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The Nation

January 19, 2007
The Nation

Today a friend forwarded me an e-mail that a friend of his had received with the subject "Let Us Remain Alert!" the contents of which are below:

Probable U. S. presidential candidate, Barack Hussein Obama was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, to Barack Hussein Obama, Sr., a black Muslim from Nyangoma-Kogel, Kenya and Ann Dunham, a white atheist from Wichita, Kansas.

Obama's parents met at the University of Hawaii.

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The Notion
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January 19, 2007
John Nichols
John Nichols

Even historians who are not particularly sympathetic to Jimmy Carter's presidency share the widely accepted view that Carter's vice president, Walter Mondale, was one of the most engaged and effective occupants the nation's No. 2 job.

So it means something when Mondale says there are limits to what a Vice President can and should do. And it should mean a lot that Mondale is arguing forcefully that Dick Cheney has exceeded those limits with results that are as practically dangerous as they are politically troubling.

"I think that Cheney has stepped way over the line," Mondale, who during his tenure as Carter's Vice President served as a senior adviser to the President and a prominent spokesman for Administration policies, explained Friady in an aggressive critique of the current Vice President during the opening session of a three-day University of Georgia conference on Carter's presidency.

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John Nichols
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January 19, 2007
The Nation

Yesterday I wrote about how a bipartisan group of House members recently introduced legislation requiring the Bush Administration to get Congressional approval for any potential military action against Iran. Today, at a speech before the National Press Club, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid endorsed such a constitutional check on President Bush. "I'd like to be clear," Reid said in a prebuttal to Bush's State of the Union Address, "the President does not have the authority to launch military action in Iran without first seeking congressional authorization."

During an interview last week with ABC News, National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley hedged repeatedly when asked whether the Administration had the authority to attack Iran. As did Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Defense Secretary Bob Gates previously favored engaging Iran; now he opposes that. Laura Rozen recently reported in National Journal: "US officials, who asked not to be identified, say that the Iran policy has expanded from focusing chiefly on Iran's nuclear ambitions to challenging Tehran's suspected misbehavior across the Middle East." Unfortunately for the Administration, "there are no smoking guns about Iran in Iraq," one informed US source tells Rozen. "That's the problem. Sort of like the WMD." Once again, the case for war may hinge on bad intel.

The tragedy is that this brewing confrontation could have been avoided. According to Colin Powell's top deputy, Lawrence Wilkerson, the Iranians offered in 2003 to help the US stabilize Iraq and cut off funding to Hezbollah and Hamas. But none other than Vice President Dick Cheney, the man responsible for so many of America's current problems in the Middle East, nixed the idea.

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The Notion
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January 18, 2007
John Nichols
John Nichols

In case anyone missed the fact that the new Democrats who were elected to the House in November are economic populists who the free trade policies advanced by the Bush administration and the White House's allies in the Democratic Leadership Council, 39 Democratic members of the freshman class have signed a letter reminding party leaders in the chamber that, "Vital to our electoral successes was our ability to take a vocal stand against the Administration's misguided trade agenda, and offer our voters real, meaningful alternatives to the job-killing agreements, such as CAFTA, that the majority of our opponents supported."

The letter, which was sent this week to House Ways & Means Committee chair Charles Rangel, D-New York, who will be a key player in defining the new majority's approach to trade policy, explains that, "It is very important that we not only reverse the troubling results of the administration's trade agreements and trade policies, but also that we are able to deliver on the promise we made to our constituents to move our nation in a new and improved direction on trade."

In the old Republican-dominated House, the Bush administration and its allies were able to secure approval of the Central American Free Trade Agreement by a mere two votes -- and that "victory" was secured only after applying extreme pressure to a handful of Republican holdouts against the plan. [If just one more member had voted no, the administration's top trade initiative would have failed on a 216-216 tie when it was considered in July of 2OO5.]

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John Nichols
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January 18, 2007
The Nation

Usually, I roll my eyes when Democratic politicians like Barack and Hillary ooze on about "bipartisanship." That word suggests wimpy centrism, and politics drained of essence. Anyone who takes issues seriously should be willing to believe in something, and should welcome a little partisan conflict. All that said, it is good to see politicians as different as Trent Lott (the Republican from Mississippi who infamously praised segregation four years ago, when he didn't think anyone was listening) and Frank Lautenberg (a New Jersey Democrat), working together to save our nation's flailing train system. This week, the odd couple proposed authorizing $3.2 billion a year to Amtrak, for six years, in exchange for greater efficiency and greater investment by states. Given the fervor of justified concern about global warming, this effort couldn't be more timely. Trains are far better for the environment than cars or planes, yet our train system works so poorly that too few people are able to use it. Amtrak is slow, too expensive and often doesn't go where you need to go. A better train system could help us reduce carbon emissions and also lead a better quality of life, allowing us to spend more of our time taking in the scenery at leisure or reading, rather than sitting in traffic cursing our fellow citizens.

