Thursday, August 31, 2006

Casey Reaffirms Troop Redeployment Plan For 2007. Will Cheney Claim Plan Shows Terrorists Are Breaking Will Of American People?

Gen. George Casey, our top man in Iraq, reaffirmed yesterday that he believes Iraqi security forces are progressing to the point where they can take on the bulk of the security responsibility, perhaps in the next 12 to 18 months.

"I don't have a date, but I can see over the next 12 to 18 months, the Iraqi security forces progressing to a point where they can take on the security responsibilities for the country, with very little coalition support," Casey said.

Casey's comments -- a follow-up to a June briefing of the same plan -- pays tribute to President Bush's oft-repeated statement that as Iraqis "stand up," the U.S.-led coalition will stand down. Casey's suggestion that if things progress, the Iraqis will need "very little coalition support," would certainly suggest that if things go as expected, the U.S.-led coalition can in fact being troop redeployment in 12-18 months.

So my question is: how quickly will Vice President Cheney suggest that Casey's comments "embolden" Al Qaeda and the Iraqi insurgency?

***

You'll recall that Cheney, folloiwing Ned Lamont's victory over Joe Lieberman in Connecticut's Democratic Senate primary, said

CHENEY: The thing that's partly disturbing about [Lieberman's loss] is the fact that our adversaries, if you will, in this conflict, and the Al Qaeda types -- they clearly are betting on the proposition that ultimately they can break the will of the American people in terms of our ability to stay in the fight and complete the task.

Lamont favors beginning troop redeployment in 2007, a position held not only by most Democrats, but by a majority of Americans.

When can that troop redeployment begin? As the Iraqis show that they can accept additional responsibility, most notably to control the turf battles in Baghdad and other cities between Sunnis and Shiites.

***

This is the latest chapter in a hypocritical game of semantics. When Democrats suggest that the U.S.-led coalition should begin troop redeployment in 2007, Republicans label it "cut and run." In fact, Senate Republicans continued to blast legislation from Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Jack Reed (D-RI) even after they knew about Casey's similar gameplan.

But what happens when a Republican like Rep. Christopher Shays of Connecticut suggests setting a timetable for troop redeployment? The Republican leadership goes out of its way to denounce anyone -- namely Democrats -- who suggest that Shays is in agreement with the Democrats or the majority of Americans.

Ken Mehlman, chairman of the Republican Naitonal Committee, played the semantics game yesterday with guest host Norah O'Donnell on MSNBC's Hardball.

MEHLMAN: Well, I saw Chris — I saw him interviewed on this show, Chris Shays, and he, in fact, said something very different than what the Democrats say. What he has said is we need to make sure that there are benchmarks established for the Iraqi people to stand up.

In other words, Shays wants to have a timetable for Iraqi troops to stand up, so the U.S.-led coaltion can stand down.

***

Listen to conservative talk radio -- that bastion of honest interpretation -- and you'll hear the gibberish that Democrats want to withdraw from Iraq immediately, while Republicans have the cajones to fight the war on terror (there, so we don't have to fight it here.)

The truth is that Gen. Casey, some Republicans, most Democrats and a majority of Americans want to see troop redeployment begin next year. Are the various plans identical? No. But the concept is the same.

The only people not willing to admit that are hypocritical Republicans looking to divide the nation, and try to convince a majority of Americans that wanting troop redeployment to begin next year is some sort of fringe liberal, un-American belief.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Mythmaker Limbaugh Says College Is Where "Hate Is Taught"

Some things are so inane on conservative talk radio that -- if not for the possibility of causing a traffic accident -- one might smack his head against the steering wheel in disbelief.

Today, Rush Limbaugh provided one of those moments.

A caller from Austin, Texas, remarked that some very brilliant people never completed college. Limbaugh agreed, noting that Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and El Rushbo himself had never finished college. (It's one of the few times those three names would be considered "parallel.")

But then Limbaugh had to add some conservative mythmaking -- you know, the one about evil liberal professors indoctrinating innocents to hate the United States and all it stands for (cue the reference to Ward Churchill.)

"Where do you think hate is taught?" Limbaugh offered as he headed to commercial. "What do you think journalism school is all about?"

***

Are there over-the-top liberal professors? Sure.

Are there over-the-top conservative professors? Sure.

Last time I checked, though, there weren't any professors teaching "How To Hate The United States" -- in journalism school or elsewhere.

What you do find on most college campuses are classes in political science, history, economics, sociology and other majors in which students are asked to question decisions made by our government. Quesitoning a decision -- be it the various elements of the New Deal, McCarthyism, the Vietnam War or supply-side economics -- does not make one a hater of the United States. Students protesting the Vietnam War a generation ago, Apartheid two decades ago, or the Iraq War now don't hate the United States -- even if they hate an individual decision made by its government.

That seems easy enough to understand. As easy to understand is the reality that while Bill Gates and Steve Jobs have become immensely successful in spite of lacking a college degree, there are also a seemingly endless number of failures -- people in dead-end jobs, the homeless, the imprisoned -- who also failed to graduate from college.

Picking two people at random -- three, including El Rushbo -- to make a point is simplistic. But that's the sort of inanity one should expect from conservative talk radio.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Colorado Republicans "Snicker" At Gore, Science

Colorado Republicans, looking for a way to knock Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Bill Ritter's stance on global warming, found time to "snicker" at Al Gore.

According to Denver Post columnist Dan Haley, Ritter said that if elected he'd hire an advisor on global warming. That led a supporter of opponent Bob Beauprez to joke about "the hiring of Al Gore."

Added Beauprez spokesman John Marshall: "There will not be a global warming czar in a Beauprez administration."

Perhaps this is what we should expect from some Republican circles -- laughing at Gore and making fun of his pet issue, global warming.

After all, President Bush laughed at Gore's documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. And lobbyists for ExxonMobil created a parody video to belittle Gore and make fun of global warming.

For what it's worth, Ritter is leading Beauprez by 7 points in a recent Wall Street Journal/Zogby poll. Maybe Ritter (on behalf of Gore and science) will wind up having the last laugh.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Novak Suggests Democrats Can Win House, And With Allen’s Help, Possibly The Senate

How bad do things look for the Republicans this November?

Robert Novak is now predicting that Democrats have a good shot at regaining control of the House, and have a chance to also take back the Senate – thanks to none other than Sen. George Allen (R-VA).

The conservative pundit – no friend of the Democrats – made the predictions to Tim Russert of NBC’s Meet the Press today.

NOVAK: Well, if the election were held today, I can’t tell you what’s going to happen on Election Day, I would say that the Democrats will win 25 to 30 seats in the House. All they need is 12. I don’t think it’s — my hunch is they’re not going to be that bad, but that’s — they start, they start way ahead.

Regarding the Senate, Novak said it would be hard for Democrats to pick up the six seats needed to regain control. But then he said something that goes against spin from the conservative noise machine that only liberals care about questionably racist comments and the lame excuses later made by Allen.

NOVAK: It’s hard for them in the Senate to pick up the six seats. You can even count to five and not get to six, but Senator George Allen of Virginia is doing his best to try to, try to make that sixth seat viable for a Democratic win.

O'Beirne Repeats "Truthiness" On American Support For Troop Redeployment; Russert Fails To Notice

The names may have changed on today’s edition of NBC’s Meet The Press, but the false claim was the same.

Last week, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) told guest host David Gregory, “Most of the Americans, when you’re asked, “Do you want to set a date for withdrawal,” say no.

This morning, conservative pundit Kate O’Beirne repeated the false claim to host Tim Russert.

