This one might get you misty: Nine-year-old Alayna Adams threw out the first pitch before Thursday's Tampa Bay Rays-Boston Red Sox game. She was told she'd been selected by the U.S.O. for the honor, partially because her father, Lt. Col. Will Adams, had been deployed overseas in Afghanistan for most of the past two years.
Before Alayna threw her pitch, a message from Dad played on the video board, saying he'd see her soon. Indeed he would.
Because it turned out the whole thing was a ruse orchestrated by the U.S.O and the Rays. Lt. Col. Will Adams was, in fact, dressed in catcher's gear, crouching behind home plate, awaiting the throw from his daughter.
When he caught the ball and flipped up the catcher's mask, Alayna looked at him for a second, realized what's going on, ran full speed toward him and launched herself into his arms.
Dana Adams, Will's wife and Alayna's mom, didn't know about the surprise either. Soon, she joined them in tears.
Stocks continued their climb into uncharted territory on Friday, racking up the fourth week of gains in a row as encouraging economic data prompted investors to pick up shares of growth companies.
The Dow and the S&P 500 finished at fresh record highs, driven by gains in energy and industrial shares. The indexes have pushed to a series of never-before-seen levels as part of the rally that has lifted equities more than 16 percent for the year so far.
In a sign of how far the market has come, the S&P 500 is also about 1,000 points above the low hit in March 2009 in the wake of the credit crisis and recession. Shares picked up strength late in the day on Friday, with the S&P 500 rising 1 percent not long before the closing bell.
Until wages start going up and unemployment comes down to more moral levels, all stock market records represent is a theft by the top 5% from the people who actually create that wealth. A theft that is legal today but that will, I am confident, be illegal one day under international law so that the plutocratic class cannot play one nation-state against another to perpetuate their state-sanctioned larceny.
The IRS scandal is an official free-for-all. I'm hard-pressed to find any right wing group that isn't wailing about its persecution. Here's just one example of the religious right's horning in on the action:
Friends of the family,
This past week, revelations about the IRS targeting conservativegroups seemed to keep coming. Just yesterday, we learned that the Internal Revenue Service acting commissioner Steven Miller has submitted his resignation for his agency's "inexcusable" targeting of conservative groups who had applied for tax-exempt status. According to Fox News, the IRS targeting went broader than originally reported. Apparently, the IRS’ additional scrutiny “went beyond targeting ‘Tea Party’ and ‘patriot’ groups to include those focused on government spending, the Constitution and several other broad areas.” One of these ‘other areas’ now appears to be churches and faith-based organizations.
In the Christian community, several established organizations were apparently targeted, including Franklin Graham, whose two North Carolina charities came under sudden scrutiny after he and his father, Rev. Billy Graham, published pro-marriage and pro-family election ads. In a letter to President Obama, the Grahams explain that an IRS agent visited both groups in October to conduct a surprise tax "review." National Organization for Marriage was another target, as their confidential documents were released to the Human Rights Campaign--whose then-president was a chairman for Obama's re-election campaign.
Pro-Life non-profit groups are reporting being stonewalled by IRS agents as well. Some were told that they would not qualify as an educational 501(c)3 organization unless they advocated for abortion as well, while others had their applications held up until they promised not to protest outside of abortion clinics! Let me be clear that MFI is an educational and advocacy non-profit that, as you know, is grounded in Judeo-Christian morality. We are exactly the type of organization that the IRS now appears to have been targeting.
