Sunday, September 30, 2007

Justice

'It's a dark, dirty dungeon. It's all underground. They rot in their cells.' " - Ron Wiley about the ADX.

23 hours under lock down, no contact with the outside world. Why can't we do that to all murderers.

Frank Rich: Hillary's Win Not Inevitable

"Then there was that laugh. The Clinton campaign's method for heeding the perennial complaints that its candidate comes across as too calculating and controlled is to periodically toss in a smidgen of what it deems personality. But these touches of intimacy seem even more calculating: the "Let's chat" campaign rollout, the ostensibly freewheeling but tightly controlled Web "conversations," the supposed vox populi referendum to choose a campaign song (which yielded a plain-vanilla Celine Dion clunker).

Now Mrs. Clinton is erupting in a laugh with all the spontaneity of an alarm clock buzzer. Mocking this tic last week, "The Daily Show" imagined a robotic voice inside the candidate's head saying, "Humorous remark detected — prepare for laughter display." However sincere, this humanizing touch seems as clumsily stage-managed as the Gores' dramatic convention kiss.

None of this would matter if the only issue were Mrs. Clinton's ability as a performer. Not every president can be Reagan or J.F.K. or, for that matter, Bill Clinton. But in her case, as in Mr. Gore's in 2000, the performance too often dovetails with the biggest question about her as a leader: Is she so eager to be all things to all people, so reluctant to offend anyone, that we never will learn what she really thinks or how she will really act as president?

So far her post-first-lady record suggests a follower rather than a leader. She still can't offer a credible explanation of why she gave President Bush the authority to go to war in Iraq (or why she voted against the Levin amendment that would have put on some diplomatic brakes). That's because her votes had more to do with hedging her political bets than with principle. Nor has she explained why it took her two years of the war going south to start speaking up against it. She was similarly tardy with her new health care plan, waiting to see what heat Mr. Edwards and Senator Obama took with theirs. She has lagged behind the Democratic curve on issues ranging from the profound (calling for an unequivocal ban on torture) to the trivial (formulating a response to the MoveOn.org Petraeus ad)."
- Frank Rich at The New York Times

Frank Rich says Hillary Clinton is running her campaign like Al Gore's losing campaign in some important ways.

If I may add one thing to Frank Rich's comments about the laugh - it sounded hideous, like the kind of laugh you would hear from a cartoon villain.

Thompson

There are some good news and bad news about Fred Thompson's time in the senate. The good news - he was apparently concerned with welfare and entitlement reform while largely unconcerned about the culture wars.

The bad news, he found the job boring.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Hate Crime Legislation

On Thursday the Senate voted to attach a hate crimes enhancement statute to a Defense Spending Bill. Nine Republicans (Norm Coleman of Minnesota, John Warner of Virginia, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, Susan Collins of Maine, Olympia Snowe of Maine, Gordon Smith of Oregon, Richard Lugar of Indiana, and George Voinovich (R-Ohio) joined independents Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, Bernard Sanders of Vermont and the 49 Democrats to vote in favor of the amendment.

Current hate crime laws allow the federal government to aid states and local authorities when the victim is targeted because of his perceived race, color, ethnicity, national origin, or religion while engaging in a federally protected right.

The amendment which the senators attached to the Department of Defense spending bill would extend such protection to those who were victimized because of their perceived gender, gender identity, sexual orientation and disability. Federal prosecutors who obtain written certification from the Attorney General or an authorized deputy could charge the suspect if the crime was committed using a firearm transported across or crimes when the "defendant uses a channel, facility, or instrumentality of interstate or foreign commerce in connection with the conduct described in subparagraph" (this allows them to circumvent federalism state/national government jurisdictional disputes).

Federal involvement would be minimal for the statute limits to the U.S. Attorney General and his subordinates' authority to cases when the state either does not have or will not exercise their authority or cases where they specifically ask for assistance.

Some religious conservatives who oppose this new amendment would be used to hamper their free speech rights. One Family Research Council spokesman, Tom McClusky, said gay rights organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation would use the law to label church groups terrorist organizations.

The gay rights organizations which the religious conservatives have that right to label church groups terrorist organizations already but the gay rights spokesmen and women have rarely if ever done so. McClusky should ask his organization's president, Tony Perkins, to keep their house in order before accusing gay civil rights activists of demagogic rhetoric. Mr. Perkins all but branded gay people in general as pedophiles when the Catholic priest pedophile scandal hit the newspapers.

Nothing in the statute would give the federal government or state and local government officials the authority to silence opponents of gay rights. The First Amendment protects their right to free speech and religious free exercise. The hate crime enhancement statute can only be applied in the commission of a crime.

This law probably won't protect the people they are designed to help. Given the stigmas wrongly attached to one's homosexual inclinations, these kinds of crimes will go underreported and to the extent that such crimes are reported the discretion for hate crime application would still remain with the prosecutors who must decide whether the intent to commit the crime was based upon one of the protected characteristics.

Hate crime laws like the one attached to the defense bill do not suppress speech since they can be enforced against people who say nothing about their pro or anti-gay political leanings and cannot be enforced against those who, even if they did say they hate gay people, do not commit a crime against the declared victim.

But they do discriminate against those whose views the government deems undesirable.
The law and those who are hired to enforce it will judge the defendant who expressed his deep hatred towards a protected victim more harshly than it would towards the defendant who did not and more harshly than the one who expresses that same, equally intense sense of hatred towards an unprotected class of American citizens.

Rare state enforcement issues aside, I would see no reason why a hate crime statute would need to be implemented. A murder that is committed for money is no less horrendous than the murder committed out of bigotry. The typical home invasion would undermine the suburban neighbors' sense of security no less so than the bias-motivated home invasion that undermines gay home owners.

Whatever justifications that were used to write hate crime laws have passed. Church burnings and lynchings are few and far in between. Occasional skirmishes do make it to the headlines on occasion as we have seen in Jenna in which rope hangings at a tree escalated into racial violence and in New York City where a gay person was lured out and chased to his death in traffic.

A perfect world would have no hate but a people who consistently uphold their free speech rights would respect one's right to express that hate whether it is popular or not.

We do not live in such a world however. States across the nation have passed their own state hate crime laws. Some cover sexual orientation and gender identity but others do not. Ideally a state which respects free speech rights would remove these laws from the books but that won't be happening soon. Punishing some hate-induced crimes more so than others itself sends a bad message to those who both commit and those unprotected people who are otherwise affected by a hate-biased crime - that the hate expressed against them is for some reason more tolerable than the hate expressed against another individual.

Republicans say President George W. Bush is prepared to veto the defense bill since the hate crimes legislation is attached to it. He should reconsider if only because the evil which he wants to protect us from is overshadowed by the evil message that will be sent by judging some hate motivated crimes against one group more valid than hate motivated crimes committed against another group. It certainly isn't the kind of legislation worth holding up defense appropriations for the men and women fighting in Iraq.

Hate Crime Amendment Vote

So guess who voted against the hate crimes amendment to the defense authorization bill. He thought the additional coverage widened the federal government's stance too wide.

The Democratic Debate: Slick Hillary Having it Both Ways

So who's running the Clinton campaign?

Hmmm. Tough one if you took slick Hillary's words at face value.

1. Her Response to Bill's Torture Exception:

RUSSERT: Senator Clinton, this is the number three man in Al Qaida. We know there’s a bomb about to go off, and we have three days, and we know this guy knows where it is.

Should there be a presidential exception to allow torture in that kind of situation?

CLINTON: You know, Tim, I agree with what Joe and Barack have said. As a matter of policy it cannot be American policy period.

I met with those same three- and four-star retired generals, and their principal point—in addition to the values that are so important for our country to exhibit—is that there is very little evidence that it works.

CLINTON: Now, there are a lot of other things that we need to be doing that I wish we were: better intelligence; making, you know, our country better respected around the world; working to have more allies.

But these hypotheticals are very dangerous because they open a great big hole in what should be an attitude that our country and our president takes toward the appropriate treatment of everyone. And I think it’s dangerous to go down this path.

RUSSERT: The guest who laid out this scenario for me with that proposed solution was William Jefferson Clinton last year. So he disagrees with you.

CLINTON: Well, he’s not standing here right now.

(APPLAUSE)

RUSSERT: So there is a disagreement?

CLINTON: Well, I’ll talk to him later.

(LAUGHTER)


Translation: Bill Clinton should keep his mouth shut. I have a campaign to run and he doesn't have to undermine it by contradicting everything I have to say about the state of the campaign and the calls I would have to make as president.


Exchange 2: Campaign Money and the Clinton Library

RUSSERT: I want to turn to politics and money. Senator Clinton, as you all know, you had to turn back $850,000 in contributions from Norman Hsu because of his rather checkered past.

Again, President Clinton said this, “Now, we don’t have to publish all our donors for the Clinton Foundation, but if Hillary became president, I think there would questions about whether people would try to win favor by giving money to me.”

In light of that, do you believe that the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton library should publish all the donors who give contributions to those two entities?

