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Dean Tells It Like It Is

If you want some straight talk in these days of the Democratic Leadership Council's calls to retreat to a monastery or move to the center, check out Howard Dean's feisty comments about his vision for the Democratic Party and what he thinks went down in this election.

In a speech to students at Northwestern University last week, Dean fired back at the Right; he called Reverend Jerry Falwell a hate-monger, and described Justice Antonin Scalia as "sarcastic and mean-spirited." And in a jab at the conservative Club for Growth's ad attacks on him as a "latte-drinking, Volvo-driving, body-piercing, left-wing freak show" who should head back to Vermont, Dean explained, "I don't drink coffee. I have three cars--all of them are American. " "No part of me is pierced that I'm willing to discuss publicly," he added. "And if you want to see a freak show, go look at the people who wrote that ad..."

Dean ended by calling on the students to run for office. In a playful twist on his now infamous "Dean Scream," he shouted, "You need to run for office--not just in Illinois and Ohio and South Carolina! You need to run for office in Mississippi, and Alabama, and Idaho and Texas and..."

A Politician, Not a Diplomat

Two weeks before the 2004 presidential election, the Bush administration's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, made a solemn pronouncement about her desire to remain outside the political fight between Democrat John Kerry and the man who this week appointed her to serve as Secretary of State. "I think it's important that we not campaign," Rice said of national security aides. She emphasized that this was a particular concern because "we are in a time of war."

Rice made her comments during an interview with the political editor of KDKA, a Pittsburgh-based television powerhouse with a reach capable of taking her words into the homes of millions of voters in the battleground states of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.

Then, in a display of her nonpolitical approach, Rice proceeded to rip into Kerry's charge that the administration had botched the search for Osama bin Laden. Kerry's assertion "is just not true," raged Rice, before again refuting the notion that she was campaigning for Bush.

The next day, she flew to Cleveland, Ohio, the largest city in the most hotly contested of all the battleground states and trashed Kerry once more.

Two days later, she was in south Florida, one of the most hotly contested regions of another battleground state where again she dumped on Kerry's strategies for defending the United States before declaring, "The global war on terror calls us, as President Bush immediately understood, to marshall all the elements of our national power to beat terror and the ideology of hatred that protects (terrorists) and recruits others to their ranks."

During the months of September and October of 2001, Rice made no public appearances outside Washington, during September and October of 2002, she made one New York appearance, during September and October of 2003, she appeared in New York and Chicago. But as the November 2 election approached, Rice suddenly discovered the joys of Pittsburgh and Detroit. With the man who she once mistakenly referred to as "my husband" locked in a tough reelection campaign, Rice appeared during the fall of 2004 at least one time each in the battleground states of Oregon, Washington, North Carolina, Michigan and Florida, and at least twice in the battleground states of Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Rice's travels were, for the most part, paid for by the taxpayers. And her aides insisted throughout the campaign season that, in the words of James Wilkinson, a deputy national security advisor, "Dr. Rice has continued the nonpolitical tradition of her post."

That pronouncement was so laughable, however, that the Washington Post, which did the ablest job of tracking Rice's travels in the months prior to the election, observed, "The frequency and location of her speeches differ sharply from those before this election year -- and appear to break with the long-standing precedent that the national security adviser try to avoid overt involvement in the presidential campaign. Her predecessors generally restricted themselves to an occasional speech, often in Washington, but (by late October) Rice will have made nine outside Washington since Labor Day."

The woman who claimed she could not appear before the bipartisan committee investigating the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington because it would break precedents set by past national security advisers had no qualms about breaking past precedents when it came to using her position to advance her favorite politician's interests. "I'm afraid this represents, at least in my book, excessive politicization of an office which is unusually sensitive," Zbigniew Brzezinski, the Carter administration's national security, said of Rice's pre-election travels. Brzezinski confirmed the Post's observation that past national security advisers had "viewed the job as not a highly political one."

Obviously, Rice had a different view. Her political campaigning was so blatant and so extensive that the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, U.S. Representative John Conyers, D-Michigan, sought a special counsel investigation of whether Rice had violated the Hatch Act's provisions against campaigning by federal employees who are on the job. "(Any) political activity on the part of the national security adviser would undermine the trust bestowed on such a non-partisan post," argued Conyers in a letter requesting the inquiry.

Of course, there was never any question that Rice was engaging in political activity. The only question was: For who? To be sure, her busy schedule in the battleground states -- which supplemented speeches with high-profile interviews with local television stations and newspapers -- helped Bush. But it also helped Rice.

After Rice appeared in that city in September, the Seattle Times newspaper pointed out that, "Rice sounded at times like a candidate." In a sense, she was. Prior to the election, Washington was abuzz with speculation about the all-but-certain departure of Secretary of State Colin Powell, the closest thing the administration had to an independent man of government -- as opposed to the programmed politicos who peopled most major posts in the Bush White House. Rice, who began campaigning for the Secretary of State post before the 2000 election, did not want there to be any doubt on the part of Bush or Vice President Dick Cheney, the man who runs foreign policy for the administration, that she would be a more loyal and dramatically more politicized player than Powell.

And so she shall be.

