Quantcast

Articles | The Nation

News and Features

Watch the news out of House Speaker Dennis Hastert's office today. It may well be the site of the best the debate about the continued funding of the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

Anti-war activists plan to visit the Illinois Republican's office this afternoon and to begin reading aloud the names of U.S. soldiers and Iraqis killed in the war. They say they won't stop until Hastert meets with them to discuss the $67 billion "supplemental" military spending bill that is scheduled for a House vote late today.

They want Hastert to agree to oppose the White House's request for the additional money top fund wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

One thing I've always found perplexing is Wesley Clark's continued high-standing amongst the progressive blogosphere. For months he's consistently either won or placed second in the Daily Kos and MyDD straw polls, for example. Yesterday our ace DC intern Cora Currier bumped into Clark in the Senate and much to her surprise, wooing Nation readers was on the General's mind. I'm posting her dispatch below:

 

I was in Senator Carl Levin's office yesterday talking to an aide when General Wesley Clark strode into the room. He was waiting for a meeting and sat down on the couch near us. Levin's aide asked where I worked and when I replied, "The Nation," Clark jumped into the conversation. Introducing himself, he said: "Now, how are we going to get Nation readers to vote for someone like me?" I didn't know what to say. "I'm a military man," he continued, "and the military scares liberals. They say, oh, no, he's bombed people. People forget that as commander of NATO I was in charge of school children, and communities." He left soon after but gave me his card. "Nation," he said again, pointing to himself.

 

Let's take our own highly unscientific straw poll. If Clark runs again, would you support him?

Bill Clinton certainly had his flaws as a President. He was a militant free trader, who used all of his political skills to win support for the North American Free Trade Agreement, permanent normalization of trade policy with China and a host of other initiatives that slowly but surely kicked the legs out from under American workers, communities and industries. His welfare, education and telecommunications reforms were bumbling at best, and more often malignant. He showed only slightly more respect for the Constitution than the current president, and his military misadventures and meddling in the affairs of other countries suggest that he had no respect at all for George Washington's warning about avoiding "foreign entanglements."

But Clinton's presidency saw significant progress on some fronts, including the signing of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, a tax increase that reversed the growth in federal deficits that had ballooned during the spending-spree presidency of Ronald Reagan, the nation's last minimum-wage increase and a period of economic growth that lasted long enough to actually begin to modestly improve the circumstance of the country's poor. The relative health of the economy during the second term of his presidency surely contributed to the 65 percent approval rating that Clinton took with him when he left the White House, which represented the highest end-of-term enthusiasm level for any President in the post-Eisenhower era.

Clinton remains a beloved figure in many circles, and that surely accounts for the substantial continuing interest in the former president and his life – and interest that has created something of a tourist boom for tiny Hope, Arkansas, the community where the 42nd president grew up.

During the run-up to the Iraq War, the nation's leading print and broadcast media could have saved lives if they questioned the Administration's pronouncements. Instead, they were an echo chamber for the White House.

Last night I raised some strategic questions about Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold's move to formally censure President Bush. On the conclusion of Day Two of this drama, I have more questions.As one might expect, Republican Majority Leader Bill Frist immediately took up Feingold's challenge and was ready to call a vote. At a time when the President is losing on every issue around him, he would have easily won this up-down partisan vote.The Democrats, of course, dodged the whole matter. You know it's kind of hard to see the 800lb, polka-dotted elephant in the room when you have the limited vision of a jackass.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters he would not comment on the issue while the Democratic leadership mulls the issue. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., said, "Feingold has a point that he wants to make by introducing that resolution." And then she added nothing else/

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said the resolution "raises some very important issues," but she refused to discuss what they were. Hmmm.

Senator Russell Feingold should be praised for calling on the Senate
to censure the President for breaking the law and lying about his
domestic spying program. Instead, he's mocked by the media and
abandoned by many of his own party.

Ned Lamont, the Connecticut cable television entrepreneur whose anger over Democratic U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman's support of Bush administration policies spurred him to explore whether to mount a primary challenge to the most prominent Democratic supporter of the war on Iraq, is done exploring.

Lamont's running, and he's got a message for the globetrotting incumbent who returned from his most recent trip to Iraq with a ringing endorsement of the occupation: "Senator," the challenger said, "stop by Bridgeport on your way back from Baghdad and listen to your constituents..."

What Lamont thinks Lieberman's constituents will tell the senator when Connecticut Democrats vote in the August 9 primary is that the Bush administration must be challenged, not coddled.

Political corruption, the world's second oldest profession, just isn't as easy as it used to be.

Take defense contractor Mitchell Wade, for example. He had a good thing going with Representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham, until the Congressman's taste for bling got them both busted.

Mr. Wade now claims he funneled $50,000 in illegal campaign contributions to Katherine Harris for some military largesse, but the Congresswoman failed to secure the pay-off. After what she pulled off for George W., Mr. Wade must wonder if Katherine was holding out on him.

George Bush's approval ratings have hit a record low according to a new poll released Monday night, but what does that really mean?

Well, consider this:

Bush's approval rating has fallen to 36 percent, according to the latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll.

I admit to great ambivalence over Senator Russ Feingold's flagging effort to officially censure President Bush. The same sort of ambivalence I felt when he voted – a few years back--to confirm John Ashcroft for Attorney General because, Feingold argued, a President should have the cabinet he wants.

Feingold is a senator of singular courage and solid principle (note that he was also the only senator to vote against the same Ashcroft's Patriot Act). His call to censure is a bold and admirable moral stand. But effective politics are rarely about morality – unfortunately. Censure, like impeachment (and for that matter like Western Civilization)to paraphrase Gandhi, "would be a good idea."

Censure or impeachment is neither about the law nor really very much about the Constitution. They are, instead, strictly and wholly political acts. So we have to ask ourselves, is Feingold's move actually good politics? Any somnolent Grand Jury could probably indict just about any sitting president on some or another high crime or misdemeanor. But so what? There must be a political consensus to move ahead with such acts --- either untenable revulsion even by one's own party as was the case with Nixon (who jumped before getting pushed). Or of a solid partisan opposition majority, as was the case with Bill Clinton.

As Congress jacks up the rates students and their parents are paying for college loans, the consequences are already being felt by young people whose ability to have a child or own a house is limited by debt.

Republican insiders always knew it would be a major mistake to pin their hopes for unseating Florida Senator Bill Nelson, a supposedly vulnerable Democrat, on one of the most bizarre players in American politics.

Now, they're being reminded that they should have trusted their instincts.

U.S. Representative Katharine Harris, the former Florida Secretary of State who used her position to undermine the 2000 recount process and prepare the way for the Supreme Court to hand the state's electoral votes and the presidency to George Bush, elbowed her way into the Senate contest last year. Harris was never the party's first choice but, over time, as other serious contenders dropped back, she emerged as the likely GOP nominee. By January, Presidential Brother-in-Chief Jeb Bush was proclaiming his "strong support" for Harris.

Al Gore returned to Florida this weekend. And you know what that means. (Insert joke about butterfly ballots, hanging chads, Katherine Harris and Jews for Buchanan.)

He still uses the line about being a "recovering politician." It still draws laughter. But those of us who've followed Gore know he's emerged from the political wilderness as one of the most eloquent critics of the Bush Administration, a favorite among the Democratic base and even a dark horse for the '08 nomination. By all accounts, his foray into Florida, campaigning for state candidates, only boosted his political fortunes. From the Orlando Sun-Sentinel:

 

"Welcome back, Mr. President!" someone yelled from the crowd as Gore took the stage.

 

U.S. Senator Russ Feingold on Monday asked the Senate to officially censure President Bush for breaking the law by authorizing an illegal wiretapping program, and for misleading Congress and the American people about the existence and legality of that program.

If the Wisconsin Democrat's move were to succeed, Bush would be the first president in 172 years to be so condemned by Congress.

Charging that the President's illegal wiretapping program is in direct violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) – which makes it a crime to wiretap Americans in the United States without a warrant or a court order -- Feingold argues that Congress cannot avoid facing the fact that fundamental Constitutional issues are at stake.

On Monday, March 6, when Anne Braden died, the South lost one of its most dedicated, courageous and feisty fighters for racial justice, civil liberties and economic rights.

