Defenders of the war in Iraq are always quick to dismiss any expression of opposition by the American people as so inconsequential that no one in Washington will take notice. That's what they did in March of 2005, when 50 Vermont town meetings voted for anti-war resolutions. And that is what they are now doing in April of 2006, when confronted with the news that the citizens of 24 Wisconsin cities, villages and towns -- including a half dozen communities that voted for President Bush in 2004 -- have voted for Bring the Troops Home Now referendums that call for immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
The problem with the attempt to dismiss the Wisconsin votes -- which is so obviously meant to discourage more communities in more states from using democratic processes to challenge the war -- is that the Bush White House is not on message. Instead of feigning ignorance of the referendums, or simply refusing to comment, White House press secretary Scott McClellan stumbled through a lengthy discussion of the Wisconsin results on the day after the voting.
Of course, McClellan would never let the truth pass over his lips. But the confirmation that opposition to the war has spread even to some of the most Republican sections of the country had evidently unsettled the White House spokesman.
The media should be talking about Tom DeLay and the collapse of the conservative movement. About immigration reform and the divide in the Republican Party. About how the Bush Administration is trying to export democracy to Iraq while cutting funds for democracy promotion. About how four House Republicans are pushing to force the House to debate the war. Or--if you want something seedy--about how yet another Bush Administration official was arrested, this time for trying to seduce a 14-year-old girl over the Internet.
Instead, they can't get enough of Cynthia McKinney, a controversial Democrat from Georgia who last week punched a police officer on Capitol Hill. It's not just Fox News. Wolf Blitzer had her in the Situation Room. Even Jon Stewart last night juxtaposed images of DeLay and McKinney, as if their sins were equal. And McKinney inexplicably keeps the story alive by holding media appearance after media appearance.
The Nation defended McKinney when the right-wing and AIPAC slimed her as an anti-Semite back in 2002. But, as far as I'm concerned, she's on her own now.
In November 2004, the village of Luxemburg, Wisconsin, voted to re-elect George W. Bush by a hefty margin of 701 to 431. Always a GOP stronghold, the community voted for other Republicans as well, even the challenger to popular Democratic Senator Russ Feingold, who was winning by a landslide statewide.
There's not much question that the majority of the 2,000 residents of this rural northeastern Wisconsin village of well-maintained homes, neat storefronts and large churches think of themselves as old-fashioned Midwestern conservatives.
So, by the calculus of the Bush White House and its echo chamber in the national media, Luxemburg ought to be just about the last place in the United States to express doubts about the President's handling of the war in Iraq. And surely, no national pundit would have predicted that the village would vote in favor of a referendum declaring: "Be it hereby resolved, that the Village of Luxemburg urges the United States to begin an immediate withdrawal of its troops from Iraq, beginning with the National Guard and Reserves."
"Confidence can accomplish anything." That's what Maryland's ecstatic coach Brenda Frese told a reporter at the end of one of the greatest games in women's college basketball history. The Terrapins weren't supposed to win the NCAA women's championship. But they played so fearlessly, and with such confidence, overtaking powerhouse Duke by 78-75 in overtime, that it made you believe anything was possible.
My 14 year old daughter, Nika, who lives, breathes and plays b-ball--she's a shooting guard on her high school varsity team, for the Douglass Panthers' team in the NY Housing Authority League, and is starting to play in AAU tournaments around the state--sat without moving during the entire game, mesmerized by Maryland's freshman point guard Kristi Toliver, whose clutch basket took the "Terps" into overtime with just a few seconds to spare.
After too many desultory Knicks games, and a near-blowout men's NCAA final Monday night, this was one shining moment for b-ball and women's sport. As Maryland freshman Stephani Buckland told the Washington Post on the eve of the game, punching her fist into the air: "Power to women. For so long no one here cared about women's basketball. All of a sudden, the women are the best. We do rock!"
Tom DeLay claims to see a vast anti-Christian conspiracy in the legal troubles that forced him out of the House--though his own sins would seem to be sufficient explanation.
I'm glad John Kerry finally has a coherent position on the war in Iraq. He's against it, and he wants US troops to leave. I just wish he would have said so two years ago, when it might have made a difference. From his New York Times op-ed today:
Iraqi politicians should be told that they have until May 15 to put together an effective unity government or we will immediately withdraw our military. If Iraqis aren't willing to build a unity government in the five months since the election, they're probably not willing to build one at all. The civil war will only get worse, and we will have no choice anyway but to leave.
If Iraq's leaders succeed in putting together a government, then we must agree on another deadline: a schedule for withdrawing American combat forces by year's end. Doing so will empower the new Iraqi leadership, put Iraqis in the position of running their own country and undermine support for the insurgency, which is fueled in large measure by the majority of Iraqis who want us to leave their country. Only troops essential to finishing the job of training Iraqi forces should remain.
Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter, now an ardent anti-war campaigner, has let loose a blistering broadside against the rest of the peace movement. Calling it near "total collapse," Ritter slams the anti-war movement for being disorganized, chaotic and often "highjacked" by a plethora of progressive causes removed from the war itself.
It's a worthy criticism -- and one not far off the mark. Problem is, Ritter seems prone to make the same mistakes for which he is criticizing others. For him, it's not enough --for example-- that conservative Pennsylvania Democrat Jack Murtha has called for a U.S. troop pullback. Ritter also wants Murtha (and other Democrats who initially supported the war) to now formally recant and retract their earlier positions. That's a great idea in itself. But it shouldn't be the price of admission into the anti-war ranks.
Broadening the anti-war movement by focusing its message seems an imperative for success. Imposing litmus tests, on the other hand, seems self-defeating. I've got the whole story on my personal blog.
Did Tom DeLay decide to step down abruptly because he thought he would lose a tough re-election fight? Or did he decide to jump ship before his party returned to minority status?
His money-laundering trial will soon begin in Texas. Former top aides recently pled guilty to "a far-reaching criminal enterprise operating out of DeLay's office," as the Washington Post put it. The internal polling numbers in Sugar Land, Texas, were not good.
DeLay may have been able to stay afloat and squeak out a narrow election victory. He'd still have a plum seat on the Appropriations Committee, doling out federal dollars to his favorite pet projects and corporate benefactors. But as an architect of the Republican majority, toiling in the minority would be a hard pill to swallow.
I've long thought that the anti-war left makes a mountain out of a moron when they bend over backwards to praise right-wing ideologues who now criticize the Iraq war. Still, it's been a hoot to watch pro-war bloggers and pundits froth from one corner of the mouth and offer faint praise from the other as the list of conservative icons-turned-defectors grows longer and longer. The latest double-speak comes from Peter Wehner, deputy assistant to the president and director of the White House's Office of Strategic Initiatives, in today's Wall Street Journal where he takes on "Messrs. Buckley, Will and Fukuyama."
Cheerily repeating the administration's line, Wehner writes that "In 2005, Iraq's economy continued to recover and grow. Access to clean water and sewage-treatment facilities has increased. The Sunnis are now invested in the political process, which was not previously the case. The Iraqi security forces are far stronger than they were." Is this the same Iraq that the NYT described Sunday in its lead article?
Meanwhile, for those who take faith in such signs, Bill Buckley's latest critique is reported by Bloomberg news. Charles Krauthammer's latest slap-down of "ex-neo con Fukuyama" is here. And over at townhall.com George Will tries to "face facts."
When he was making his name in American politics, as then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich's political enforcer, Tom DeLay was confronted by fellow Republicans who urged him to embrace a bipartisan budget compromise. Borrowing an expletive from Dick Cheney, DeLay growled, "F--k that, it's time for all-out war."
DeLay's war on American democracy--which included not just radical gerrymandering of Congressional districts and the formalization of pay-to-play policy-making in Washington but the crude manipulation of the recount that made George Bush President--is now coming to a close. Under indictment, forced from the House leadership by scandal and faced with the prospect of defeat in November, DeLay has signaled that he will quit the House of Representatives that he has effectively run for the better part of a decade.
Histories of this dark passage in the American story will record that no political figure fought harder or longer to dismantle traditions of compromise and cooperation in Congress than DeLay, a man who targeted those with whom he disagreed as zealously as he had once gone after the vermin he chased in his previous career as an exterminator. As far as DeLay was concerned, the niceties of democracy were a cruel impediment to his new career path. So he went to war with the process itself on behalf of his own political advancement--and that of the paymasters in the industries he served more diligently than his Texas constituents, his conservative ideology or his Republican Party.
Last February, South Dakota lawmakers approved the nation's most restrictive ban on abortion, setting the stage for new legal challenges that its supporters hope will lead to an overturning of Roe v. Wade.
The measure, which passed the state Senate 23 to 12, makes it a felony for doctors to perform any abortion, except to save the life of a pregnant woman. This law is clearly illegal. But the idea is to get the case heard by the Supreme Court on appeal after the law is struck down by an appellate court and then hope that the new Roberts/Alito axis changes the law.
As the Washington Post reported, even without this latest ban, South Dakota was already one of the most difficult states in the country in which to get an abortion. It is one of three states with only one abortion provider (Mississippi and North Dakota are the others), and its one clinic, the Planned Parenthood clinic in Sioux Falls, offers the procedure only once a week. Four doctors who fly in from Minnesota on a rotating basis perform the abortions, since no doctor in South Dakota will do so because of the heavy stigma attached. Planned Parenthood is also leading the charge against this repressive measure that would force the closure of its Sioux Falls clinic. Click here for info on the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, which is effectively challenging the extremists in South Dakota and beyond.