What we must do now, as men and women committed to bringing salt and light into the public square, is refuse to be intimidated into silence, even when the sword of the state is used against us. Unfortunately, this sort of hostility and interference from the IRS towards faith-based groups is not new. The IRS has been targeting churches since the passage of the Johnson Amendment in 1954, which amended section 501(c)(3) of the tax code and has since been applied to intimidate churches and pastors across the country into silence on the moral qualifications of candidates and the positions they hold. There is no difference between what the IRS has been caught doing with conservative groups and what the IRS has done to churches for the last 59 years. Both are intimidation. Imagine the impact of a system of intimidation targeting a particular group left unchecked for over half a century. That is exactly what has happened with America’s churches. Free speech is a fragile thing and it needs breathing space to exist. The power of government can all too easily squelch dissent. People will not speak at all if there is uncertainty over whether the power of government will come down on them if they say something that might violate the law. This is what we are seeing first hand with the revelations of the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups. And this has been the problem with the Johnson Amendment and the IRS’ vague regulations enforcing it. The law does not give any certainty over what is allowed and what is permitted from the pulpits of America’s churches. So pastors, concerned that they might say something that would trigger the enforcement power of the IRS (a very powerful government agency), stay silent. America’s churches have suffered for too long under the intimidation of the IRS. The best way to shine the light on that intimidation is to stand in the face of it.
That’s why we ask you to encourage your pastor to participate in June 9th’s Pulpit FreedomSunday. And that’s why we hope that if you are a pastor, you will go today to sign up to participate in Pulpit Freedom Sunday. It’s time for the IRS to stop using its power to squelch free speech and freedom of religion for America’s churches.
For our families,
Rep. now about to pop a blood vessel at the IRS hearing is Rep. Tim Griffin, central player in the US Attorney Firing Scandal.
Oh, that's not even the half of it:
Thursday, May 22, 2008
So I hear that Tim Griffin has abandoned his quest to become a fearless crime fighting lawman to go back to being the nasty dirty trickster he was born to be:
The Republican National Committee is hiring one of the party's toughest oppo-researchers -- former Karl Rove protege Tim Griffin, who was also at the center of the U.S. Attorney scandal -- to dig into Barack Obama's past and unearth info to damage his general election candidacy, a senior Republican operative confirms to me.
Griffin played a lead role in the GOP oppo operation during the 2004 campaign, unearthing info that damaged John Kerry's presidential bid. According to the senior GOP operative, who's familiar with Griffin's past work, he was instrumental in unearthing a videotape of a 1971 interview that Kerry did in which he appeared to confirm that he renounced his medals to protest the Vietnam War.
The video was subsequently used in an ad by the Swift Boat Vets, whose work was renounced by McCain. The McCain campaign -- and the RNC -- declined to comment on Griffin's hiring.
"Griffin is basically going to consult for the Republican National Committee on working out Obama's vulnerabilities," the senior Republican said, somewhat euphemistically. "The hope is to do to Obama what folks successfully did with John Kerry."
If you want to see Griffin in action, you can watch Digging the Dirtthe BBC documentary on oppo-research from the 2000 election.Here's an article about the movie from Time magazine about it:
[T]he overwhelming coup of the film is the insight it brings to the Republican version of Carville's War Room - the seething boiler room at RNC headquarters in D.C. where GOP Head of Research Barbara Comstock and Deputy-Head Tim Griffin ply a rough trade that has probably cost Gore the election.
The nasty secret of the 2000 elections is undoubtedly the enormous growth in the past four years of the people who "do oppo" the nickname for the innocuously titled "Opposition Research" departments in each campaign.
That both sides maintain teams dedicated to unearthing material on the other side is not new. What IS new is the intensity of the digging, the sheer breadth and depth of the search - and most of all the now seamless and instant deployment of the results through the spin meisters directly into the mass media.
In fact, the film reveals how much the media has come to depend on the Oppo research teams for material.
Where newspaper journalists and TV producers once conducted independent research of charges made by a campaign - that has now dwindled. That is because the media has become aware that the research offered by both sides is so intensively fact-checked and triple-checked that it can safely accept the word if offered by the oppo experts.
In the film we see RNC glee as AP accepts their oppo research on a Gore misstatement during the first debate. During their months of filming BBC producers also observed producers for NBC's Tim Russert among others calling to enquire if the team had any new material. This was apparently normal trading on both sides.
RNC researcher Griffin comments in the film: "It's an amazing thing when you have topline producers and reporters calling you and saying 'we trust you.... we need your stuff.'"
The instances where such research - by either side - has proven to be false are very few in number. [really???] The backfire effect on the campaign that issues the material would be far too devastating. It is this that presumably gives the media its comfort zone.