O’BEIRNE: "Despite all of the bad news and how pessimistic the public is, they do not support leaving prematurely, and a timetable to do so."

And like last week, when Gregory failed to challenge McCain, Russert today failed to challenge O’Beirne..

This is “truthiness.” Conservatives don’t want to admit that polls show that 57% of Americans say they want to see troop redeployment from Iraq within a year.. Deny this truth, and you can start making all sorts of false claims about what the American people want.

It’s all part of a concerted effort to make an American majority feel as if it’s out-of-step -- that wanting to see a gradual withdrawal from Iraq is somehow a fringe liberal belief.

And as long as hosts like Russert and Gregory allow these false claims to go unchallenged, conservatives can continue to proceed with that concerted effort.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Some Republicans In Blue States Distancing Themselves From Bush Administration's Iraq War Policy

Three Republican Congressman from traditionally Democratic states have distanced themselves from the Bush Administration's Iraq War policy.

The three -- Christopher Shays of Connecticut, Michael Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania and Gil Gutknecht of Minnesota -- each face tough challenges this November. Shays' opponent, Diane Farrell, nearly unseated him in 2004, while Fitzpatrick and Gutknecht face anti-war veterans.

And while the conservative noise machine suggests that being opposed to the administration's "stay the course" policy makes one part of the far-left fringe, polls suggest otherwise. In fact, 60% of Americans disapprove of the way the administration is handling the Iraq War, while 57% say they want to see the start of troop redeployment from Iraq within a year.

"Republicans are trying to insulate themselves from Washington and the president's low approval ratings," Amy Walter, congressional analyst for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, told the Los Angeles Times. "They are distancing themselves from the war and from the president."

The fact that Shays and Fitzpatrick are from the Northeast shouldn't be surprising. An increasing number of Northeast Republicans are trying to position themselves as independent of the Bush Administration.

As the election draws near, don't be surprised if more Republicans follow in the path of Shays and Gutknecht, who now say they believe the U.S. should consider troop withdrawal, or Fitzpatrick, who says he is opposed to Bush's "stay the course" policy.

The truth is, the war is increasing unpopular, and Republicans don't want the war to cost them their jobs.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Center For War-Related Brain Injuries Faces Major Budget Cut From Republican-Led Congress

Listen to conservative talk radio or even some Republican politicians, and you'll hear a steady stream of hokum about how Republicans support the troops, and Democrats don't.

The problem is, with the current Republican-led Congress, actions speak louder than words.

USA Today reports that Congress appears ready to slash funding for the research and treatment of brain injuries caused by bomb blasts, an injury that military scientists describe as a signature wound of the Iraq war.

House and Senate versions of the 2007 Defense appropriation bill contain $7 million for the Defense and Veterans Brain Injury Center — half of what the center received last fiscal year. (The center had requested $19 million.) The House has already passed its legislation, and the Senate is expected to do so soon.

"Honestly, they would have loved to have funded it, but there were just so many priorities," Jenny Manley, spokeswoman for the Senate Appropriations Committee, told the newspaper. "They didn't have any flexibility in such a tight fiscal year."

Right, because if there's one thing that the current Republican leadership is good for, it's fiscal conservatism. The only reason Republicans don't have flexibility now is because under the Bush Administration's watch, the federal deficit has grown by more than $2 trillion, forcing the administration to ask Congress to raise the debt ceiling four times in five years.

***

Jim Mueller, the VFW’s commander in chief, told Army Times that the proposal "clearly indicates that the Congress is out of touch with the realities and consequences of war.”

You either take care of the troops or you do not,” said Mueller, a Vietnam War veteran.

***

Is this simply a budget matter?

USA Today reports that the brain injury center has "clashed with the Pentagon in recent months over a program to identify troops who have suffered mild to moderate brain injuries in Iraq from mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and roadside bombs — the most common weapons used by insurgents."

The center urged the Pentagon to screen all troops returning from Iraq in order to treat symptoms and create a database of brain injury victims. But the Pentagon thus far has declined to do the screening.

Is it possible that the budget cut is payback?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Analysis: U.S. House To Spend Just 79 Days In Session This Year

Nearly sixty years ago, President Harry S. Truman infamously derided the 1947-1948 Congress as the "Do-Nothing Congress" for meeting for only 108 days. Well, Harry must be rolling in his grave, because the current U.S. House of Representatives (now on their annual August break) is projected to spend a mere 79 days in session in 2006.

This is largely due to their extended "district work periods" in which they go home and meet with constituents, campaign and fit in a few rounds of golf. While most Americans returned from their holiday vacation in the first week of January, the House took nearly the entire month off, commencing the session on January 31st. In February, the House met for only 47 hours, an average work week for many Americans. While the year still has over 4 months to go, the calendar leaves a maximum of only 16 additional days for the House to complete its business.

Meanwhile, the Senate is also projected to have a light workload this year, devoting only 125 days to legislative business, a 34-day drop from 2005.

-- Congresspedia, Aug. 23

In Politically Purple Colorado, Conservatives Dominate The AM Dial

My introduction to Denver's AM "News/Talk" radio was surprising for its lack of diversity.

As I drove from the airport to our hotel, I picked up two Sean Hannity broadcasts, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, the O'Reilly Radio Factor and a local conservative (didn't catch his name). There were also three Christian talk stations.

Air America is on the dial, and so is NPR. But still, that's a hefty dose of conservative talk for Coloradoans. (Note: Sadly, although stations advertise themselves as "News/Talk," a misnomer, because the stations are essentially all-talk, with hourly three-minute news updates.)

It's surprising, because the population is politically split. Bush/Cheney defeated Kerry/Edwards 51-47 in 2004, and Democrat Ken Salazar defeated Republican Pete Coors by the same margin in their battle to fill one of the state's U.S. Senate seats (the other seat is held by a Republican). A recent poll had Bush's job approval rating among Coloradoans at just 35%.

Imagine how the state might vote if the radio dial even came close to matching the population's diversity.

Several Northeast Republicans Distancing Themselves From Bush As Election Draws Near

You probably won't see Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-PA) and President Bush together before Election Day.

When it comes to President Bush and the Republican Congress, Gerlach says voters in his suburban Philadelphia district are in a "sour mood."

That's why the two-term incumbent says "the name of the game" is to convince those same voters that he can be independent of his own party. He has turned his standard line about Bush -- "When I think he's wrong, I let him know" -- into a virtual campaign slogan, repeated in interviews and TV ads.

"It is a combination of things, from the war in Iraq to gas prices to what they are experiencing in their local areas," Gerlach said of the surly electorate whose decision he will know on Nov. 7.

It's a decision that several Republicans in Congress are facing, particularly in the Northeast, where Bush's popularity rating is a startling 28%. Republicans there -- a mix of moderates and conservatives -- are trying to portray themselves as independents in time for this November's voting.

Will they succeed? Gerlach's race against Democrat Lois Murphy is neck-and-neck, and the same can be said for a handful of other races in the region.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

TSA Employees Struggle To Interpret New Policy

I had the opportunity today to see Transportation Security Administration employees first-hand, as my family was at New York's LaGuardia Airport, en route to Denver.

On the plus side, the employees were friendly, and the line moved far more quickly than expected.

But employees also seemed to struggle with interpreting the TSA's recently changed policy on bringing liquids onto airplanes.

TSA policy says you can bring prescription medications aboard, if its your name on the medicine. It also says you can bring up to four ounces of non-prescription liquid medicine.

