Christopher Hayes | The Nation

Christopher Hayes

Christopher Hayes

Nation editor-at-large and host of MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes.

The Freak Show

Time magazine political analyst Mark Halperin (formerly of ABC and The Note) has a post up dispensing free advice to John McCain on how he can attack Obama. The pearls of wisdom dispensed include:

5. Make an issue of Obama's acknowledged drug use.6. Allow some supporters to risk being accused of using the race card when criticizing Obama....11. Emphasize Barack Hussein Obama's unusual name and exotic background through a Manchurian Candidate prism.

Aside from this being gratuitous and morally blinkered, I'm wondering what exactly Halperin thought the value-added of this post was. If he wants to be a campaign strategist for the McCain campaign (or any other for that matter), I'm sure he could get a job doing just that. But he's, in name at least, a journalist, with some basic responsibility to provide his readers with insight into the race. There's no insight in this list -- every attack he mentions has been made in the wingnut'osphere and in emails. So, really, what's the point? As far as I can tell it's mostly to burnish a reputation as being a savvy and unsentimental insider. If you were looking for artifacts to collect under the heading Why People Hate The Media, this would be at the top of the list.

Haynes Resigns

Last week, we broke a story about Pentagon general counsel William Haynes, the man charged with impartially overseeing the tribunals at Guantanamo telling a subordinate that "[they]can't have acquittals." Yesterday, came word that Haynes has resigned. We always get our man.

What Exactly Will Go Into the Bush Presidential Library?

When George W. Bush's presidential library opens in Dallas at Southern Methodist University (officials announced the site on Friday), expect Bush to do his best to keep his papers shrouded.

While in 1978, the Presidential Records Act made presidential records the property of American people, according to Bush's Executive Order 13233 (signed less than a month after September 11th), current and previous presidents are empowered to withhold their records--indefinitely.

Last March, an act to undo Bush's Executive Order cleared the House by a 333-93 margin. Though the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs favorably reported a companion resolution this June, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) continues to stonewall its Senate passage. (Take action with Public Citizen to pressure Sessions here.)

According to the Dallas Morning News, a "significant portion" of SMU faculty members objected to the potential construction of the Bush library last year, citing concerns about the library's partisanship. Others were more hopeful: As theater professor Rhonda Blair put it, the library would give Americans a chance to figure out "what the heck has happened during the eight years of [the Bush] administration." But unless the Senate steps up to the plate, such an outcome looks unlikely.

Mid-Day Links

1) The stalemate in Afghanistan continues.

2) John Judis on the American Adam.

3) Today, MoveOn.org launched a new Iraq/Recession campaign, linking the money spent on the war to economic woes at home. It's part of a renewed effort to attempt (once again!) to pressure the White House into de-escalation. But the votes look the exact same as they did last year on the Hill. If there's a silver lining, it's that the Democrats actually defied the White House recently on FISA and haven't suffered much in the way of political recriminations. Perhaps it will be emboldening, but that's almost certainly over-optimistic.

FISA and the GOP Fear-Circus

In a radio address this weekend, Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan) boiled it down:

The President and House Republicans simply can't have it both ways. They cannot argue simultaneously that the temporary August law was essential to national security, and then turn around and engineer the defeat of an extension of it.

(Last week, Conyers stayed in Washington during the Presidents' Day recess to try and re-negotiate FISA. House Republicans told their staff to boycott the meetings.)

By the way, as a Leahy-Conyers-Rockefeller-Reyes Washington Post oped details this morning, the directives obtained under last August's temporary Protect America Act are still in force until at least this fall. As the Assistant AG for National Security put it, "We'll be able to continue doing surveillance based on those directives." So the White House's current fear-circus is just that: a show.

Feingold to Senate: The Iraq War Still Matters

A warm, hearty bowl of kudos to Sen. Feingold for continuing to push Senate debate on the Iraq War. This week, the Senate will take up two of Feingold's bills. One would require troop redeployment and after 120 days would limit troop activities to tracking Al Qaeda, personnel security and training duties. The other requires the Bush administration to submit to Congress a plan for fighting Al Qaeda globally (wait--you mean no one at the White House has come up with that yet?) and would also limit military reserve deployment.