So one might say that if the oppo research of both sides is so accurate - where is the harm in them disseminating and the media accepting the information?
The problem lies not in the veracity of the information per se - but in the significance and disproportionate magnification that is then placed on the information - and how its disbursement reinforces other themes in the campaign gameplans.
The program established its bona fides with the Bush campaign early in the year. Being a 'foreign' film crew from the impeccable BBC was the irresistible blandishment. Obviously without a dog in the race - the BBC were granted the sort of access that American journalists dream of.
But even more remarkable is the way the subjects react in front of the camera. They KNOW they're being filmed. They KNOW that what they're doing might appear sly and devious. And yet they can't resist the lens. Like a team of art thieves in the Louvre heisting the Mona Lisa. Even though the snap might be incriminating - they can't quite resist the lure of posing for a quick vacation Polaroid. "Me and Chuck heisting some old painting in Paris, France."
And so - on the night of the first debate - we see a pumped-up Tim Griffin (deputy head of RNC Research) barking orders to his large team of "oppos." Lehrer tosses Gore the question about him having cast doubt on whether Bush has sufficient experience to lead. Gore demurs and parses his response. Griffin leaps into loud action. Within minutes his team have tracked down an obscure Gore quote buried within the transcript of a lengthy speech. Gotcha! "It directly contradicts what he just said in the debate! He just lied!" crows Griffin. Seconds later Griffin has fed the contradiction to the Associated Press. This is beyond post-debate spin. This is play-by-play impeachment. And incredibly effective.
Moments later the topic is the Balkans. Gore speaks of how the First World War started there and says "my uncle was a victim of poison gas there." The RNC oppo staff giggles at this and Griffin bellows: "This family stuff is killing me... let's check his uncle! Let's see if it's Witt Lafont. He's under investigation for drug-trafficking..." There is a flurry of activity and history books being consulted - and then palpable disappointment that Gore's uncle really was a gas victim. "OK so that is not a lie..." Griffin grimaces and phones the bad news to a waiting colleague: "Hey... we confirmed the uncle tear-gas story...."
But when Gore makes what turns out to be his misstatement about visiting Texan fire sites with James Lee Witt (Director of FEMA) - Griffin senses blood. "Have Jeanette take a look at that!" he cries. And his hunch is right. Gore has transposed dates or people. And that gives Griffin another opportunity.
The BBC cameras catch him on the phone exulting to a colleague: "You know what this would be perfect for is... Get one of these AP reporters or somebody on it for the next few days and then we get a lie out of it... and roll a few days with a new lie!"
And "LIE" was what they got. The New York Post trumpets LIAR LIAR on its front page - and the post-debate spin cycle becomes about Gore's perceived chronic character flaw. And so it has gone every week since the debates. The image is enshrined.
Was the fact that Gore DID visit Texan firesites - but on that occasion with another FEMA executive relevant? Did it matter that he had made other visits to Texas with James Lee Witt? Were Gore's words a misstatement or a lie? What would have been the benefit in intentionally lying about such a trivial fact? Was it important either way?
To Griffin it is all very simple:
"If there's something really good that we can attack on then we will... Research is a fundamental point. We think of ourselves as the creators of the ammunition in a war. Research digs up the ammunition.. We make the bullets."
The enduring legacy of the 1992 campaign was the large sign in Carville's War Room - bearing a phrase that subsequently entered the political lexicon. "It's the economy, stupid."
Behind Tim Griffin in the RNC Oppo Room, the BBC camera captures a large sign he has erected. "On my command - unleash hell on Al."
It's just hilarious to see him today as an elected official acting as if he's the second coming of Honest Abe. Who says there are no second acts in American life?
Wow, an "air of crisis." And where did this "air of crisis" come from? It surely did not come from financial markets, were investors have shown a willingness to lend the United States governments trillions of dollars at very low interest rates in the years since President Obama took office. It certainly did not come from competent economists who were able to recognize that the large deficits were a direct result of the economic collapse in 2008. It also did not come from the millions of people who lost their jobs due to the downturn and looked to government stimulus as the only possible source of demand that could re-employ them.
