supposed to have been available over the counter by now. But I also remembered hearing that conservative politics have held up its approval.

Now, before we stray into a debate on abortion rights, let's be clear. The debate at hand is about Plan B and its availability, not whether abortion is right or wrong.

As Limbuagh said Monday:

LIMBAUGH: "The point is this Dana L. was upset she couldn't get it over-the-counter because Bush's conservative political policies prevent it from being made available over-the-counter."

(The FDA has offered its reasoning for not allowing Plan B to be made available over-the-counter -- a decision made in 2003, during Bush's first term.)

Limbaugh, as you would expect, is against abortion. On Monday, he did his radio listeners a favor by saying that Plan B should not be confused with another drug, RU 486.

LIMBAUGH: "What Plan B does is cause an immediate period. I think Plan B is just a large dose of hormones. This causes an immediate period. That's why it has to be used within 72 hours. I don't know. It just causes periods. RU-486 is a steroid. "

But yesterday, Limbaugh backtracked, suggesting that it didn't make much difference whether Dana L. had an abortion or used Plan B, because either way she was terminating a pregnancy.

LIMBAUGH: "You can hide behind Plan B and it's just an immediate period or whatever you want, but it's an abortion. ... I'm being bombarded with questions asking me to explain my "ridiculous assertion" that there's no difference in an abortion and Plan B. Typical question. "Well, what's the difference? In all seriousness here, El Rushbo, what is the difference between birth control and Plan B?" Well, that's easy! Birth control prevents conception. Life begins at conception. I don't care what anybody says; it can't begin anywhere else. Life begins at conception. Human life begins at conception. Plan B comes after conception. Ergo... I mean, my logic is unassailable."

By his own admission, Limbaugh had been besieged by e-mails on Monday -- apparently from angry anti-abortion listeners who are against the use of Plan B. Perhaps it was on their behalf that Limbaugh tried yesterday to invoke "the moral question" into the debate.

But facts are facts, and Limbaugh was straying from them. And that's when our heroine caller, Jessica, got in the act. Here's the transcript:

JESSICA: Hi. Real quick, I wanted to jump back to the Plan B, and actually you're mistaken about how Plan B works. It actually does prevent conception. I think you have it confused with RU-486 which actually causes an abortion.

LIMBAUGH: Now, wait a second. You gotta indulge me here, because yesterday when I was explaining this, I got -- look, I don't even want to relive it. The e-mail from angry women telling me this is what happens when boys start talking about girl stuff. "You don't know what you're talking about in Plan B, you don't know what you're talking about in RU-486, you ought to just shut up about it Rush. You men don't have the slightest idea what you're talking about when it comes to us and reproduction and leave it alone because it's none of your business." I mean, countless e-mails like that. And I was told, I can't tell you, and I went and looked it up, and I found, they said Plan B essentially causes an immediate period.

JESSICA: Correct, it causes an immediate period, but it does not prevent a sperm from fertilizing an egg and that is why you have to take it immediately after you've had intercourse because once that sperm fertilizes the egg, you're going to have the baby.

LIMBAUGH: No, not unless you get an abortion. But let me ask you --

JESSICA: Exactly.

LIMBAUGH: Okay, since it causes an immediate period, obviously you can't ... I should ask. What the hell do I know? Would you want to take Plan B? Let's say you have a very active and fulfilling sexual life.

JESSICA: Okay.

LIMBAUGH: Would you want to take Plan B after every event?

JESSICA: No, I would be responsible enough to use contraception, but if I had a one-night stand and hadn't been up to date on my pill, I would much rather take Plan B and prevent fertilization than to have an abortion, which I believe is a totally, totally different thing that preventing, you know, conception.

LIMBAUGH: Yeah. Well --

JESSICA: I just wanted to make that clear because people are very confused between Plan B and RU-486 which does cause an abortion once an egg has been fertilized and I think it's an important distinction.

LIMBAUGH: No question, no question about that, but you know, to a lot of people, it's a distinction without a difference when you insert the moral component to it all.

JESSICA: But it's not, because if you don't have any problem taking the pill to prevent fertilization, why would Plan B be any different?

LIMBAUGH: Well, because Plan B is the result of a lack of judgment, lack of preparation. Plan B is something that you take to accommodate --

JESSICA: For a mistake.

LIMBAUGH: -- lack of care or concern, judgment.

JESSICA: Sure.

LIMBAUGH: Birth control is a form of making an early judgment and taking protection. You know, it's a moral question to a lot of people.

JESSICA: It's not a moral question because if you are going to be having sex out of wedlock anyway and that's why you're taking birth control is to prevent an unwanted pregnancy; if you take Plan B you're still preventing an unwanted pregnancy. You're not having an abortion. They're totally different, from having an abortion. I mean, if you take Plan B you're still trying to be proactive and prevent that pregnancy from ever occurring.

LIMBAUGH: Right.