Rice, whose many excuses for refusing to appear before the 9/11 Commission included a claim that she was too wrapped up in the serious work of analyzing potential threats to the nation, has always been able to find time for political work on behalf of the Bush-Cheney team -- and on behalf of her own ambition. In March, at the same time that she was stonewalling the 9/11 Commission, Rice found time to deliver an extended briefing to top executives from television networks, magazines, newspapers and other media properties owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. conglomerate. Even as Spain's new prime minister was talking about withdrawing his country's troops from Iraq, and Poland's president was suggesting that he might do the same, Rice blocked out time to speak via satellite to the Murdoch lieutenants gathered at the posh Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Cancun, Mexico.

Certainly, her appearance helped to cement the relationship between the Bush administration and Murdoch's media empire, which includes the Fox broadcast and cable networks, the relentlessly pro-Bush New York Post and the neoconservative Weekly Standard magazine. But it also helped to position Rice as a Bush administration player who, unlike Colin Powell, recognized the need to care for friendly media.

Where Bush, Cheney and the neoconservative readers and advisers who have populated key positions inside the administration and at its edges never trusted Powell, they know they can count on Rice. Just as she politicized the national security adviser to an extent never before seen, she will politicize the State Department. Any pretense of independence or pragmatism will be discarded as quickly as was the tradition of keeping the national security adviser out of politics.

With Powell, its feeble defender, on the way out of the State Department, the last small voices of dissent within the foreign policy bureaucracy will begin to fall silent. If Rice is confirmed, as seems certain considering the partisan divide in the Senate, the Department of State where Thomas Jefferson, William Jennings Bryan and George Marshall once presided, will be little more than an arm of the White House political operation. And the Secretary of State, who has already proven herself to be more interested in campaigning than in defending the best interests of the nation or its security, will not be a diplomat. She will be a politician, nothing more and, certainly, nothing less.

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John Nichols' book on Cheney, Dick: The Man Who Is President, has just been released by The New Press. Former White House counsel John Dean, the author of Worse Than Watergate, says, "This page-turner closes the case: Cheney is our de facto president." Arianna Huffington, the author of Fanatics and Fools, calls Dick, "The first full portrait of The Most Powerful Number Two in History, a scary and appalling picture. Cheney is revealed as the poster child for crony capitalism (think Halliburton's no bid, cost-plus Iraq contracts) and crony democracy (think Scalia and duck-hunting)."

Dick: The Man Who Is President is available from independent bookstores nationwide and by clicking here.

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Creeping Creationism

Some days it feels like 1925--when William Jennings Bryan defended the merits of creationism in the Scopes Monkey trial--all over again.

I've written before about how the Right wants to dismantle the achievements of the 20th century--the New Deal, environmentalism, civil rights and civil liberties. But now rightwing social conservatives, our home-grown fundamentalists, are seeking to unravel the scaffolding of science and reason, and this battle deserves attention from humanists of all stripes. One of the most virulent expressions of the rightwing assault on modernity is the war against evolution being waged in America's classrooms and courtrooms, parks and civic institutions.

Slipping creationism into civic discussions picked up steam in the 1990s. That's when Kansas issued new state science guidelines in which "evolution" was replaced with the phrase "change over time," and Illinois made a similar change.

In Oklahoma and Alabama, creationists inserted disclaimers into biology textbooks which cast doubt on evolution. In 1999, school boards in Arizona, Alabama, Illinois, New Mexico, Texas and Nebraska tried to modify the teaching of evolution, in some cases trying to have it excised from the state standards.

Now, we're into the 21st century, Bush is in the White House for another four years, and creationists feel emboldened to impose their beliefs on secular America. From schools to parks, creationists are moving aggressively.

The New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/26/science 26cany.html?ex=1256529600&en=66af410f8a71ca6f&ei=5090&partner=rssuserland"> recently reported that six stores in the Grand Canyon National Park are selling a book called Grand Canyon: A Different View. Its wild theory has no factual basis: God, argues the author, created the Grand Canyon in Noah's flood and the flood was intended to destroy "the wickedness of man."

The issue of whether this book should be on sale in park service stores is under review in the solicitor's office of the US Interior Department. But Interior has been silent for almost a year now, in spite of a scientific consensus that hydrology, over millions of years, caused the Grand Canyon's formation, not God's hand. The government should stand on the side of science.

Meanwhile, in Cobb County, Georgia in 2002, the Board of Education unanimously approved the teaching of creationism in public schools. The decision, promised the school board, would provide students with "a balanced education."

In Ohio, educators and parents are promoting the teaching of "intelligent design" in public schools; proponents believe that a higher power created human life. And in Grantsburg, Wisconsin, a school board has just revised its science curriculum to permit creationist teachings in local classrooms. (The science curriculum "should not be totally inclusive of just one scientific theory," declared Joni Burgin, the school district's superintendent.)

The rightwing assault on the Enlightenment extends well beyond putting creationism on equal footing with evolutionary science. The Bush Administration has truncated stem cell research, promoted abstinence-only sex education, undermined Roe v. Wade and supported federal funding for faith-based institutions. "Respect for evidence seems not to pertain any more," Garry Wills recently argued in an op-ed. (Somedays, it seems like it's only a matter of time before two guests on CNN's Crossfire are given equal time and equal weight in George Bush's America to debate the merits of the creationist argument.)

In Texas, just days after the election, the Board of Education approved health textbooks that explicitly defined marriage as a union of a man and a woman. Two of America's largest academic publishers--Holt, Rinehart and Winston and Glencoe/McGraw-Hill--capitulated to the board by removing from the text all words like "partners" and phrases like "when two people marry" and replacing them with more traditional circumlocutions like "husbands and wives."