CLINTON: Well, Tim, I actually co-sponsored legislation that would have sitting presidents reveal any donation to their presidential library, and I think that’s a good policy.

RUSSERT: And the foundation?

CLINTON: Well, it would be the same, because that’s where the library comes from.

RUSSERT: Until such legislation, would they voluntarily, the Clinton library and Clinton Foundation, make their donors public?

CLINTON: Well, you’ll have to ask them.

RUSSERT: What’s your recommendation?

CLINTON: Well, I don’t talk about my private conversations with my husband, but I’m sure he’d be happy to consider that.


Translation: I'll have to ask him. He knows what's best for the campaign. If I bake a new batch of cookies in the oven he might consider it.

And again, even on sports.

Russert: Senator Clinton, what a bout a World Series—Yankees and Cubs?

CLINTON: Well, you know, I’ve worried about that because I think, given the Cubs’ record, which of course, I hope it happens, but it could very well be a sign of the coming apocalypse, were that to ever occur.

(LAUGHTER)

It would be so out of history that you would have the Cubs versus the Yanks. Then I’d be really in trouble.

RUSSERT: But who would you be for?

CLINTON: Well, I would probably have to alternate sides.

(LAUGHTER)

RUSSERT: Spoken like a true sports fan.

The Democratic Debate and Gays

Allison King on behalf of a viewer:

"Thanks, Tim.

The issues surrounding gay rights have been hotly debated here in New England. For example, last year some parents of second-graders in Lexington, Massachusetts, were outraged to learn their children’s teacher had read a story about same-sex marriage, about a prince who marries another prince.

Same-sex marriage is legal in Massachusetts but most of you oppose it. Would you be comfortable having this story read to your children as part of their school curriculum?"

I believe that this, more than any other question, gets to the core of what we think about gay people and their place in society. While other questions that measure one's support for gay marriage or civil unions, hate crimes legislation, and protection from employment discrimination are important questions for gay Americans, they can be misleading indicators of what straight America would do to mainstream their alienated gay brethren these issues do not measure the person's gut feeling about a gay person's place in the larger society.

Exposing their child to the "other" suggests the acceptance of and recognition of the "other's" dignity and an affirmation of that person's love whereas the censoring or "shielding" of their child from the known gay person suggests there is something wrong with him or her.

No other gay rights measure has the potential of mainstreaming gays into the larger culture. Marriages and civil unions may protect a gay couples' assets by recognizing the couple's existence as a single unit but their role in distinguishing between sanctioned and unsanctioned conduct have waned significantly.

Neither will shield us from the social alienation we face. Both are inherently private institutions where the uniting families alone meet to express their solidarity for the marrying individuals and since the extended families.

Schools, however, function as important socializing institutions where the students of different (it is hoped) socioeconomic backgrounds learn from one another. The values and behaviors they were taught by their parents can in some cases be reinforced or moderated by the exposure they have to those who are different from them.

It is why this question, concerning a second grade student's potential exposure to a gay-themed fairy tale, more than any other gay rights question, should have been and was asked for in this hypothetical (or real, depending upon where you live) scenario, the child can be exposed to the gay person's fairy tale and see that it may not be that far removed from the straight person's fairy tale. It challenges the school child to empathize with "the other" in a way the parent may or may not appreciate.

How did the candidates do?

1. former Senator John Edwards (D-North Carolina)



"Yes, absolutely.

What I want is I want my children to understand everything about the difficulties that gay and lesbian couples are faced with every day, the discrimination that they’re faced with every single day of their lives.

And I suspect my two younger children, Emma Claire, who’s 9, and Jack, who’s 7, will reach the same conclusion that my daughter Cate, who’s 25, has reached, which is she doesn’t understand why her dad is not in favor of same-sex marriage. And she says her generation will be the generation that brings about the great change in America on that issue.

So I don’t want to make that decision on behalf of my children. I want my children to be able to make that decision on behalf of themselves, and I want them to be exposed to all the information, even in—did you say second grade? Second grade might be a little tough, but even in second grade to be exposed to all...

... those possibilities, because I don’t want to impose my view. Nobody made me God. I don’t get to decide on behalf of my family or my children, as my wife Elizabeth has spoken her own mind on this issue. I don’t get to impose on them what it is that I believe is right.

But what I will do as president of the United States is I will lead an effort to make sure that the same benefits that are available to heterosexual couples -- 1,100 roughly benefits in the federal government—are available to same-sex couples; that we get rid of DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act; that we get rid of “don’t ask/don’t tell,” which is wrong today and was wrong when it was enacted back in the 1990s.

I will be the president that leads a serious effort to deal with the discrimination that exists today."


This is the overwhelmingly positive answer most gay Americans would hope and look for. He absolutely supports it. Edwards wants his children to empathize with the gay person's problems in the broader society that treats them differently. Exposing his children to this topic so early might be "difficult" for him, but he wants them to decide for themselves how best to mainstream gay American culture.

2. Senator Barack Obama (D-Illinois)

"You know, I feel very similar to John. You know, the fact is my 9-year-old and my 6-year-old I think are already aware that there are same-sex couples. My wife and I have talked about it. One of the things I want to communicate to my children is not to be afraid of people who are different, because there have been times in our history where I was considered different, or Bill Richardson was considered different.

And one of the things I think the next president has to do is to stop fanning people’s fears. If we spend all our time feeding the American people fear and conflict and division, then they become fearful and conflicted and divided.

And if we feed them hope and we feed them reason and tolerance, then they will become tolerant and reasonable and hopeful.

And that I think is one of the most important things that the next president can do, is try to bring us together, and stop trying to fan the flames of division that have become so standard in our politics in Washington. That’s the kind of experience, by the way, that we need to put an end to."


King would follow up with a good question - whether he exposed his children to the same-sex marriage topic.

"My wife has."
(of course we don't know what she said about it)

He gets it.

And Clinton?

3. Senator Hillary Clinton (D-New York)

"Well, I really respect what both John and Barack said."

I think that we’ve seen differences used for divisive purposes, for political purposes in the last several elections. And I think every one of us on this stage are really personally opposed to that and we’ll do everything we can to prevent it.

With respect to your individual children, that is such a matter of parental discretion, I think that obviously it is better to try to work with your children, to help your children understand the many differences that are in the world and to really respect other people and the choices that other people make. And that goes far beyond sexual orientation.

So I think that this issue of gays and lesbians and their rights will remain an important one in our country. And I hope that— tomorrow we’re going to vote on the hate crimes bill, and I’m sure that those of us in the Senate will be there to vote for it.

We haven’t been able to get it passed, and it is an important measure to send a message that we stand against hatred and divisiveness.

And I think that, you know, that’s what the Democratic Party stands for in contrast, all too often, to the other side."

She apparently does not get it Slick Hillary told us she "respects" what they had to say. Since anyone could "respect" an answer that he or she can disagree with, Clinton told us nothing we didn't already know. She then offered us a politically canned speech that meandered into parental rights, hate crime legislation and the politically divisive tactics adopted by the Republican Party.

She says unspecified "divisions" (with respect to how we treat gay people for instance?) are used "for divisive purposes, for political purposes in the last several elections" but does not repudiate those who may oppose gay rights out of respect for their religion.

Clinton doesn't try to empathize with gays in her answer. While "she thinks that obviously better better" to help children understand "the many differences that are in the world and to really respect other people and the choices that other people make" she does not consider it the moral imperative her rivals claim it to be.

Democratic Debate: The Candidates and Illegal Immigration

Allison King: "Dozens of cities around the country, including several here, right here in New England, have been designated as sanctuary cities. These are communities that provide a safe haven for illegal immigrants, where police are told not to involve themselves in immigration matters.

Would you allow these cities to ignore the federal law regarding the reporting of illegal immigrants and, in fact, provide sanctuary to these immigrants?"

1. Governor Bill Richardson (D-New Mexico)

"You asked me because I am the Hispanic here, but I’ll answer.

The answer is yes. The problem we have is the lack of a comprehensive immigration policy. This is a federal responsibility. But what we have, because of the dysfunctional relationship between the Congress and the president, there is no comprehensive immigration bill. We need to fix the immigration system that is broken.

We need to find ways, number one, to increase security at the border with more detection equipment, more border patrol—not this silly wall.

Secondly, those that knowingly hire illegal workers need to be punished.

Third, a foreign policy relationship with Mexico where you say to Mexico, “Start giving jobs to your people; at the very least, don’t give them maps on the easiest place to cross.”

And, lastly, a legalization program—earned legalization, not amnesty, not citizenship, but a process where they can earn their way into America.

They can do it by learning English, by paying back taxes, by passing a background check, by paying a fine for having come in here illegally. Then get behind those that are trying to get here legally. And then increase the legal immigration quota, the H1B visas.

But what you don’t do is basically deport everybody. That makes no sense. That’s not America. That’s not going to work.

Is the outline that I gave you messy? Yes. Is there going to be more bureaucracy? Yes. But the problem is cities and communities are being victimized by the failure of the Congress and the president..."