But let's not get too excited about bipartisanship. Speaking of climate change, there are a number of legislative strategies emerging, thanks to political shifts in Washington and increased public worry about the creepy warm winter. Andrew Revkin of the New York Times points out today that of the three Senate sponsors of the most prominent (and probably most politically viable) global-warming bill, two are presidential hopefuls: Barack Obama and John McCain (the other is Joe Lieberman). But, as the Times reports, that bill includes easily abused loopholes that could ease carbon emissions limits "if their impact on the economy were deemed too severe." Deemed by whom, I wonder? The auto industry? The Cato Institute? Another bill, supported by Bernie Sanders and Barbara Boxer, is far more stringent. But it's important to note that, according to an analysis by the World Resources Institute published as a sidebar to Revkin's article, even with the Sanders-Boxer bill, emissions won't begin to decline until 2010, and temperatures wouldn't stabilize until around 2150! So Sanders-Boxer should obviously be the starting point for further action, not a utopian left-wing impossibility. Under the more moderate Obama-McCain-Joe bill, progress would be much slower. I don't know about you, but I don't want to spend my golden years underwater just because a few ambitious politicians wanted to grandstand without seeming to be anti-business. Sorry to be a downer -- I know people like to get excited about somebody -- but that includes political rock star Barack Obama.

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The Notion
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January 18, 2007
David Corn

For coverage of the first day of the Libby trial and a deconstruction of Scooter Libby's I-forgot defense, click 81

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January 18, 2007
Peter Rothberg
Peter Rothberg

Americans voted their disapproval of the President's Iraq strategy in November, yet as we approach the fourth anniversary of Bush's invasion, he has chosen to escalate the conflict by recklessly using more American lives to try to salvage a delusional national policy.

In response, peace groups and politicians from both parties have been crafting creative ideas to extricate the US from this catastrophic conflict and activists are ramping up their efforts to finally force an end to the war.

Nation friend and filmmaker Robert Greenwald has just announced the formation of the Iraq Veterans Memorial. This living online tribute to US soldiers killed in Iraq will bear witness with 60-second video testimonies of family, friends, co-workers, and military colleagues of those killed. The memorial will be unveiled on March 19th--the war's fourth anniversary--across the internet.

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January 18, 2007
John Nichols
John Nichols

In case anyone missed the fact that the new Democrats who were elected to the House in November are economic populists who the free trade policies advanced by the Bush administration and the White House's allies in the Democratic Leadership Council, 39 Democratic members of the freshman class have signed a letter reminding party leaders in the chamber that, "Vital to our electoral successes was our ability to take a vocal stand against the Administration's misguided trade agenda, and offer our voters real, meaningful alternatives to the job-killing agreements, such as CAFTA, that the majority of our opponents supported."

The letter, which was sent this week to House Ways & Means Committee chair Charles Rangel, D-New York, who will be a key player in defining the new majority's approach to trade policy, explains that, "It is very important that we not only reverse the troubling results of the administration's trade agreements and trade policies, but also that we are able to deliver on the promise we made to our constituents to move our nation in a new and improved direction on trade."

In the old Republican-dominated House, the Bush administration and its allies were able to secure approval of the Central American Free Trade Agreement by a mere two votes -- and that "victory" was secured only after applying extreme pressure to a handful of Republican holdouts against the plan. [If just one more member had voted no, the administration's top trade initiative would have failed on a 216-216 tie when it was considered in July of 2OO5.]

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John Nichols
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January 18, 2007
The Nation

The Iraq Study Group recommended that the Bush Administration engage Iran. Instead, the Administration chose to threaten it.

In recent weeks President Bush attacked Iran in a speech announcing his escalation in Iraq, deployed a second naval battleship to the Persian Gulf and ordered the raid of an Iranian consulate in northern Iraq, along with the arrests of six Iranians. The current march to war sounds eerily familiar.

Now members of Congress have launched their own pre-emptive strike on the Administration, introducing legislation requiring the President to gain Congressional approval for any attack on Iran. The effort is spearheaded by Rep. Walter Jones, a North Carolina Republican who's emerged as a leading critic of the war in Iraq and a harsh opponent of confrontation with Iran. Jones has assembled a diverse coalition of lawmakers, ranging from conservative Republicans to liberal Democrats, who believe it's time to teach the Administration a lesson in government 101.

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The Notion
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