In a recent speech, Vice President Dick Cheney trotted out the Republicans' ugly, low-road campaign tactic of positioning themselves as strong and the Democrats as weak on national security. Nothing new there.
But what was really worth noting is that Cheney essentially called Ronald Reagan a cut-and-runner, who had emboldened the extremists with his withdrawal from Beirut in 1983. Hardball's Chris Mathews kept re-running this quote two evenings ago, and did not even understand the political significance that Cheney was calling the hero of the conservative movement an appeaser of Islamic fascism.
Champagne is still bubbling over Ned Lamont's primary victory over war apologist and Bush-snogger Joe Lieberman, and I'm as happy about it as anyone. Lamont's win is a triumph for (small d)democratic participation (since too few incumbents are challenged). It also represents a (rare) show of power for grass-roots organizing, sends a clear message to the Democratic Party about Iraq and -- most importantly, and unusually -- punishes a politician for being wrong. Deeply, fatally, immorally wrong.
But allow me for a moment to rain on this victory parade. Most major labor unions supported Lieberman, and the AFL-CIO is even planning to sit out the general election rather than support Lamont, rendering the group even more pathetic than Hillary Clinton, who this time -- to her credit -- not only said she would respect the decision of the voters, but wrote Lamont a $5,000 check. The unions' stance is partly understandable. Lieberman's voting record on labor issues is not bad, and Lamont was an unknown quantity (as well as a boss whose own workforce is not unionized, and a member of the super-rich community). But Lieberman's support of the bankruptcy "reform" bill, which was written by the credit card industry and will cause immense financial hardship for working Americans, should have given the unions pause. And even more importantly, unions should be thinking about how to connect with the organized grassroots liberalism -- given voice by the blogosphere, the former Deaniacs, MoveOn.com -- that Lamont represents, or they are doomed to ever more irrelevance. And let's not let those grassroots liberals off the hook either; next time they line up behind an unknown wealthy candidate like Lamont, they should pressure that person to be much smarter on issues that directly affect working America. A gang of pissed-off yuppies isn't -- by itself -- going to make serious social change. As powerful -- and perhaps, headed for victory -- as the Lamont campaign is, it would be so much stronger if labor and the anti-war netroots could work together. That would not only guarantee a win in November: it would be a coalition with a real future.
According to the Washington Post, British Petroleum was told by employees that the company was not sufficiently monitoring and repairing its Alaskan Prudhoe Bay pipeline in February, 2004.
"If we find [a] pipe that we know is rotten, they have to replace it," said an unidentified employee in a BP report. "My concern, however, is that they are not taking a look at every piece of pipe that they need to be."
The report goes on to say, "Contractors, suppliers and the conservation community were concerned about BP's purported drive to support the highest standards, yet push for reduced costs in its operations."
And, according to environmental lawyer, Peter van Tuyn of Anchorage, "[BP has] known about these problems for a long time and promised for many years to fix them, and they haven't done so."
How many times do we need to learn the same old lesson? For Big Oil, it's about Big Bucks and nothing more. And despite record profits, these companies fail to take adequate safeguards. Consequently, Americans are being asked to foot the bill for – at best, corporate irresponsibility – at worst, corporate crime.
Representative Sherrod Brown – running for Senate against Oil-subsidy-buddy, Mike DeWine – notes that oil companies are currently earning $1,300 per second while consumers suffer at the pump and Republicans continue to vote for billions in oil subsidies.
Representative Edward Markey told the New York Times, "With oil above $70 per barrel and BP making record profits, it can afford to properly clean and maintain its pipelines. This sudden loss of production will dramatically increase oil prices and the American people will be footing the bill for this combined failure of D.O.T.'s regulatory oversight and BP's corporate responsibility."
This most recent example of Big Oil screw-ups in Alaska should finally put to rest the ludicrous notion that oil companies can be trusted to drill for oil and gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (along with the fact that the US Geological Service estimates that ANWR drilling wouldn't supply even one year of US domestic consumption nor would it hit the market for 10 years!). Sure, there will be some head-in-the-sand types such as Senate Energy Committee chairman, Pete Domenici, who will twist this nightmare into a call for more drilling at home. But for the rest of us who live on this planet the important question is this: What now?
Consider what longtime consumer advocate Ralph Nader proposes: a profit-based "extraction tax" to be levied on oil companies to be used for development of alternative fuels and vehicle efficiency; a tough price-gouging law; and campaign finance reform that limits the ability of Big Oil to influence lawmakers through extravagant campaign contributions.
But, above all, during this time of greed and unprecedented environmental degradation – isn't it time to rally around a new Apollo Project to develop a sane energy policy that also addresses our climate crisis? (On the same day that the BP story broke, the New York Times reported that the last seven months were the warmest on record – "almost certainly related in part to the continuing buildup of heat-trapping smokestack and tailpipe gases linked to global warming," said Jay Lawrimore of the National Climatic Data Center).
Senate Democrats have signaled a substantive step in the right direction with the Clean EDGE Act, which Senator Harry Reid says "…will expand the use of renewable and alternative fuels, provide relief from high prices and put America firmly on the path towards energy independence." Henry Waxman and Nancy Pelosi have also co-sponsored the related Safe Climate Act.
And the Large Cities Climate Leadership Group – led by the mayor of London, Ken Livingstone – has formed a consortium of 22 of the world's biggest cities to purchase energy-saving products and reduce emissions of heat-trapping gases.
It's not only the right thing to do, it makes business sense too. Environment California Research & Policy Center tells of 12 pioneering businesses and institutions in California that have reduced their global warming impact by more than 100 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per year, while saving more than $13 million annually.
Nader writes, "With all the websites and blogs, why can't a million energy consumers band together to start one big energy reform rumble that will be heard by both Washington and the oil giants?"
We can. It begins this November. Make sure your representatives make substantive commitments to energy independence and greenhouse gas reductions.
It's time to rumble.
I walked out of the metro in Washington yesterday to find Union Station cordoned off, with police everywhere. "Suspicious package," a cop told me. We have a lot of those down here these days.
When I got to work and turned on my computer I read the news of the foiled London terror plot.
If you feel safer now than you did before September 11 and before we invaded Iraq, kudos, because I sure don't.
Those of us who live in the big targets--Washington, New York, Boston, LA, SF, Seattle, etc--have internalized the terror threat. We don't freak out when warned of suspicious packages, or when we have to evacuate mass transit, or when the Bush Administration tells us that insurgents in Iraq are aiming for our shores (Crawford is inland).
Us blue city folk opposed the war in Iraq because we knew it would strengthen Al-Qaeda, not weaken it.
"The bungled occupation of Iraq has drawn new recruits to the jihadist cause around the world, and now the disproportionate Israeli assault on Lebanon is doing the same thing," Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson writes today. "We are at war with an ideology, and pounding it frontally just disperses it. It's like trying to smash mercury with a hammer."
A few days ago a friend joked that someone should start a 527 to find Osama. That's how far the Bush Administration has taken its eye off the ball.
Listening to the White House you'd think Ned Lamont and Jack Murtha were greater threats to our security than bin Laden, whose name Bush dares not utter.
Oh, and by the way, a suicide bomber killed 35 in the holy city of Najaf, Iraq, yesterday. Such savage attacks occur with increasingly regularity. And another suicide bomber killed a NATO soldier in Afghanistan, which is practically dead to the Bush Administration.
The fifth anniversary of 9/11 is a month away. How exactly are we "winning" the war on terror?
George Bush is vacationing in Texas, and members of Congress – with the notable exception of Nebraska Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, Ohio Democratic Representatives Dennis Kucinich and Marcy Kaptur and a handful of others – have taken the president's exit from Washington as an excuse to put any concerns regarding the crisis in the Middle East on hold until the dog days of August have passed.
Not so in Britain, where members of Parliament take more seriously there responsibility to consider what is being done in their name but without their informed consent.
With British Prime Minister Tony Blair following President Bush's "look-the-other-way" lead regarding Israel's continued bombing of civilian targets in Lebanon – with the death toll now hovering around 1,000, and the dislocation of more than 900,000 men, women and children – in a conflict that has also seen dozens of Israeli civilians killed by Hezbollah rocket attacks, leading members of Blair's own Labour party have joined with opposition legislators to demand the recall of Parliament to consider steps Britain could take to stop the killing.
Instead of putting their consciences on hold until the end of August – presumably waiting for the agonizingly slow United Nation deliberations to come up with a plan that will not be implemented until a lot more Lebanese and Israelis die -- more than 150 members of Parliament from across the political spectrum in Britain have signed a call to convene the House of Commons in an effort to promote an immediate ceasefire.
Writing to Commons leader Jack Straw – who last month criticized Blair for failing to condemn Israel's "disproportionate" use of force against civilian targets in Lebanon – the parliamentarians asked that Parliament be brought into session, and into the debate.
"There is huge concern in the country about the current Middle East crisis, and fear that the [Blair government's] early failure to insist that Israel and Hezbollah observe an immediate ceasefire has cost many innocent lives and may continue to do so," they members of Parliament wrote. "In addition, the use by US supply aircraft to refuel at Prestwick airport when transporting bombs and military hardware to be used by the Israel Defence Force in air-raids on densely populated civilian areas has given the impression that the UK has assumed a tacitly active and less than impartial role in the conflict."
Noting polls showing that 70 percent of Brits favor an immediate ceasefire, the letter argued that, "Given the massive concern in the country about these matters, we believe that it is right to allow the Commons to meet in order that the government's strategy can be fully discussed. Parliament is seriously hamstrung at times of crisis by the fact that only the government can recall parliament. It should be noted that 202 cross-party members of parliament have signed a petition calling for an immediate ceasefire.
"In light of the seriousness of current events and the overwhelming parliamentary and public interest in them, I urge you to give the utmost consideration to this letter. It is absolutely vital to the quality of democracy in the United Kingdom that elected representatives voice the concerns of our constituents at such a crucial time."
Here's a thought: If it is vital to democracy in the United Kingdom that legislators address the Middle East crisis, might it not also be vital to democracy in the United States that our Congress do the same thing? Or would that interrupt all the official vacationing?
Mayhem in Iraq. Global warming on the warpath. National debt to the moon. There's much to moan about. But it's the little things that sometimes can tick one off the most. For instance, in the news today of Ned Lamont's win over Joe Lieberman, there was the remark from Dick Cheney that suggested al Qaeda was buoyed by Lieberman's defeat. The veep said that anti-American terrorists are "betting on the proposition that ultimately they can break the will of the American people in terms of our ability to stay in the fight and complete the task. And when they see the Democratic Party reject one of its own, a man they selected to be their vice presidential nominee just a few short years ago, it would seem to say a lot about the state the party is in today."
Two points. First, it was Cheney's boss, George W. Bush, who ran for the presidency in 2000 vowing to change the tone of partisan political discourse in Washington. I know that's a promise that was never kept. But what a nasty shot from Cheney. Neither he nor Bush seem to realize that even though they are GOP partisans they are still president and the vice president of the entire nation and actually have a higher standard to meet than the usual political hacks (including those in their own employ). Yet they show no interest in doing so. Again, nothing new about that.
Second, the disruption of the latest suspected terrorist plot--the one to blow up airliners heading to the United States from London--illustrates that the evildoers are probably not developing their plans based on the outcome of primary elections in the Nutmeg State. Moreover, American policy should not be held hostage to what America's enemies want or don't want. The debate is over what's best for the United States (and the rest of the world). To suggest one path or another would hearten the "terrorists" is to avoid a serious discussion. But what else would you expect from a fellow who still believes he was right to say a year ago that the Iraqi insurgency was in its "last throes"?
If you want to know how Joe Lieberman undermines his former party on national security issues, just look at his response to the London terror arrests.
Democratic leaders reacted to the foiled plot by highlighting the importance of working with allies and the unwillingness of the Bush Administration to implement the 9/11 Commission's recommendations on airport security.
Lieberman used the occasion to blast Ned Lamont's position on the Iraq war.
"If we just pick up like Ned Lamont wants us to do, get out by a date certain, it will be taken as a tremendous victory by the same people who wanted to blow up these planes in this plot hatched in England," Lieberman said at a campaign stop for his lagging Independent bid. "It will strengthen them and they will strike again."
Lamont rightfully noted that Lieberman's attack "sounds an awful lot like Vice President Cheney's comment on Wednesday. Both of them believe our invasion of Iraq has a lot to do with 9/11. That's a false premise."
Yesterday, Cheney said a Lieberman loss would embolden Al-Qaeda.