Richardson gave himself away in the last two paragraphs. For him it's all about the illegal immigrants.

2. Senator Joe Biden (D-Delaware)

"The reason the cities ignore the federal law is the fact that there is no funding at the federal level to provide for the kind of enforcement at the federal level you need.

Pick up the New York Times today. There is a city not far across the river from my state that imposed similar sanctions.

And what they found out is, as a consequence of that, their city went in the dumps—in the dumpsters. Stores started closing, everything started to happen and they changed the policy.

Part of the problem is: You have to have a federal government that can enforce laws. This administration has been fundamentally derelict in not funding any of the requirements of immunity—even enforce the existing law.

And last point I’ll make is, Rudy Giuliani doesn’t know what the heck he’s talking about. He’s the most uninformed person in American foreign policy and now running for president, number one.

And, number two, these guys, the—anyway..."


Senator Biden starts his answer or non-answer with the thought that cities which received the funding to enforce the law would do so. I don't know about that but it would have been nice to have King follow up by asking him if he would make such additional funding contingent upon their enforcement of this country's immigration laws. That obviously did not happen. Biden veered off topic - towards his natural comfort zone that is, foreign policy.

King: Allison King would press him to answer the original question though:

"So, yes or no..."


"I wish I’d get to talk about something I know about like foreign policy. You ought to count me in on this debate a little bit."


This is not the kind of statement any candidate should make. I would expect my president to know and care to know about more.

But, when pressed, he answered in the negative. So that's 1 yes and 1 no.

3. Senator Chris Dodd (D-Connecticut)

"I think in circumstances—you have to here.

And, again, New Haven, Connecticut, was a good example here, where there was a cooperative effort with the local police departments and others to deal with health issues, crime problems and the like.

The Immigration Service came in an raided basically homes in that community, causing a great deal of disruption, disrupting the relationship that was being developed with community leaders, including the local police, and dealing with matters in that community.

We need to step back. What’s been said by Bill Richardson and Joe Biden is correct here. This was a failure of leadership again at the national level. We had an opportunity to draft an immigration law here that would have put us on the right track.

I certainly endorse everything Bill said here in terms of the provision. I think all of us do here, the general provisions.

We’re a nation of immigrants here. We have succeeded in no small measure because we have been a welcoming people here. We also understand we cannot tolerate 400,000 to 500,000 people coming to this country as undocumented workers each year.

We need to have a far better system in place that stops that flow coming in, to deal with the 12 million to 20 million who are here illegally.

If in the meantime here we’re dealing with children, we’re dealing with crime problems, we’re dealing with health issues at the local community, then you need to allow these locals communities to do that.

If it means temporarily engaging in a sanctuary protection here, then so be it if that protects our country.

In the meantime, we need to have national leadership, a president who would be able to bring together the Congress and could pass the kind of immigration laws that we, frankly, don’t have on the books today."


Well, at least Dodd's attitude differs, if only slightly from Richardson. He at least pays border enforcement supporters like yours truly some lip service by suggesting that yes, we cannot import 1/2 million immigrants into this country every year. But he still supports the comprehensive amnesty bill that was defeated in Congress. Police officers wouldn't have to make this deal with the illegal immigrants if they and the criminal elements among them weren't in this country to begin with. The country that enforced its borders might have fewer violent illegal criminals to begin with and consequently, fewer people to make deals with. And yes, we are a nation of immigrants but that is not the issue before us. Must we be a nation of illegal immigrants? I would certainly hope not.

4. Representative Dennis Kucinich

"would like to say that we’re forgetting who we are as Americans, Tim. You have to remember the message of the Statue of Liberty. That is who America is—“give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses.” We’re forgetting that. We should be talking about canceling NAFTA and WTO, giving workers’ rights a premium in negotiations with Mexico. It’s a new direction. ...

You know what? The federal law—there’s a moral law here. And the moral law says that the immigrants are being used and mistreated."


I don't think there is anything moral about barging into working person's home as an uninvited guest, and raiding that same person's refrigerator he or she worked 40 hours a week to keep filled.

5. Senator Barack Obama (D-Illinois):

"What I would do as president is pass comprehensive immigration reform, and the federal government should be doing what it’s supposed to be doing, which is controlling our borders, but also providing a rational immigration system, which we currently don’t have."


So what is your answer to sanctuary cities?

6. Senator Hillary Clinton (D-New York):

"Well, in addition to the general points that have been made that I agree with, why do they have sanctuary cities? In large measure because, if local law enforcement begins to act like immigration enforcement officers, what that means is that you will have people not reporting crimes, you will have people hiding from the police. And I think that is a real, direct threat to the personal safety and security of all the citizens.

So this is a result of the failure of the federal government, and that’s where it needs to be fixed.

Well, I don’t think there is any choice. The ICE groups come in and raid individuals, but if you are a local police chief and you’re trying to solve a crime that you know people from the immigrant community have information about, they may not talk to you if they think you’re also going to be enforcing the immigration laws.

Local law enforcement has a different job than federal immigration enforcement. The problem is the federal government has totally abdicated its responsibility."


Clinton takes the same track as Dodd - she positions herself as the reluctant supporter of sanctuary cities. I think my response to Dodd's is the same here but here's a question for Clinton. Would she unleash ICE upon these communities or would she, like Bush, provide sparse immigration enforcement?

7. former Senator Mike Gravel:

"Real fast."
- this is his response to Tim Russert's request for him to marginalize himself and say almost nothing.

"This whole nation should be a sanctuary for the war—for the world, and bring the people in.

What’s going on? Again, we’re in fantasy land. We’re talking about a problem—we’re scapegoating the Latinos of our society because we as a society are failing in education, we’re failing in health care, we’re failing in our crumbling infrastructure, and we’re failing by invading countries and spending our treasure.

That’s what’s wrong. And so I’m ashamed as an American to be building a fence on our southern border. That’s not the America that I fought for."


Gravel doesn't need Russer to marginalize himself. The former senator from Alaska could do that on his own. We are not scapegoating Latinos for our crumbling schools and rising health care costs. We are talking about three things: one - the respect for the laws of our country and two - our need to live within our means and the burdens the third world income people from anywhere (and from whatever ethnic group) impose upon us when they enter our country, visit our hospitals and learn in our schools and third - the absolute need for this country to know who enters and leaves our country.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Debate: Iraq War's End Within First Term?

First, the general one:

"General Petraeus in his testimony before Congress, later echoed by President Bush, gave every indication that in January of 2009, when the next president takes office, there will be 100,000 troops in Iraq.

You’re the president. What do you do? You said you would end the war. How do you do it in January of 2009?"



And now for the follow up:

"Will you pledge that by January 2013, the end of your first term, more than five years from now, there will be no U.S. troops in Iraq?"

This question required a "read my lips" answer. The candidates who say we should immediately begin to withdraw our forces from Iraq should make a vow to withdraw our forces by a set time and if they couldn't commit to have our forces out within those four years the candidates should at the very least have offered us an estimate as to how many would have been out within that time span and how many would be withdrawn in a fifth or sixth year (the second term). So how did they answer the question?

a. Senator Barack Obama (D-Illinois):

"I think it’s hard to project four years from now, and I think it would be irresponsible. We don’t know what contingency will be out there.

What I can promise is that if there are still troops in Iraq when I take office—which it appears there may be, unless we can get some of our Republican colleagues to change their mind and cut off funding without a timetable—if there’s no timetable—then I will drastically reduce our presence there to the mission of protecting our embassy, protecting our civilians, and making sure that we’re carrying out counterterrorism activities there.

I believe that we should have all our troops out by 2013, but I don’t want to make promises, not knowing what the situation’s going to be three or four years out."


Comment: note the bold words. vague enough to continue the policy if he sees hope?

b. Senator Hillary Clinton: (D-New York)

"Well, Tim, it is my goal to have all troops out by the end of my first term. But I agree with Barack; it is very difficult to know what we are going to be inheriting. Now, we do not know, walking into the White House in January of 2009 what we are going to find.

What is the state of planning for withdrawal? That’s why last spring I began pressing the Pentagon to be very clear about whether or not they were planning to bring our troops out. What I found was that they weren’t doing the kind of planning that is necessary, and we’ve been pushing them very hard to do so."


Comment: based upon her use of language alone it appears she is moving slightly to the left of Obama on this point. Clinton bases her indecision on the state of the withdrawal planning, whereas Obama gives himself more wiggle room to maneuver himself into a pro-war stance should he run in the general election or win the race for the White House. Then again I might be reading too much into this.

c. former Senator John Edwards (D-North Carolina):

"I cannot make that commitment. But I—well, I can tell you what i would do as president. When I’m sworn into office, come January of 2009, if there are, in fact, as General Petraeus suggests, 100,000 American troops on the ground in Iraq, I will immediately draw down 40,000 to 50,000 troops; and over the course of the next several months, continue to bring our combat out of Iraq until all of our combat are, in fact, out of Iraq.