JESSICA: That's totally different than, you know, being so lazy that you didn't even go and get the Plan B to prevent the pregnancy. Okay, now it's two months later, you have a baby growing in you and now you're going to have an abortion and you're killing that life. I believe those are two totally separate things and that's why Plan B tried to become an over-the-counter product so that people could be proactive about it and people were so confused, even pharmacists telling people that it caused abortions, that that's why it failed to pass the FDA.

LIMBAUGH: You think it ought to be over-the-counter?

JESSICA: I think it should, because pharmacists are as confused as the rest of the general public, and there are pharmacists that will not sell those prescriptions because they believe it causes an abortion.

LIMBAUGH: Wait a minute, what is wrong with a pharmacist exercising his own morality in these kinds of things. His own conscience.

JESSICA: I think if you -- I think the circumstances where access to pharmacies is limited is probably very rare. I mean, most people I think probably have access to numerous pharmacies. But for in those instances where the person only has access to one or two pharmacists, you know, in our bread basket where people are very religious and those pharmacists won't dispense Plan B, what do they do then? I don't know the answer to that. I think that's a little bit --

LIMBAUGH: Well, I'm in it deep enough now. I can tell you what's going to happen after you hang up. I'm going to get people calling me saying, "Why did you let her say that? She doesn't know what she's talking about, you really let us down." This is one of these no win days, I know it, it's shaping up that way.

JESSICA: Well, tell them to read the package insert, you know, they're uneducated and just learning from what other people have told them instead of doing their own research.

LIMBAUGH: Yeah, okay, I'll spend the rest of the day telling them to go read the package.

JESSICA: Well, I just said it, you don't have to say it. I said it, read the PI, you'll become much more informed than just listening to somebody on the radio.

LIMBAUGH: Are you saying you're not to be trusted? You're not saying that, see, don't say that.

JESSICA: You don't have to trust me. I'd much prefer people did their own research, but I mean I can tell you I'm a drug rep, I sell drugs for women's health, and that's the way it works.

Monday, June 05, 2006

You Can't Make This Stuff Up ...


"(M)y job as a leader is to lead."

-- Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), speaking with the GOP-friendly Philadelphia Evening Bulletin

"I'm the decider, and I decide what is best."

-- George W. Bush, April 18, defending Donald Rumsfeld


For someone who not too long ago seemed to distance himself from the President, Santorum sure does sound a lot like his party's leader, doesn't he?

Maybe the closeness of Santorum and Bush's speech patterns is inversely related to the closeness of Santorum's Senate re-election fight against State Treasurer Bob Casey Jr.? A recent Rasmussen Reports poll had Casey up 56-33 -- his biggest lead yet.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Bolton May Be An Ambassador, But He's No Diplomat


On Wednesday's edition of Fox News Channel's Your World with Neil Cuvuto, U.N. Ambassador John Bolton explicitly said that unilateral military action against Iran was “on the table.”

Here's the transcript (please note the informative tag line Fox News provides in the image at right):

BOLTON: And I think when the President says it’s unacceptable, I think what he means by that is that it’s unacceptable. So it’s important…

CAVUTO: But unacceptable means that if it keeps going on you’re going to do something about it…

BOLTON: That no option is taken off the table. And Secretary…

CAVUTO: Military as well?

BOLTON: Exactly. Secretary Rice…

CAVUTO: Unilateral military action?

BOLTON: Secretary Rice made that point again today. But that’s why I think…

CAVUTO: That we would, I’m sorry Ambassador, that we would act alone if we had to?

BOLTON: That’s why he says no option is taken off the table. But it’s also why he has, the President, has reached out President Putin and other leaders in the past couple of days to say, “We’re making a significant step here,” that will be criticized by many of the president’s staunchest supporters here at home. But he’s taking this step to show strength and American leadership and to say he’s willing to do something that may be unpopular even with some of his supporters, to remove all excuses from Iran and its supporters to say, “We went the extra mile. We gave Iran really, this last chance to show that they are serious when they say they don’t want nuclear weapons.” This is put or shut up time for Iran.

***

With what military could we possibly act alone in launching a military attack on Iran?

In January, a 136-page report contracted by the Pentagon found that the Army cannot sustain the pace of troop deployments to Iraq long enough to break the back of the insurgency. The author of the study, retired Army officer Andrew Krepinevich, said even Army leaders are not sure how much longer they can keep up the unusually high pace of combat tours in Iraq before they trigger an institutional crisis. Some major Army divisions are serving their second yearlong tours in Iraq, and some smaller units have served three times.

How stretched thin is our military? Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE), speaking last month on ABC's This Week, said: "We’ve got 75% of all the equipment of National Guard all across this country is in Iraq. We’ve got National Guard members in their second, third and fourth tours in Iraq. We have stretched our military as thin as we have ever seen it in modern times."

And Hagel was talking about how difficult it would be to carry out President Bush's plan to use several thousand National Guard troops to guard the U.S. border with Mexico.

An engagement in Iran, obviously, would involve several tens of thousands of troops, if not several hundreds of thousands. So exactly how much credibility does blustering John Bolton have?

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