The familiar hallmark of Republican politics is what I call "roll-call slander." The party of Jesse Helms and Newt Gingrich, Lee Atwater and Karl Rove, pioneered the use of ridiculous legislative roll calls to put incumbent Democrats on the spot--recorded votes that can be used against them in the next election. The purpose is not to enact legislation but to generate demagogic fodder for Republican challengers.
Did you know your senator voted in favor of burning the American flag? Well, he did. Here is the Senate roll-call to prove it. Elect me and I promise to stand by our flag.
Sometimes, this works or makes Dems scurry for cover. More often, it simply revs up the GOP troops, like waving a piece of bloody meat before a pack of hungry dogs. The technique turns representative democracy into a cheap cartoon.
The polls show Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman is falling far behind anti-war challenger Ned Lamont as the state's August 8 Democratic primary approaches.
But it's not all bad news for the embattled senator. At least Tom DeLay's rooting for him.
The former House majority leader from Texas is a Republican who may not agree with the Bush White House's favorite Democrat on every issue but who thinks the Senator is right-on when it comes to foreign policy.
If the Bush administration had any sense of commitment to the protection of endangered species it might consider adding "science" to its list. After thwarting stem cell research and muzzling global warming scientists (how are you enjoying the latest heat wave, Mr. Bush, and the fact that the first six months of this year were the warmest ever recored in the US?), right-wing ideology trumping sound science is currently found in the effort to hold women's health hostage.
Forty-five countries and nine states have approved Plan B emergency contraceptive â€“ "the morning after pill" â€“ for over-the-counter sale, while the Food and Drug Administration has avoided making a decision for three years running. Now, as acting-FDA Commissioner Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach enters his confirmation hearing this week, he is promising to end the delay caused by â€“ according to his predecessor, Dr. Lester Crawford â€“ "unique regulatory issues."
But Democratic Senators such as Hillary Clinton and Patty Murray are rightfully threatening to block the confirmation until a decision on Plan B is actually made, not simply promised. After a written assurance from the Bush Administration that there would be action on Plan B â€“ during Crawford's confirmation hearing â€“it turned out that the promise wasn't worth the paper it was written on.
I was doing a radio interview this morning on the Connecticut Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate -- roughly the 50th in recent days -- with Jay Marvin, whose show on KKZN-AM in the Boulder-Denver market is one of the smartest progressive talk radio programs in the country.
Jay doesn't pull punches. He asked straight up: "Is Ned Lamont going to beat Joe Lieberman?"
I thought for a second and answered: "Yes, I think Lamont's going to pull this thing off."
It's 93 degrees outside my apartment window -- positively Nordic (it was 100 yesterday). This week, after years of resisting -- because of the expense, and the environmental impact -- my husband and I finally bought a living room air conditioner. It sure feels nice. But it's disturbing that because of global warming, we had to buy something that may contribute to... global warming.
Summer in New York City is always unbearable for at least a couple weeks, but this year is hell. Like all bad weather, this heat has hit some people much harder than others: a blackout left folks in Queens without power for almost two weeks, while the air conditioner from the H&M store near Penn Station wastefully cools the sidewalk, a seductive ploy to invite customers inside. Heat waves have always been a possible hazard of spending the summer in this city, so we don't know for sure what's causing this one, but no serious scientists dispute that global warming is taking place, and that we should make serious changes in our greenhouse gas emissions in order to ease up on this poor old planet and at least minimize the damage.
Last year, a friend (a longtime, deeply committed social justice activist) confessed that since he'd be dead before any serious fallout from global warming -- meaning, I suppose, before Manhattanites are up to our ankles in water -- he wasn't motivated to take any action on the issue. That's quite understandable, and I think a lot of people feel the same way.
Ned Lamont keeps climbing. And Joe Lieberman keeps sinking. A new Quinnipiac University poll shows Lamont leading Lieberman by 13 points, 54 to 41 percent among likely Democratic voters, less than a week before the August 8 primary. To put the recent poll in perspective, Lamont's swung from a 46 point deficit to an 13 point lead in three months.
When asked why they're voting for Lamont, 94 percent of respondents cited Lieberman's steadfast support for the war in Iraq as one of the reasons (50 percent) or the main reason (44 percent).
Lamont is not a single-issue candidate, as Lieberman has repeatedly tried to suggest. But even if the primary was only about Iraq, so what? Too many politicians in both parties have failed to respond to the deep anger about the war that so many Democrats, and Americans, feel.