I think the problem is—and it’s what you just heard discussed—is we will maintain an embassy in Baghdad. That embassy has to be protected. We will probably have humanitarian workers in Iraq. Those humanitarian workers have to be protected.

I think somewhere in the neighborhood of a brigade of troops will be necessary to accomplish that, 3,500 to 5,000 troops."


Comment: Senator Edwards gives himself the least amount of wiggle room. He obviously is trying to appeal to the base of the Democratic Party, which opposes the war. He, like Senators Obama and Clinton, says he cannot make a commitment to have the American troops out of Iraq but he said he'd immediately withdraw 40,000 to 50,000 troops and then, "over the course of the next several months" and then continue to draw them down. However, we don't know if he would make that same troop draw down commitment if there were only 90,000 American troops in Iraq if and when a President-elect Edwards is inaugurated.

The former one-term senator from North Carolina compared his troop withdrawal plans to the presumed front runner's. Edwards said he was offering the American public what it wanted - an end to the war. Clinton, Edwards said, was merely offering the Americans a shift in strategy and goals.

Clinton, knowing that the war is unpopular, interrupted moderator Russert to defend her position. Troops would have to stay to fight al Qaeda but the "vast majority" of American soldiers could leave.

Edwards' failure to respond to her point about Al Qaeda will hurt him in the general election should he win the nomination. The Republicans no doubt will play his non-response to Clinton's statement that troops must stay to fight the terrorists.

Moderator Tim Russert would, true to form, challenge Edwards' commitment to a troop withdrawal with this question:

"Would you send combat troops back in if there was genocide?"
An affirmative response would force Edwards to undermine his claim to be advocating for an end to the war while an answer in the negative would force the public to confront the potential implications of such a decision.

Edwards would dodge that question by suggesting that we and our allies would have an undefined or unspecified "responsibility to respond to genocide."


d. Bill Richardson (D-New Mexico):


"Governor Richardson, you have said that you will bring home all troops within a year. You’ve heard your three other opponents say they can’t do it in four years. How can you do it in one year?"

Good question. Governor Bill Richardson might have thought this was a question concerning different political goals. Since Richardson does not believe in the war, he believes the troops could be withdrawn sooner rather than later while the opponents, believing in a change of mission, believe they cannot be withdrawn in whole so quickly.

The moderator treated this answer of what he believes to be a technical nuts and bolts question as a non-answer and consequently repeated the question again:

"But, Governor, and then my question is: How are you going to do this in one year?"

Answer: by withdrawing.

"We have been able to move our troops, within three months, 240,000, in and out of Iraq, through Kuwait. This is what I would do. I would bring them out through roads, through Kuwait and through Turkey. It would take persuading Turkey. The issue is light equipment. I would leave some of the light equipment behind."


e. Senator Chris Dodd (D-Connecticut)

"Senator Dodd, you have heard this discussion. Where do you come down?"


Tim Russert first gives him the open-ended easy question that allows Dodd to expound upon his view of the war in Iraq but eventually, Russert would zero in on the question he asked the others:


"I want to put you on the record. Will you pledge, as commander in chief, that you’ll have all troops out of Iraq by January of 2013?"


Answer: yes.

Comment: So far, 3 candidates say they won't commit to having the U.S troops out by 2013 (Obama, Clinton, Edwards) and 2 candidates say they will (Richardson in a year, Dodd within the 4 year time frame).

f. Senator Joseph Biden (D-Delaware):

"Senator Biden, would you get it done?"

"Tim, we’re begging the question here. Everyone says there’s no political—there’s no military solution, only a political solution. We offered a political solution today and it got 75 votes.

And it said—it rejected, fundamentally, the president’s position that there’s a possibility of establishing a strong, central government in Iraq and said we’re going to have a federal system, bring in the rest of the world to support establishing a federal system.

That will end the civil war. That will allow us to bring our troops home. That is the thing that will allow us to come home without leaving chaos behind.

Now, here’s the deal. The deal is to say that you are going to bring all troops home from the region—I assume that’s what you mean. ...

... Just from Iraq. You’re going to bring all troops home from Iraq—if in fact there is no political solution by the time I am president, then I would bring them out, because all they are is fodder.

But if you go along with the Biden plan that got 75 votes today, and you have a stable Iraq, like we have in Bosnia—we’ve had 20,000 Western troops in Bosnia for 10 years. Not one has been killed. Not one. The genocide has ended.

So it would depend on the circumstances when I became preside
nt."

Comment: Senator Biden's conditional response differs from the ones proposed by Edwards (which stops just short of a promise to leave), Obama's (which is sufficiently vague to require mind-reading) and Clinton's (which is dependent upon the degree of troop withdrawal planning completed). Biden's response is predicated upon the degree of political reconciliation achieved and we'll see that when he is again pressed to either make or not make the four year commitment:

"I would make a commitment to have them all out if there is not a political reconciliation, because they’re just fodder."

Summary: if our presence can achieve a political outcome that will end the violence we'll stay but if our presence cannot lead to that result we'll leave by the time his first term comes to an end. Seems like a reasonable answer but since that is not an absolute commitment for getting the troops out let's score it four to two against first term withdrawal commitment.

g. Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio):

"And as the only one on this stage who actually voted against the war, and voted 100 percent of the time against funding the war, I have a rather unique perspective.

I’ve introduced legislation, H.R. 1234, which is the plan to end the Iraq war. To me, it is fairly astonishing to have Democrats who took back the power of the House and the Senate in 2006 to stand on this stage and tell the American people that this war will continue to 2013 and perhaps past that.

I want everyone to know—I want the American people to know— that I’ve been on this from the beginning and I know that we can get out of there three months after I take office or after the new president takes office if one is determined to do that."


Comment: Make that four to three though note his gaffe:

"By April of 2007. And you can mark that on your calendars, if you want to take a new direction..."

I'm sorry but there's an "X" through that date.

Could Gravel outdo him?

h. former Senator Mike Gravel (D-Alaska)

Moderator: "I want to give Senator Gravel a chance. Senator Gravel, I’ve listened to you very carefully in this campaign. You were in the Senate. You’re one of the few that have. You were in the Senate, and you take credit for stopping the draft.

If you were a senator right now, what advice would you give your colleagues still in Congress about how they can stop the war, even though they don’t have enough votes to stop a debate or to override a veto? What should they do?"


This is a fairly easy question for Gravel since he had already offered his advice to the senators who really want to end the war. Filibuster. Shut the process down by continually pushing funding resolutions that do not Iraq war funding and let the president veto them.

Here's the funny follow-up that makes everyone else look bad:

"Senator, are you suggesting that these candidates suspend their campaigns, go back to Washington, and for 40 consecutive days vote on the war?" His answer: yes.

So let's get this straight:

Yes. Commitment to End the War in Iraq Within the President's First Term: Richardson, Kucinich, Gravel, Dodd.

No Such Commitment Can be Made: Clinton, Edwards, Obama, Biden


It's a tie. 4-4.

The Debate, Slick Hillary's Clever Wink and a Nod, and the other Candidates on an Israeli Strike

Remember this exchange between Senator Hillary Clinton (D-New York) and moderator Tim Russert at Wednesday's Democratic Primary debate?

CLINTON: Tim, I think that’s one of those hypotheticals, that is...

RUSSERT: It’s not a hypothetical, Senator.

CLINTON: ... better not addressed at this time.

RUSSERT: It’s real life. It’s real...

CLINTON: What is real life is what apparently happened in Syria, so let’s take that one step at a time.

RUSSERT: But my question—no, let me finish.

CLINTON: I know what the question is.

RUSSERT: My question is...

CLINTON: But I think it’s important to lay out what we know about Syria...

RUSSERT: What Israel—my question is...

CLINTON: ... because we don’t have as much information as I wish we did. But what we think we know is that with North Korean help, both financial and technical and material, the Syrians apparently were putting together, and perhaps over some period of years, a nuclear facility, and the Israelis took it out. I strongly support that.

We don’t have any more information than what I have just described. It is highly classified. It is not being shared. But I don’t want to go a step further and talk about what might or might not happen down the road with Iran.

RUSSERT: My question was...

CLINTON: But I think it is fair to say what happened in Syria, so far as we know, I support.

RUSSERT: My question is: Would the Israelis be justified if they felt their security was being threatened by the presence of a nuclear presence in Iran, and they decided to take military action? Would they be justified?

CLINTON: Well, Tim, I’m not going to answer that, because what I understand is...

KUCINICH: I’ll answer it.

GRAVEL: I’ll...

CLINTON: ... that there was evidence...

(LAUGHTER)

CLINTON: Well, let me just finish and then Mike and Dennis can answer.

CLINTON: But there was evidence of a North Korea freighter coming in with supplies. There was intelligence and other kinds of verification.

So I don’t think it’s a question of if they feel it. That is a much higher standard of proof. Apparently it was met with respect to Syria.

RUSSERT: You will all be running against a Republican opponent, perhaps Rudy Giuliani. This is what he said.