But the TSA employee we encountered was certain that our four-ounce bottle of benadryl -- doctor-recommended for our one-year-old, who is getting over an ear infection -- was not allowed. After I told her that in fact it was -- confirmed by a sign about 20 feet away, I later learned -- she argued it wasn't, but that she would allow it.

We also had to convince the employees that the freezer pak we were using to keep the baby's medicine refrigerated was a necessity. This isn't covered in the TSA's rules, but the TSA employee allowed it.

I actually had more sympathy for TSA employees after making my way through the line. The policies are confusing, and apparently incomplete.

Allen's "Macaca" Mess Hurting Bid For Re-Election

A SurveyUSA poll suggests Sen. George Allen (R-VA) "Macaca" mess may make it more difficult for him to retain his job.

The poll found that Allen's lead over Democrat Jim Webb is down to 48-45. Earlier polls had Allen up by 19 points.

The new poll follows a difficult few days for Allen, who insulted a man of Indian descent who was tracking the Republican's re-election campaign for challenger Webb. Allen either called the man, S.R. Siddarth, a "macaca" -- a slur that literally means "a monkey,' but also can mean "shithead" -- or Macaque, a French slur used to describe North Africans. (Allen is of French Tunisian descent.)

Allen, who told the Associated Press that the name was "just made up," later offered a lame apology.

***

Not surprisingly, Allen's campaign manager, Dick Wadhams, is trying to rally the troops behind Allen, and against what Wadhams perceives as a mass effort to vilify Allen "in a desperate attempt to revive a campaign that was fast-sinking - the Webb campaign."

(Note: Wadhams' memo came two days before the SurveyUSA poll.)

As the folks at MyDD.com point out: Wadhams "blames the media, pundits, Democrats, liberal groups, and Moveon.org for Allen's racist gaffe. He says that it's the Democrats that are playing the race card. The only person who isn't to blame, in fact, is saintly George Allen."

Virginians apparently aren't buying that script, no matter how hard Allen's conservative friends scream it from the rafters.

You Can't Make This Stuff Up ...

A non-binding resolution to acknowledge victims of 2005's Gulf Coast hurricanes and reaffirm Congress' commitment to rebuilding the Gulf Coast region failed to make it to the House floor.

The resolution was written by embattled Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA), but received bipartisan support from the Louisiana and Mississippi delegations.

Why didn't it pass? The unofficial word was that House Republicans didn't want to allow Jefferson -- the target of a federal bribery probe -- to score any free public relations points.

The resolution would have recognized "the importance of the Gulf Coast region to the national economy," expressed the House's "support for all those affected by these terrible natural disasters one year later," and reaffirmed the government's "commitment to rebuilding the Gulf Coast region and improving the quality of life for all residents."

Non-binding resolutions don't carry much weight, but you have to think that hurricane victims would appreciate some sympathy (in addition to more tangible help -- the Associated Press offered a recent analysis of the Bush Administration’s failure to follow-up on promises made after Katrina.) Consider that 82% of Katrina victims say their lives are still not back to normal, according to a new USA Today/Gallup poll.

So, in a move most likely to punish Jefferson -- who if found guilty deserves no sympathy -- House Republicans passed on an opportunity to show their support for hurricane victims. Bravo, people. Way to redefine "leadership."

***

Congress did find time to pass a whole bunch of other non-binding resolutions before its summer recess, according to the blog BSAlert.

Most notable was House and Senate passage of a resolution recognizing the significance of the Napa Valley victory at the 1976 Paris Wine Tasting, 30 years ago. Other successful non-binding resolutions included acknowedging Hire a Veteran Week and National Bike Month, marking the 100th anniversary of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, recognizing the official American Negro League Baseball Museum in Kansas City, MO, and commemorating the 1946 season of Hall of Fame Pitcher Bob Feller.

Remember, people, you have the power to vote this do-nothing Congress out of office in just 75 or so days.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Was Plot To Blow Up Airplanes With Liquid Explosives Feasible? British Journalist Questions The Chemistry

In the days since the British foiled a plot to blow up U.S.-bound planes with liquid exposives, a lot of questions remain unanswered.

How close were the would-be terrorists from going forward with their plan? British officials say the plotters hadn't bought airline tickets, and some didn't have passports. Apparently, the question of how imminent the plan was led to a debate between British and U.S. officials as to the timing of the arrests.

Here in the U.S., why did the Department of Homeland Security issue new rules allowing some liquids and gels to be brought aboard airplanes, when it had no way to screen such explosives in U.S. airports? In light of the new rules, have Transportation Security Administration employees been given more training into such things as how to notice which passengers are questionably nervous?

But in spite of all those questions, the preface that terrorists want to use liquid explosives is clear. The media has told us repeatedly, via interviews with government officials and experts, that it would be easy for terrorists to make liquid explosives.

"A first-year chemistry student could do it," university professor Bob Burk told Toronto's Globe and Mail.

"You can find the recipe on the Internet if you look," David Williams, a retired FBI forensic explosives expert, told the Baltimore Sun.

Of course, that leads us to one other question: If liquid explosives pose such a threat -- at least three government agencies wrote prior to the recent terrorist threat that the U.S. should be concerned with such explosives -- why has DHS thus far failed to test technology provided by the Japanese in January that detects liquid explosives?

Could it be that the preface is wrong? Is it not feasible to bring chemicals onto a plane, mix them, and ultimately detonate them?

That's the conclusion of a report by British journalist Thomas C. Greene, based in part on a peer-reviewed 2004 study in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, "Decomposition of Triacetone Triperoxide is an Entropic Explosion."

As the Washington Monthly noted: "The good news is that it will make you feel a little more confident about the safety of flying overseas. The bad news is that it will make you feel a little less confident about the terror announcements of our national governments."

Here's the nut of what Greene wrote:

GREENE: Making a quantity of TATP ( triacetone triperoxide) sufficient to bring down an airplane is not quite as simple as ducking into the toilet and mixing two harmless liquids together. ... Take your hydrogen peroxide, acetone, and sulfuric acid, measure them very carefully, and put them into drinks bottles for convenient smuggling onto a plane. It's all right to mix the peroxide and acetone in one container, so long as it remains cool. Don't forget to bring several frozen gel-packs (preferably in a Styrofoam chiller deceptively marked "perishable foods"), a thermometer, a large beaker, a stirring rod, and a medicine dropper. You're going to need them. It's best to fly first class and order Champagne. The bucket full of ice water, which the airline ought to supply, might possibly be adequate -- especially if you have those cold gel-packs handy to supplement the ice, and the Styrofoam chiller handy for insulation -- to get you through the cookery without starting a fire in the lavvie.

Once the plane is over the ocean, very discreetly bring all of your gear into the toilet. You might need to make several trips to avoid drawing attention. Once your kit is in place, put a beaker containing the peroxide/acetone mixture into the ice water bath (Champagne bucket), and start adding the acid, drop by drop, while stirring constantly. Watch the reaction temperature carefully. The mixture will heat, and if it gets too hot, you'll end up with a weak explosive. In fact, if it gets really hot, you'll get a premature explosion possibly sufficient to kill you, but probably no one else. After a few hours - assuming, by some miracle, that the fumes haven't overcome you or alerted passengers or the flight crew to your activities - you'll have a quantity of TATP with which to carry out your mission. Now all you need to do is dry it for an hour or two. ... While it's true that a slapdash concoction will explode, it's unlikely to do more than blow out a few windows. At best, an infidel or two might be killed by the blast, and one or two others by flying debris as the cabin suddenly depressurizes, but that's about all you're likely to manage under the most favorable conditions possible.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

McCain Makes False Claim About U.S. Support For Troop Redeployment From Iraq

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) had this exchange with host David Gregory on today's edition of NBC's Meet The Press:

GREGORY: As you well know, public opinion has turned sharply against the war. Sixty percent, according to recent polls, say the war in Iraq has not been worth it. Has this government lost the people?

