Nation editor-at-large and host of MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes.
Petraeus today on the Iraqi government:
Assisting the new Iraqi government is like teaching a young child how to ride a bicycle, Petraeus observed, noting the United States is "trying to support it as much as we can, while keeping as light a hand on the bicycle seat as possible.
Recalls an earlier era doesn't it?
Ryan Crocker this morning before the Senate Armed Services Committee, on the White House's intent for future U.S. security agreements with Iraq:
"It is our intention to negotiate as an executive agreement...we don't intend to negotiate any binding commitments that would require the Senate's advice and consent."
Well, you can't put it any more plainly than that. Meanwhile, The Guardian reports today that a leaked copy of the draft strategic framework agreement contains no limits on the number of US forces that will be maintained in Iraq, the weapons they're able to deploy, their legal status, their power over Iraqi citizens, or the length of time they'll remain.
The point here, of course, isn't whether the administration can keep the agreement's language from veering into the terrain that would technically classify it as a treaty. The point is that once again, the White House has reinforced its unwavering stance that when it comes to maintaining an open-ended occupation of Iraq, both public and Congressional opinion don't matter one whit.
My favorite snippet from McCain's speech today on Iraq:
Iraqi forces recently battled in Basra against radical Shi'a militias, supported by Iran...
Note the grammatical indeterminacy. Are the Iraqi forces "supported by Iran" or are the radical Shi'a militias the ones "supported by Iran"? Unclear, both in the text of the speech and in real life.
If you can't beat the Electoral College, join them. Since last April, New Jersey and Maryland have signed onto the National Popular Vote compact, and today with Governor Blagojevich's signature, Illinois--a state both presidential candidates skipped during the 2004 general election--took the pledge as well.
The compact needs 270 electoral votes to take effect; including Illinois, the plan is now one-sixth of the way there. Organizers aim to have the system in place by 2012.
In the meantime, what's particularly egregious is how several governors (that is, Hawaii's Linda Lingle and California's Arnold Schwarzenegger) are using their veto power to block their states from signing onto the compact. Given, perhaps, the specter of what might've happened in 2000 under NPV, the GOP has generally been more reluctant to embrace the system. Yet the system's benefits would accrue to anyone whose votes currently aren't counted--and that includes Democrats in Texas as much as Republicans in California.
Talk of the Iraq War will dominate business on the Hill this week, as Gen. David Petraeus and ambassador Ryan Crocker offer their latest post-surge Congressional updates. It's been four months since their last report, and this time as the war slogs on, all eyes are likely to be on the presidential candidates, who return to Washington this week to question the witnesses.
Meanwhile in the Senate, members will resume consideration the bipartisan housing legislation (HR3221) introduced last Wednesday. Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has filed cloture to limit debate and speed the package's passage; a vote on that motion is scheduled for Tuesday. The most contentious proposal--an attempt by Sen. Durbin (D-Il.) adjust bankruptcy law to aid struggling homeowners--failed last week by a 58-36 vote. "The provision I offered was narrowly tailored and provided real help to more than half a million American homeowners facing foreclosure," said Durbin. "Unfortunately, my amendment was strenuously opposed by the banking lobby and their powerful friends in the Bush Administration and in the Senate."
Given last month's grim 80,000 job loss, Speaker Pelosi received the Senate bill--which the Joint Tax Committee reports offers businesses $25 billion in tax relief, but just $3 billion to homeowners--fairly coolly. House Democrats are pushing a more ambitious plan to aid up to 1.5 million homeowners by expanding the availability of federally insured loans; hearings on the proposal begin Wednesday.
Also this week, the Senate holds hearings on appropriations, Iran sanctions, last August's SCHIP directive and field hearings on the foreclosure crisis. The House votes on the Beach Protection Act and the National Landscape Conservation System Act, and additionally holds hearings on greenhouse gas emissions, the Family Medical Leave Act, war powers and FEMA's response capabilities. Despite Democratic opposition, the White House is likely to send the Colombia free trade agreement to Congress, setting into motion a 90-day timeline for a vote on the pact.
Imagine a country where CEO's live in fear. In just the past five years, 400 CEO's -- from manufacturing, banking, real estate -- have been shot down in cold blood. (Thousands over the past 15 years.) Almost none of these murders have been solved. Indeed, over the past five years the percentage of CEO murders simply brought to trial has declined from 30% to zero. CEO's now more or less live in fear.
Can you imagine the US have friendly relations with such a place? Can you imagine a president expending political capital to treat that country favorably in an international agreement? Right. Of course not.
Of course, such a place does exist, but they're not murdering CEO's.
In the House...This week, a global AIDS bill authorizing $50 billion over five years secured passage by a 308-116 vote. The White House endorsed the legislation (somewhat tepidly, given how it authorizes $20 billion more than the President requested); the bill now moves to the Senate. Less than three weeks after the Senate rejected a similar ban by a 71-29 vote, on Wednesday, an effort to force consideration of an earmark moratorium failed. And in a rather embarrassing development for the GOP--which aggressively pushed the election-season measure--out of a tally of Congressional earmarkers subsequently released, Republicans topped the list. In other moves, the House also voted to speed up the visa approval process for foreign artists and entertainers and reauthorize the U.S. Fire Administration.
In the Senate...On Tuesday, Sens. Reid and McConnell jointly promised across-the-aisle cooperation to address the housing crisis's "core issues" and help families avoid foreclosure. Yet the plan--announced Wednesday--abandons the Dems-backed provision that would allow bankruptcy judges to restructure mortgages (killed yesterday by a 58-36 vote) and cuts in half proposed foreclosure counseling funding. Fully 40% of the bill's costs go toward business tax breaks to help homebuilders--who, as one workers' union noted, "helped cause the mess by pushing subprime loans through their mortgage subsidiaries." According to the Joint Tax Committee, the bill offers $25 billion in tax cuts to banks and home builders, but just $3 billion in tax relief for homeowners. (Threatening to withhold campaign contributions--as the National Association of Homebuilders did this February--ain't classy, but evidently it works.)
Meanwhile this week, scandal-dogged Bush crony Alphonso Jackson--one of the key players entrusted to handle the housing crisis--announced his resignation as HUD secretary. On Monday, Treasury Secretary Paulson unveiled sweeping changes in the regulatory schema that oversees America's financiers, including a near-freeze on new regulations. The House Commerce Committee overwhelmingly approved a bill (backed by 220 House members and 55 Senators) to allow the FDA to regulate tobacco.
In hearings this week, lawmakers pushed oil executives to explain why they should continue receiving billions in tax breaks in a time of record gas prices and corporate profits. Bernanke made an appearance to emphasize that weakness in housing remains the greatest pall over the economy and defend the Feds' Bear Stearns bail-out, which he declined to classify as such. Yesterday, FAA inspectors testified that the agency had not only allowed uninspected planes to fly, but had threatened workers who complained about oversights.
On Tuesday, the State Department suspended exports of arms dealer AEY Inc., who was awarded a $298-million contract last January and has since been caught supplying troops with aged Chinese munitions--some up to 40 years old. Still to be addressed: why a 22-year-old with a criminal record was entrusted with millions in taxpayer money, anyway. Also this week, the White House's extensive involvement in torture was made repugnantly clear in the release of this 2003 brief, as well as Vanity Fair's latest issue.