“Iran is not going to be allowed to build a nuclear power. If they get to a point where they’re going to become a nuclear power, we will prevent them, we will set them back eight to 10 years. That is not said as a threat. That should be said as a promise.”

Would you make a promise as a potential commander in chief that you will not allow Iran to become a nuclear power and will use any means to stop it?

CLINTON: Well, what I have said is that I will do everything I can to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, including the use of diplomacy, the use of economic sanctions, opening up direct talks. We haven’t even tried. That’s what is so discouraging about this.

So then you have the Republican candidates on the other side jumping to the kind of statements that you just read to us.

We need a concerted, comprehensive strategy to deal with Iran.

We haven’t had it; we need it—and I will provide it.



First off, Tim Russert deserves our gratitude for asking a great question. Senator Clinton refused to answer the question but we cannot blame the moderator for her noncompliance and since he pressed the issue we did get to learn of her leanings, however limited - favorable toward an Israeli strike of self defense provided that the evidence is there to support its claims.

But there is a caveat. Hillary carefully distinguished her views towards a strike against Syria and her views toward a strike against Iran based upon evidence that she claimed to lack (note the word "apparently"). That allows her to have it both ways. She tells the Republican and independent hawks who worry about the Democratic Party's perceived national security weakness that she will stand by Israel if it has the evidence to support its contention that Iran was getting a nuclear device while leaving a lot wiggle room for the doves by suggesting later on that such a standard was not met.

Clever, maybe too clever by half.

Still, her feisty attitude probably helped her. She was in control. This was her moment to shine, not Tim Russert's. This was her debate, not his. Voters won't have to question her negotiating skills when she sits down with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or the next Russian president. She'll be tough.


How did the others respond?

1. Senator Obama:

First, the non-answer:

"Well, what I have said is that I will do everything I can to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power, including the use of diplomacy, the use of economic sanctions, opening up direct talks. We haven’t even tried. That’s what is so discouraging about this.

So then you have the Republican candidates on the other side jumping to the kind of statements that you just read to us.

We need a concerted, comprehensive strategy to deal with Iran.

We haven’t had it; we need it—and I will provide it."


Moderator Tim Russert presses him further:

"Senator Obama, would Israel be justified in launching an attack on Iran if they felt their security was jeopardized?"


Remember, Tim Russert is asking Obama how he would respond to a fight that Israel started and not one that a president of the United States could control. Note too that the moderator is asking not how Israel should respond through force but whether Israel would be justified to respond through force.

Obama continues:

"I think it’s important to back up for a second, Tim, and just understand. Number one, Iran is in a stronger position now than it was before the Iraq war because the Congress authorized the president to go in.

And so, it indicates the degree to which we’ve got to make sure before we launch attacks or make judgments of this sort, that we actually understand the intelligence and we have done a good job in sorting it through.

Now, we don’t know exactly what happened with respect to Syria.

We’ve gotten general reports, but we don’t know all the specifics.

We got general reports in the run-up to the Iraq war that proved erroneous, and a lot of people voted for that war as a consequence.

Now, we are a stalwart ally of Israel and I think it is important to understand that we will back them up in terms of their security. But it is critical to understand that—until we have taken the diplomatic routes that are required to tighten economic sanctions—I have a plan right now to make sure that private pension funds in this country can divest from their holdings in Iran. Until we have gathered the international community to put the squeeze on Iran economically, then we shouldn’t be having conversations about attacks on Iran.

I think what Mayor Giuliani said was irresponsible, because we have not yet come to that point. We have not tried the other approach."


Okay. so Obama doesn't support such strikes as long as the coalition for economic sanctions as long as we do not have a consensus on economic sanctions.

2. former Senator John Edwards (D-North Carolina)

"Well, let me say, first of all, I think there’s a clear responsible course for America with respect to Iran. And that responsible course is to recognize that Ahmadinejad is unpopular in his own country.

And if we work with our friends in Europe in the European banking system, we can put a clear proposal on the table for the Iranian people; sticks and carrots. Carrots being, we will help you with your economy if, in fact, you give up your nuclear ambitions. The flip side being, there will be severe economic sanctions if you don’t.

But I want to come back to a discussion that took place a few minutes ago to make everyone understands what Senator Gravel is talking and Senator Clinton was talking about. Because there was a very important vote cast in the United States Senate today. And it was, basically, in a resolution calling the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization.

I voted for this war in Iraq, and I was wrong to vote for this war. And I accept responsibility for that. Senator Clinton also voted for this war.

We learned a very different lesson from that. I have no intention of giving George Bush the authority to take the first step on a road to war with Iran.

And I think that vote today, which Senator Biden and Senator Dodd voted against, and they were correct to vote against it, is a clear indication of the approach that all of us would take with the situation in Iran because what I learned in my vote on Iraq was you cannot give this president the authority and you can’t even give him the first step in that authority because he cannot be trusted. And that resolution that was voted on today was a very clear indication."



Senator Edwards was allowed to answer the non-existent question that he wanted to answer but that happens when the moderator is pressed for time. Candidates who do not have answer a particular question first know they have more leeway, particularly when the moderator feels he or she has to rush to the next question.

The former one-term senator from North Carolina scored some points. He, unlike Obama, offered the voting public another thing which it should consider when dealing with Iran - the opposition. Edwards' critique of the former First Lady's vote for the Iran amendment was on target. Senator Clinton says Bush abused the authority she voted to give him when he, in her view, prematurely went to war in Iraq. Why then, Edwards asks, would she give him that authority, that blank check, again? She either (a) didn't learn from her mistakes or (b) really doesn't believe that authority was abused.

3. Governor Bill Richardson (D-New Mexico)

First, the non-answer:

"Yes. And this is what I would do. I would approach it through diplomacy.

A fundamental goal of our foreign policy should be not to permit Iran to develop nuclear weapons.

Another cornerstone of our foreign policy should be the strength and the security of Israel. So you cannot deny a nation the right to legitimately defend itself.

Now, my approach is different. By the way, talking about diplomacy, I’ve talked to a lot of these bad guys already, so I would have a head start in personal diplomacy. You have to approach Iran— first of all, you use diplomacy. Then you use sanctions.

The problem that we have with Iran is that we don’t build the international support that is needed to put economic pressure on Iran. And by point here is that Iran is susceptible to economic pressure. It can do so through—they import half of their foodstuffs, half of their gasoline. They’ve got domestic unrest.

I would not talk necessarily to Ahmadinejad. I would talk to moderate clerics. I would talk to business leaders. But 40 percent of the Iranian people vote for moderate candidates for president.

So you first use diplomacy.

The problem, Tim, is we can’t build the international support with the Europeans, with Russia, that has leverage on Iran, to effectively pressure them not to build nuclear weapons and to stop messing around in Iran.

But it’s called diplomacy. It’s called negotiation. It’s called talking to Iran and Syria and trying to work out differences."


Russert would press Richardson once before moving on:

"But the issue you may have to confront as president—Israel took out a nuclear reactor in Iraq. They attacked Syria. They may conclude they need to attack Iran. If they did and you were president, would you support Israel?"

"A fundamental tenet of American foreign policy is to support Israel. But Tim, you’ve got to bring diplomacy.

The problem in the Middle East is there is no Middle East peace process. There is no Middle East peace envoy. We don’t talk to Syria.

You’ve got Israel today less safe than it ever was. You’ve got Hamas on one side, you’ve got Hezbollah, you’ve got Iran wanting to build nuclear weapons.

But you do it through diplomacy. You do it through a Middle East peace process. Get Lebanon involved. Get Syria involved."


Not as clever as Clinton but just as non-committal. He did not say how the United States would "support" Israel.

Blank Check on Iran

War with Iran?

"(a) Findings.--The Senate makes the following findings:

(1) General David Petraeus, commander of the Multi-National Force Iraq, stated in testimony before a joint session of the Committee on Armed Services and the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives on September 10, 2007, that ``[i]t is increasingly apparent to both coalition and Iraqi leaders that Iran, through the use of the Iranian Republican Guard Corps Qods Force, seeks to turn the Shi'a militia extremists into a Hezbollah-like force to serve its interests and fight a proxy war against the Iraqi state and coalition forces in Iraq''.

(2) Ambassador Ryan Crocker, United States Ambassador to Iraq, stated in testimony before a joint session of the Committee on Armed Services and the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives on September 10, 2007, that ``Iran plays a harmful role in Iraq. While claiming to support Iraq in its transition, Iran has actively undermined it by providing lethal capabilities to the enemies of the Iraqi state''.

(3) The most recent National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, published in August 2007, states that ``Iran has been intensifying aspects of its lethal support for select groups of Iraqi Shia militants, particularly the JAM [Jaysh al-Mahdi], since at least the beginning of 2006. Explosively formed penetrator (EFP) attacks have risen dramatically''.

(4) The Report of the Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq, released on September 6, 2007, states that ``[t]he Commission concludes that the evidence of Iran's increasing activism in the southeastern part of the country, including Basra and Diyala provinces, is compelling. . . It is an accepted fact that most of the sophisticated weapons being used to `defeat' our armor protection comes across the border from Iran with relative impunity''.