McCAIN: I don’t think so, in this respect. Most of the Americans, when you’re asked, “Do you want to set a date for withdrawal,” say no. Of course they’re frustrated. All of us are frustrated. I’ve expressed my frustrations to you this morning. But they are not ready to face the consequences of failure by setting a date certain for withdrawal, and I believe that, that they are largely, although frustrated, recognize the consequences of failure.

GREGORY: There has certainly been a growing body of public opinion as well as conservative opinion in the media that has turned against the president in this war. ...

***

McCain, who some see as the front-runner for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, has appeal not only to conservatives, but to many independent voters and so-called Reagan Democrats.

That appeal is tied to what many see as sincerity, or as he dubs it, "straight talk."

But this exchange with Gregory is an example of sounding sincere, even when you are not honestly portraying the facts.

"Has the government lost the people?" Gregory asks. A sincere response would be to acknowledge that support for President Bush's handling of Iraq has been at less than 40%, and sometimes much lower, for well over a year.

While those identifying themselves as Republicans still back the President, only 10% of Democrats and 28% of Independents offer their support, according to a CBS News poll taken earlier this month.

But McCain, while acknowledging that Americans are "frustrated" with the way the war is going, offers this bit of fact-challenged spin:

McCAIN: Most of the Americans, when you’re asked, "Do you want to set a date for withdrawal," say no.

And that's simply not true. In fact, a solid majority of Americans (57%) say they want to see the start of troop redeployment from Iraq within a year.

It's just a variation of an ongoing theme from the Bush Administration and its friends in Congress and in the media, to imply that those who support troop redeployment are outside the mainstream. It's why, for example, conservatives have so blatantly attacked Connecticut Democrat Ned Lamont and his supporters. It's why you get ridiculous comments from the likes of Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who said Middle East terrorists are "waiting for the Democrats here to take control, let things cool off and then strike again."

The administration and its friends want Americans to forget that the top American commander in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, had briefed the administration on a redeployment plan, too.

***

What made this worse, of course, is that Gregory didn't fact-check McCain. He just moved on to his next topic.

It's just bad journalism on the part of Gregory, who conservatives often criticize for being liberal. If Gregory is going to ask a question about public support for Iraq, he should have a solid idea of what recent polls say -- even have a graphic ready to pop up on America's television screens -- in case McCain suggests something other than the truth.

Instead, Americans were once again given a false impression about what the majority believes about troop redeployment.

Arizona Republicans Paying For People To Join Party

The Arizona Republican Party is spending $10 for every person GOP organizations and paid strategists recruit to join the party.

So far this year, the GOP has doled out more than $300,000 to register nearly 22,000 new members, said party chairman Matt Salmon. Republicans are trying to unseat Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano, as well as defend a U.S. Senate seat held by Jon Kyl.

Had we not done this, I really think we would have been overtaken by the Democrats,” Salmon told the East Valley Tribune, referring to state registration numbers that show about 150,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats.

There's confidence in your party platform, huh?

Who knows, maybe the national GOP will do the same. This is, after all, an era of fiscally unconservative Republicans -- who knows how desperate the GOP will get to overcome polls that suggest an increasing number of Americans disagree with Republican positions.

How bad would it be to add several billion dollars more to the national debt? How hard would it be for the Ken Mehlmans of the world to spin "Democracy Dollars," or some other Luntzian creation, to add to the rolls of registered Republicans?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Radio Clown Mark Levin Defends George Allen With Anger, Spin And Half-Truths

Radio clown Mark Levin offered a defense for Sen. George Allen at National Review's website -- a defense that probably says more about Levin than Allen.

You may recall that Allen, the Virginia Republican and possible 2008 presidential candidate, insulted a man of Indian descent who was tracking the Republican's re-election campaign for Democratic challenger Jim Webb.

Allen either called the man, S.R. Siddarth, a "macaca" -- a slur that literally means "a monkey,' but also can mean "shithead" -- or Macaque, a French slur used to describe North Africans. (Allen is of French Tunisian descent.)

Allen, who told the Associated Press that the name was "just made up," later offered a lame apology.

***

Enter Levin, who in his Aug. 15 defense of Allen, offered a mix of anger -- his favorite emotion -- spin and half-truths:

LEVIN: Not one word about the Webb campaign's dirty trick in having one of its volunteers, camcorder in hand, harrassing Allen as he campaigns around Virginia. It's good that Allen has a mean streak, if in fact he does — enough compassionate conservatism. But I doubt his mean streak comes anywhere near McCain's. Allen has been an excellent senator, and he was an excellent governor — which gives us significant insight into how he would govern should he become president. Nothing about him suggests any kind of discriminatory instincts. Yes, the libs will blow this out of proportion. That's what libs do, as they sanctify Robert Byrd "the Conscience of the Senate" and tolerate all kinds of racism and anti-Semiticism (sic) from their ranks. Allen slipped and apologized.

Let's break it down:

-- "Webb campaign's dirty trick." It was a public speech, of course. But Washington Monthly reports that Allen has two people similarly tracking Webb.

-- "It's good that Allen has a mean streak." In other words, name-calling is a good thing?

-- "But I doubt his mean streak comes anywhere near McCain's." As JABBS has noted, Levin hates McCain -- because McCain had the gall to legislate a formal ban on the cruel or inhumane treatment of detainees in U.S. custody anywhere in the world -- and has vowed to prevent the Arizona Republican from receiving his party's 2008 presidential nomination.

-- "Nothing about him suggests any kind of discriminatory instincts." Except that Allen wore a Confederate flag pin for his high school yearbook photo, and displayed a Confederate flag and a noose in his law office. Given the symbolism, those decisions at the very least could be construed as "disciminatory instincts."

-- "Yes, the libs will blow this out of proportion." If Allen has a racist tendency -- a question that needs to be asked -- most Americans would not want him to be a Senator, let alone President.

-- "That's what libs do, as they sanctify Robert Byrd 'the Conscience of the Senate.'" I would never defend Byrd's decision to briefly join the Ku Klux Klan in the 1940s. Of course, the same people who yell and scream at Byrd for what amounts to a single stupid decision more than 60 years ago excused Trent Lott when he made racially divisive comments on behalf of Strom Thurmond (who ran on a racially divisive platform during a 1948 presidential bid), or when folks like former President George Bush or former Senator Jesse Helms ran racially divisive advertisements during election season.

From where I stand, racism is wrong. It doesn't matter whether that racism is from a Democrat or a Republican. Levin is far more partisan in his beliefs.

(Note: non-conservative references to Byrd as the "Conscience of the Senate" appear to be in reference to his longevity in the body, and his knowledge of things like Robert's Rules of Order, rather than suggesting that Byrd best represents the ideal Senator.)

-- "... and tolerate all kinds of racism and anti-Semiticism (sic) from their ranks." Just fact-challenged spin.

-- "Allen slipped and apologized." Half-heartedly, at best.

On Imus, Two Comparisons Between Lamont And Man Who Confessed To Killing JonBenet Ramsey

How badly do some people want Joe Lieberman to win? Bad enough to compare Lamont with John Mark Karr, the man who reportedly admitted to killing 6-year-old beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey.

It's just the latest in an increasingly ugly effort to make sure that Lamont doesn't win.