"We thought it was a reasonable thing to do," explained a Holt spokesman. (Wonder if it had anything to do with the fact that Texas is the second-largest buyer of textbooks in the country?)

Activists must join with the ACLU, People for the American Way and the National Coalition against Censorship (NCAC) in fighting off attempts to turn the clock back. "We work with other organizations to provide background and supporting information [and] are always available to help find the right person to give testimony" before school boards, said Joan Bertin, executive director of the National Coalition.

NCAC organized a coalition of progressive groups that signed a statement opposing censorship in sex education. It was sent to every member of Congress and scores of state legislators. The Coalition also stresses partnerships with local groups, encourages letter-writing campaigns to school boards, text-book publishers and local papers and promotes "stirring the pot" to bring publicity and pressure to bear on this crusade against science and reason.

The ACLU, meanwhile, is working with parents to sue the Cobb County School Board in federal district court. Cobb County put stickers in three biology textbooks that warned: "Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered."

The stickers, argues the ACLU, promote the teaching of creationism and violate the Constitutional separation of church and state. "The religious views of some that contradict science cannot dictate curriculum," said ACLU attorney Maggie Garrett. The Supreme Court has already ruled that teaching creationism has no place in science class, but the ACLU is aggressively re-fighting this battle in Georgia for the sake of religious freedom, knowledge and reasoning.

While creationist groups like the Discovery Institute wage war against evolution in states like Texas, local groups like Stand Up For Science composed of Texas scientists, religious leaders and parents have formed to lead the fight against censoring textbooks there. And the Texas Freedom Network, which monitors the religious right, has taken on publishers like Holt Rinehart that put stickers in textbooks challenging evolution.

"Rather than stand up for keeping good science standards in textbooks, Holt Rinehart has compromised the education of Texas students," said Samantha Smoot, the Network's executive director, in August 2003.

People of reason must be savvy, and just as tough as the intolerant Right, in defending scientific discovery and the ideal of human progress from the retrogressive forces now rallying behind this White House. With a messianic militarist in the Oval Office, social conservatives are seizing the initiative and assailing the Enlightenment. Time is not on our side.

Defining Failure Down

Last July, the Washington Post devoted much of its front-page to a well-reported story indicting National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice for her role in misleading Congress and the public in the run-up to the Iraq war. The bottom line: Rice was either incompetent or a liar.

Even sources described as "generally sympathetic" to the NSC adviser questioned her many shifting and contradictory statements regarding Iraq's alleged uranium purchase and the WMD (non)threat. But Rice's dogged loyalty to Bush served her well, and she stayed put.

In August, barely noticed during the campaign, former chief weapons inspector David Kay went before Congress and in impassioned testimony spent most of his time faulting Rice for botching intelligence information before the war. Kay's remarks reflected a widespread view among intelligence specialists that Rice and the NSC have never been held sufficiently accountable for intelligence failures before the 9/11 attacks and the invasion of Iraq.

Bush's nomination of Rice to replace Colin Powell as Secretary of State today is just another sign of how this Administration continues to define failure down. As even the Washington Post's lead editorial this morning acknowledged: "...It is a measure of the stunning absence of accountability under Mr. Bush that it is Mr. Powell who leaves, while the architects of the failed and even disastrous policies [Powell] opposed, from postwar Iraq to Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, remain in office."

Colin Powell is Gone--UPDATED

This just in: Colin Powell is out. Throughout much of 2002 and 2003, I urged Powell to resign. It was clear he did not believe in George W. Bush's war in Iraq. And then he ended up the White House's top con man when he presented a thoroughly false report to the UN Security Council on WMDs in Iraq six weeks before the invasion. Other reasonable foreign policy advocates told me that they were comforted by Powell's presence in the administration. He was the grown-up. Yet it seemed that Powell was providing cover for the out-of-control kindergartners and that once Bush was reelected he would bail and leave the reckless youngsters in charge. If he truly believed the war in Iraq was misguided, I argued, he had a duty to the public (his true boss) to speak out when it mattered. But Powell played the good soldier. He never expressed much public outrage over being duped by the CIA on the UN presentation. He served the president (more than the public), waited for him to be reelected, and then bugged out. His punishment for having enabled Bush should have been four more years.

A fellow who has long worked with Powell told me only ten days ago that Powell would likely stay on. Powell, he said, wanted to keep working on key projects--Darfur, the Middle East, North Korea--and did not want to resign when the most prominent item on his State Department resume would be that falsehoods-filled UN presentation. And I was considering writing--even today--a piece calling on Powell to stay. (Hmmm, did Powell receive a polite push from the White House?) Obviously, this source was wrong, and Powell will soon have plenty of time to tinker with the Volvos he likes to rebuild. Will he consider a presidential run in 2008? My source--who was wrong on the resignation--said Powell has shown no interest in such an endeavor.

So now it's time for Washington's favorite game: guessing who will get the job. Previously, the short list has included National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice (gasp!) and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz (omigod!). The White House says there will be no announcement today. But a new name has been added to the media's list of possibilities: National Security Council staffer Elliott Abrams. (Abrams was first handed the democracy and human rights brief when he joined the NSC in 2001; more recently, he has been in charge of Middle East policy at the NSC.) Is this a trial balloon launched by the White House so Wolfowitz will seem like a reasonable alternative? Abrams would be one of the most controversial choices Bush could make. (Think Ashcroft-plus in foreign policy terms.) Putting aside any concern that I might be overreacting to a mere mention of Abrams--who has to be considered a long shot--let me post here an article I wrote after Bush first appointed Abrams to an NSC job, which did not require Senate approval. Consider this a public service announcement.