(5) General (Ret.) James Jones, chairman of the Independent Commission on the Security Forces of Iraq, stated in testimony before the Committee on Armed Services of the Senate on September 6, 2007, that ``[w]e judge that the goings-on across the Iranian border in particular are of extreme severity and have the potential of at least delaying our efforts inside the country. Many of the arms and weapons that kill and maim our soldiers are coming from across the Iranian border''.

(6) General Petraeus said of Iranian support for extremist activity in Iraq on April 26, 2007, that ``[w]e know that it goes as high as [Brig. Gen. Qassem] Suleimani, who is the head of the Qods Force. . . We believe that he works directly for the supreme leader of the country''.

(7) Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, the president of Iran, stated on August 28, 2007, with respect to the United States presence in Iraq, that ``[t]he political power of the occupiers is collapsing rapidly. Soon we will see a huge power vacuum in the region. Of course we are prepared to fill the gap''.

(8) Ambassador Crocker testified to Congress, with respect to President Ahmedinejad's statement, on September 11, 2007, that ``[t]he Iranian involvement in Iraq--its support for extremist militias, training, connections to Lebanese Hezbollah, provision of munitions that are used against our force as well as the Iraqis--are all, in my view, a pretty clear demonstration that Ahmedinejad means what he says, and is already trying to implement it to the best of his ability''.

(9) General Petraeus stated on September 12, 2007, with respect to evidence of the complicity of Iran in the murder of members of the Armed Forces of the United States in Iraq, that ``[t]e evidence is very, very clear. We captured it when we captured Qais Khazali, the Lebanese Hezbollah deputy commander, and others, and it's in black and white. . . We interrogated these individuals. We have on tape. . . Qais Khazali himself. When asked, could you have done what you have done without Iranian support, he literally throws up his hands and laughs and says, of course not. . . So they told us about the amounts of money that they have received. They told us about the training that they received. They told us about the ammunition and sophisticated weaponry and all of that that they received''.

(10) General Petraeus further stated on September 14, 2007, that ``[w]hat we have got is evidence. This is not intelligence. This is evidence, off computers that we captured, documents and so forth. . . In one case, a 22-page document that lays out the planning, reconnaissance, rehearsal, conduct, and aftermath of the operation conducted that resulted in the death of five of our soldiers in Karbala back in January''.

(11) The Department of Defense report to Congress entitled ``Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq'' and released on September 18, 2007, consistent with section 9010 of Public Law 109-289, states that ``[t]here has been no decrease in Iranian training and funding of illegal Shi'a militias in Iraq that attack Iraqi and Coalition forces and civilians. . . Tehran's support for these groups is one of the greatest impediments to progress on reconciliation''.

(12) The Department of Defense report further states, with respect to Iranian support for Shi'a extremist groups in Iraq, that ``[m]ost of the explosives and ammunition used by these groups are provided by the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force. . . For the period of June through the end of August, [explosively formed penetrator] events are projected to rise by 39 percent over the period of March through May''.

(13) Since May 2007, Ambassador Crocker has held three rounds of talks in Baghdad on Iraq security with representatives of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

(14) Ambassador Crocker testified before Congress on September 10, 2007, with respect to these talks, stating that ``I laid out the concerns we had over Iranian activity that was damaging to Iraq's security, but found no readiness on Iranians' side at all to engage seriously on these issues. The impression I came with after a couple rounds is that the Iranians were interested simply in the appearance of discussions, of being seen to be at the table with the U.S. as an arbiter of Iraq's present and future, rather than actually doing serious business...Right now, I haven't seen any sign of earnest or seriousness on the Iranian side''.

(15) Ambassador Crocker testified before Congress on September 11, 2007, stating that ``[w]e have seen nothing on the ground that would suggest that the Iranians are altering what they're doing in support of extremist elements that are going after our forces as well as the Iraqis''.

(b) Sense of Senate.--It is the sense of the Senate--

(1) that the manner in which the United States transitions and structures its military presence in Iraq will have critical long-term consequences for the future of the Persian Gulf and the Middle East, in particular with regard to the capability of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to pose a threat to the security of the region, the prospects for democracy for the people of the region, and the health of the global economy;

(2) that it is a vital national interest of the United States to prevent the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran from turning Shi'a militia extremists in Iraq into a

[Page: S11828] GPO's PDF

Hezbollah-like force that could serve its interests inside Iraq, including by overwhelming, subverting, or co-opting institutions of the legitimate Government of Iraq;

(3) that it should be the policy of the United States to combat, contain, and roll back the violent activities and destabilizing influence inside Iraq of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, its foreign facilitators such as Lebanese Hezbollah, and its indigenous Iraqi proxies;

(4) to support the prudent and calibrated use of all instruments of United States national power in Iraq, including diplomatic, economic, intelligence, and military instruments, in support of the policy described in paragraph (3) with respect to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its proxies;

(5) that the United States should designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a foreign terrorist organization under section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act and place the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps on the list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists, as established under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and initiated under Executive Order 13224; and

(6) that the Department of the Treasury should act with all possible expediency to complete the listing of those entities targeted under United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1737 and 1747 adopted unanimously on December 23, 2006 and March 24, 2007, respectively."


This amendment would, it appears, give the president any authority he seeks to go after the president."

This would give the president the authority he would need to go to war against Iran. One need only refer to the sections I put in bold face. That Senator Hillary Clinton would give the president who, in her view, abused his authority by heading to war in Iraq before seeking international support this blank check, seems odd. Did she learn her "lesson" or is she really the hawk paying the doves in her party lip service?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The President's Misplaced Priorities

American -led NATO troops are fighting Al Qaeda terrorists and former Taliban soldiers in Afghanistan. Lebanese MP MP Antoine Ghanem,a member of the Phalange Party, died in a car bomb last week. Israli intelligence officials accuse North Korea of selling nuclear information to the Syrians after it allegedly bombed a target in Syria. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the United Nations that his country, a known sponsor of terrorism, will continue a uranium enrichment program that might be used to build a nuclear weapon.

So what did the president zero in on during his address to the United Nations today? None of the above. He didn't urge Iraq's neighbors to cut the supply of weapons being trafficked in and out of Iraq or call upon them to pressure their sponsored groups to negotiate over a political settlement. He did not call upon the other members of the international community to impose sanctions upon a defiant Iran. He did not insist upon an investigation into another another political assassination of a Lebanese politician, let alone condemn Syria for it. He did not express his resolve in winning the war in Iraq. And he did not express our solidarity to Pakistani Prime Minister General Musharraf as he fights for his political survival and life now that Osama bin Laden issued a fatwa against him.

No American is too old or too young to die. its casualties may include civilian and soldier alike. National Guard units were deployed, moral waivers were granted, and tours of duty extended to fight our wars yet the president did not ask the international community to do its share or contribute more troops to the fight against terror. Pressure was brought on North Korea to suspend its nuclear program. The Taliban's resurgence in Afghanistan is well underway.

So what did our president find so pressing? Burma, Zimbabwe, the Darfur region of the Sudan, and Belarus. Why pick another fight with the Russians we need against Iran over Belarus? Did any Al Qaeda terrorist cell launch an attack upon America or its European allies from Burmese or Zimbabwe soil? No. Does Zimbabwe have any strategic value to us? No. Have the Sudan's neighbors, the ones most affected by the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, promised to send a peacekeeping force to The Sudan? Yes, so we don't have to get further involved.

Why bring these crises up? Why leave the Iranian president's speech go unanswered by squandering our time to these less pressing matters? Don't ask me. I have long since given up on this president.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Ahmadinejad at University

Columbia University President Lee Bollinger stirred a lot of unwarranted criticism when he invited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak before the university's students on campus. The university had a right, may be even an obligation, to invite Iran's head of state to its campus. Our president considers him an enemy of the United States who sponsors terrorism abroad, calls for Israel's destruction, and supplies anti-American Iraqi militias with the explosive devices now killing American soldiers in Iraq.

By inviting Ahmadinejad, the university provided its students with an opportunity to hear the Iranian president's response to these assertions before we either start or are led into a war with Iran.

The Iranian president used his allocated time to portray his country as a peaceful nation that is not seeking nuclear weapons or war with the United States. He implausibly suggested that Iranian would have no use of nuclear weapons (it would, if only to deter military intervention from the United States, letting him fund terrorist groups with impunity) and denied our own president's assertion that Iran is providing Iraqi militias with training and the weapons used to kill American soldiers.

He was helped in no small part by the university president's hostile reception of the Iranian president. Bollinger no doubt felt his credibility was challenged by inviting Ahmadinejad so he criticized Ahmadinejad for his anti-semitic and anti-American tirades given the unwarranted attacks he sustained from conservatives in the press and among the university's alumni but in doing so he gave the Iranian president to cast himself as the victim of an overtly hostile host.

Ahmadinejad immediately cast Bollinger as the anti-diversity bigot the college presidents and professors across the nation condemn when he accused Bollinger of judging him before he even spoke (it's not entirely accurate since there is a history of statements to refer back to but that's besides the point). He was invited to speak and was treated poorly.