As JABBS has documented, Lieberman's "friends" in the media launched an all-out war against Lamont before he defeated Lieberman in Connecticut's Democratic Senate primary. Now that there's a rematch -- Lieberman is running as an independent -- the stakes have risen, and so have the insults.

The latest, and crudest, support for Lieberman came from morning show Imus In The Morning -- simulcast on MSNBC. On Thursday and Friday, the folks at Imus suggested that Karr "looks like Ned Lamont."

On Thursday, executive producer Bernard McGuirk said:

McGUIRK: He looks like Ned Lamont, actually. Is that who you want representing you, Connecticut?

The following day, host Don Imus repeated the thought in conversation with Hardball host Chris Matthews:

MATTHEWS (speaking about Karr): (T)he new guy, I said last night, he reminds me of Tony Perkins in Psycho. I mean, I don't know. I don't know what happened.

IMUS: It reminds -- we thought it was Ned Lamont, the guy running against Lieberman. ...

MATTHEWS: But he's a strange -- I'm looking at him now -- strangest-looking guy.

IMUS: We thought it was Ned Lamont.

MATTHEWS: Well, yeah, you made that point.

IMUS: I'm trying to make it again, Chris. You want to help us here? Chris, we're supporting Lieberman, if you did not know that.

MATTHEWS: I have noticed that trend here.

***

The crude comments from the Imus gang -- seemingly an attempt to be funny -- follow off-the-cuff comments from Fox News Channel correspondent David Bass, who said an “unruly” female passenger on an airplane flight was "probably not an al Qaeda affiliate, probably not a terrorist, could just be a Ned Lamont supporter."

Meanwhile, occasional Fox News and MSNBC pundit Ann Coulter tried to link Lamont with a distant relative she claims was a "Stalinist." She and other conservatives seem to forget that Lamont's father, Ted, is a lifelong Republican who served in the Nixon Administration.

Remember, folks, these pundits are paid by "news" channels, regardless of how much crap they spew.

Another Day, Another Embarrassment For Transportation Security Administration

A West Virginia airport terminal was evacuated for more than nine hours Thursday after two bottles of liquid twice falsely tested positive as liquid explosives.

The bottles, held by a 28-year-old pregnant woman of Pakistani descent, first tested positive as liquid explosives following a swab test using an explosive trace detection machine. That was then confirmed by a canine sniffing team.

About 100 people were evacuated from Tri-State Airport in Huntington, W. Va., as a result.

But the government, after questioning the woman for several hours, determined that she was not a threat. The liquids that produced the false positives: water and cosmetic face wash.

***

As a result of the false positives, two questions have arisen, each of which have brought some potentially embarrassing publicity to the TSA's recently changed policy on bringing liquids onto airplanes.

The biggest question is: How could the TSA come up with two false positives? And that begs the follow-up: Should airline passengers be nervous that other false positives will occur, or worse, real liquid explosives won't be detected?

It's unclear how successful the current testing is. The Department of Homeland Security plans to test technology Japan demonstrated for the U.S. back in January. Reports from the GAO, FBI and DHS have suggested the U.S. has no adequate way to detect liquid explosives.

And all of that leads to the next question: Why was this woman stopped, when most other passengers have had their liquids dumped into garbage cans by TSA employees -- an act that calls into question whether liquid explosives are an actual threat.

The woman, Rima Qayyum, was described as "courteous" by law enforcement. That would suggest she did not draw attention for being questionably nervous -- a sign TSA screeners were recently asked to look out for.

So why was she stopped? Qayyum's mother, Mian Qayyum, suggested her daughter was stopped because of racial profiling -- she was wearing a traditional Islamic headcover -- and said the government should apologize.

Whether the accusation is true or not, it's just another question mark for the TSA.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Potential "Liquid Explosives" Helping Charity For The Homeless

The Associated Press reports that liquid items -- confiscated because they could be explosives -- at Eugene Airport, in Oregon, are being used by a charity for the homeless.

The St. Vincent de Paul Society of Lane County has started picking up some of the things people have jettisoned for security reasons as they board flights.

Charley Harvey, assistant executive director of the charity, dug through trash bags Tuesday and took every bottle of shampoo and shaving cream he could find. The items will be distributed at the organization's First Place Family Center.

If liquid explosives were a real threat, the Transportation Security Agency probably would need a policy on how to properly dispose of items. If liquid explosives were a real threat, the government wouldn't want anyone -- including a potential terrorist -- grabbing such items in the airport trash.

Is it possible that the recent changes in airport policy weren't designed for our protection, but instead for the political gain of scaring Americans?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

You Can't Make This Stuff Up ...

How stupid are Transportation Security Administration employees?

Photos, compiled on the blog Pirates Cove, show employees at Dulles International Airport in Northern Virginia, and Asheville Regional Airport, in North Carolina, dumping liquids confiscated from would-be airplane passengers.

Following recently changed rules from the Department of Homeland Security, right? Wouldn't want any liquid explosives getting on board, right?

But what if any of the confiscated liquids were explosives? Can you say KABOOM!!!

Maybe there's another set of photos showing TSA employees carefully handling liquids from questionably nervous passengers, a new target for the TSA. Perhaps DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff can hit the Sunday talk shows one more time to spin how on top of things the department is.

But short of that, you have to ask yourself: Does the TSA really think liquid explosives pose a threat, or were employees just not given proper training?

Conservatives Don't Hate Ned Lamont. They Just Fear That A Majority Of Americans Will Support Candidates They Agree With ... Like Lamont

I doubt the Bush Administration, or its friends in the conservative media, hate Ned Lamont.

Lamont, the upstart Democrat, is trying to unseat incumbent Joe Lieberman to represent Connecticut in the Senate. Lieberman is one of the few Senate Democrats to continue to rally behind President Bush's decision to fight the war in Iraq.

So of course, rather than throw support to Lieberman, the administration and its friends in the media have tried to make Lamont voters feel like the fringe left, even though they in fact agree with a majority of Americans on a number of key issues.

Vice President Cheney complained that Lamont's victory encourages "the Al Qaeda types." How desperate are conservatives to bash Lamont supporters? White House Press Secretary Tony Snow suggested that voting for Lamont meant to "ignore the difficulties and walk away" from fighting the war on terror. Fox News Channel correspondent David Bass said an “unruly” female passenger on an airplane flight was "probably not an al Qaeda affiliate, probably not a terrorist, could just be a Ned Lamont supporter." Before the primary, the conservative media offered the broad theme that those who support Lamont are "cut and run" McGovernites who lack the cajones to stay the course in a dangerous world.

All these statements land squarely on the crossroads of hyperbole and stupidity. They are part of a coordinated strategy to try to convince a majority of Americans to not vote like a majority -- starting with the Lamont-Lieberman rematch.

Take a look at the math:

-- A large majority of Americans (63-67%, depending on the poll) disapprove of the way the Bush Administration is running the country, and a similar majority (60%) disapprove of the way the administration is handling the Iraq War.

-- A large majority of Americans (71%) said that we shouldn't have gone to war if Iraq didn't have weapons of mass destruction, and a solid majority of Americans (57%) say they want to see the start of troop redeployment from Iraq within a year.

This crosses the boundaries of "likely Democrat" and "likely Republican."

If a majority of Americans vote like a majority of Americans when it comes to the Iraq War -- favoring candidates who think the war is not being managed properly, and who agree that troop redeployment from Iraq should start within a year -- Democrats will win pick up seats in the House and Senate this November. If the fearmongerers have their way, then Republicans will do well.