UPDATE: And this really just in--nevermind. That is, nevermind the scare above about the possibility that Elliott Abrams will be named as Colin Powell's successor. ABC News has reported that George W. Bush wants Rice to be his next secretary of state. I'll have more to say on this later. But imagine the hearings that could happen if--if!--the Democrats choose to make Rice's nomination an opportunity for questioning Bush's war in Iraq. Ms. Rice, why didn't the president and you bother to read the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq before he decided to go to war? Why weren't there Cabinet-level meetings on what to do after the invasion about the obvious economic, political, legal, and security challenges that the US would encounter? Why did Bush say there were "stockpiles" of biological weapons in Iraq even when the CIA's overstated intelligence did not report this? Why did he devote more time pre-9/11 to ballistic missile defense rather than to counterterrorism? Oh, the list could go on for days. And just in case the Rice report is not correct, here's that piece on Abrams. Remember, this fellow--whether or not he's moving up in the second Bush term--is still working for Bush and being paid with your tax dollars.

ELLIOTT ABRAMS: IT'S BACK!by DAVID CORNThe NationJuly 2, 2001 issue

"How would you feel if your wife and children were brutally raped before being hacked to death by soldiers during a military massacre of 800 civilians, and then two governments tried to cover up the killings?" It's a question that won't be asked of Elliott Abrams at a Senate confirmation hearing--because George W. Bush, according to press reports, may appoint Abrams to a National Security Council staff position that (conveniently!) does not require Senate approval. Moreover, this query is one of a host of rude, but warranted, questions that could be lobbed at Abrams, the Iran/contra player who was an assistant secretary of state during the Reagan years and a shaper of that Administration's controversial--and deadly--policies on Latin America and human rights. His designated spot in the new regime: NSC's senior director for democracy, human rights and international operations. (At press time, the White House and Abrams were neither confirming nor denying his return to government.)

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When you're done reading this article,visit David Corn's WEBLOG at www.davidcorn.com. Read recent entries cover Bush and Bob Jones University, the bloodbath at the CIA, and the so-called "stolen election."

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Bush the Second has tapped a number of Reagan/Bush alums who were involved in Iran/contra business for plum jobs: Colin Powell, Richard Armitage, Otto Reich and John Negroponte. But Abrams's appointment--should it come to pass--would mark the most generous of rehabilitations. Not only did Abrams plead guilty to two misdemeanor counts of lying to Congress about the Reagan Administration's contra program, he was also one of the fiercest ideological pugilists of the 1980s, a bad-boy diplomat wildly out of sync with Bush's gonna-change-the-tone rhetoric. Abrams, a Democrat turned Republican who married into the cranky Podhoretz neocon clan, billed himself as a "gladiator" for the Reagan Doctrine in Central America--which entailed assisting thuggish regimes and militaries in order to thwart leftist movements and dismissing the human rights violations of Washington's cold war partners.

One Abrams specialty was massacre denial. During a Nightline appearance in 1985, he was asked about reports that the US-funded Salvadoran military had slaughtered civilians at two sites the previous summer. Abrams maintained that no such events had occurred. And had the US Embassy and the State Department conducted an investigation? "My memory," he said, "is that we did, but I don't want to swear to it, because I'd have to go back and look at the cables." But there had been no State Department inquiry; Abrams, in his lawyerly fashion, was being disingenuous. Three years earlier, when two American journalists reported that an elite, US-trained military unit had massacred hundreds of villagers in El Mozote, Abrams told Congress that the story was commie propaganda, as he fought for more US aid to El Salvador's military. The massacre, as has since been confirmed, was real. And in 1993 after a UN truth commission, which examined 22,000 atrocities that occurred during the twelve-year civil war in El Salvador, attributed 85 percent of the abuses to the Reagan-assisted right-wing military and its death-squad allies, Abrams declared, "The Administration's record on El Salvador is one of fabulous achievement." Tell that to the survivors of El Mozote.

But it wasn't his lies about mass murder that got Abrams into trouble. After a contra resupply plane was shot down in 1986, Abrams, one of the coordinators of Reagan's pro-contra policy (along with the NSC's Oliver North and the CIA's Alan Fiers), appeared several times before Congressional committees and withheld information on the Administration's connection to the secret and private contra-support network. He also hid from Congress the fact that he had flown to London (using the name "Mr. Kenilworth") to solicit a $10 million contribution for the contras from the Sultan of Brunei. At a subsequent closed-door hearing, Democratic Senator Thomas Eagleton blasted Abrams for having misled legislators, noting that Abrams's misrepresentations could lead to "slammer time." Abrams disagreed, saying, "You've heard my testimony." Eagleton cut in: "I've heard it, and I want to puke." On another occasion, Republican Senator Dave Durenberger complained, "I wouldn't trust Elliott any further than I could throw Ollie North." Even after Abrams copped a plea with Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh, he refused to concede that he'd done anything untoward. Abrams's Foggy Bottom services were not retained by the First Bush, but he did include Abrams in his lame-duck pardons of several Iran/contra wrongdoers.

Abrams was as nasty a policy warrior as Washington had seen in decades. He called foes "vipers." He said that lawmakers who blocked contra aid would have "blood on their hands"--while he defended US support for a human-rights-abusing government in Guatemala. When Oliver North was campaigning for the Senate in 1994 and was accused of having ignored contra ties to drug dealers, Abrams backed North and claimed "all of us who ran that program...were absolutely dedicated to keeping it completely clean and free of any involvement by drug traffickers." Yet in 1998 the CIA's own inspector general issued a thick report noting that the Reagan Administration had collaborated with suspected drug traffickers while managing the secret contra war.

