Last week, Katrina vanden Heuvel and Sam Graham-Felsen pointed to the wave of antiwar resolutions coming from America's cities, labor organizations, and religious groups as a sign of the mainstreaming of antiwar sentiment.
The local character of the more than 500 antiwar events planned nationally this weekend to mark the third anniversary of the invasion is yet another example of the widening of dissatisfaction with the president's war. From potlucks in Fairbanks to a rally by a recruitment station in Tucson to Barbara Lee's Iraq Town Hall in Oakland to interfaith peace prayers in Denver to a march to Rep. Katherine Harris' office in Sarasota to Congressional office visits in Boise to a peace march in Tulsa, there are far too many signs of popular unrest with Bush's Iraq policy for, hopefully, even the politicians to ignore. (Read Ari Berman's new Notion post for more on that.) Check the United for Peace & Justice website for a good calendar of events nationwide organized by state. And click here to sign UFPJ's petition to Congress to vote to stop funding the war.
One of the glitzier events on the slate--the Bring 'Em Home Now! concert--takes place Monday, March 20, at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City. Speakers, including RadioNation's Laura Flanders, Cindy Sheehan, Susan Sarandon, Margaret Cho, Chuck D and Anthony Arnove will join musical guests Michael Stipe, Rufus Wainwright, Peaches, Steve Earle, Devendra Banhart, Bright Eyes and Fischerspooner in what should be a long but entertaining (and certainly worthwhile) evening. Doors open at 7:00 for the 8:00 show. For ticket info go to TICKETMASTER.COM or call 212-807-7171. The gate will be split by Gold Star Families, Veterans for Peace and Iraq Veterans Against the War.
On the day the Bush Administration renewed its commitment to preemptive war--and conveniently launched the largest air strikes in Iraq since March 2003--a conference of security experts assembled at the Center for America Progress to examine just how that preemptive test case is going.
Not so hot. And conditions on the ground threaten to move from bad to worse.
"Where are we?" asked Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor under Jimmy Carter and the day's keynote speaker. "We are in a mess," he said, echoing comments he told me recently.
"American legitimacy has been undermined...American morality has been stained...American credibility has been shattered."
Where are we headed?
The US is caught in two wars in Iraq: insurgents against occupiers and Sunnis against Shiites.
"The US umbrella, designed to stifle them, but so porous it perpetuates them, keep these wars alive."
What should we do?
The Bush Administration "is not capable to make a cold judgement or look at alternatives because of their stake in past misjudgments: in some cases, lies, in some cases, crimes."
According to Brzezinski, the US should ask Iraqi leaders to ask us to leave. And we should set a date for our departure, roughly by the end of this year.
The Democrats, through their silence and evasiveness, have made themselves largely irrelevant from this debate. Even though dissatisfaction with the war is causing President Bush's approval ratings to plummet, a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll finds. Even though "a congressional candidate favoring withdrawal of all US troops within a year would gain favor by 50%-35 percent, while one who advocates staying 'as long as necessary' would lose favor by 43%-39 percent," the WSJ writes.
How bad do the numbers have to get before the Democratic Party, as a whole, takes a clear stand on the war, or a prominent Republican utters Senator George Aiken's famous words: "The best policy is to declare victory and get out."
The editors at the New York Times belatedly decided that SenatorRuss Feingold's censure resolution is front-page news after all. Onlytheir storytoday has a cute twist: Censure is actually good news for the Republicans. The very notion that Bush should be called to account inflames the right-wingers and this will get the "conservative base" tovote in the Fall.
That is the logic being peddled by the White House, Republican NationalCommittee, right-wing frothers and other authoritative sources.
The Times swallowed whole, without chewing. Play it out. IfBush got impeached, bingo for the GOP. If indicted by a renegadeprosecutor, even better. If he is subpoened by a Spanish magistrateinvestigating "crimes against humanity," well, you couldn't top that.Meanwhile, the Warrior President is sinking of his own soggy substance.
It's easy enough to poke fun at the NYT's brittle grasp ofpolitics, but give them credit. At least they put Senator Feingold'sstory out front. Quoted Rush Limbaugh and Paul Weyrich, the WallStreet Journal editorial page, the RNC spokesman, even gave thesenator a few sentences. The Times also mentioned "ImpeachBush" activists on the left, though evidently didn't talk with any ofthem.
Let me play assignment editor: For a follow-up story. go out andactually talk to some of those lefties, ask them for their particularsand then interview some constitutional scholars on whether theseaccusations have any merit, given the facts we know.