What's a fearmongerer? This week, for example, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) made the ridiculous comment that Middle East terrorists are "waiting for the Democrats here to take control, let things cool off and then strike again." Expect more of that in the 80 days remaining until Election Day.

That's all conservatives have. Name-calling and fearmongering. Conservatives keep shouting "cut and run liberals," hoping Americans forget that the top American commander in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, had briefed the administration on a similar plan for troop redeployment out of Iraq.

Simply, they don't want a majority of Americans to believe they are the majority. That's the only way they can retain control of Congress this November.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Following Questionable "Macaque" Comment, Allen Offers Non-Apology

Sen. George Allen (R-VA) offered a non-apology to a man of Indian descent who was tracking the Republican's re-election campaign for Democratic challenger Jim Webb.

S.R. Sidarth said he felt Allen was singling him out because of his race when the senator called him "Macaque" during a GOP rally Friday at Breaks, Va., near the Kentucky border. “This fellow here, over here with the yellow shirt, Macaque, or whatever his name is, he’s with my opponent," Allen said.

"In no way was it meant to demean him, and I'm sorry if he was offended," Allen said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press.

Why is this a non-apology? Break down the sentence:

"In no way was it meant to demean him ..." equals "I did nothing wrong."

"and I'm sorry if he was offended" equals "He's the one with a problem."

It's similar to the non-apology provided last month by the spokesman for another potential 2008 Republican presidential candidate, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

After using the term "tar baby" to describe the troubled Big Dig construction project in Boston, Romney's spokesman said that Romney "was unaware that some people find the term objectionable and he's sorry if anyone's offended."

Again, consider the sentence construction:

"was unaware that some people find the term objectionable ..." equals "I did nothing wrong."

"and he's sorry if anyone's offended" equals "They're the one with a problem."

It's as if prominent Republicans all read the same guidebook on how to look like your apologizing, without actually apologizing.

***

Romney should have known that some people find "tar baby" objectionable, because White House Press Secretary Tony Snow, at his first press conference in May, raised eyebrows for using the same term.

Similarly, for Allen, the word "Macaque" was not likely gibberish, even though he told the Associated Press that the name was "just made up." (It's an easy excuse, because many news reports spelled the slur "macaca" -- a species of Asian monkeys, which if meant by Allen, would be a worse slur. Some media suggested it was a nonsense term. The Daily Show With Jon Stewart last night had a bit in which correspondent Rob Corddry joked he was from Macaca, which he later revealed was near "Youpeepee.")

But it's a little hard to believe that Allen picked the slur out of the air. As The New Republic reported: "Not only is Macaque apparently a French slur used to describe North Africans, Allen would have good reason to know it is. His mother is French Tunisian (yeah, that's in North Africa), and Allen speaks French."

The story will no doubt quickly die in the press, unless Americans of Macaquen descent hire a good lobbying firm. But it says a lot about Allen.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Bush's Approval Rating Increase On Homeland Security. Why?

A new poll from Newsweek finds that 55% of Americans approve of the way President Bush is handling homeland security.

The approval rating is up 11% from May. The big question is: why?

The poll was taken on Thursday and Friday, after British authorities foiled a plot to use chemical bombs to bring down as many as 10 airliners flying from Britain to the United States.

Are Americans confused about the U.S. roll in thwarting the plot? We had no role in monitoring or capturing the 23 plotters -- other than to push Britain to make the arrests now, vs. a week or so later, as Britain had wanted.

Maybe 55% of Americans said they were pleased with the Bush Administration because they were relieved that the country had escaped another Sept. 11-like tragedy. But if the average American knew that for seven months, the Department of Homeland Security had sat on technology that could detect liquid explosives, would they be as pleased?

It would be unfortunate if Americans, unaware of the details, made voting decisions based primarily on administration spin, such as that we're "fighting them there so you don't have to fight them here." The baseline for approval can't simply be that we haven't been struck again; it should be that we're confident our government is doing all it can.

We're not doing all we can. Not when we sit on technology rather than aggressively determine whether it can strengthen airport security. Not when the Transportation Security Agency in March went an incredible 0 for 21 in finding bomb-making materials snuck onto airplanes by the GAO, it would be less likely to endorse the administration. Now when DHS consistently misses deadlines for such things as determining gameplans for deploying bomb-detection machines at airports, they'd have a different opinion of the administration.

Over the past few days, Bush and DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff have been front and center on the television, and maybe that gave Bush an artificial boost. Once the dust clears and people have a chance to consider the big picture, I'm guessing Bush's approval rating will drop again.

Monday, August 14, 2006

At Campaign Stop, Only Santorum's Campaign Staff Cheered Their Man On

These are rough days for Sen. Rick Santorum.

The Pennsylvania Republican, trailing challenger Bob Casey Jr. in the polls, has taken some questionable steps in an effort to turn things around.

But the harder he tries, the more Santorum seems to be out of step with the electorate.

At a recent event in Butler, Pa., seems the only cheers Santorum received came from his campaign staff. Otherwise, the response ranged from polite to indifferent.

"Except for a brief event in a barn, where Santorum spoke about agriculture policy surrounded by dairy cows chomping on hay and several supportive farmers, the senator drew little attention as he walked around the event holding his wife's hand or inspecting horses with his children," wrote The Patriot-News in an analysis today.

How weak was the reception Santorum received? The lone endorsement he received at the Butler event came from "Old Time Magic Man," a children's performer, and it was heard by a small audience, primarily consisting of children.

DHS Issues New Rules (Again) For Passengers, Following Nonsense Logic Akin To Believing One Can Be A Little Bit Pregnant

A rule such as, "Passengers can't bring liquids or gels on board an airplane," is easy to understand for passengers, and assuming airport screeners do their jobs, easy to achieve.

In the wake of the thwarted terrorist plan to use liquid explosives to blow up airplanes heading to the U.S. from London, most American can accept this gameplan. Long lines are a hassle, but Americans have been through this drill before. And until the Department of Homeland Security puts technology into U.S. airports to detect liquid explosives, a ban on liquids is probably the best answer.

But alas, the brain trust at DHS can't even get this one right.

The Associated Press reports this morning that DHS has changed the rules as to what can get on a plane and what can't. Apparently, the dunderheads at DHS are following the philosophy that you can be a "little bit pregnant."

The new game plan is to allow up to four ounces of liquid nonprescription medicine, glucose gel for diabetics; solid lipstick; and baby food.

But, and please try to follow the logic, DHS on Saturday added mascara to the list of banned items, which includes baby teethers with gel or liquid inside, children's toys with gel inside and gel candles.

So, people can bring aboard a little bit of liquid or gel, but not too much?

An expert on explosives, British professor Hans Michaels, told the International Herald Tribune last week that about five ounces of a powerful explosive like nitroglycerin might be enough to blow up an airplane. And the Londoners' plot apparently had terrorists working in teams, assembling their explosives on board.

So if you only need five ounces of liquid explosives to blow up a plane, why is DHS allowing a passenger to bring items that have several ounces of liquid in them?

Because the same terrorist who had planned to put liquid explosives into a 12-ounce can of soda could conceivably put those explosives into a six-ounce jar of baby food. The same terrorist who planned to carry on liquid explosives in the form of mascara could conceivably carry on liquid explosives in the form of lipstick.