So Bush the Compassionate may hand the White House portfolio on human rights to the guy who lied and wheedled to aid and protect human-rights abusers. As Adm. William Crowe Jr. said of Abrams in 1989, "This snake's hard to kill."

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IT REMAINS RELEVANT. DON'T FORGET ABOUT DAVID CORN'S BOOK, The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception (Crown Publishers). A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER! An UPDATED and EXPANDED EDITION is NOW AVAILABLE in PAPERBACK. The Washington Post says, "This is a fierce polemic, but it is based on an immense amount of research....[I]t does present a serious case for the president's partisans to answer....Readers can hardly avoid drawing...troubling conclusions from Corn's painstaking indictment." The Los Angeles Times says, "David Corn's The Lies of George W. Bush is as hard-hitting an attack as has been leveled against the current president. He compares what Bush said with the known facts of a given situation and ends up making a persuasive case." The Library Journal says, "Corn chronicles to devastating effect the lies, falsehoods, and misrepresentations....Corn has painstakingly unearthed a bill of particulars against the president that is as damaging as it is thorough." And GEORGE W. BUSH SAYS, "I'd like to tell you I've read [ The Lies of George W. Bush], but that'd be a lie."

For more information and a sample, go to www.davidcorn.com. And see his WEBLOG there

Frist's Fury Over Filibusters

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, the health insurance industry heir who went into politics for the purpose of protecting his family's financial interests against even the most tepid federal regulation, is not exactly an expert on the workings of Congress.

But that has not stopped the Tennessee Republican from launching an attack on one of the Senate's most time-honored traditions.

Speaking to the Federalist Society, the conservative legal affairs group that has become the nation's premier proponent of judicial activism, Frist lashed out against Democrats who threaten to use filibusters to block corrupt, incompetent or ideologically extreme nominees for federal judgeships.

"One way or another, the filibuster of judicial nominations must end," griped Frist, whose new cause offers another reminder that little changed when he replaced former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, the segregationist-praising Republican from Mississippi.

"This filibuster is nothing less than a formula for tyranny by the minority," argued Frist, who claimed that if Democrats succeed in using procedural tactics to block some of President Bush's nominees, "they will have effectively seized from the president the power to appoint judges."

Frist's rhetoric is dramatically overblown. Senate Democrats have cleared the way for the approval of the overwhelming majority of Bush's judicial picks; they have used the threat of a filibuster to block only the nominations of 10 particularly unfit nominees for federal appeals court positions.

There is no "tyranny of the minority." In fact, if Senate Democrats were to make real on the threat of a filibuster -- which halts Senate action as one senator or a group of senators engage in an extended discussion of a nomination or issue being considered by the chamber -- it would only be because there is no other way to get Senate Republicans and the White House to consult with the opposition party in the manner that the nation's founders intended.

Frist delivered his bombastic remarks to the Federalist Society in an effort to try to scare Senate Democrats before the new session of Congress begins. If the Democrats launch a filibuster, or even threaten to employ the tactic in order to slow down the process of making judicial nominations, Frist signaled that GOP leaders in the Senate might implement what is refered to as "the nuclear option."

When he employed the phrase "one way or another, the filibuster of judicial nominations must end," the majority leader indicated a willingness to sanction an effort by some Republicans to circumvent Senate rules and declare filibusters against executive nominations to be unconstitutional. This dubious strategy is troubling even to many Republicans, who worry that rewriting Senate procedures in order to advance the Bush administration's court-packing agenda could come back to haunt the GOP when a future Senate is controlled by the Democrats.

For all of Frist's bluster, Senate Republicans wont have the guts to bar filibusters if Americans express support for the use of the tactic as it was intended -- to prevent the Senate majority from doing something that would harm the country.

Frist's attempt to portray the tactic of filibustering -- or threatening to filibuster -- as a new and dangerous phenomenon is a lie. This tool has been employed repeatedly over the past two centuries -- most famously in recent years when former President Lyndon Johnson's nomination of Abe Fortas to serve as the chief justice of the US Supreme Court was blocked in 1968.

The filibuster was a particularly popular tool of progressive senators at the dawn of the last century. Former US Senators Robert M. La Follette, R-Wisconsin, George Norris, R-Nebraska, and their allies used it in the 1910s and 1920s to battle against the takeover of the Senate by crony capitalists, military adventurers and war profiteers.

The Senate progressives who would go on to be remembered as some of that chamber's greatest members were passionate defenders of the filibuster. Burton K. Wheeler, the Democratic senator from Montana who was La Follette's running mate on a progressive independent ticket in the 1924 presidential campaign, wrote about the subject in his classic autobiography Yankee from the West. Wheeler recalled that La Follette's most passionate advice to him as a young senator was to always support the right of fellow senators to filibuster.

"Never vote for cloture," said La Follette, referring to the procedure used to counter filibusters by getting 60 senators to vote to force an end to debate. Even on an issue where a progressive senator disagreed with colleagues who were filibustering, La Follette argued that it was always wrong to stifle debate on important issues and nominations.

La Follette was right. The filibuster is one of the few tools that a minority party can use to counter the worst excesses of an out-of-control majority party. The practice should be defended -- and, yes, it should be used even in the face of Bill Frist's threats.