Then go back to your right-wing sources ask them to compare the chargesagainst Bush with the impeachment charges Republicans launched againstBill Clinton. Do they now regret putting the country through thatsordid spectacle? Mightn't they want to apologize?
This story has legs. A smart newspaper will get out in front.
In a 1990 cover story for The Nation, Contributing Editor Kai Bird called Jimmy Carter "the very model of an ex-president." He described his work on human rights, education, preventive health care, and conflict resolution as a "return to the populist warpath, telling people what he perceives to be the hard truths on the larger issues."
Bird noted that his take on Carter wasn't altogether too common: "…he was never a liberal as defined by the party's traditional liberal constituency groups."
Yet more than 25 years later, Carter has become the moral standard-bearer for the progressive Democratic flank. As Patrick Doherty's recent Tompaine.com blog "Carter on A Roll," points out, this ex-President is courageously "calling a spade a spade today," breaking "the unwritten rule that former Presidents shall not contradict sitting Presidents on major issues of policy."
Just the other day, the former President called the Iraq war unjust, unnecessary and based on false pretenses. (He's been saying that for some three years now.) The next day, Carter published an op-ed ("Colonization of Palestine Precludes Peace") arguing that the main obstacle to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is Israel's occupation of Palestinian lands.
Many progressive Democrats today stand with Carter as he speaks out on the toughest issues of our time, like torture, Iraq, the Middle East conflict and domestic surveillance. Yet it is equally clear that there is another kind of Democrat who ducks and dodges where Carter engages. And when it comes to calling out those so-called "leaders" who triangulate, capitulate, and calculate, Carter shares the mantle as standard-bearer with a fearless, tireless, truth-telling warrior of a reporter: Molly Ivins.
In her recent column, "Enough of the D.C. Dems," Ivins characteristically pulls no punches in writing of Washington Democrats' "sheer gutlessness and spinelessness" on Iraq, public campaign financing, and national healthcare.
She urges progressives to find a candidate and start organizing now in order to lock-up the nomination. "What happens now is not up to the has-beens in Washington who run this party. It is up to us. So let's get off our butts and start building a progressive movement that can block the nomination of Hillary Clinton or any other candidate who supposedly has ‘all the money sewed up.' "
When it comes to style of delivery, Jimmy and Molly couldn't be more different. But as for substance, these two kindred souls are blazing a trail for every good small d democrat to follow.
The Republican National Committee has made a remarkable discovery. U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, the Wisconsin Democrat who has long been thought to be an outsider in the Senate Democratic Caucus, is not a maverick at all.
It turns out that Feingold is a "Democratic leader" who, according to RNC researchers, is pretty much setting the party's agenda.
In one of a series of talking-points memos distributed from the Republican headquarters in Washington since Feingold proposed on Monday that the president should be censured, the senator's photo appears next to a bold headline that declares: "THE DEBATE IS OVER: DEMS FIND THEIR AGENDA." A subhead reads: "Dem Leaders 'Ecstatically' Embrace Sen. Feingold's Plan To Weaken The Tools To Fight The War On Terror."
Apart from the fact that the underlying premise of the memo is inaccurate - there's no Democratic plan to weaken the tools to fight the war on terror, which has already been effectively undermined by the misguided invasion and occupation of Iraq and determination of the White House to treat "homeland security" as a slogan rather than an imperative - the RNC's announcement makes what, even in these hyperbolic times, is a remarkable claim.
Not only has Feingold proposed censuring President Bush for authorizing illegal eavesdropping on the telephone conversations of American citizens but, according to the Republican memorandums, this is now the "agenda" of the Democratic Party.
In a breathless headline, the RNC announces: "Dem Leaders (Are) Embracing (Feingold's) Plan To Censure President For Intercepting Foreign Terrorists Before They Hit Us Again."
It would probably be a bit picayune to note that Feingold does not want to stop intercepting foreign terrorists. He just wants the president to follow the law when listening in on phone calls placed by American citizens on American soil.
But what's really intriguing about the "news" that Democratic leaders have gotten on board for the Feingold plan is the fact that, well, they haven't done so. Indeed, there is little evidence that Washington Democrats are in any more of a fighting mood this year than they were in 2002 or 2004.
Only two senators, Iowa's Tom Harkin and California's Barbara Boxer, have expressed clear support for Feingold's censure proposal.
The statements of support from Harkin and Boxer quoted in the RNC memos, which have been widely circulated to reporters, pundits and politicos in Washington and beyond. But so too are statements from Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, and Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry that are portrayed as endorsements even though Reid, Durbin and Kerry have only said that Feingold is a "man of principle" and that the censure motion is "interesting" as a "catalyst" for debate.
