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Rove Comes Calling

 

Is the White House coming begging to Senate Minority Leader HarryReid? "Karl Rove's back and there's no doubt about that," Reid remarkedat a one-hour on-the-record breakfast sponsored by The AmericanProspect that I attended today. "He's so desperate he's called methree times in the last few weeks." The White House knows it's going toexceed the government's debt limit, Reid said, and they want his help.But there's little agreement between Rove and Reid on the deficit ormany other issues these days. "I don't think Karl Rove's message, ifhe's still out of jail [in 2006], will have the same sound as it did."

 

 

Reid, a pro-life, pro-gun Mormon from Nevada, vacillated betweenthe left and the center before the group of progressive journalists. Herepeatedly praised Russ Feingold as an example of a Democrat who standsup for what he believes in but refused to endorse a timetable for thewithdrawal of troops from Iraq, as Feingold advocates. "I met with theJoints Chiefs of Staff recently and troops are gonna be pulled out ofIraq this year," Reid said, without specifying whether all the troopsshould leave. Feingold was "still really upset" about the compromise reached on the Patriot Act last night, Reid indicated,and will try to slow its passage.

 

 

After the unveiling of their anti-corruption "Honest LeadershipAct," Senate Democrats will focus on "real security," including a planby Indiana Senator Evan Bayh to increase the size of the Army by100,000 troops. "On a number of different directions we're going afternational defense," he said. "We'll be more competitive on that issuethan ever before."

 

 

Reid dismissed an Associated Press story linking him to lobbyist Jack Abramoff, alleging that"no one that gave me any money did anything wrong," though he jokedthat billionaire financier Howard Hughes did hand him $10,000 in cashat the beginning of his political career. He indicated that hesupported the efforts of Senators Dick Durbin and Chris Dodd to promotepublicly financed elections.

 

 

And he seemed downright buoyant about the prospects for Democraticgains in the Senate this year. "If the election were held today theSenate would be tied 50-50," he boasted. "I used to say it would be amiracle to take the Senate. It's not a miracle any more." As to whenthe Democrats would actually unveil a comprehensive agenda, Reid notedthat the GOP's "Contract with America" in 1994 didn't come out untillate September of that year. "We'll roll out one [issue] at a time. BySeptember it will all be out."

 

 

Until then, he'll have his hands full stalling the GOP'slegislative priorities and keeping his divided Democratic caucus inline.

 

 

Our Own 'Downing Street Memo'?

 

For those who had any doubts that the Bush Administration manipulatedintelligence to take us into a disastrous, unprovoked and unnecessarywar, Walter Pincus's front page story in today's WashingtonPost is must reading. Pincus's fine reporting in the monthspreceding the invasion exposed the divisions about the war within theintelligence community and its anger about how information was beingpoliticized. But his stories were almost always buried in the Post'sinside pages.

 

 

Today's story, in my view, is the equivalent of America's Downing Street Memo. PaulR. Pillar, the former CIA official who coordinated US intelligence onthe Middle East until last year now publicly accuses the Bush WhiteHouse of "cherrypicking" intelligence on Iraq to justify its decisionto go to war. "Intelligence," Pillar asserts, "was misused publicly tojustify decision already made..." This is an eerie echo of the famouswords from the Downing Street Memo--in which Britain's MI-6 DirectorRichard Dearlove told British Prime Minister Tony Blair that "theintelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. "

 

 

As Pincus notes, this is the first time that such a senior intelligenceofficer "has so directly and publicly condemned" Bush & Company'shandling of intelligence. Pillar's critique is also one of "the mostsevere indictments of White House actions by a former Bush officialsince Richard C. Clarke , a former National Security council staffmember, went public with his criticism of the administration's handlingof the September 11, 2001, attacks."

 

Sweet Victories: Reader Roundup

Co-written by Sam Graham-Felsen.

This week, we present victories that have been submitted by ourreaders. We read every submission and we encourage readers to keepthem coming (submissions should be sent to nationvictories@gmail.com).While these stories may not reflect tectonic shifts in Americanpolitics, it's our belief that no "Sweet Victory" is too small tocelebrate.


Here in Wisconsin, one of the victories we're savoring is thesuccessful effort to place "Bring Our Troops Home" referenda on localballots around the state. In 27 towns, villages and cities, citizenscollected sufficient signatures to place a referendum on the ballotfor our April 4, 2006 city and county elections.