Powell Is Out

This just in: Colin Powell is out. Throughout much of 2002 and 2003, I urged Powell to resign. It was clear he did not believe in George W. Bush's war in Iraq. And then he ended up the White House's top con man when he presented a thoroughly false report to the UN Security Council on WMDs in Iraq six weeks before the invasion. Other reasonable foreign policy advocates told me that they were comforted by Powell's presence in the administration. He was the grown-up. Yet it seemed that Powell was providing cover for the out-of-control kindergartners and that once Bush was reelected he would bail and leave the reckless youngsters in charge. If he truly believed the war in Iraq was misguided, I argued, he had a duty to the public (his true boss) to speak out when it mattered. But Powell played the good soldier. He never expressed much public outrage over being duped by the CIA on the UN presentation. He served the president (more than the public), waited for him to be reelected, and then bugged out. His punishment for having enabled Bush should have been four more years.

A fellow who has long worked with Powell told me only ten days ago that Powell would likely stay on. Powell, he said, wanted to keep working on key projects--Darfur, the Middle East, North Korea--and did not want to resign when the most prominent item on his State Department resume would be that falsehoods-filled UN presentation. And I was considering writing--even today--a piece calling on Powell to stay. (Hmmm, did Powell receive a polite push from the White House?) Obviously, this source was wrong, and Powell will soon have plenty of time to tinker with the Volvos he likes to rebuild. Will he consider a presidential run in 2008? My source--who was wrong on the resignation--said Powell has shown no interest in such an endeavor.

So now it's time for Washington's favorite game: guessing who will get the job. Previously, the short list has included National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice (gasp!) and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz (omigod!). The White House says there will be no announcement today. But a new name has been added to the media's list of possibilities: National Security Council staffer Elliott Abrams. (Abrams was first handed the democracy and human rights brief when he joined the NSC in 2001; more recently, he has been in charge of Middle East policy at the NSC.) Is this a trial balloon launched by the White House so Wolfowitz will seem like a reasonable alternative? Abrams would be one of the most controversial choices Bush could make. (Think Ashcroft-plus in foreign policy terms.) Putting aside any concern that I might be overreacting to a mere mention of Abrams--who has to be considered a long shot--let me post here an article I wrote after Bush first appointed Abrams to an NSC job, which did not require Senate approval. Consider this a public service announcement.

ELLIOTT ABRAMS: IT'S BACK!by DAVID CORNThe NationJuly 2, 2001 issue

"How would you feel if your wife and children were brutally raped before being hacked to death by soldiers during a military massacre of 800 civilians, and then two governments tried to cover up the killings?" It's a question that won't be asked of Elliott Abrams at a Senate confirmation hearing--because George W. Bush, according to press reports, may appoint Abrams to a National Security Council staff position that (conveniently!) does not require Senate approval. Moreover, this query is one of a host of rude, but warranted, questions that could be lobbed at Abrams, the Iran/contra player who was an assistant secretary of state during the Reagan years and a shaper of that Administration's controversial--and deadly--policies on Latin America and human rights. His designated spot in the new regime: NSC's senior director for democracy, human rights and international operations. (At press time, the White House and Abrams were neither confirming nor denying his return to government.)

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When you're done reading this article,visit David Corn's WEBLOG at www.davidcorn.com. Read recent entries cover Bush and Bob Jones University, the bloodbath at the CIA, and the so-called "stolen election."

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Bush the Second has tapped a number of Reagan/Bush alums who were involved in Iran/contra business for plum jobs: Colin Powell, Richard Armitage, Otto Reich and John Negroponte. But Abrams's appointment--should it come to pass--would mark the most generous of rehabilitations. Not only did Abrams plead guilty to two misdemeanor counts of lying to Congress about the Reagan Administration's contra program, he was also one of the fiercest ideological pugilists of the 1980s, a bad-boy diplomat wildly out of sync with Bush's gonna-change-the-tone rhetoric. Abrams, a Democrat turned Republican who married into the cranky Podhoretz neocon clan, billed himself as a "gladiator" for the Reagan Doctrine in Central America--which entailed assisting thuggish regimes and militaries in order to thwart leftist movements and dismissing the human rights violations of Washington's cold war partners.

One Abrams specialty was massacre denial. During a Nightline appearance in 1985, he was asked about reports that the US-funded Salvadoran military had slaughtered civilians at two sites the previous summer. Abrams maintained that no such events had occurred. And had the US Embassy and the State Department conducted an investigation? "My memory," he said, "is that we did, but I don't want to swear to it, because I'd have to go back and look at the cables." But there had been no State Department inquiry; Abrams, in his lawyerly fashion, was being disingenuous. Three years earlier, when two American journalists reported that an elite, US-trained military unit had massacred hundreds of villagers in El Mozote, Abrams told Congress that the story was commie propaganda, as he fought for more US aid to El Salvador's military. The massacre, as has since been confirmed, was real. And in 1993 after a UN truth commission, which examined 22,000 atrocities that occurred during the twelve-year civil war in El Salvador, attributed 85 percent of the abuses to the Reagan-assisted right-wing military and its death-squad allies, Abrams declared, "The Administration's record on El Salvador is one of fabulous achievement." Tell that to the survivors of El Mozote.