Feingold read those comments as a tepid response from Democratic leaders and said so. "I'm amazed at Democrats ... cowering with this president's numbers so low," he told reporters. "The administration ... just has to raise the specter of the war on terror, and Democrats run and hide."
MoveOn.org, similarly concerned, launched an online campaign to get Democratic senators to back the censure motion. The campaign proved so popular, gaining more than 200,000 signatures on pro-censure petitions in a day, that MoveOn upped its goal from 250,000 signatures to 350,000 signatures. But MoveOn still expresses concern: "Right now it's unclear how many of Senator Feingold's colleagues will stand with him in this important fight."
The online activists must not have gotten the memo from the RNC.
Of course, the MoveOn folks are a cynical bunch. They may think that these RNC memos suggest a "they-doth-protest-too-much" scenario in which the Republicans are trying to "spin" the censure debate in a manner that causes the actual if spineless leaders of the Democratic Party to distance themselves from the one member of the Senate Democratic Caucus who has decided to raise fundamental questions about the illegal actions of the administration.
Really cynical folks might even conclude that -- with polling showing Americans do want the president and his administration held to account -- the Republicans have an ulterior motive. By scaring Democratic leaders off and forcing the censure issue back into the closet before, the White House political team can again spin away a serious threat to the president -- much like the threat that Karl Rove admitted he feared could have emerged in the 2004 presidential election if, instead of Kerry, Democrats had nominated a presidential candidate who aggressively challenged administration's Iraq policies.
But the Republicans need not worry. As long as most congressional Democrats continue to "cower," the wedge that divides those "leaders" from the party's base voters, as well as the many Republicans and independents who worry about warrantless wiretapping, will remain firmly in place. And prospects for the fundamental political debate about this administration's misdeeds remain almost as slim as in the 2002 and 2004 election cycles.
Want another way, other than Bush's rock-bottom poll numbers, to measure the depth of the Republican crisis?
Take a look at what happened late Wednesday night out here in California. Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's centerpiece proposal for re-election went down in smoking flames -- mostly because of Republican opposition.
During his January State of the State address, Arnold had proposed an FDR-scale $222 billion plan for the rebuilding of California's infrastructure. The ambitious and popular plan, the most massive in state history, which would have built new roads, levees, schools, bike and foot paths, parks and rail lines was a shrewd political move to the center by a governor whose previous set of conservative "reform" proposals were shredded last fall in a special election.
While the past few weeks had seen furious off-and-on negotiations between the Governor and the legislature's majority Democrats to put an infrastructure agreement on the June ballot, Schwarzenegger never did get his own party on board.
Actually, that's a gross understatement. To get the 2/3 majority vote he needed to succeed, the Republican Governor only had to secure the support of two GOP state senators and only six GOP assembly members. Democrats were ready to support a deal.
But the governor failed to deliver his own party. As the clock ticked toward a midnight deadline last night, the legislature hung Arnold out to dry and purposefully reached no agreement. It's possible that some future and vastly trimmed-down deal will be struck. But for the moment, the governor has been stranded with virtually nothing left to run on in his November re-election quest.
The whole episode raises serious questions about what, if any, strategic sense California Republicans have. Already a big underdog party in a very blue California, the only thing Republicans had going for them was the movie star governor.
But ideological dogma has, apparently, gotten in the way of realpolitik. California's Republican legislators have succumbed to their chronic taxaphobia and have seriously jeopardized, if not torpedoed, their own governor's chance of re-election.
Former Sacramento-based Democratic political consultant Bill Bradley is all over the developing story. Bradley says the whole affair reveals what a "rookie" Schwarzenegger still is after nearly three years in office. A rookie who now might be headed right for the showers.
The patient reader can find much to entertain and enlighten in theNew York Times, if one searches diligently. I came acrossthis pearl today, entitled "Editors' Note."
"The cover photograph in The Times Magazine on Sunday renderedcolors incorrectly for the jacket, shirt and tie worn by Mark Warner,the former Virginia governor who is a possible candidate for thepresidency. The jacket was charcoal, not maroon; the shirt was lightblue, not pink; the tie was dark blue with stripes, not maroon."
The editors blamed this on the film. "The change escaped noticebecause of a misunderstanding by the editors." I wanted to read more.Did editors disagree on whether pink is blue? Or did Governor Warnerlook more presidential in a maroon jacket? The Times did notelaborate.
