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)
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.
According to the latest New York Times poll, "two-thirds of those polled said the United States should reduce its forces in Iraq, or remove them altogether." The same number believes the war continues to go badly.
So why is the Times story about the poll headlined "Support in US for Initial Invasion has Risen, a Poll Shows?"
Presumably because the number of Americans who say the war was right to fight stands at 42 percent, compared to an all-time low of 35 percent in May. And those who think the war is going "very badly" has decreased from 45 percent earlier in the month to 35 percent today.
We've done all we can do, Democrats said after pulling an all-nighter last week, when Republicans blocked yet another vote on a proposal to begin withdrawing American troops from Iraq.
It takes sixty votes to pass anything in the Senate these days. And Democrats had only fifty-two. After much hype, just three Republicans broke with President Bush. Until more Republicans defect, Congress is stuck in a stalemate.
But there's another option. Democrats could give Republicans a taste of their own medicine and invoke the "nuclear option." Two years ago Republicans threatened to eliminate the filibuster if Democrats didn't allow an up-or-down vote on President Bush's judicial nominees. Frightened Democrats acquiesced and allowed the confirmation of Supreme Court Justices Roberts and Alito, thus ensuring a conservative majority on the court for decades to come.
Tom DeLay is not dead. In Max Blumenthal's new video he appears at the College Republicans annual convention, offering an unconventional solution to America's illegal immigration problem: ban abortion.
"If you don't believe abortion doesn't affect you," DeLay told the youngsters, "I contend it affects you in immigration. If we had those 40 million children who were killed over the last 30 years, we wouldn't need the illegal immigrants to fill the jobs that they are doing today." He pauses awkwardly, before offering this gem: "Think about it."
Our own David Corn also ran into DeLay this week. Corn asked DeLay what he was up to. Trying to be the "Democrats worst nightmare," he answered. Didn't DeLay already have that gig?
The Bush Administration, in advance of a much-hyped Middle East conference in September, continues to push a "West Bank first" strategy in the occupied territories that confines Gaza to a Hamas-led wasteland.
That plan now has at least one high-profile American critic: Colin Powell.
"I don't think you can just cast them into outer darkness and try to find a solution to the problems of the region without taking to account the standing that Hamas has in the Palestinian community," Powell said today.
On so-called philosophical grounds, President Bush opposes health care for children. A bipartisan group of Senators want to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) by $60 billion over five years, covering 3.3 million additional low-income children. Bush will only except half of that, saying "when you expand eligibility...you're really beginning to open up an avenue for people to switch from private insurance to the government."
So the President is for children's healthcare--as long as we don't spend too much on it and private insurance companies reap the benefits. Anything less will prompt a White House veto.
That came as news to conservative Republicans Orrin Hatch and Chuck Grassley, cosponsors of the Senate's bill. "It's disappointing, even a little unbelievable, to hear talk about Administration officials wanting a veto of a legislative proposal they haven't even seen yet," Hatch and Grassley said on July 12th. In a follow-up release yesterday, they called the President's proposal a "non-starter."
Matthew Blake reports from Capitol Hill:
Full disclosure: this humble reporter left the Capitol at 1 am but continued watching on C-Span until 2:30 am before nodding off. The Senate never slept.
Though it was done through the medium of a partly absurd, often tedious "all-night" debate, Democratic politicians have finally seemed to convey what they can and cannot do to stop George Bush's disastrous Iraq War policy.
Last week the Bush Administration announced that the Iraqi government had made "satisfactory" progress on just 8 of the 18 benchmarks the Administration and Congress set this spring. Yet little attention has been paid to what these benchmarks actually are and whether they matter.
The report judged that progress was "satisfactory" in eight of 18 benchmarks, including a review of the Iraqi constitution; legislation to divide Iraq into semi-autonomous regions; the protection of minority rights; and government, military and civil support for the new strategy. But it noted mixed progress on new electoral laws, militia disarmament and the reduction in militia control of local areas.