Steve BurnsMadison, Wisconsin


Being a liberal Democrat in a red state is a real challenge. Here'sone small victory that I will never forget. As a precinct chairperson,one of my duties on election day November 11, 2004 was to give voters rides to the polls. One voter I assisted (I'll call him "Martin" for the purposes of this message) was a middle aged African-American gentleman who lived in an assisted living facility and had been dropped off at the wrong poll. "Martin" had been in a very serious accident and survived brain damage and a prolonged coma. He needed a walker to get around, his speech was very slow and garbled, he drooled a bit and his arms and legs still had residual stiffness from neurological injury. It took us a good while to squeeze him into my car and find a space for his walker but we finally made it. We arrived at the correct polling place and again huffed and puffed to get him out of the car and ready to go with his walker. I offered to help him walk in to the polling place but "Martin" said he wanted to do it himself because he liked being independent.

As we were walking toward the entrance, "Martin" told me that this wasthe first time in his life that he had ever voted. And then he added,"I'm voting for all the Democrats because Bush and his kind don't givea damn about people like me." When the election workers noticed that"Martin" was a first time voter, they all stood up and applauded himand one by one they shook his hand. One small, sweet victory, in a redcity, in a very red county in the reddest of states.

Candace Flenniken KingSchertz, TX


I doubt that this will be considered a newsworthy victory, but Iwanted to share it with someone, anyone, who might be interested tohear it. Who better than The Nation!

Myself, and a small group of antiwar students protested the presenceof military recruiters at our school (Plymouth State University,Plymouth, NH) today and successfully drove them out--for now, that is.We stood silently, shoulder to shoulder, in front of their table thatwas set up in the main union building. I was in the middle, with asign pinned to my jacket that read: "PSU Wants: Education, NotOccupations."

I was alone for about the first hour, but was then joined by othersand brought our total to five or six, with the numbers varying as some had to get to class. A small group, yes, but we got the job done. The best part was that the recruiters packed up and left just as a campusofficial was threatening to call the university police on us.

The recruiters will most likely be back, but so will I, and I'm surethe others who were brave enough to stand with me will do so again.Thank you for reading my email, and supporting progressive victories!

Ryan W. McLellanPlymouth State University


The University of Wisconsin chapter of the student-run campus antiwarnetwork, Stop the War, recently won a victory over an investigation bythe Dean of Students office alleging misconduct by the group andthreatening disciplinary action against myself because of my role asgroup contact person. Ultimately the UW dropped the investigationafter being bombarded by complaints from all over the country.

Paul PryseUniversity of Wisconsin


Roger Touissant. Thank God one man stood up and fought for me--ablue-collar working man!

Brian FrakerNew York


The most important victory by far of 2005 was the organizing of thejanitors in Houston, Texas by SEIU. If we can organize in the mostanti-union town in the country, we can do anything.

Sam AbramsCrete, Greece


Sam Graham-Felsen, a freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker, contributes to The Nation's new blog, The Notion, and co-writes Sweet Victories with Katrina vanden Heuvel.

Elementary, Pat, Elementary

The other night, Pat Buchanan said on Scarborough Country's segment about "The Politics of Impeachment" that my views on the subject are irrelevant.

I suggest Pat check out a little known book, Everything I Needed to Know About the Constitution I Learned in Third Grade. He might rediscover some basic American tenets such as a system of checks and balances,loyalty to the Constitution and shared power and accountability between three branches of government.

It's the shredding of these ideals that has led to growing, mainstream support for discussing the impeachment of Mr. Bush: conservative business magazine, Barron's...John Dean...leading constitutional scholars...former intelligence officers…even some Republicans...and the 53 percent of Americans who said in November that Bush should be impeached if it is found that he lied about the basis for invading Iraq.

During the segment, high webstress Arianna Huffington suggested that Democrats should focus on ending the disastrous war in Iraq -- an issue that is building new (and productive) alliances between the left and right -- rather than focusing energy on an impeachment drive.

While I agree that Democrats need to expose how this Administration has made us less safe through a messianic and hyper-militarized foreign-policy, I also agree with Elizabeth Holtzman, who made a strong point drawn from her January cover story in The Nation: Our greatest imperative is to preserve our democracy.

So when impeachment is the right thing to do, citizens and leaders must begin building that case -- because it won't happen overnight. And there is no reason that laying out Bush's high crimes and misdemeanors –- as well as the need to end the war and strengthen our security –- should be mutually exclusive.