Either DHS believes that a terrorist plot could still be carried out using liquid explosives, in which case it should ban all liquids, or it doesn't, in which case it should relax the rules accordingly. Being a "little bit pregnant" isn't a policy.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

In Latest Example Of Incompetence, DHS Sat On Free Liquid Explosive Detection Technology For Seven Months

The Department of Homeland Security is now planning to test Japanese technology to detect liquid explosives -- technology the Japanese handed over to the U.S. in January.

Of course, this is what we've come to expect from the dunderheads running DHS, who apparently have also debated internally for four years whether to spend money to put trace explosive detectors -- already in most U.S. airports -- into foreign airports in terminals with flights heading to the U.S.

Just think, if DHS were actually aggressively working to make the country safer -- rather than apparently fighting among itself and forming a ridiculous bureaucracy -- it could actually have made it impossible for terrorists to plan to sneak liquid explosives onto U.S.-bound airplanes at foreign terminals.

Does this make you feel safer?

Now that liquid explosives are back in the news, DHS is moving quickly on that Japanese technology, the AP reports.

Kip Hawley, assistant secretary for transportation security, said DHS is going to test the detector in six American airports. "It is very promising technology and we are extremely interested in it to help us operationally in the next several years," he said.

Japan has been using the liquid explosive detectors in its Narita International Airport in Tokyo and demonstrated the technology to U.S. officials at a conference in January, the Japanese Embassy in Washington said.

***

This isn't the first time this year that DHS has been shown incompetent with regard to airport security.

What has DHS done since March, when the Transportation Security Agency went an incredible 0 for 21 in finding bomb-making materials snuck onto airplanes by the GAO? What has it done since last fall, when the Associated Press reported that DHS consistently missed deadlines for such things as determining gameplans for deploying bomb-detection machines at airports?

Heck, maybe we should set the bar lower. When will DHS figure out that Indiana isn't the state with the most potential terrorist targets?

***

DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff was front and center on the Sunday talk shows, admitting to CNN today that DHS' "research and development effort is bogged down by bureaucracy, lack of strategic planning and failure to use money wisely" -- leading to Congress rescinding $200 million of unused R&D funds.

But Chertoff apparently didn't answer any questions about why DHS didn't move quicker this year on the Japanese technology. It certainly wasn't a lack of resources.

Friday, August 11, 2006

ABC News: U.S. Warned By GAO, FBI About Danger Of Liquid Explosives

The idea of using liquid explosives isn't new.

Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind behind the 1993 World Trade Center attack, planned to use liquid explosives concealed in a bottle of contact lens solution in 1994 to blow up 11 flights over the Pacific. But Yousef was arrested in Pakistan, and convincted in 1997. He is serving a life sentence without parole at the Supermax federal prison in Florence, Colo.

Maybe our government decided the problem ended there, especially after Sept. 11, when the focus turned to passenger screening and awareness. After a plot by Richard Reid, the "shoe bomber" was foiled, additional attention was paid to shoes.

But some parts of our government continued to be concerned about the possibility of liquid explosives, ABC News reports.

-- In February 2005, a Government Accountability Office report determined that the Transportation Security Administration had "delayed the development of a device to detect weapons, liquid explosives … in containers found in carry-on baggage or passenger's effects."

-- A different report, issued jointly by the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, noted in its title the "Possible Terrorist Use of Liquid Explosive Materials in Future Attacks."

But in spite of the reports, the government has not yet adopted technology to trace liquid explosives. The only defense thus far: not allowing any liquids onto airplanes.

The most advanced technology to detect explosives is a new trace portal now installed in 33 airports, according to the Transportation Security Administration. These portals blow puffs of air on passengers and then test tiny particles collected from the puff.

Perhaps the answer will soon be an end to all carry-on luggage. Or a "taste test" -- if you can't drink what's in your soda can, baby bottle, etc., then you can't bring it on board (liquid explosives are fatal if swallowed.)

But the better way to fight the "war on terror" is to develop the technology to win that war. The Bush Administration would do well to announce that it has either a) funded research to develop the technology to trace liquid explosives or b) that it plans to do so immediately.

You Can't Make This Stuff Up ...

Whatever does Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld do when he's not planning his brilliant Iraq strategy? According to Premiere magazine, he hangs around movie sets — as in a recent visit to the Clint Eastwood-directed war epic Flags of Our Fathers.

Cast member Jesse Bradford marvels, "What was funny is that he stuck around for a while. It's like, 'Don't you have anything better to do? You’re supposed to be running the country.'"

-- New York Daily News, Aug. 11

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Snow Spins Lamont Victory Over Lieberman (After Advising White House Had "No Comment")

Tony Snow's press briefing today began with a sentiment we can all agree with:

SNOW: As for -- the President has no comment on the winner or loser of the race, that is for the Democratic Party and Democratic voters in the state of Connecticut. But it also clear, because of the attention being paid to it, that there is a significant political argument underway, and it's one that I think it is important for the American people to have. I say, I think, that the administration thinks it's important for the American people to have.

Bravo.

Then, Snow offered a few less appetizing thoughts on Ned Lamont's primary victory over incumbent Joe Lieberman. Those thoughts followed a broad theme played up by the conservative media over the past few weeks -- that those who support Lamont are "cut and run" McGovernites who lack the cajones to stay the course in a dangerous world.

Snow also implies that Lamont was helped by his wealth (code: he's a limousine liberal) and suggests the possibility that pre-election polls were "rigged."

Ironically, Snow talks about how "some elements" within the Democratic Party have made the Iraq War a with us-or-against us issue -- a charge that has often been made about the Republican Party and the greater conservative noise machine. For example, Mark Levin, on today's radio show, said he had no time for liberal Republicans like Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) when it came to discussing the war.

And Snow disses Democrats who have a "timetable" mentality -- a more sophisticated way of knocking what they call "cut and run." Clearly, the administration wants Americans to forget that the top American commander in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, had briefed the administration on a similar plan, or that a majority of Americans support troop redeployment out of Iraq.

All that spin, just for a Democratic primary victory in a blue state? Remember: The White House had "no comment" on a race that Snow then proceeded to spin for several minutes. Don't tell me that Lamont's victory doesn't scare the jeepers out of the Republican intelligensia.

Some snippets from the press briefing:

Q On Lieberman, are you telling us you now want to make the November election a referendum on the Democrats' position on the Iraq war?

SNOW: No, I'm saying that there are some Democrats who have said that the key issue is leaving, and that there are some elements within the Democratic Party who are pushing hard to say, look, if you don't agree with us, you no longer belong in the party. ...

There seem to be two approaches. And in the Connecticut race one of the approaches is ignore the difficulties and walk away. ... And it's really up to Democratic candidates and the Democratic Party to figure out how they want to stand in the war on terror: do they want to have the sort of timetable approach, leave by a date-certain; do they not want to have something constructive to say about gathering threats from Iran and elsewhere. Or do they want to acknowledge that fact that in a dangerous world it takes commitment, it take persistence.

Q Tony, just to follow up on that. Does this shake up the political landscape conventional thinking of how November midterms are going to go and strategy looking forward to '08?

SNOW: I don't think so. ... One of the interesting things that happened in this Connecticut race, by the way, was there appeared to be some buyer's remorse as election day approached. Maybe the polls were rigged; maybe the polls were bad. But at least the lead that Mr. Lamont had went from 13 points to six to four on election day. That indicates that even in a fairly liberal state like Connecticut, where this is the one issue, where you had a well-financed candidate who had more money than the incumbent, that you still had a 50-50 split more or less within the Democratic Party on this issue.

Starting A Trend, Lobbying Firm Creates "Home-Made" Anti-Gore Web Video

The video "Al Gore's Penguin Army" belittles the threat of global warming and makes fun of the former vice president. It quickly found a fan base -- especially among conservatives -- with its "home-made, humorous quality."

