Ari Berman is a contributing writer for The Nation magazine and an Investigative Journalism Fellow at The Nation Institute. His new book, Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America, will be published in August 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. He has written extensively about American politics, civil rights, and the intersection of money and politics. His stories have also appeared in The New York Times, Rolling Stone, and The Guardian, and he is a frequent guest and commentator on MSNBC and NPR. His first book, Herding Donkeys: The Fight to Rebuild the Democratic Party and Reshape American Politics, was published in 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. (Photo by Ports Bishop)
Senator John Warner's call yesterday for an "orderly and carefully planned withdrawal" from Iraq is being read in Washington as yet another devastating blow to President Bush's Iraq policy. Certainly Warner's latest statement, coming just a few weeks before the much-awaited "progress report" from General David Petraeus, is not good news for the President. But it's not entirely bad, either.
Warner did not call for a timetable to end the war. He did not push for US troops to leave in a reasonable amount of time, such as a year. He only asked President Bush to begin a "symbolic" pullout of 5,000 troops by Christmas.
It's worth remembering that the US had 130,000 troops in Iraq last fall before adding 30,000 more in the "surge." So withdrawing 5,000 troops doesn't even come close to getting the US back to pre-surge levels. If Bush followed Warner's advice, he could brag about having a plan to end the war while doing nothing of the sort--like Nixon did in Vietnam. You can imagine this White House, Nixonian in so many ways, drawing up such a head fake as we speak.
Rupert Murdoch's takeover of the Wall Street Journal this week is drawing the ire of some Democrats running for President.
Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd called the deal "a serious threat to our democracy." John Edwards urged fellow Democrats to oppose and block the merger and refuse campaign contributions from News Corp execs.
But the Democratic frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, hasn't said a peep. Perhaps that's because Clinton has been courting the Aussie billionaire since she became a New York Senator---and vice versa. Murdoch threw a lavish fundraiser for her at the News Corp tower last year. And he and son James, the heir apparent, both wrote big checks to Clinton's presidential campaign this June. Nine News Corp executives have thus far given a total of $20,900 to Clinton this election cycle.
At least one high-profile presidential candidate has come out against the Bush Administration's proposed $20 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia.
"Congress needs to stand firm against the president," John Edwards said in a press release this week. "The administration's proposed arms deal with Saudi Arabia isn't in the long-term interests of our country or the region. This deal has serious shortcomings--it doesn't force Saudi Arabia to stop terrorists from going into Iraq, make a real effort to help stabilize Iraq, lead regional security talks or assure the arms will not be used for offensive purposes. Congress should do the right thing and block the deal."
A group of Democrats in the House are preparing to introduce legislation to block the deal "the minute Congress is officially notified," according to Reps. Jerry Nadler and Anthony Weiner. Democrats picked up their first GOP co-sponsor when New Jersey Republican Mike Ferguson announced his opposition to the deal on Tuesday.
Before he was against getting out of Iraq, Michael O'Hanlon was for it.
In May 2004, the foreign policy specialist (and frequent advisor to Democratic candidates) penned a Washington Post op-ed with his Brooking Institution colleague James Steinberg entitled, "Set a Date to Pull Out."
"Unless we restore the Iraqi people's confidence in our role, failure is not only an option but a likelihood," they wrote. "Critical to achieving our goal is an announced decision to end the current military deployment by the end of next year."
If she were not in the House--and not Speaker of the House--Nancy Pelosi says she "would probably advocate" impeaching President Bush.
But given her current role as party leader, at a breakfast with progressive journalists today (named after our great friend Maria Leavey) Pelosi sketched her case against impeachment.
"The question of impeachment is something that would divide the country," Pelosi said this morning during a wide-ranging discussion in the ornate Speaker's office. Her top priorities are ending the war in Iraq, expanding health care, creating jobs and preserving the environment. "I know what our success can be on those issues. I don't know what our success can be on impeaching the president."
The Bush Administration has a solution to the escalating arms race in the Middle East: sell more arms.
Under an Administration proposal, Saudi Arabia will get $20 billion of satellite-guided bombs, fighter jet upgrades and new navy ships over ten years to counteract Iran. Israel will get $30 billion over the same period to balance Saudi Arabia, a 43 percent increase compared to the last decade. Not to be left out, Egypt will receive $13 billion. Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have also been promised a piece of the pie.
In the latest US-backed arms bonanza, everyone's a winner!
Last week in Washington Newt Gingrich may or may not have compared the GOP candidates for president to a group of "pygmies."
When asked if he'd join the '08 fray, Newt, ever erudite, invoked Charles De Gaulle. "This is like going to De Gaulle when he was at Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises during the Fourth Republic and saying, 'Don't you want to rush in and join the pygmies?'" he said at a dinner sponsored by the American Spectator. "I have no interest in the current political process."
But it seems as if Fred Thompson might win Gingrich's pygmy primary. Newt's longtime strategist, Rich Galen, recently signed up with the (to-be-announced-in-September) Thompson campaign. Gingrich and his wife dined with the Thompsons last month and he's said that if the former Tennessee Senator "runs and does well, then I think that makes it easier for me not to run."
Matthew Blake reports from Capitol Hill:
In his 1961 inaugural address, John F. Kennedy gave a vision of American service that would lead to establishment of the Peace Corps, famously declaring, "My fellow Americans: ask not what your country do for you; ask what you can for your country."
Karl Rove has turned this vision on its head. In March 2003 the White House asked Peace Corp officers, in essence, "How many of you are willing to be briefed on GOP Congressional and Gubernatorial races? Are you prepared to sit through a power point presentation on key media markets for the Republican 2008 presidential nominee?"
Alaska Senator Ted Stevens and Representative Don Young, the dynamic duo that brought us the infamous "Bridge to Nowhere," have long been known as the unrepentant kings of pork on Capitol Hill, funneling billions of dollars in federal money to their far-off state.
Now the law is inspecting whether Stevens and Young illegally lined their own pockets in the process. According to today's Wall Street Journal, "federal investigators are examining whether Rep. Young and Sen. Stevens accepted bribes, illegal gratuities and unreported gifts from VECO Corp., Alaska's largest oil-field engineering firm."
As former chairman of powerful committees, the cantankerous duo are the highest-ranking members of Congress to be ensnared in the flurry of corruption cases in Washington.