I met Anne Braden in the early 1980s when I worked for ABC's "Closeup" unit, one of the last serious documentary divisions at a news network. Our crew spent a week in Louisville, Kentucky, interviewing Anne--and those who had supported, shunned and persecuted her in the 1950s--for The American Inquisition, an hour-long documentary about the impact of the McCarthy era on our nation's politics and society. (It aired in 1983.)

I remember trying to get Anne Braden to tell us about how she came to her radical politics. Some of it was her father, she said. He had been, in Anne's telling--a "committed racist" in a segregationist family. But much of it, as her unusually revealing memoirs The Wall Between explained, came from her work as a newspaper reporter, covering the Birmingham courthouse. That, she told us, "made a radical out of me." As her biographer, Catherine Fosl remembers, Anne explained that seeing "two different systems of justice," where violence against blacks was ignored and violence by blacks was harshly punished, moved her to live a life of radicalism and agitation.

The US housing market has been responsible for about half the economy's recent growth, but increasing dependence on home-equity credit could create a financial disaster.

President Bush, after watching his already low approval rating take a dive because of his mishandling of the issue, wants memories of the controversy about whether Dubai Ports World should run six east coast ports to fade away fast.

Republicans in Congress, well aware that severe damage has been done to the public impression that their party is serious about national security, want the controversy to go away.

Democrats in Congress, punch drunk from the experience of actually prevailing in a standoff with the White House, appear to be quite willing to pop the champagne corks and declare victory.

The detainment of two actors from The Road to Guantánamo reveals a legal apparatus that is no longer able to distinguish between real and invented threats.

Co-written by Sam Graham-Felsen.

No matter how many polls show that the majorityof American citizens (and eventroops) want a speedy withdrawal from Iraq, the stay-the-course consensus continues to suffocate DC.

Yet, while politicians may be able to ignore polls, it's harder for them to ignore concerted, collective action in the form of official resolutions. On the eve of the third anniversary of the Iraq war, resolutions from America's largest cities, labor organizations, and religious groups are calling for our troops to come home.

Rarely has the disconnect between the faith of the American people in the bedrock principle that it is possible to be safe and free and the failure of faith on the part of their elected leaders been more evident than in recent days.

There is no question that, outside of Washington, concern runs deep about the assaults on basic liberties contained in the Patriot Act. Eight state legislative chambers – in Alaska, California, Colorado Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Montana and Vermont -- and 397 local government bodies in communities large and small nationwide have passed resolutions urging Congress to fix the act so that Constitutional protections are not sacrificed in pursuit of the false promise of domestic security.

Americans understand and respect Benjamin Franklin's warning that: "Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both."

When five Vermont towns voted for resolutions urging Congress to impeach President Bush, there were many in the media who dismissed the move as purely symbolic. But the local daily newspaper in southeastern Vermont, the 130-year-old Brattleboro Reformer, takes a different view.

"In a place where elections can't be stolen and the spinmeisters have no effect, people in five Vermont towns stood up and said, "Enough!" the Reformer editorialized, adding that, "This nation can't take another three years of failed policies, reckless wars and a pervasive culture of corruption and cronyism. Vermont has led the way in the past. We can do it again. We hope Tuesday marks the beginning of a nationwide debate over the continued legitimacy of the Bush presidency."

Here's the entire editorial:

Ann Tyson reports in the Washington Post yesterday that the Pentagon wants $500 million to convert 24 Trident missiles currently armed with nuclear warheads into rockets carrying conventional warheads.

But there is a serious problem with this plan. Defense officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, "acknowledge a major risk is that other nations could conceivably misinterpret a conventional missile attack as a nuclear strike."

Nuclear experts concur that "the possibility for confusion would be high because U.S. submarines capable of launching the missiles could be armed with conventional and nuclear varieties."

Thank You for Smoking praises the professional hucksters of the cigarette companies, and Duck Season is a road movie in which the scenery doesn't change.

In his captivating new book Absolute Convictions, Eyal Press explores the links between his hometown's post-Vietnam decline and its emergence as a battlefield in the national crusade against abortion.