A more accurate statement might be that:
"the improvement in the short-term forecast has removed the air of crisis around the budget deficit that the Washington Post and its allies have sought to promote since President Obama took office."
Let's be serious here, the crisis was invented by people in Washington who have an agenda for cutting Social Security and Medicare. That is as clear as day. The deficit crisis does not actually exist in the world. In the world we have a crisis of a grossly under-performing economy that the Post and its allies have attempted to perpetuate.
Deficit fever may have finally broken, but the ravages of the disease are still painful. So, it's not as if they can't have any fun at all.
Via @Billmon1 on twitter last night I read that Charlie Cook has some advice for the Republicans. He says that even though the second term presidents often stumble, it's important that the Republicans not publicly come down too hard on Obama with all these scandals because congress is already disrepute and the public might not respond the way they want them to. He offers another plan:
Republicans would be much wiser to pursue a third option: Dig up as much damaging information as they can about the Obama administration and leak it to reporters they know will write tough stories that won’t be traced back to the source. That way, the public won’t see the GOP as being obsessed with attacking the other side and playing gotcha at the expense of the big issues facing the country—the ones voters really care about.
As Billmon pointed out, he's basically advising them to take Obama down through Nixonian ratfucking and rumor-mongering rather than public hearings and investigations. Not that they would need any prodding, mind you. They are pros at that practice, having invented covert political war when Barack Obama was still playing with his covert GI Joe dolls. But still, it is a bit startling to see an allegedly dispassionate political analyst come right out and tell them they should do it in order that they not appear to be the reckless partisan wrecking crew they really are.
I'm sure Karl Rove's heart was warmed by the friendly advice. But since the immediate plan is to gin up the rubes for 2014 in order to take the Senate and take as much hide as they can off Hillary Clinton in the process, I'm going to guess they'll open several fronts in this campaign. If I were the administration I think I'd be prepared for everything. Cook's no wartime consiglieri.
At what point do the old guard holdout Senate Dems grow a spine?
by David Atkins
Jonathan Bernstein asks a very pertinent question apropos of systematic Republican obstruction of Obama Administration nominees:
Two of Obama’s major nominees — Gina McCarthy to head the EPA, and Thomas Perez as secretary of labor — were voted out of committee today in straight party-line votes. Next stop? The Senate floor, where both are likely to be defeated by GOP filibuster.
Look: filibusters of these two nominees are absolutely certain — as has been the case on virtually all of Barack Obama’s nominations. Republicans have made it mandatory for nominations to reach a previously-rare (and almost unprecedented) 60 vote standard.
So the question with McCarthy and Perez is the same as the question is with everything Democrats want in the Senate — can they find five Republicans who are willing to allow a final, simple-majority vote? In other words: can they overcome the Republican filibuster?...
If Mitch McConnell went to the floor of the Senate and announced that Republicans would block literally every single nominee for the duration of the Obama presidency, then Harry Reid would almost certainly change the rules tomorrow. Republicans are not blocking every nominee, but they are blocking far more nominees than was the case for any previous president. The question is, How close are they to crossing the line that will finally force Democrats to take action?
It's not fair to curse Democrats as a whole for lack of courage in this situation. Reportedly over 45 of the current Senate Democrats are on board with significant filibuster reform. But it's time that the few old guard holdouts realize that if there ever was a "good old days" of comity in the Senate, those days are long gone and not coming back. Business has to get done in the Capitol--and yes, while there is a fear that Republicans could do significant damage if they get control of the Senate, most studies show that reforming the filibuster would bolster progressive priorities on average.
Even the old guard has to realize at this point that it's time to pull the trigger on filibuster reform.