But the video wasn't home-made. According to an Aug. 3 story in the Wall Street Journal, the filmmaker's e-mail links him to "DCI Group, a Washington, D.C., public relations and lobbying firm whose clients include oil company ExxonMobil.

Coincidence? Probably not.

The Journal noted that people Googling "Al Gore" or "Global Warming" were led to ads promoting the video -- until the Journal contacted DCI.

DCI declined to say whether it made the video, although the Journal noted that DCI's Tech Central Station website has "sought to raise doubts about the science of global warming and about Mr. Gore's film." An ExxonMobil spokesperson said the company did not fund or approve the video.

Regardless of the ethics, lobbyists are always looking for a way to create a buzz around their causes. So it should come as no surprise that industry players are saying that political operatives, lobbyists and ad agencies will increasingly plant amateur-looking videos on websites like YouTube to shape public opinion. AT&T, for example, is using YouTube to post videos against net neutrality.

Pretty soon, people won't know when they are viewing an independent opinion, vs. a corporate or politically motivated message. Scary.

Who Will Rally Behind Lieberman's Independent Bid For Senate? Perhaps All His Friends In The Conservative Media

Ned Lamont's primary victory yesterday over incumbent Joe Lieberman wasn't a huge surprise. Lamont had led in the polls for several weeks in the race to be Connecticut's Democratic Senate candidate.

And it's not a big surprise that Lieberman, upon losing, made it clear he'll run as an independent. He's been hinting for weeks.

What is surprising is the way the conservative media has rallied behind Lieberman. First comes President Bush's "kiss," and now waves of praise and friendship from just about everyone on the WABC and Fox News Channel roster?

Rush Limbaugh yesterday said on his radio show that Lamont was a "kook," was backed by the "McGovern" wing of the party, and that his victory would signify the liberals were trying to "sabotage the government." Fox News Channel's John Gibson said yesterday that the far left had been "nasty and intolerant and hateful" toward Lieberman. Sean Hannity regularly has Lieberman on his show, calls him a friend, and offered to hold a fundraiser for "Hannity Conservatives for Lieberman." Ann Coulter praised Lieberman and suggested he become a Republican.

Why the chumminess? Clearly, it comes down to the Iraq War. Lieberman has been front-and-center behind President Bush, unwilling to hold the president accountable for failing to heed the call of those who said we needed more troops in Iraq, or underestimating the Iraq insurgency.

Drink from the Bush Administration kool-aid, you get rewarded. It's the "Are You With Us, Or Are You Against Us" Mentality, and there's not much room for independent thought. No matter your conservative credentials, wavering from the administration may lead you to receive unbridled anger -- as has been the case with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

So now Lieberman will run as an independent. In effect, this gives the conservative media a two-thirds shot at victory.

If Lieberman wins, the right can try to woo him to leave the Democratic Party altogether. And if Lieberman loses, maybe the vote will be split enough to allow the Republican candidate to win. What's his name again?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Republican Gameplan For Retaining Congress? Rally The Base With Name Calling And Scare Tactics

A new Republican memo says the party can rally the base, and thus retain control of Congress, by name calling Democrats and reminding voters of all the threats facing the U.S.

The memo, from GOP pollster Fred Steeper to Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, said Republicans could motivate their base by talking about foreign threats and national security issues, including Iraq and the potential nuclear threat from Iran, and by drawing contrasts with Democrats in those areas. The memo, obtained by the Los Angeles Times, said 87% of the base "expresses extremely strong feelings" on those issues.

Mehlman, in a Monday interview with the Times, apparently has taken the memo to heart. He said that the base becomes motivated when it hears that Democrats support policies of "isolationism and defeatism."

In other words, be prepared over the next 91 days to hear about wimpy, "cut and run" Democrats vs. brave "stay the course" Republicans. Reality? Who cares about reality. There's an election to be won.

"A party that becomes even more McGovernic than the original 1972 Democrat Party is not one in my judgment that is likely to appeal to voters," Mehlman said.

And he's right. If the Democratic Party of today were to the left of the Democratic Party of 1972, it wouldn't be very appealing. But there's no evidence to support that claim. It's just empty conservative spin from a party so bankrupt for ideas that it is only left with name calling. Republicans, as we now know, were still labeling a Democratic plan for troop redeployment "cut and run," even after they knew the top American commander in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, had briefed the administration on a similar plan. And the idea of troop redeployment isn't popular with some left fringe hippie movement, it's supported by a majority of Americans.

Is this the debate we are going to have over the next 91 days? We aren't going to talk about how the administration failed to heed the call of those who said we needed more troops in Iraq, or how it underestimated the Iraq insurgency, or how its policies may lead to an Iraqi civil war. No, instead we're going to have a fake debate on why a Democratic plan for troop redeployment is "cut and run," and Casey's plan isn't?

Let the Republicans talk their gibberish. Americans are tired of being spun, and will say as much come November.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

You Can't Make This Stuff Up ...

A Republican candidate vying to become the next representative of Colorado's 5th Congressional District has a unique answer to fighting Islamic terrorists: convert them to other religions.

Duncan Bremer, a former El Paso County commissioner, offered his gameplan to the Denver Post yesterday.

"There's an aspect of it that people are not willing to talk about, and I am -- its religious basis. ... Our best hope is that we actually convert them away from their religious fanatical basis," Bremer said.

He said that would best be accomplished by missionaries of various faiths.

"I'd prefer that they get converted to evangelical Christianity, but my point is that there is a religious battleground and our government is disabled from fighting on that battleground," Bremer said.

***

Bremer is one of six candidates looking to replace Rep. Joel Hefley, who is retiring. Hefley, you may recall, got in trouble with fellow Republicans for failing last year to give disgraced former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay a free pass from the House Ethics Committee. Soon thereafter, Hefley was replaced as committee chairman.

I don't know if Bremer has a chance, but if he wins Tuesday's primary, it will be interesting to see how fast the GOP comes running. Certainly, the religious right would be happy to support him.

Blair, In London, Offers Optimism About UN Resolution. Bush, In Crawford, Provides Much Less

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Friday that he would delay his summer vacation for a few days to help secure a United Nations resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah.

Why didn't President Bush think of that?

***

A draft of the UN resolution was agreed to by the U.S. last night.

The reaction from Washington, er Crawford, was far more negative than from London.

While Bush said he was "happy with the progress being made," White House Press Secretary Tony Snow, with the president at his private ranch in Texas, offered "I don't think (President Bush) has any delusions about what lies ahead."

Is that code for "The UN is useless, and this resolution won't change squat"?

Meanwhile, Blair praised the resolution as "an important first step in bringing this tragic crisis to an end."

"The priority now is to get the resolution adopted as soon as possible, and then to work for a permanent cease-fire and achieve the conditions in Lebanon and Israel which will prevent a recurrence," Blair said.

***

The combination of events suggest the image of a disengaged president, unwilling to offer Americans much leadership during the current crisis.

Bush was heavily criticized last year for a similar disengagement, when Bush took four days to arrive on the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina. That type of disengagement contrasted sharply with President Clinton, who canceled appearances to respond to a 1996 hurricane, and cut short his attendance at a new Zealand conference to respond to a 1999 hurricane.

Prime Minister Blair, meanwhile, presents an image of a leader willing to put aside his personal needs to address a crisis, and then respond to events with the optimistic, but realistic tone that no doubt will make the British feel that things will soon turn around for Israel and Lebanon.

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