But it wasn't his lies about mass murder that got Abrams into trouble. After a contra resupply plane was shot down in 1986, Abrams, one of the coordinators of Reagan's pro-contra policy (along with the NSC's Oliver North and the CIA's Alan Fiers), appeared several times before Congressional committees and withheld information on the Administration's connection to the secret and private contra-support network. He also hid from Congress the fact that he had flown to London (using the name "Mr. Kenilworth") to solicit a $10 million contribution for the contras from the Sultan of Brunei. At a subsequent closed-door hearing, Democratic Senator Thomas Eagleton blasted Abrams for having misled legislators, noting that Abrams's misrepresentations could lead to "slammer time." Abrams disagreed, saying, "You've heard my testimony." Eagleton cut in: "I've heard it, and I want to puke." On another occasion, Republican Senator Dave Durenberger complained, "I wouldn't trust Elliott any further than I could throw Ollie North." Even after Abrams copped a plea with Independent Counsel Lawrence Walsh, he refused to concede that he'd done anything untoward. Abrams's Foggy Bottom services were not retained by the First Bush, but he did include Abrams in his lame-duck pardons of several Iran/contra wrongdoers.

Abrams was as nasty a policy warrior as Washington had seen in decades. He called foes "vipers." He said that lawmakers who blocked contra aid would have "blood on their hands"--while he defended US support for a human-rights-abusing government in Guatemala. When Oliver North was campaigning for the Senate in 1994 and was accused of having ignored contra ties to drug dealers, Abrams backed North and claimed "all of us who ran that program...were absolutely dedicated to keeping it completely clean and free of any involvement by drug traffickers." Yet in 1998 the CIA's own inspector general issued a thick report noting that the Reagan Administration had collaborated with suspected drug traffickers while managing the secret contra war.

So Bush the Compassionate may hand the White House portfolio on human rights to the guy who lied and wheedled to aid and protect human-rights abusers. As Adm. William Crowe Jr. said of Abrams in 1989, "This snake's hard to kill."

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IT REMAINS RELEVANT. DON'T FORGET ABOUT DAVID CORN'S BOOK, The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception (Crown Publishers). A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER! An UPDATED and EXPANDED EDITION is NOW AVAILABLE in PAPERBACK. The Washington Post says, "This is a fierce polemic, but it is based on an immense amount of research....[I]t does present a serious case for the president's partisans to answer....Readers can hardly avoid drawing...troubling conclusions from Corn's painstaking indictment." The Los Angeles Times says, "David Corn's The Lies of George W. Bush is as hard-hitting an attack as has been leveled against the current president. He compares what Bush said with the known facts of a given situation and ends up making a persuasive case." The Library Journal says, "Corn chronicles to devastating effect the lies, falsehoods, and misrepresentations....Corn has painstakingly unearthed a bill of particulars against the president that is as damaging as it is thorough." And GEORGE W. BUSH SAYS, "I'd like to tell you I've read [ The Lies of George W. Bush], but that'd be a lie."

For more information and a sample, go to www.davidcorn.com. And see his WEBLOG there.

Small But Sweet Victories: Part 2

Earlier this week, I wrote about some small but sweet election victories which progressives should be celebrating. I ended by asking readers to send me victories they believed were worth highlighting. The response was overwhelming. Please read a selection of the letters below. Many thanks to all those who took the time to write and apologies to those whose good letters we weren't able to include.

In Minnesota 13 new Democrats were elected to the House of Representatives. This sharp increase in Democratic representation came about because of voter opposition to the failure of the Republican-controlled House to pass a bonding bill to fund much-needed road and higher education construction; cuts in education, welfare, and health care funding; and passage of conceal/carry gun laws, gay marriage, and regressive school standards, all driven by Republican House members' pledges to not raise taxes. Given this voter mandate, the new legislature will no longer be able to use religious right issues to mask having to deal with declining education, welfare, and health care funding.

Richard Beach, Minneapolis, MN

*****

Here in North Carolina, we elected our first openly gay member of the General Assembly. Democrat Julia Boseman, a former New Hanover County (Southeastern part of state) Commissioner, will represent that county in the North Carolina Senate.

B.J. Eversole, Wilmington, NC

*****

The Los Angeles City Council unanimously adopted the nation's most aggressive anti-sweatshop ordinance by a unanimous vote after two years of lobbying by local unions, sweatshop workers, clergy and activists.

Tom Hayden, Los Angeles, CA

*****

Colorado replaced the Republican State Legislature (both houses) with a Democratic legislature (both houses.)

Corlyn Seifer, Littleton, CO

*****

Bucking national trends, one third of the Dean Dozens candidates won their respective races at the national, state, and local levels.

Corinne Marasco, Kingstowne, VA

*****

In the category of small but important victories, we should include the election of Bob Hasegawa to the Washington State House of Representatives.

Hasegawa was for nine years the principal officer of Teamsters Local 174, the largest trucking local in the Northwest, following several years as head of the State Teamsters for Democratic Union. During the WTO demonstrations in Seattle, perhaps a majority of the Teamsters in the "Teamsters and Turtles" garb were from his local. He's a long-time leader in the progressive and Asian-American communities.

What's significant about Hasegawa's victory, beyond his background and politics, is that he's determined not to just be another "good vote." He plans to use his position to develop a popular movement in his largely working-class district. He hopes to hold meetings throughout the area to develop a "people's legislative agenda" that reflects the wants and needs of his constituents.

Paul Bigman, Seattle, WA

*****

In Massachusetts, Democrats picked up three seats in the legislature despite the Republican governor's attempt to promote conservative and anti-gay marriage lawmakers.