SCOTT PELLEY: also at his news conference today the president called for tighter security for u.s. diplomatic facilities. to prevent an attack like the one in Benghazi, Libya, last year that killed U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. of course, Benghazi has become a political controversy. republicans claim that the administration watered down the facts in talking points that were given to U.N. ambassador Susan Rice for television appearances while Mr. Obama was running for reelection. republicans on capitol hill claim that they had found proof of this in white house e-mails that they leaked to reporters last week. well, it turns out some of the quotes in those e-mails were wrong. Major Garrett is at the white house for us tonight. Major?
MAJOR GARRETT: Scott, Republicans have claimed that the state department under Hillary Clinton was trying to protect itself from criticism. The white house released the real e-mails late yesterday and here’s what we found when we compared them to the quotes that had been provided by republicans. One e-mail was written by deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes. On Friday, Republicans leaked what they said was a quote. But it turns out, in the actual e-mail Rhodes did not mention the State Department. republicans also provided what they said was a quote from an e-mail written by state department spokesman Victoria Newland. The Republican version notes Newland discussing: the actual e-mail says: the C.I.A. agreed with the concerns raised by the state department and revised the talking points to make them less specific than the C.I.A’s original version, eliminating references to al Qaeda and affiliates and earlier security warnings. There is no evidence, Scott, the White House orchestrated these changes.
I don't know what the "Tax Exept" office is, but obviously this means that conservatives are going to be targeted for death panels under their Obamacare mandate. Or something. Whatever it is, it's superbad.
"We are in the midst of the worst Washington scandal since Watergate."
Well, there was that time when Ronald Reagan lied to our faces about breaking the law and selling arms to our enemies in order to illegally fund our "anti-communist" pals in Nicaraugua, but although Noonan was working for him at the time, she was so distracted by his sexy toes that I guess she didn't notice. (And I can't help but laugh at the fact that despite Peggy's eight long years of hysterical apoplexy on a daily basis, none of the Clinton scandals made the cut..)
I'm going to guess that as much as liberals are convinced that these scandals are going away, that may be wishful thinking. There is nothing the conservatives love more than being martyrs.
Anyway, his words about what the elites really think are what I wanted to highlight here:
I think for most of them, austerity is just a convenient facade. Their real motivation is simpler: they want to cut spending on the poor. Unfortunately, they've learned that this appeals only to voters who are already hardcore conservatives. To win over a broader audience, they need to appeal to the conventional view that a high debt level betrays a lack of national discipline and needs to be corrected at a national level. Like a household that spent too much redecorating its kitchen with a home equity loan, the country has spent too much and now needs to cut back. For most people, this argument is far more palatable than a simple appeal to cut spending.
So yes: a lot of people view the economy as a morality play. But among conservative elites, I suspect there's less of this than you might think. Rather, it's used primarily as a cynical way of getting the spending cuts they want without overtly bashing the poor.
I'm not sure this is entirely confined to conservative elites but perhaps the centrists who go along with the program simply don't care about the poor as opposed to consciously wanting to hurt them. In any case, what struck me about this observation is that the sequester is a perfectly realized policy under that definition. (Even better, it also includes hurting a whole bunch of federal workers, who they hate almost as much as poor people!) What could be better than that?
And the best part is that they got a bunch of Democrats (including some progressives) and a Democratic president to sign off on it. No wonder they've moved into full scandal mode. Their work is done.
The progressive, anti-imperialist case for international intervention
by David Atkins
In many circles on the political left, there isn't a dirtier word than interventionist. The word conjures associations with the worst kind of arrogant imperialism, a constellation of belligerent privilege that stretches from Rudyard Kipling through Woodrow Wilson all the way to George W. Bush. This is with good reason: after all, most interventionism by Western powers has been well-intentioned but ineffective at best, and immoral, abusive and bloodthirsty at worst. It's not surprising that anyone who declares themselves a progressive and an interventionist will be immediately subject to charges of imperialism, racism, warmongering, economic exploitation and other evils. Nor does being steeped in the excellent work of Naomi Klein, Chalmers Johnson or Joseph Stiglitz shield the liberal interventionist from these attacks. Live and let live, reduce blowback, embrace global diversity, end cultural prescriptivism, and let each nation fend for its own economic interests, the interventionist is told.