Accusations that Iran was not democratic were met by pointing to our president's constitutionally dubious war detention and warrantless surveillance policies. The Iranian president cast the United States as the aggressor who removes heads of state from power when we think it is in our national interest to do so. (Here, he'd have a point since we took the Phillipines, Puerto Rico, and Cuba from Spain; Panama from Colombia, the continental United States from the Indian Nations, the Shah we installed),

I see no problem with our imperialistic endeavors. Strong countries that look after their own interests survive while others die. We wouldn't be the strong military and economic superpower we are now if we didn't conquer the Indians, go to war with Mexico, or build the Panama Canal after taking Panama from Colombia by force.

But that is besides the point. The Iranian president was right. We have and still do remove heads of state that oppose us. His country has its own imperialistic past and like us, uses the ambitions and hopes of others to forward its national agenda (Kurdish and Shiite factions in Iraq, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian territories).

Ahmadinejad did not answer questions pertaining to his statements calling for Israel's destruction and his support for Holocaust deniers. He says further research should be conducted (Perhaps he should visit Auschwitz or Treblinka) and turned the subject to the Palestinian quest for self determination college liberals support. One news article suggests he could

He said there are no gays in Iran to the derisive laughter and jeers he deserved. Gays live (or try to live) with the Europeans and English-speaking democratic countries providing gays with the most protections. Most Arab and sub-Saharan African countries send their gays to jail if they are not sentenced to death.

His country's human rights abuses are of no concern of ours. We cannot afford to be the world's policeman and even if we do not like him we must deal with him if only to extricate ourselves from Iraq.

The Iranian president said he does not want to go to war with the United States. We believe he is supporting those who are fighting us in Iraq. We think he wants to build a nuclear bomb. He denies it. If he did anything at today's forum, the president of Iran made President Bush and the neo-conservatives in this country look like a bunch of warmongers.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Everybody?

"Everybody wins in ideological skirmishes like these — which is why you can expect more of them as the war and the presidential season collide in the coming months." - Matt Bai in The New York Times

what about the troops? the Iraqi civilians (particularly those cooperating with the Coalition Forces) caught in the crossfire?

Free At Last

"We have ended TimesSelect. All of our Op-Ed and news columns are now available free of charge. Additionally, The New York Times Archive is available free back to 1987." - a note from The New York Times

Hallelujah. The editors at The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, and nearly every other major daily metro newspaper in the United States offers its news articles and columnists for free. Why anyone would pay to read what an op-ed columnist has to say is beyond me. Perhaps the editors didn't get the revenue and number of hits they hoped for.

Iran/Iraq

"Since 2005, Iraq's Shiite-led government has concluded numerous economic, political, and military agreements with Iran. The most important would link the two countries' strategic oil reserves by building a pipeline from southern Iraq to Iran, while another commits Iran to providing extensive military assistance to the Iraqi government. According to a senior official in Iraq's Oil Ministry, smugglers divert at least 150,000 barrels of Iraq's daily oil exports through Iran, a figure that approaches 10 percent of Iraq's production. Iran has yet to provide the military support it promised to the Iraqi army. With the US supplying 160,000 troops and hundreds of billions of dollars to support a pro-Iranian Iraqi government, Iran has no reason to invest its own resources.

Of all the unintended consequences of the Iraq war, Iran's strategic victory is the most far-reaching. In establishing the border between the Ottoman Empire and the Persian Empire in 1639, the Treaty of Qasr-i-Shirin demarcated the boundary between Sunni-ruled lands and Shiite-ruled lands. For eight years of brutal warfare in the 1980s, Iran tried to breach that line but could not. (At the time, the Reagan administration supported Saddam Hussein precisely because it feared the strategic consequences of an Iraq dominated by Iran's allies.) The 2003 US invasion of Iraq accomplished what Khomeini's army could not. Today, the Shiite-controlled lands extend to the borders of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Bahrain, a Persian Gulf kingdom with a Shiite majority and a Sunni monarch, is most affected by these developments; but so is Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province, which is home to most of the kingdom's Shiites. (They may even be a majority in the province but this is unknown as Saudi Arabia has not dared to conduct a census.) The US Navy has its most important Persian Gulf base in Bahrain while most of Saudi Arabia's oil is under the Eastern Province."
- Peter Galbraith in The New York Review of Books

So where do we go from here? Peter Galbraith says we are misreading the Iranian government's intentions. The Iranians might be willing to s strike a deal now that their allies largely control Baghhad. They won't gain much by acquiring nuclear weapons now that Saudi Arabia and Sunni-populated Arab states view it as the major threat to counter. Stability would solidify their gains and provide us with the exit strategy the people want.

Okay, it is worth a shot but if the Iranians want political stability in Iraq we have no reason to back down on the uranium enrichment front. Iran's officials would negotiate for a political settlement in Iraq because they want it. I don't believe we can avoid that question and in fact, our European allies would probably insist upon talks concerning nuclear proliferation but linking success to one with a deal on the other might give us the worst of both options - a nuclear Iran and political instability in Iraq.

We are backing a pro-Iranian government now but there is no guarantee it will last. Moqtada al-Sadr is a nationalist whose goal of a unitary Shiite but Iraqi nationalist Iraq could win Baghdad.

The PoliticalHeretic advises against settling for any deal that gets our forces out of Iraq. Russia's support for Iran makes it an unreliable partner in policing the Iranian government's nuclear development. The uranium enrichment program that is conducted on Russian soil would have to be inspected as would all sites now or later rendered inoperable on a frequent but unannounced basis.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Global News that Should Be Reported

What isn't being covered in the press but should be:

this
and this

Why not?

Giuliani flip flops

America's mayor unsuccessfully tried to flip flop on the abortion question in the first Republican primary debate which was hosted on MSNBC by taking a disinterested position on Roe v. Wade so he decided to reaffirm his pro-choice credentials. He downplayed his fervent support for gay rights, (he once supported civil unions but now only supports domestic partnerships). Now, the mayor who supported the Brady Bill that provided for five-day background check waiting periods, and supported the Federal Assault Weapons Ban has discovered the Second Amendment.

He has evolved from gun control supporter to federalism to Second Amendment right supporter.

Now I am no fan of gun ban advocacy. The Political Heretic believes we should not allow guns on planes, trains, or subways for obvious reasons and has no problem with laws requiring trigger locks and speedy background checks but does have a problem with gun bans like the ones in place in Washington, D.C., New York City, or San Francisco. A responsible citizen should have a right to own a gun for hunting and self protection.

But Giuliani's shift on gun control, like Mitt Romney's "epiphany" on a whole number of political hot button issues is troubling if only because it means there is one less thing for Republicans to debate over. There's no point in holding debates when the political candidates shift their positions in such a way so that they all agree with each other. And in any case, Giuliani's switch, like those made by other politicians from the right, left, and center, only reinforces the group think ideological package-deal agenda process we can all do without.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Illegals: Scored One, May Lose One

How on earth did we ever reach the point where people who by law are not entitled to be in this country would be presumed to have a right chemotherapy coverage is beyond me.

Since people who have either entered or remained in this country illegally are by law required to return to their home country, common sense would suggest that such people are entitled to the medical treatment that would keep them alive - that is, treatment designed to stabilize the patient so that he or she can receive the medical care he or she is entitled to within his or her home country. Illegal immigrants would not qualify for long term care since it is presumed that he or she is not authorized to live or work in this country and consequently would be required to find such treatment in his or her own country.

I certainly hope President Bush wins this tug of war. We should be encouraging these illegals to return to their own country and discouraging illegal immigration and n ot, as Governor Elliot Spitzer and New York's otherwise log-jammed legislature, rewarding them.

Clinton's Day

Senator Hillary Clinton (D-New York) is about to make her first public appearances on the Sunday morning news making political talk shows since she first announced her intention to run for the White House. She will appear on Tim Russert's "Meet The Press," Chris Wallace's "FOX News Sunday," Bob Schieffer's "Face The Nation," George Stephanopoulos' "This Week," and Wolf Blitzer's "Late Edition Sunday."

The former First Lady and New York's junior senator will presumably be called to answer the tough questions we have learned to expect from Tim Russert and Chris Wallace. Both presumably will ask her about her vote authorizing the use of force in Iraq, the Moveon.org resolution, entitlement reform, campaign finance scandals past and present, the financing behind her new health insurance program, taxes, and some hot-button cultural issues. The Political Heretic certainly hopes so anyway. They must not back down or make any deals to refer to a pre-approved list of questions. George Stephanopoulos' questioning will also be interesting since he once and may at some future point, work in a second Clinton administration. He must not let his prior connection to his former boss in anyway interfere with his duty as the interviewer.