In the meantime, Pat Buchanan should visit his local elementary school and brush up on our Constitution. And while he's doing that, how about the rest of us contemplate the basic American values that Bush & Co. have apparently unlearned since their own school days.

About that Ban on Drawing Muhammad...

Most comments about the Danish cartoons of Muhammad assert that Muslimsbelieve it is completely taboo to depict him, period. But is the ban ondepicting the prophet really so severe? At Zombietimeyou can view dozens of images of the prophet, including some from theMuslim world: medieval Persian miniatures; a portrait of Muhammad as ayouth by the contemporary Iranian woman painter Oranous (okay byShi'ites because he wasn't the prophet yet); posters being sold in Iraqright now.

From the Middle Ages on, Muhammad has appeared in Western art notinfrequently--in drawings, paintings, book illustrations, comics,advertisements, and on the covers of books and magazines, including arecent issue of Le Nouvel Observateur.

Muhammad has been portrayed by the cartoonist Doug Marlette and hasappeared on South Park. And get this: Muhammad appears on the NorthFrieze in the courtroom of our very own Supreme Court! He's the man withthe scimitar, between Justinian and Charlemagne.

Some of this art is respectful; some fanciful and playful; somesatirical or even crude and vicious. Only once, however, has any of itseemed to bother believers: in 2002 police uncovered a jihadist plan toblow up the church of San Petronio in Bologna, site of a fresco byGiovanni da Modena showing Muhammad being tortured in Hell (this scene,from Dante's Inferno, was also depicted by Gustav Dore, William Blake,Auguste Rodin and Salvador Dali).

I don't know where exactly this clarification takes us. Maybe I'm justirked by lazy pundits who talk about the global uproar as if everyoneshould have known this is what happens when you draw Muhammad:Naturally, believers would go round the bend!

But wait, a solution may be at hand to this whole clash of civilizationsthing. Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical weekly which reprinted theMuhammad-mocking Danish cartoons, says it will publish cartoonssatirizing the Holocaust. I guess they didn't want to be upstaged byIran, where President Ahmadinejad an announced a a contest forHolocaust-mocking cartoons. (This is an advance on his previousposition, which was to deny the Holocaust occurred. Now, it happened,but it's funny.). At last Muslim fundamentalists and free-speech-loving Europeans have found common ground: Anti-semitism!

Jose Bove's Not Welcome in Bush's USA

Few figures have contributed more to the debate about corporate globalization than Jose Bove, the French farmer whose dismantling of a McDonald's restaurant that was under construction near his sheep farm was something of a "shot-heard-round-the-world" in the struggle against the homogenization of food, culture and lifestyles.

While his assault on the local manifestation of the restaurant chain that has come to symbolize the one-size-fits-all character of globalization was a blunt act, Bove is known in France and abroad as a thoughtful theorist and strategist whose critique of the World Trade Organization's pro-corporate agenda has done much to alert activists around the world to the threats posed to workers, farmers, communities and democracy by WTO moves that allow multinational firms to disregard the laws and traditions of countries in which they operate.

But Bove, who has been a frequent visitor to the United States since he played an important part in the 1999 anti-WTO demonstrations in Seattle, is no longer welcome in George W. Bush's America.

When he arrived Wednesday at New York's JFK Airport on a trip that was supposed to take him to Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations for events sponsored by Cornell's Global Labor Institute, Bove was stopped by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents who told him he was suddenly "ineligible" to enter the U.S.Before the night was done, Bove was hustled onto an Air France flight that returned him to his homeland.

Why can't Bove, one of the most influential political activists on the planet, speak in the U.S.?

According to Bove, the agents told him he was being denied entry because of his past prosecutions for "moral crimes."

The French activist's "crimes" may have been motivated by a deep sense of morality. But they were, more precisely, political acts, usually involving nonviolent civil disobedience or symbolic gestures meant to raise the awareness of the French regarding globalization -- most notably the 1999 dismantling of the restaurant McDonald's was developing in Millau, a community in southern France that is not far from the cooperative farm where Bove has lived and worked for decades.

And Bove's political views are not in synch with those of a president who used his recent State of the Union address to talk up his commitment to globalization with a corporate face.

Bove does not for a second believe that the U.S. officials who blocked his entry were concerned about morality, or particular "crimes." Rather, he suggested to reporters on Wednesday evening, the militantly pro-free trade Bush administration has found a new avenue to constrain the debate about its policies.