Who is the most outspoken and through-provoking Senate critic of the Bush administration's misguided foreign policies?
Hint: The boldest opposition voice is not that of a Democrat.
Over the course of the past week, Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel, a maverick conservative Republican from Nebraska, has scored the administration for its misguided approaches in language far wiser and bolder than the empty stream of rhetoric that continues to pass the lips of his Democratic colleagues.
In her Nation weblog, Katrina vanden Heuvel recently sounded off on the shameless hypocrisy of the GOP for linking a minimum wage increase--which would be the first one in nine years!--with a gutting of the estate tax.
In essence, after having failed to get an estate tax repeal or reduction passed in the Senate this year, the GOP is holding hostage the long overdue minimum wage increase , which would benefit seven million workers, in order to give hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts to a few thousand multi-millionaires and billionaires! (Minimum wage workers would see an annual wage increase of $4,400, while the average tax break to multi-million dollar estates would be $1,400,000.)
On the eve of adjourning on July 28, Congressional Republicans pushed through the controversial bill in the House. The Senate is expected to vote this Friday, August 4. A very close vote is expected as GOP leaders seek to convince several holdout Republicans and a handful of Democrats to support the legislation. Sixty yeas are needed to shut off debate and bring the measure to a vote in the Senate, where there are 55 Republicans, 45 Democrats and one independent.
Reports are that Rupert Murdoch plans to offer Tony Blair a prominent position in his media empire when Bush's poodle steps down as prime minister or Gordon Brown finally stages a coup. Now that's a Fox and Friends episode I'd like to catch.
Just imagine the possibilitiesâ€¦Murdoch could give Tony his own show.
Given the PM's involvement in the quagmire in Iraq, Fox News should call it: Sticky Situations with Tony Blair. Its focus: public figures who need to wriggle out of a mess of their own making. There would be no shortage of guests.
It's always nice to be validated by the Washington Post.
A month ago I wrote a feature article for The Nation inquiring whether Democrats, particularly the DNC, had a sufficient plan for turning out the vote in the November elections.
DNC Chairman Tom McMahon responded by writing: "Contrary to the implication of the Berman article, the DNC has a sound political plan for 2006 that contemplates the investment of unprecedented resources."
Since www.beyondmarriage.org launched last week, there's been surging interest in our statement and ideas. The New York Times' Anemona Hartocollis mentioned it in a long story, "For Some Gays a Right They Can Forsake," in Sunday's Style section. (The piece featured former UFPJ spokesman, rabble-rouser and deep throat for many a queer journalist -- I mean that in a totally platonic way -- Bill Dobbs, looking fruity as ever in his picture). Newsweek picked it up in a story they ran on the Washington Supreme Court decision, as did the Washington Blade's Elizabeth Perry. The San Francisco Chronicle ran a short story devoted entirely to the statement. And of course, it's been hitting the blogosphere, radio (Air America among others) and the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce homepage. It even made an appearance, courtesy of Beyond Marriage collaborator Nancy Polikoff, at the International Conference on LGBT Human Rights in Montreal. The conference's final declaration, while not directly influenced by our statement, included calls for "recognizing and granting equal rights to non-marital relationships" and "opening up legal marriage to same-sex couples and introducing similar partnership rights for all unmarried couples."
Beyond Same-Sex Marriage has, of course, generated its share of dissenters -- which is great since for so long the marriage talk in the gay community has been one side saying "I do" to itself. But, I can't resist the opportunity to point out some of the mistruths, misinterpretations and daffy analysis generated by its detractors. So, with the caveat that these are solely my views and not those of the Beyond Marriage working group or statement signers, here goes:
Over on his blog at the Washington Blade, editor Chris Crain overheats until his brain explodes. Calling Beyond Marriage "the revenge of the liberationists, ready to pounce on a series of defeats by equal rights advocates," Crain engages in typical left-baiting, only stretching to replace the dreaded "Communist" with "anti-conjugalist." He accuses us of crafting PC-neologisms, though as far as I can tell the silly expression is entirely his own. Crain's beef boils down to the argument that "by diverting attention from the inherent inequality of marriage for heterosexual couples but not gay couples, the anti-conjugalists rob the gay rights movement of the fairness claim that resonates with more Americans." As evidence, he points out that "95 percent" of all Americans "want someday to marry." (What does this statistic mean? Do 95 percent of married Americans want "someday to marry"? Again?! If so, kudos to them for thinking ahead.)