Turning to the hard news, I began looking for a story I had assumedwould be on page one--the record current accounts deficit of $804billion reported for 2005. The total is up 20 percent and is ominousnews. It describes America's deepening financial dependency on foreigncreditors--China, Japan and others--thanks to trade deficits anddeindustrialization. People who got upset by the Dubai port deal wouldbe apoplectic if they understood the meaning.
Searching, searching, searching. I did finally find thestory on C8, the Real Estate page in the Times businesssection. It was buried under a feature, "Career Switchers Add New DepthTo Talent Pool in Real Estate." Actually, the trade numbers didn'teven get a headline, only a couple of paragraphs in story on Februaryretail sales. The Washington Post did worse--a short squib in "InternationalBriefing." The Wall Street Journal chose an upbeat approach. "Foreign investors' appetite for US assets remained strong..."
What's going on here? Why are the leading newspapers suppressing thisstory when arguably it is the most serious threat of all to America'sfuture? The bloggers who went to arms over Dubai ought to get on thecase and hammer the reporters and editors for explanations. Theguerillas will encounter the same elite opacity that surrounded theDubai issue. Why disturb ignorant readers with this complicatedsubject? It might arouse xenophobic reactions. Let's make the worldlook pink instead of dark blue.
Watch the news out of House Speaker Dennis Hastert's office today. It may well be the site of the best the debate about the continued funding of the U.S. occupation of Iraq.
Anti-war activists plan to visit the Illinois Republican's office this afternoon and to begin reading aloud the names of U.S. soldiers and Iraqis killed in the war. They say they won't stop until Hastert meets with them to discuss the $67 billion "supplemental" military spending bill that is scheduled for a House vote late today.
They want Hastert to agree to oppose the White House's request for the additional money top fund wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
That's not going to happen, as Hastert is a reliable rubberstamp for White House initiatives.
But the confrontation could draw additional attention to the upcoming vote -- and to the broader issue of the administration's abuse of supplemental spending bills to fund the fighting -- which has received far less coverage than it should from the Washington press corps.
The names will be read by Toledoan Mike Ferner, a Vietnam-era vet, and Chicagoan Jeff Leys, members of Voices for Creative Nonviolence (VCNV), who began a water-only fast and daily vigil at the Capitol since February 15, the third anniversary of global protests against invasion of Iraq, that is scheduled to end on the anniversary of the invasion, March 20.
One thing I've always found perplexing is Wesley Clark's continued high-standing amongst the progressive blogosphere. For months he's consistently either won or placed second in the Daily Kos and MyDD straw polls, for example. Yesterday our ace DC intern Cora Currier bumped into Clark in the Senate and much to her surprise, wooing Nation readers was on the General's mind. I'm posting her dispatch below:
I was in Senator Carl Levin's office yesterday talking to an aide when General Wesley Clark strode into the room. He was waiting for a meeting and sat down on the couch near us. Levin's aide asked where I worked and when I replied, "The Nation," Clark jumped into the conversation. Introducing himself, he said: "Now, how are we going to get Nation readers to vote for someone like me?" I didn't know what to say. "I'm a military man," he continued, "and the military scares liberals. They say, oh, no, he's bombed people. People forget that as commander of NATO I was in charge of school children, and communities." He left soon after but gave me his card. "Nation," he said again, pointing to himself.
Let's take our own highly unscientific straw poll. If Clark runs again, would you support him?
Bill Clinton certainly had his flaws as a President. He was a militant free trader, who used all of his political skills to win support for the North American Free Trade Agreement, permanent normalization of trade policy with China and a host of other initiatives that slowly but surely kicked the legs out from under American workers, communities and industries. His welfare, education and telecommunications reforms were bumbling at best, and more often malignant. He showed only slightly more respect for the Constitution than the current president, and his military misadventures and meddling in the affairs of other countries suggest that he had no respect at all for George Washington's warning about avoiding "foreign entanglements."
But Clinton's presidency saw significant progress on some fronts, including the signing of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, a tax increase that reversed the growth in federal deficits that had ballooned during the spending-spree presidency of Ronald Reagan, the nation's last minimum-wage increase and a period of economic growth that lasted long enough to actually begin to modestly improve the circumstance of the country's poor. The relative health of the economy during the second term of his presidency surely contributed to the 65 percent approval rating that Clinton took with him when he left the White House, which represented the highest end-of-term enthusiasm level for any President in the post-Eisenhower era.
Clinton remains a beloved figure in many circles, and that surely accounts for the substantial continuing interest in the former president and his life – and interest that has created something of a tourist boom for tiny Hope, Arkansas, the community where the 42nd president grew up.