The moral charges against the interventionist are so varied and intensely felt by his critics that it is often difficult to respond to them in a a satisfying way without descending into a futile series of personal attacks. Arguments on both sides of the interventionism debate are not known for their calmness or rationality, and frequently descend almost immediately into name-calling.
So as a self-proclaimed liberal international interventionist, I'd like to take a step toward explaining the position in a way that will hopefully serve to advance the debate and add light rather than heat to the discussion. I've made this case before here at Hullabaloo, but only sequentially and not in a single, easily digestible article. That's in part because the thesis is somewhat difficult to encapsulate, but this post will be an attempt to do so. For those interested in the longer version, please read in sequence here, then here, then here, then here, and then here.
The first thing to understand about a liberal interventionist is who she is not. The liberal interventionist does not advocate unilateral action on the global stage, nor the use of military power to further corporate interests, nor the use of law or force where the result achieved does not justify the use of force involved, nor does she demand that her own nation be exempt from the rules that apply to others. The liberal interventionist does not believe in the expansion of empire, or in a Pax Americana. The liberal interventionist understands and takes to heart the concept of blowback, and does her very best to minimize it while staying true to her principles.
So what does drive the philosophy of the liberal interventionist? The first and most important is the principle of universality of morals. This principle of universality is what makes the liberal the natural enemy of the libertarian and the moral relativist, both of whom hold divergently opposite views. The liberal does not believe that a single nation can abide slavery in some of its states, but not others, or that some states should be able to ban abortion, or segregate their schools, or allow child labor. A liberal understands that if "driving while brown" laws are wrong as he stands on west side of the California/Arizona border, they're also wrong if he takes a few steps across the border to the east. Nor does the liberal have any qualms about using the federal court system, backed up by the inherent threat of federal guns to enforce it, to deny conservatives in Arizona the right of self-determination on the matter. Liberals cheer the desegregation of Southern schools at the point of a federal gun, nor do they spend sleepless nights worried about cries of federal tyranny from the racists who complain. A liberal is more than content to use the threat of federal force to ensure that women have access to an abortion and that minorities receive Medicaid, nor do we blame an oppressive and imperial federal government for creating blowback when Tim McVeigh or Eric Rudolph decide to actualize their displeasure with liberal policy by bombing innocent civilians. The anger of a few fundamentalist conservatives is understood, within the borders of a nation state, to be the price of the universal application of social justice in a free society.
What separates the liberal interventionist from the standard liberal is simply that this principle of universality of morals doesn't end at the national border. If differential exploitation and discrimination are not acceptable across state lines, they are likewise not acceptable across nation-state borders.
As a practical matter it may not be possible to enforce that moral principle across nation-states without causing greater damage than the original harm. That is a practical, realpolitik and reasonable argument against intervention. It is, in fact, the reason that most liberal interventionists would be wise to not intervene across nation-state borders except in the most extreme cases. However, the usual arguments against international liberal intervention are not made by those who might like to stop abuses but feel powerless to do so without causing greater harm, but by those who feel moral revulsion at taking away another nation's right to determine its own affairs and set its own cultural standards. These are libertarian and moral relativist arguments that make no sense in the context of a national, anti-interventionist liberalism. If it's wrong to tell Afghan and Pakistani Taliban that they shouldn't oppress the Hazara and destroy the lives of women because it interferes with their principle of self-determination, it is equally wrong as a Californian or New Yorker to tell Alabaman conservatives that they don't have the right of self-determination to oppress African-Americans and eliminate reproductive rights. There might be a distinction in current law, but there is no moral distinction between the two cases.
Further, if we are to consider Boston bombers Dzhokar and Tamerlan Tsarnayev somehow a product of a victimized group actualizing blowback against a libertine, oppressive power, then so must we also give the same emotional quarter to abortion clinic bombers. The liberal interventionist is not inclined to do so.