"I think this administration is crazy," Bove explained. "They don't want any discussion that can affect all the things going on with globalization. They don't want people coming from outside to discuss it."

Coming at a time when the Bush administration faces scrutiny for warrantless wiretapping and other assaults on basic liberties, when new evidence of domestic spying on dissidents surfaceson a regular basis, and when we just witnessed the removal of anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan from the Capitol before the president delivered his State of the Union address, that's hardly an unreasonable claim.

Certainly, it is a matter that merits a Congressional inquiry -- not just into this incident but into the whole question of whether customs and border operations have, like so many other functions of the federal government, been abused for political purposes by an administration that is far more committed to advancing the agenda of its corporate contributors that it is to respecting the rule of law.

Beyond Chanukah

So George doesn't know Jack? How then to explain the emails between Abramoff and Washingtonian editor Kim Eisler, published today by Think Progress?

First, Abramoff explains his decision not to travel to Bush's Crawford ranch after he received an invite in 2003:

 

NO, IT WAS THAT I WOULD HAVE HAD TO TRAVEL ON SATURDAY (SHABBOS). YES, I WAS INVITED, DURING THE 2004 CAMPAIGN. IT WAS SATURDAY AUGUST 9, 2003 AT THE RANCH IN CRAWFORD.

 

Second, Abramoff describes nearly a dozen meetings with Bush:

 

HE HAS ONE OF THE BEST MEMORIES OF ANY POLITICIAN I HAVE EVER MET. IT WAS ONE IF [sic] HIS TRADEMARKS, THOUGH OF COURSE HE CAN'T RECALL THAT HE HAS A GREAT MEMORY! THE GUY SAW ME IN ALMOST A DOZEN SETTINGS, AND JOKED WITH ME ABOUT A BUNCH OF THINGS, INCLUDING DETAILS OF MY KIDS. PERHAPS HE HAS FORGOTTEN EVERYTHING. WHO KNOWS.

 

I guess the scandal's moved beyond Chanukah parties. Let's see Scotty spin this.

'Leave No Child Behind'?

President Bush can't seem to tell people enough times, in enough ways, about his self-proclaimed determination to "leave no child behind." The most recent occurrence came, predictably, during his State of the Union address, when he offered this bit of faux-wisdom, "If we ensure that America's children succeed in life, they will ensure that America succeeds in the world."

He then promptly cut Department of Education funding by $2.1 billion and shortchanged No Child Left Behind by $15.4 Billion. He froze Pell grants for the fifth straight year, despite the fact that average tuitions and fees at public universities have risen 40 percent since 2001, pricing more and more young people out of college every day. 19,000 children face elimination from the Head Start Program as his funding fails to keep pace with inflation.

Arlen Specter called the cuts "scandalous." One wonders what the President might say if he dropped the platitudes and actually spoke the truth about his values when it comes to young people. How might that read exactly? I welcome submissions.

Fightin' Dems

Those critics who systematically caricature the Democratic Party as "soft on defense" should've headed down to the National Mall in Washington on this brisk Wednesday morning. Against the backdrop of the US Capitol, 40 of the 55 veterans running as Democrats for Congress in 2006 assembled "to take the flag out of the hands of Karl Rove and his political assasins," said Eric Massa, a 24-year Navy Officer vying for a seat in upstate New York.

These "Band of Brothers," including nine Iraq veterans, saluted their country but implored the need for a "change of course" on the war, Congressional corruption, VA health care and basic bread-and-butter issues.

The Fighting Dems include:

** Bill Winter, a 10-year Marine Corps and Navy vet who's running against the vile immigrant-basher Rep. Tom Tancredo in suburban Denver, Colorado.

** Jim Nelson, a self-described "military veteran, Methodist minister and moderate Democrat" who's seeking the Georgia seat of Rep. Jack Kingston, one of Tom DeLay's closest allies in the House.

** Joe Sulzer, a Vietnam vet and mayor of Chillicothe, Ohio, who wants to oust the soon-to-be-indicted Rep. Bob Ney.

** Mishonda Baldwin, a Desert Storm vet who's trying to become the first African-American woman elected to the House from Maryland.

GOP attack dogs may have been able to swift boat the hapless John Kerry. Let them try and do it to over fifty vets. As Tim Dunn, an Iraq war vet from Fayetteville, North Carolina, put it: "It's time to take the Hill."