Last week on The O'Reilly Factor Michelle Malkin referred to me as a "smear merchant." This was her attempt at a response to my appearance on ABC's This Week, where I noted the overlap between white nationalists like David Duke and the position of Rep. Tom Tancredo when it comes to immigration policy.
As Max Blumenthal recently reported on TheNation.com, decades ago "Duke called for the deportation of all undocumented immigrants and harsh penalties for businesses that employ them." Duke also led the "Klan Border Watch" along the Mexican-Californian border at a time when he and his cohorts were dismissed as paranoid.
More than 25 years later, Rep. Tancredo is leading the House effort to make felons out of undocumented immigrants and punish those who would offer them aid or shelter. And the vigilante group now on the scene is the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, whose president recently referred to the southern border as "a virtual war zone." In fact, Tancredo addressed a February 8 rally at the Capitol in support of the Minuteman Project and his website praises them as well.
Congress needs to remember the lyrics from that old Clash song: "I fought the law and the law won."
A series of remarkable events last week proves why.
Jack Abramoff was sentenced in Florida, a prelude to his trial in Washington. Days later Tony Rudy, a former top aide to Abramoff and Tom DeLay, pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges--the third figure implicated thus far in L'Affair Abramoff. More indictments are coming down the pike.
Co-written by Sam Graham-Felsen.
Over half a year after Katrina, New Orleans remains in a shambles. But in the face of the federal government's shamefully lackluster reconstruction effort, progressive activists are stepping up.
Last week, the United Steelworkers (USW) union and the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice http://www.2theadvocate.com/news/suburban/2516831.html ">teamed up to address one of New Orleans' most pressing yet unaddressed problems: toxic soil. Currently, yards throughout New Orleans are contaminated with deadly heavy metals such as arsenic--some samples of which were 40 times greater than the permitted level--making it unsafe for residents to return to their homes.
Last week, an Iraqi-American translator was arrested and charged with offering over $60,000 in bribes to win a $1 million contract for providing flak jackets and other equipment to Iraqi police officers.
According to the New York Times, it is believed that Faheem Mousa Salam of Livonia, Michigan, was acting on behalf of others and that more arrests will be made. Mr. Salam was employed by the Titan Corporation, a division of the L-3 Government Services Group.
The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, Stuart W. Bowen Jr., was quoted as saying that this kind of fraud is limited to "... just a few individuals who took advantage of a chaotic situation early on."
Immigration reform advocates watching the historic Senate debate this past week say they are surprised by the momentum they're sensing in favor of liberalized and comprehensive reform.
There's been some long-awaited help coming this week from George W. Bush on this issue -- one of the only in recent times where the President is actually on the right side of things (if even vaguely so).
The massive immigrant political mobilization of the last week has reminded the GOP of the cresting clout of Latino voters -- and future voters. It's way too early, however, to declare any definitive victory. It's still a long shot that anytime before the mid-term elections the Senate and House will actually agree on a forward-looking bill. But the ball is certainly being moved foreward.
"[The] president needs to be reminded that separation of powers does not mean an isolation of powers," former White House counsel John Dean told the Senate Judiciary Committee Friday. "He needs to be told he cannot simply ignore a law with no consequences."
Arguing in favor of U.S. Senator Russ Feingold's motion to censure President Bush for illegally authorizing the warrantless wiretapping of the phone conversations of Americans, the man who broke with former President Richard Nixon to challenge the abuses of the Watergate era told the committee that Bush's wrongs were in many senses worse than those of Nixon.
"I recall a morning â€“ and it was just about this time in the morning and it was exactly this time of the year â€“ March 21, 1973 â€“ that I tried to warn a president of the consequences of staying his course. I failed to convince President Nixon that morning, and the rest, as they say, is history," Dean, who famously told Nixon that there was "a cancer growing" on his presidency, explained in testimony submitted to the committee. "I certainly do not claim to be prescient. Then or now. But actions have consequences, and to ignore them is merely denial. Today, it is very obvious that history is repeating itself. It is for that reason I have crossed the country to visit with you, and that I hope that the collective wisdom of this committee will prevail, and you will not place the president above the law by inaction. As I was gathering my thoughts yesterday to respond to the hasty invitation, it occurred to me that had the Senate or House, or both, censured or somehow warned Richard Nixon, the tragedy of Watergate might have been prevented. Hopefully the Senate will not sit by while even more serious abuses unfold before it."