The second principle of the liberal interventionist is the acknowledgement of the weakened power of the nation-state. The world currently faces a large number of challenges that nation-states are simply too powerless to contain themselves. By far the first and most pressing of these challenges is climate change. No single nation can act alone to contain climate change. Any nation that does act alone will, at least in the short term, put itself at a competitive disadvantage against other nations that continue to burn fossil fuels with reckless abandon. That in turn leads to a situation in which everyone knows that something must be done, but no one will step up to act. International laws may or may not be passed, but there exists no credible enforcement mechanism to ensure that nations meet their commitments. Meanwhile, the world burns.
But climate change is not the only issue of its nature. International financial organizations have proven utterly unaccountable to any country, nor has any nation shown it has the clout and power to put a stop to the abuses. Some nations like Iceland have acted in small ways, but none of those actions have caused changes to the behavior of these institutions. In the wake not only of their crashing the world economy while privatizing profits and socializing losses, but also their price fixing and manipulation of oil markets and LIBOR rates, little has been done except modest slaps on the wrist. That's because no major nation can afford to act alone against the banking industry that holds the entire world hostage and enforces its preferred policies through the threat of bond vigilantes. Beyond finance, other international corporations and their wealthy shareholders have turned record profits by selling high to the middle classes of developed world, manufacturing cheaply and dangerously in the desperate developing world, and then stashing over $32 trillion dollars in offshore accounts. That's more than a thousand times the cost of eliminating world hunger. Much like climate change, it's a global crime against humanity that no single nation-state can resolve. Any nation that attempts to right the balance of power against an international corporation finds its manufacturing jobs yanked and its politicians tussled by powers far greater than any nation can cope with.
Terrorism itself is creating a new legal morass for nations that know they must control the behavior of bad actors and asymmetrical warriors in another country, but cannot depend on that country to take action. No nation is safe from reckless and immoral invasion, because international courts have little enforcement power to seize war criminals like Dick Cheney and put them to trial, and most developed nations would rather "look forward" than hold their own war criminals to account. Nuclear proliferation, overfishing, water shortages, and a host of other problems only serve to reinforce the powerlessness of nation states to solve global problems in the modern world.
That imbalance of power serves in turn to increase the likelihood of unilateral imperial actions. With no international framework to deal effectively with terrorism or war criminals, overreactions and exploitative acts by powerful nations and non-state actors will increasingly become the rule rather than the exception. With no international power able to do much of anything against Bin Laden or Dick Cheney, the number of Dick Cheneys and Bin Ladens in the world will increase, not decrease. Goldman Sachs will continue to rule the world unhindered, the climate will burn, developing-world factory workers will die en masse, people will starve, eventually there will be nuclear war, and not a thing will change for the better. The balance of corporate and state power must change, and the only option is a stronger international framework of law and enforcement that constrains multinational corporations, as well as both sides in the new era of asymmetric war.
The liberal interventionist, then, is not a retrograde imperialist. The liberal interventionist is an idealist who resists the neoliberal global consensus of corporate power over national power while simultaneously rejecting the siren calls of antiquated nationalism. The liberal interventionist rejects the moral self-determinist supremacy of nation states' rights abroad as strenuously as he rejects the same self-determinist supremacy of "states' rights" at home. The liberal interventionist rejects the moral relativism of the academic in the ivory tower as surely as she rejects the libertarianism of the anti-government militia man. The liberal interventionist does not accept that institutionalized massive gender and social inequities must be long accepted either at home or abroad except as a nod to the greater moral evil of war, and adamantly refuses to accept that massacres such as those that occurred in Rwanda or are currently occurring in Syria must be tolerated at all without global intervention. The liberal interventionist is confident that the power of multinational corporations can be curbed, but only with effective international action. And the liberal interventionist knows that climate change is the greatest moral challenge of our day, while seeking to build institutions that will be able to tackle the threat in ways that current institutions seem utterly inadequate to do.
To many, the liberal interventionist may be a naive utopian playing with forces she does not understand and cannot control. Perhaps. She would counter that human history is in many ways the story of the power of civilization and complexification to mitigate the worst tendencies of human nature while expanding universal rights and unlocking the secrets of the universe. She would argue that there is no reason to believe that that process of societal complexification has ended with our current global political structures, and that there is every reason to believe that without a metamorphosis of some kind toward greater complexity and universality, humanity itself stands at the precipice of its own destruction.