Anti-Wal-Mart activism is pushing some Democrats to speak out against the company's exploitative practices. While Leslie Dach and many other Democratic operatives are collecting fat paychecks defending the retailer -- and Al Gore has been visiting Bentonville to offer environmental wisdom -- an increasing number of Democratic politicians are reaping political capital by attacking Wal-Mart. This will become more and more apparent as Wake Up Wal-Mart 's "Change Wal-Mart, Change America" (19-state and 35-city) bus tour-- which launched today in still Wal-Mart-free New York City-- winds its way through the nation. Former vice presidential hopeful John Edwards will be participating, as will Howard Dean's brother Jim -- chair of Democracy for America -- and numerous other party folk. In a moment of drama that everyone in Connecticut should check out, Bush paramour Joe Lieberman and his primary challenger for the Senate, insurgent preppy war opponent Ned Lamont, will appear together tomorrow at noon at an anti-Wal-Mart rally in Bridgeport (the bus tour's second stop). Ah, Wal-Mart, the great uniter!
(I asked Wake Up Wal-Mart spokesman Paul Blank if his group had approached former Wal-Mart board member Senator Hillary about participating in the New York leg of the tour. He said she had a "schedule conflict.")
In other Wal-Mart news, Chicago last week passed a law requiring big-box stores to pay a living wage -- at least $10 an hour, with benefits of at least $3. Other cities are looking closely at Chicago's bill and thinking about following the Windy City's example; perhaps people fighting at the local level can make the retail sector a decent source of employment for working people.
Here's an ironic scenario: as Israel fights a proxy war against Hezbollah, the United States is propping up an Iraqi government that helped create the Lebanese militants.
David Clark, a former foreign policy advisor to Tony Blair, laid out the details in an op-ed yesterday in The Guardian:
Some of the earliest suicide bombings commonly attributed to Hizbullah, such as the 1983 attacks on the US embassy and marine barracks in Beirut, were believed by American intelligence sources at the time to have been orchestrated by the Iraqi Dawa party. Hizbullah barely existed in 1983 and Dawa cadres are said to have been instrumental in setting it up at Tehran's behest. Dawa's current leadership includes none other than the new Iraqi prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, feted last week in London and Washington as the great hope for the future of the Middle East. As the old saying goes, today's terrorist is tomorrow's statesman--at least when it suits us.
From the Baby Steps Department where Democratic leaders plot policy comes a letter to President Bush signed by the opposition party's Congressional leadership, as well as a number of House and Senate Democrats who have been associated with national security and intelligence issues.
The letter from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and their partisan compatriots identifies the crisis of the moment: "Iraq has exploded in violence. Some 6,000 Iraqis were killed in May and June, and sectarian and insurgent violence continues to claim American and Iraqi lives at an alarming rate. In the face of this onslaught, one can only conclude that the Baghdad security plan you announced five weeks ago is in great jeopardy."
The letter identifies the broader crisis: "U.S. troops and taxpayers continue to pay a high price as your Administration searches for a policy. Over 2,500 Americans have made the ultimate sacrifice and over 18,000 others have been wounded. The Iraq war has also strained our military and constrained our ability to deal with other challenges. Readiness levels for the Army are at lows not seen since Vietnam, as virtually no active Army non-deployed combat brigade is prepared to perform its wartime missions."
"Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my peopleâ€¦."
Thus spoke Representative Dennis Kucinich on the House floor last week, quoting Isaiah, as he railed against a cynical attempt by Republicans to attach the first minimum wage increase in nine years (during which time Congress has received EIGHT pay raises, and is scheduled for its ninth), to an estate tax cut for the wealthiest Americans. Despite his efforts, on the eve of adjourning on July 29, House Republicans pushed through this controversial bill linking a minimum-wage increase to a package of tax cuts.
At a time when the gap between rich and poor is greater than even during the Gilded Ageâ€¦at a time of unprecedented tax cuts for the wealthy during the so-called war on terrorâ€¦at a time of vast cuts in our social service infrastructure...at a time when a federal surplus has been transformed into a soaring deficit....the Republican leadership refused to allow a straight up or down vote on the minimum wage.
Does it matter that The New York Times has endorsed anti-war challenger Ned Lamont over Senator Joe Lieberman in the August 8 Connecticut Democratic primary?
Of course it does.
No, newspaper endorsements do not swing all that many votes in and of themselves, especially in high-profile contests. But, especially when they go against a long-term incumbent like Lieberman, they help wavering voters make the leap into the opposition camp.