Victoria Fowlre, Boston, MA

*****

Here in the Central Valley of California we elected a Democratic State Senator against the endorsement of Governor Schwarzenegger and major money from the large land developers. In Yolo County we pay a lot of attention to preservation of farm land and the prevention of sprawl so common in other places in California. Even though the campaign got nasty, the Democrat prevailed. In fact, the Governor lost every one of the candidates he backed, further proof that Californians may register Republican but when it comes to voting they go moderate or Democrat.

Martie Dote, Woodland, CA

*****

A small bit of good news from Massachusetts: A very progressive Democrat just won a seat on the Governor's Council, the body that signs off on (or blocks) judicial appointments. Peter Vickery beat out better funded Democrats in the primary, and a substantially more well-funded Independent in the general election. Given that the conservative Democrats and the Republicans in Massachusetts want to get the gay marriage decision overturned, this is actually a pretty important victory.

Joe Gabriel, Northampton, MA

*****

Oregonians defeated a Tort reform bill that would have put a cap on jury awards for medical liability. The proponents said this change would lower our medical insurance premiums, but Oregonians voted (narrowly) against it. This is in-line with the recent Nation article about Tort reform in Texas. The country needs insurance reform and we hope Oregon can be an example.

Bill Ziebell, Central Point, Oregon

*****

Cincinnati voters overturned an 11 year charter amendment that prohibited city officials from passing any laws aimed at protecting gay and lesbian people.

William P. Fleischmann, Plymouth, MI

*****

Small (and not so small) victories in Red State Colorado: We not only replaced an outgoing Republican Senator and House member with Democrats but also reclaimed both the State House and Senate for the first time in 40+ years. In addition we defeated the Republican governor's request to overhaul the State personnel system by 61 percent to 39 percent and approved a referendum requiring the phase-in of renewable energy by 53 percent to 47 percent. In the Denver Metro area we passed a large light rail/mass transit funding initiative by 57 percent to 42 percent and extended funding for scientific and cultural facilities by an overwhelming margin. The vast majority of school tax and bond issues passed.

Andy Stone, Wheat Ridge, CO

*****

I am a middle aged woman and this is the first time that I got deeply involved in activism. I have always been a Democrat but this year I was very active in the Fairfax County Democratic Party. I was very passionate about the Bush Administration being voted out of office. I took election day off from work and I worked as a Democratic Poll Watcher.

Another bright light is that Kerry won Fairfax County--the largest in Virginia. This is the first time in 40 years that a Democrat has won Fairfax County. He won by a 6 percent margin.

Susan Kent, Springfield, VA

*****

Democrats in Iowa gained 5 seats in the State Senate so that it is now split evenly with Republicans.

Carlo Veltri, Cedar Falls, IA

*****

My younger brother, Commissioner Todd Portune, Democrat, was re-elected by a large majority in heavily conservative Hamilton County, Ohio. (You may recall that this area of the Buckeye State, which includes the city of Cincinnati, once took its own art museum to court for daring to exhibit Robert Mapplethorpe's work.)

In this repressive atmosphere, Todd has managed to stay true to his progressive ideas and goals, and yet somehow become the first Democrat elected to his post in over 35 years. His is a voice of intelligence, compassion, tolerance and reason in a county which has for too long advocated none of the above. And he has succeeded in appealing to voters on both sides of the political fence, an accomplishment to which our party should aspire on a national level.

Bob Portune Cresskill, NJ

*****

Seventeen-term Illinois Republican Rep. Phil Crane was defeated by progressive Democrat Melissa Bean. Crane had a 0 percent lifetime AFL-CIO voting record. Bean's major criticism of Crane was that he had grown complacent and had failed to change with the times and stand up for working people. She cited as prime examples his voting to cut student loans, allowing exploratory oil drilling on Lake Michigan and supporting privatization of Social Security.

Crane fought back, calling his opponent out about not living in the district, claiming Bean would raise taxes if elected and saying she flip-flopped in support of the Bush tax plan. He failed to make the usual Republican attacks stick to Bean.

Dennis Barker, Collinsville, IL

*****

In Maine, Green Independent John Eder was redistricted into a Democratic incumbent's district for the State House of Representatives in an effort to defeat the Green presence in Augusta. It didn't work as Eder won 55 percent of the vote in a three-way race. Democrats ought to learn from this. Gerrymandering in Maine is just as wrong as it is in Texas.

Daniel Jenkins, Timonium MD

*****

Here in Portland, progressive Democrat Tom Potter, who was endorsed by Howard Dean, won the mayoral race by a large margin.

Anthony Johnson, Portland OR

*****

In Utah (despite giving Bush an incredible 70 percent of its votes) there were some small victories (perhaps one not so small). We now have a county governor who is a Democrat and all three "at large" county council seats are held by Democrats as well.

Also, Jim Matheson managed to hang on to his Congressional seat despite a nasty campaign run by his Republican opponent.

Minor victories to be sure; however, in a state like Utah, believe me, every little victory is a sweet blessing.

Valerie Heath-Harrison, Kearns UT

Thomas Jefferson on George Bush

"A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles. It is true that in the meantime we are suffering deeply in spirit, and incurring the horrors of a war and long oppressions of enormous public debt. But If the game runs sometimes against us at home we must have patience till luck turns, and then we shall have an opportunity of winning back the principles we have lost, for this is a game where principles are at stake."

--Thomas Jefferson, June 4, 1798, in a letter to John Taylor after passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts.