The Nation

May 9, 2008
Christopher Hayes

In the House....On Thursday, members approved a housing package that would expand Federal Housing Administration-backed mortgage guarantees by $300 billion, as well as offer first-time home buyers a $7,500 tax credit. CBO reports the proposal would cost $2.7 billion and assist 500,000 homeowners. Members also backed a $15-billion program to assist with the state purchase of foreclosed homes; only the tax-credit proposal has the votes to override Bush's threatened vetos.

This week, House leadership planned to attach Sen. Webb's GI bill to the pending war supplemental, but Blue Dogs -- arguing it would violate "pay-go" -- scuttled the deal, and the scheduled vote was pulled. Apart from veterans' benefits, a $15.6 billion extension of unemployment benefits was the second-biggest domestic item that had been slated for inclusion. Bush has maintained any such spending will trigger his veto.Also this week, in attempt to fix one of the U.S. terror blacklist's more conspicuous oversights, members voted to eliminate Nelson Mandela's name from the rolls. The House further adopted a proposal to begin manufacturing cheaper copper-plated steel pennies and steel nickels, a move expected to save $100 million a year.

In the Senate...Attempts to fund and overhaul the U.S. aviation system thudded to a halt over procedural squabbles and GOP opposition to non-aviation provisions in the bill, including an amendment that would have granted New York the $1.7 billion remainder of Bush's pledged September 11th recovery aid. Also this week, despite appeals by senators from Louisiana and Mississippi, lawmakers voted 73-19 against adding wind coverage to the federal program that provides flood insurance. While post-Katrina, private insurer managed to dodge claims by arguing damages resulted from flooding and not wind, the GAO raised sharp concerns about the proposal's fiscal impact. Senate members also passed a resolution demanding that the Burmese junta lift restrictions on foreign aid.

After months of frustrated anticipation, House and Senate negotiators delivered a $300-billion, disappointing deal on the farm bill. The current bill's incarnation still permits couples with joint incomes of up to $2.5 million to qualify for subsidies. Meanwhile, despite spiraling food prices, negotiators spurned Bush's appeal to allow 25% of U.S. food aid to go towards the purchase of local food supplies. (Currently, aid must be purchased primarily from U.S. producers and shipped overseas--creating overhead costs that absorb 65% of food-aid expenditures.) It remains unclear if Bush plans to exercise his threatened veto.

May 9, 2008
Peter Rothberg
Peter Rothberg

More than 100 governments, including virtually all major NATO allies, will gather in Dublin, Ireland to negotiate a global treaty banning cluster bombs on May 19. One important country will be missing however: the United States, which is actively working to undermine the proposed treaty overseas and which has used cluster bombs in the last ten years in civilian-populated areas of the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Meanwhile, at home the Pentagon is lobbying to prevent passage of the Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act. Introduced by Senators Patrick Leahy, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Mikulski and co-sponsored by eighteen other Senators (though neither Obama nor Clinton), the act states that "Cluster munitions will not be used where civilians are known to be present or in areas normally inhabited by civilians." We wouldn't want to tie our hands, now.

The YouTube video below shows Lynn Bradach bravely telling the story of her son, Travis Bradach-Nall, who was killed by a US cluster submunition while serving in Iraq. Her sorrow helps makes clear why cluster bombs should be banned.

May 8, 2008
Katrina vanden Heuvel

In early 2007, The Nation published an extraordinary speech by Bill Moyers. In "A New Story for America," America's media conscience wrote of how "voters have provided a a respite from a right-wing radicalism predicated on the philosophy that extremism in the pursuit of virtue is no vice." Newt Gingrich, architect of the hit job on America--better known as "The Contract With America" --was a key figure of right wing extremism. Or as Moyers called Gingrich and his hearty band --"Ravenous predators...masquerading as a political party of small government, fiscal restraint and moral piety..."

In a much-publicized May 6th post at Human Events magazine, "My Plea to Republicans: It's Time for Real Change to Avoid Real Disaster," Gingrich seems to echo Moyers, who continued in that 2006 Nation article to argue that "the conservative movement stands intellectually and morally bankrupt...."

The long night of the junta is not yet over. We have more than 200 days until Bush and Cheney depart the White House, But the Republican loss in the special election for Louisiana's Sixth Congressional District last Saturday should be --and even Gingrich warns of this --a sharp wake up call for Republicans.

May 8, 2008

These days, the price of oil seems ever on the rise. A barrel of crude broke another barrier Wednesday -- $123 -- on international markets, and the talk is now of the sort of "superspike" in pricing (only yesterday unimaginable) that might break the $200 a barrel ceiling "within two years." And that would be without a full-scale American air assault on Iran, after which all bets would be off.

Considering that, in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks, oil was still in the $20 a barrel price range, this is no small measure of what the Bush administration years have really accomplished. Today, it's hard even to remember not 9/11, but 11/9--November 9, 1989--the day that the Berlin Wall fell, signaling that, soon enough, after its seventy-odd year life, that Reaganesque Evil Empire, the Soviet Union, was heading for the door. In 1991, it disappeared from the face of the Earth without a whimper. Until almost the last moment, top officials in Washington assumed it would go on forever; and, when it was gone, most of them couldn't, at first, believe it. Soon enough, however, the event was hailed as the greatest of American triumphs--"victory" not just in the Cold War, but at a level never before seen. Finally, for the first time in history, there was but a single superpower on the planet.

At the dawn of a new century, the administration of George Bush the younger, packed with implacable former Cold Warriors, came to power still infused with that sense of global triumphalism and planning to rollback what was left of the old Soviet Union, an impoverished Russia, into an early grave.

The Notion
May 8, 2008
Christopher Hayes

Stoller makes the case.

Micah Sifry replies here with his own thoughts.

(Whoops! Accidentally posted this originally as a blank post with just the title "Obama". This occasioned some justified ribbing.)

May 8, 2008
Christopher Hayes

Yesterday, I blogged about a Pakistani couple that had been detained by Immigrations and Custom Enforcement for apparently no good reason.

Today comes word they've been released:

The Hashmis have been released! It seems that efforts on many fronts--grassroots, legal, and political--sent a powerful message to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

May 8, 2008
John Nichols
John Nichols

Much has been made of the fact that a substantial portion of North Carolina and Indiana Democratic primary voters who cast ballots on Tuesday for Hillary Clinton told exit pollsters that – if Barack Obama is their party's nominee this fall – they may vote for Republican John McCain.

Should Obama be concerned? Of course. There is no question that the senator from Illinois must do more to appeal to wavering Democrats, especially white, working-class voters who have heard a lot more about the candidate's controversial former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., than they have about his position on trade policy.

But Obama's not the only likely party nominee who should be worried about some shakiness at the party base. Despite the fact that all-but-coronated Republican nominee John McCain was running essentially without opposition Tuesday, 27 percent of Republican primary participants in North Carolina cast their votes for a candidate other than McCain. In Indiana, 23 percent of Republican primary voters rejected the senator from Arizona.

John Nichols
May 8, 2008
Christopher Hayes

Isaac Chotiner at TNR catches this line from Clinton, talking about her base:

"I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on," she said in an interview with USA TODAY. As evidence, Clinton cited an Associated Press article "that found how Sen. Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me."

"There's a pattern emerging here," she said.[Italics mine]

May 7, 2008
John Nichols
John Nichols

When I interviewed George McGovern last summer about the Democratic presidential field last year, the liberal icon expressed the most enthusiasm about the candidacy of Illinois Senator Barack Obama.

But he said he was still talking to the candidates.

New York Senator Hillary Clinton talked with McGovern a lot, recalling her work in Texas for his 1972 presidential campaign and reassuring the former South Dakota senator that she really was determined to end the war in Iraq.

John Nichols