Getting the Senate to talk about the issue wasn't easy: Feingold only secured the promise of the roll call vote last year after backing off a threatened filibuster of a Defense authorization bill. And sure, there's little chance the measures will garner the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster.

But with Joseph Stiglitz's latest projection of the war's costs ballooning to $3 trillion, it's nice to know that some members of Congress are still paying attention.

No Link Between Poison and Agent Orange

It's not easy suing big and powerful U.S. companies on U.S. soil and under the U.S. court system.

But even after Vietnamese plaintiffs were rebuffed last Friday when New York's US Court of Appeals dismissed their claims against Dow Chemical Company, Monsanto and nearly 30 other manufacturers of "Agent Orange," they're not giving up. Their next stage of appeal is likely to be the U.S. Supreme Court.

While in 1984, seven companies (including Dow and Monsanto) agreed to a $180 million settlement with U.S. veterans who suffered from Agent Orange, no Vietnamese has ever received compensation. The United States maintains there is no scientifically proven link between the 79 million liters of Agent Orange the U.S. dropped during the Vietnam War and the dioxin poisoning of over 3 million Vietnamese.

The U.S. government is also claiming sovereign immunity in the case.

Still Guarding the (Hen)House

It's a peculiar notion, the idea that only members of Congress should be able to bring ethics complaints against other Congressmen. But well over a year after the Democrats stormed Capitol Hill promising ethics reform, that's precisely the way Congress continues to function.

Such insular self-policing, not surprisingly, lends itself to discipline both spotty and toothless. Take, for example, the "bipartisan letter of admonition" the Senate issued this month to Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho), which did no more than chide the lately discomfited official for his actions--which, beyond his 'lewd conduct' in an airport bathroom, included the dubious use of $213,000 in campaign contributions to fund his legal defense associated with the incident.

House investigations are still more limp-handed. Last May, House Democrats voted along party lines to block the censure of Rep. John Murtha (D-Pennsylvania), who stood accused of violating a new ethics rule that prohibits lawmakers from swapping votes for pork.

Last week, however, the criminal indictment of Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Az.) seemed to revive the House momentum for reform. "I think the time has come to have an independent entity," said Rep. Michael Capuano (D-Mass), who heads the House taskforce exploring the creation of an independent ethics panel.

After scads of bipartisan scandals, with Congress's approval ratings languishing at 22%, most Americans long ago reached that conclusion.

The Wedge Issue That Wasn't

Call it the "Yes, That Too is About Immigration" platform.

For the past two years, House Republicans jockeying for support at the ballot box have worked strenuously to knit the issue of immigration into seemingly every issue that reaches the floor. A federal housing bill? Mortgage reform? Native American housing assistance? All bills vitally linked to illegal immigrants, says the GOP.

Chief among the GOP's tools is the motion to recommit, by which a minority member can propose a last-minute amendment to a bill during the final floor vote--which, if rejected, effectively kills the entire legislation. Often, the GOP's amendments have simply reiterated immigration laws that are already exist (for example, by inserting redundant language stressing undocumented immigrants' ineligibility for public housing). But in using the maneuver, says Marshall Fitz, advocacy director for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, House Republicans are "forcing Democrats to take tough votes that divide or embarrass the party," all while throwing political red meat to party conservatives.

A nifty set of tricks, but so far, the immigration-as-wedge tactic hasn't proved terribly effective. In 2006, harsh restrictionist House Republicans like J.D. Hayworth were trounced. Last year, state elections in Virginia and New York--where controversy over issues like drivers' licenses for immigrants became something of a fury--similarly failed to deliver electoral returns for the GOP.

And yet House Republicans still don't seem inclined to give up the game. Even with the much-touted bipartisan nature of the House's January stimulus package, Republicans didn't pass up the chance to needle Democrats about illegal immigrants being eligible for tax rebates. (They weren't.)

But any way you slice the potential short-term House dividends, alienating a Latino electorate that's grown by 2 million in the past three years alone--particularly in key swing states like New Mexico and Ohio--is a terrible, no-good, very bad political strategy. No wonder Bush and Rove have taken a more conciliatory approach to the issue. And if McCain has any hope of redeeming his party's prospects this fall, so will he.

TPM Getting Its Due

Congrats to Josh Marshall and the TPM Crew for some well-deserved recognition.

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