Last week, the U.S. House voted on a perfunctory measure authorizing the Secretary of the Interior to designate the President William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home in Hope, Arkansas, as a National Historic Site and unit of the National Park System. It is notable that, at a time when Republicans are banging away on critics of the Bush administration for not respecting the office of the presidency, the vote was not the unanimous show of approval that might have been expected.
Republican members of the House forced a roll-call vote -- extremely rare on such matters -- and a dozen of them then voted against so honoring Clinton's birthplace.
The "no" votes came from Tennessee's Marsha Blackburn, Florida's Ginny Brown-Waite, Utah's Chris Cannon, California's John Doolittle, Virginia's Virgil Goode, Oklahoma's Ernest Istook, Texan Ron Paul, Pennsylvania's Bill Shuster, Georgia's Lynn Westmoreland and North Carolinians Virginia Foxx, Walter Jones and Patrick McHenry.
Ron Paul gets a pass. The former Libertarian Party presidential candidate is against just about everything the government does.
Give Walter Jones a pass, as well. He's a principled critic of the free-trade policies of both the Clinton and Bush administrations, who says, "If it had been a historic site for George W. Bush, I would have voted against it. I've seen this country outsource jobs and outsource security. I can't even get money for people of my district."
But what about the rest of these "no" voters? Were they just so offended by Clinton's personal transgressions that they could not bring themselves to help a little town in southwest Arkansas stir up some tourism?
Istook's spokesman said the congressman "has never been a big fan of Bill Clinton" – which was, at least, honest. But many of the other members suggested that they had ethical problems with Clinton.
"There are a lot of things to be concerned about, but designating this as a historic site is a joke," growled McHenry, who said of Clinton: "history has not made a final judgment on his presidency," and then added as an aside: "Maybe it should be a landmark. He is only the second president to be impeached."
Brown-Waite, who forced the roll-call vote on the designation, grumbled that: "(Clinton) has some explaining to do."
Frankly, this is an interesting crew to set itself up as the defenders of political virtue and elective ethics.
Indeed, we could be looking at something of a "people-who-live-in-glass-houses" scenario here, considering the fact that:
• Doolittle's name has been more closely associated with that of Jack Abramoff, the GOP "super lobbyist" who pleaded guilty to three felony corruption charges in January, than any member of the House except DeLay and Ohio Republican Bob Ney, accepted more than $100,000 in contributions from the lobbyist and his clients. Doolittle wrote letters and contacted federal agencies on behalf of those clients. The congressman has, as well, been linked to San Diego businessman Brent Wilkes, who has been implicated in the November bribery conviction of former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham.
• Istook took $29,000 from Abramoff and his lobbying partners and, according to the Associated Press, repeatedly signed letters on behalf of Abramoff clients after accepting those contributions.
• Shuster had to give away campaign contributions from Abramoff and his associates after the scandal blew up.• Westmoreland accepted more than $15,000 from former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's ARMPAC, was a leader in efforts to apply ethics standards to DeLay and has been repeatedly linked to "K Street Project" concerns. Westmoreland is, as well, a close ally Abramoff-tied lobbyist Ralph Reed, and an active supporter of Reeds campaign for lieutenant governor of Georgia this year.
• Foxx also accepted $15,000 from DeLay's ARMPAC and also voted to weaken House ethics rules in order to protect her mentor.
• Blackburn's another major recipient of DeLay's largesse and a loyal ally of the indicted ex-leader, having contributed $5,000 to DeLay's legal defense fund. McHenry's one of DeLay's biggest defenders in the House, having declared after the Texan's legal troubles arose that, "I think in this situation Tom DeLay has become a whipping post for all the liberals in Washington."
• Brown-Waite took $20,000 from DeLay's ARMPAC, voted to weaken the ethics rules, contributed to DeLay's legal defense fund. She also met with Abramoff and took money from his clients.
• Cannon took thousands of dollars from associates of Abramoff and then actually hired one of them, David Safavian, to be his chief of staff.
• Goode, along with his friend Duke Cunningham, has been linked to the defense contractor MZM – the company accused of bribing Cunningham with millions of dollars in exchange for defense contracts. Goode recently donated $88,000 in political contributions he had received from MZM and its associates to charity. According to a USA Today investigation: "In more than 30 instances, donations from MZM's political action committee or company employees went to two members of the House Appropriations Committee -- Cunningham and Rep. Virgil Goode, R-Va. -- in the days surrounding key votes or contract awards that helped MZM grow."