Does anyone really believe that Islamic terrorists, strengthened by the war in Iraq and Israel's assault on Lebanon, are following a Senate race in Connecticut?
Do Republicans currently have a more useful ally than Lieberman?
Perhaps that's why Karl Rove's calling him and Ken Mehlmen's refusing to endorse the GOP nominee. Because right now Lieberman's the only credibility Republicans have left.
The Holy Land got just what it needed this week. A visit from Pat Robertson.
The founder of the Christian Coalition arrived in Israel on Wednesday for a three day show of solidarity. He prayed for a victory in Lebanon with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. He broadcast the 700 Club from a hotspot on the Israeli-Lebanon border.
Robertson has not always been so well-received in the Land of Milk and Honey. Last January he suggested that former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon fell into a coma after withdrawing from Gaza, which he termed "dividing God's land."
Yet Robertson is still an aging reflection of a growing movement of Christian Zionists, who not only back the most far right Israeli policies, but espouse a disturbingly end-of-days worldview.
Just read an excerpt from Robertson's recent interview with the Jerusalem Post:
Do you worry that we could be on the verge of some of the apocalyptic visions that are portrayed in the scriptures?
There was a prophet Ezekiel in the time of the Bible who wrote that in the last days there would be an invasion of Israel by a coalition that would include Iran, Russia, Turkey and the Sudan and Libya. God himself is going to defeat that great army that had come against his people. That is a prophecy of one of the Jewish prophets that has yet to be fulfilled. It said that it would be in the later days when Israel has been brought from the nations of the earth and are living in peace in their land.
Are we on the verge of this apocalyptic vision?
And don't forget that Robertson's evangelical followers also believe that Jews must be in ancient Judea and Samaria when the Messiah returns for Christians to reclaim their rightful land.
What they really want is the destruction of the people they claim to love.
There have already been some attempts to suggest that the defeat of U.S. Representative Cynthia McKinney in a Georgia Democratic primary on Tuesday offers a counterpoint to the defeat of Senator Joe Lieberman in his Connecticut primary.
After all, McKinney has been one of the most strident congressional critics of the Bush administration in general and the war in Iraq in particular, just as Lieberman has been one of the most strident Democratic supporters of the White House's foreign policy adventures.
But the challengers to Lieberman and McKinney were not so different as the defeated incumbents.
Lieberman was defeated by an outspoken critic of the Bush administration -- businessman Ned Lamont -- in Tuesday's Connecticut Democratic primary.
McKinney also defeated by an outspoken critic of the Bush administration -- DeKalb County Commissioner Hank Johnson -- in Tuesday's Georgia Democratic primary. And, unlike Lamont's challenge to Lieberman, Johnson's objections to McKinney's reelection focused largely on personal controversies rather than her political stances.
While McKinney was the more progressive contender in the Atlanta-area race, Johnson was no conservative.
Here's some of what Johnson said during the campaign regarding the foreign policy: "The War in Iraq is and always has been a mistake, and I have stood by this position since before Day One. The alleged weapons programs and stockpiles simply did not exist, and it is unacceptable that we are now engaged in such unnecessary and destructive conflict. The human toll is tragic, the economic burden enormous, the erosion of international respect for our country devastating. This war is a product of irresponsible and inept leadership..."
Here's what Johnson, an attorney, had to say about civil liberties and privacy concerns raised by President Bush's warrantless wiretapping program: "It's true that priorities shift during war. I understand that counter-terrorism agencies need the ability to more robustly protect us during these times. But our government is carefully crafted to protect our civil liberties and our privacy. This protection depends upon respect for the Constitutional checks and balances that keep each branch of government in line. Among these checks is the requirement that the executive branch obtain a warrant from the judiciary before challenging our privacy.
"It's a simple matter of the rule of law," added Johnson. "And no one is above the law, not the Pentagon, not the Attorney General, not the President. As a Member of Congress, I will oppose any attempts to undermine the liberties and rights that make ours a free and civil society. There is a sensible balance between vigilance and intrusion, between security and tyranny, and we can find it."
For whom does the bellwether toll? It tolls for thee, Joe Lieberman – and, more importantly, for the neoconservative vision that you embraced more passionately than other Democrats and most Republicans.
Lieberman, a three-term incumbent whose defenses of the Iraq War and enthusiasm for a fight with Iran made him the Bush administration's favorite Democrat, lost to anti-war challenger Ned Lamont by a solid margin in Tuesday's Connecticut Senate primary.
With most of the votes counted, Lamont was leading by a 52-48 margin, a result that just a few months ago would have been unimaginable.
The Connecticut voting offered a classic bellwether contest. On one side of the Democratic primary ballot was Lieberman, a three-term incumbent who had aligned himself with the Bush administration in support of the invasion and ongoing occupation of Iraq. On the other side was Lamont, the previously unknown challenger who surfed a wave of resentment against the neoconservative nightmare that has gotten the United States bogged down in Iraq, rendered it diplomatically dysfunctional in the Middle East and created more global resentment toward America than at any time in the nation's history.
As such, the Connecticut contest was always about more than one senator and one state. And in the end, with massive media scrutiny and the frenzied attention of political players from across the country, the primary became what former Connecticut Senator Lowell Weicker described on primary night as "a referendum on the Iraq war – not just for Connecticut but for the whole country."
At the very least, the Connecticut primary became a referendum on how the Democratic Party ought to respond to a war that it has often questioned but never effectively opposed.
If Connecticut said "no" Lieberman and the war, Lamont supporters in the state and beyond its borders argued during the course of the primary campaign, party leaders might finally be forced to develop a coherent opposition message. And if Democrats developed a spine, the reasoning went, the warped politics of a nation that has been manipulated for the better part of a decade by the fearmongering of White House political czar Karl Rove might finally take a turn away from the madness of a latter-day King George.
"A lot of people around the country are looking to Connecticut to see what course they want for this country," Lamont said as his state began voting Tuesday in the most closely watched U.S. Senate primary the nation has witnessed in decades.
What the country saw was a win for an anti-war candidate over one of the most prominent war supporters in the Senate. It was not so conclusive a win as some Lamont backers had hoped for. The final result was close enough for Lieberman to find encouragement for his planned independent run, setting up a three-way November contest between Democrat Lamont, Republican Alan Schlesinger and the sole candidate of the senator's "Connecticut for Lieberman" party.
If the primary offers any indication, that November contest will be an intense one. And, while many analysts still try to portray Lieberman as the frontrunner, the reality is that Lamont's star is on the rise. And he is on the right side of the issue that polls identify as the biggest concern of Connecticut voters: the war in Iraq.
Make no mistake, Lamont's victory was a breakthrough win for the anti-war wing of the Democratic Party. With a candidate who had no name recognition in January, anti-war Democrats displaced an 18-year incumbent senator who in 2000 was the party's nominee for vice president and who in 2004 mounted a campaign for the party's presidential nomination.
How did Lamont succeed where others – including 2004 presidential contender and current Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean -- failed? Not by simply expressing opposition to the war, nor even by expressing frustration with Lieberman's refusal to question even the most misguided of Bush administration foreign policies.
Lamont won by doing something most national Democrats have failed to do over the past several election cycles. He put the war in perspective, telling voters that the $250 million a day that is shifted from the U.S. Treasury into a failed fight in Iraq and the deep pockets of defense contractors like Halliburton could be better used to pay for education and health care at home and smart foreign aid programs abroad.
The Lamont message was always a far more sophisticated one than most of the national media coverage of the campaign suggested. The challenger rarely spoke just about Iraq, but instead invited voters to join in a broader discussion of foreign policy, American interests and American values. And he never allowed the war debate to be isolated from the debate about how an America that was not bogged down in Iraq might better spend its resources.
Mocking the rhetoric of the Bush administration and Lieberman regarding Iraq, Lamont said on Tuesday night: "Stay the course -- that's not a winning strategy in Iraq and it's not a winning strategy for America." He meant what he was saying. Just as Lamont wants to "[fix] George Bush's failed foreign policy," he also wants to fix failed domestic policies that have produced what he correctly refers to as a "broken" health care system and an education system that leaves too many children behind. And he recognizes the linkages between failures abroad and failures at home.
Connecticut Democrats rewarded that recognition by handing the Senate nomination to Lamont in a historic primary vote.
National Democratic party leaders and strategists, who have had such a hard time figuring out their message going into this fall's House and Senate elections, would be wise to take a lesson from the campaign that Ned Lamont waged, and the result it produced.