Hillary Clinton's back to back appearances on the Sunday talk shows will serve her well. Her campaigners have set these appointments up on the same day, giving the interviewers a short time span to follow up on questions posed on the other talk shows. While she will have to answer or deftly avoid any real or perceived inconsistencies in her comments, her campaigners have bought her the time to formulate her response to those questions. In the meantime, she will garner the headlines in Monday's newspapers her aspiring opponents may not receive since they are not getting any face time on the Sunday talk shows this week.

No other candidate has received this favorable treatment. Last week, Senator Joe Biden was interviewed on "FOX News Sunday" last week while Tim Russert had Senator John McCain and no other talk show interviewed a presidential candidate. On September 9, Biden was on "Meet The Press" while McCain was on "This Week" and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee was on "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer."

One week earlier Biden alone among the presidential candidates was interviewed but he was only on one of the five interview shows. "FOX News Sunday" had Huckabee on Sunday August 26 while "Face The Nation" gave their time to former Senator John Edwards (D-North Carolina). ABC News hosted a Democratic primary debate on August 19, giving the Democratic candidates equal time but the other talk shows did not have any of those or the Republican candidates on their shows, having opted to interview Bush political strategist Karl Rove and two weeks earlier ABC News hosted the Republican primary debate.

Clinton must perform remarkably well this Sunday to justify this favorable treatment. Nothing less than a flawless victory from the queen would suffice. Treating her or any candidate at this point in the campaign as a front runner is questionable at best. Primary voters in no state have gone to the polls to select their preferred candidate as of yet.

The media's focus on the polls prejudices the outcome in the anointed front runner's favor turning them into a self-fulfilling prophecy. The candidates whose campaign stops are mentioned the most, the candidates whose names are mentioned the most on the talk shows and the candidate whose featured on the talk shows the most gets the higher poll numbers. Voters who tune into the race at some future point deserve to hear from all of the candidates in the race.

The Weekend Preview

I. THE SUNDAY INTERVIEW SHOWS


1. "FOX News Sunday" on FOX (Sunday at 10:00 AM ET):
Topics This Week - election 2008. (a) "Choosing The President" - interview with Senator Hillary Clinton (D-New York) on the war in Iraq, health care and her quest for the White House. (b) former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Georgia) with his reaction to Clinton interview. (c) FOX News Sunday Panelists - Britt Hume of FOX News, Mara Liasson of National Public Radio, Juan Williams of National Public Radio, and Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard. (d) Power Player of The Week - Ken Burns. FOX News Channel airs this show at 6:00 PM ET. Hosted by Chris Wallace


2. "Meet The Press" on NBC (Sunday at 10:00 AM ET):
Topics This Week - election 2008, Alan Greenspan. (a) "Meet The Candidate" - Senator Hillary Clinton on the war in Iraq, health care and the other major issues she faces running for president. (b) Alan Greenspan - former Federal Reserve Chairperson Alan Greenspan on his new book "The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World" and his insights into current trends and the four presidents for whom he served. MSNBC airs this show at 10:00 PM ET. Hosted by Tim Russert.


3. "This Week" on ABC (Sunday at 10:30 AM ET):
Topics This Week - election 2008. (a) Senator Hillary Clinton (D-New York) on the war in Iraq, her new health care proposal and the state of her campaign. (b) Round table - E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post, David Brooks of The New York Times, Cokie Roberts of ABC and George Will of ABC. (c) Voices - Ken Burns who in a new documentary examines the lives of the oridnary people who lived through World War II. (d) In Memorium. (e) Sunday Funnies. Hosted by George Stephanopoulos.


4. "Face The Nation" on CBS (Sunday at 10:30 AM ET):
Topic This Week - election 2008.
(a) Senator Hillary Clinton (D-New York) in her first interview since she launched her campaign for the White House. (b) Editor-in-Chief John Harris of Politico.com. Hosted by Bob Schieffer.


5. "Late Edition Sunday with Wolf Blitzer" on CNN (Sunday at 11:00 AM ET):
election 2008. (a) Senator Hillary Clinton (D-New York) on the war in Iraq, health care and the race for the White House. (b) Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt (R-Utah) responds to the Clinton interview. (c) French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner on the Iranian standoff and in all likelihood, developments in Belgium and Iraq. (d) Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger (R) and Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski on the Iranian standoff, the war in Iraq, and al Qaeda. (e) Political commentary - CNN Senior Political Analyst Gloria Borger and and CNN Correspondent Joe Johns. Hosted by Wolf Blitzer.


II. THE WEEKEND POLITICAL TALK SHOWS



1. "Beltway Boys" on FOX News Channel (Saturday at 6:00 PM ET): Topics This Week - not yet posted. Co-hosted by Fred Barnes and Morton Kondracke.


2. "FOX News Watch" on FOX News Channel (Saturday at 6:30 PM ET): Topics - O.J. Simpson coverage and other topics yet to be determined. (a) O.J. Simpson in the news - too much coverage? (b) other topics yet to be determined or posted. Panelists include Cal Thomas, Jim Pinkerton, Jane Hall, Neil Gabler and host Eric Burns.


3. "Big Story Weekend" on FOX News Channel (Saturday and Sunday at 5:00 PM ET):
Topics This Week - Elizabeth Edwards campaign role, economic recession. (a) economic recession potential. (b) Elizabeth Edwards v. Hillary Clinton. (c) ups and downs for the week. Hosted by Julie Banderas.


4. "The Chris Matthews Show" on NBC (Sunday at 10:00 AM ET): election 2008 New York Subway Series and Democratic blogger bosses. (a) New York Subway Series: Hillary Clinton v. Rudolph Giuliani. (b) bloggers as the new bosses of Democratic politics. Panelists include Norah O'Donnell of MSNBC, John Heilermann of New York Magazine, Kathleen Parker of The Washington Post Writers Group, Andrew Sullivan of Atlantic Magazine.


5. "Reliable Sources" on CNN (Sunday at 10:00 AM ET):
CNN doesn't offer a preview for this show but anyone who is interested in watching it can tune in on Sunday mornings at the posted time or read the transcripts that are posted on CNN's web site. "Reliable Sources" is hosted by Howard Kurtz.


III. WEEKEND FEATURE NEWS PROGRAMS



1. "20/20" on ABC (Friday at 10:00 PM ET): Topic This Week: "The Toughest Call" - amazing stories about people making the toughest decisions in their lives. (a) former Playboy Playmate of the year and author Jenny McCarthy places her faith and hope in a controversial diet to save one of her children from autism. Reported by Deborah Roberts, Gwen Gowen, and Elizabeth Grodd. (b) Christine Coppa, overwhelmed by the care she was giving to her paralyzed boyfriend Keith Cavill moves on while he in turns to wheelchair rugby and finds his independence. Reported by Jessica Hornig and Richard Gerdeau. (c) the, it is asserted, reluctant return of Billy Ray Cyrus and the start of his daughter's Miley Cyrus career. Profiled by Katie Thomson. (d) Eric and Kimberly Scott on keeping the baby created through rape. Reported by Ruth Chenetz. (e) saving wounded Army Private Channing Moss. Reported by Andrew Paparella. Hosted by John Stossel.


2. "CNN Special Investigations Unit" on CNN (Saturday at 8:00 PM ET):
Topic This Week - "America's Killer Diet." Calorie overload and the science behind it. Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports.


3. "48 Hours Mystery" on CBS (Saturday at 10:00 PM ET): Topic This Week - "Murder on the Cape." Fashion writer is murdered and everyone who knows him could be a suspect. Reported by Susan Spencer.


4. "CBS Sunday Morning" on CBS (Sunday at 9:00 AM ET):
Topics This Week - list obsession, new season preview, Queen Latifah. (a) Cover: Making A List - our fascination with lists as perceived by director Rob Reiner, Men's Health Editor-in-Chief David Zinczenco, "Book of Lists" author David Wallechinsky and pop culture professor Robert Thompson. (b) Almanac: Presidential Dogs. (c) Art: At The Circus - Sonny King tells his story traveling with his father Mervyn King at the circus through his graphic design art now displayed at the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles. Profiled by Jerry Bowen. (d) New Season: At The Movies - Los Angeles Times Film Critic Kenneth Turan previews the Oscar-inspired movies that will be shown in movie theaters this fall. (e) New Season: At Museums. (f) Sunday Profile: Queen Latifah - musician-turned actress-turned musician Queen Latifah is profiled by Rita Braver. (g) New Season: On Stage - a preview of what will be performed on stage in Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles, and London. (h) Geist: kazoo - Bill Geist on the kazoo. Hosted by Charles Osgood.

5. "60 Minutes" on CBS (Sunday at 7:00 PM ET): Topics This Week - pot, Iranian president, and Russian politics. (a) Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his plans to visit ground zero and the New York City Police Department's effort to deny him access for security reasons. Interviewed by Scott Pelley. (b) Pot Shops - critics say law that was passed to let pharmacists distribute medically-prescribed marijuana say California pot dealers are giving the drug to anyone with a doctor's note. Reported by Morley Safer. (c) "The Match of His Life" - former chess player champion Garry Kasparov against Russian President Vladimir Putin. Reported by Steve Kroft. (d) Commentary - Andy Rooney.