But at the very least, as a liberal interventionist myself, I would prefer that arguments over liberal interventionism be conducted in the context of what those like me actually do believe, rather than be set up as the straw man imperialism of a dying era.
The American people know that our Social Security system works, and during the economic collapse of 2008 they saw that while their home equity, 401k’s and savings were devastated, Social Security was the one source of retirement security that people could rely on.
With so much uncertainty about the future, we will rely more than ever on our Social Security benefits. That’s why now is the time to build upon the one retirement security system that we know we can count on.
We can expand Social Security benefits. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) has a proposal that will do just that: The Strengthening Social Security Act of 2013.
According to Senator Harkin's office, The Strengthening Social Security Act of 2013 (S. 567) would:
• Strengthen Benefits by Reforming the Social Security Benefit Formula: To improve benefits for current and future Social Security beneficiaries, the Act changes the method by which the Social Security Administration calculates Social Security benefits. This change will boost benefits for all Social Security beneficiaries by approximately $70 per month, but is targeted to help those in the low and middle of the income distribution, for whom Social Security has become an ever greater share of their retirement income.
• Ensure that Cost of Living Adjustments Adequately Reflect the Living Expenses of Retirees: The Act changes the way the Social Security Administration calculates the Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA). To ensure that benefits better reflect cost increases facing seniors, future COLAs will be based on the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E). Making this change to Social Security is expected to result in higher COLAs, ensuring that seniors are able to better keep up with the rising costs of essential items, like health care.
• Improve the Long Term Financial Condition of the Trust Fund: Social Security is not in crisis, but does face a long-term deficit. To help extend the life of the trust fund the Act phases out the current taxable cap of $113,700 so that payroll taxes apply fairly to every dollar of wages.
Combined, these changes will increase benefits for current and future beneficiaries while making Social Security stronger for future generations by extending the life of the Trust Fund through 2049.
By making millionaires and billionaires pay the same rate as the rest of our do, we can expand Social Security for all Americans. That is what we must do.
We need every single member of Congress to hear from their constituents. Tell them you are sick and tired of these conversations about how much to cut from our earned benefits, tell them now is the time to expand Social Security.
Top officials from President Barack Obama's campaign arm, which was recently rechristened as Organizing for Action, are working to dampen the passionate grassroots opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, just as the organization launches its campaign against climate change, according to donors and OFA members.
Leaders of the group have on multiple occasions told gatherings of activists and donors that OFA will not pressure the White House on Keystone regardless of its members' interest in the project, a 1,700-mile pipeline that would move heavy crude from the Canadian tar sands to the Gulf. The administration recently pushed back a decision on approving the pipeline to November, December or even 2014. OFA's refusal to press the administration on the controversial Keystone project is reminiscent of its decision not to pressure Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) on gun purchase background checks, despite -- or perhaps because of -- OFA Chairman Jim Messina's close relationship with him. Baucus voted against the president and subsequently announced his retirement.
The reticence worries those who hoped that the Obama campaign's legacy would be a strong, independent grassroots movement that could bring outside pressure on Washington, rather than continuing to act as an arm of the president. Instead of a new organization that will push the White House from a progressive flank, on Keystone, OFA is in effect pushing grassroots activists in the opposite direction. Its approach to the pipeline indicates it is shaping up to be little more than another element of the administration that activists must lobby.
I really don't give a damn about OFA, but isn't what's scary about this the fact that it indicates the administration is likely to ok the pipeline? Why else would OFA hold back?
I hope they understand what a shitstorm that's going to unleash. Very, very bad idea. Very.
Drones, leaks and loose lips: underneath the AP scandal
Contrary to what seems to be an emerging narrative about this AP scandal, it is simply not true that the AP and the government are equally culpable. In fact, if there is one person responsible for the detail about the informant getting out, it's the man who now heads the CIA. And he let it slip during a "talking points" session with a bunch of national security TV commentators.
First, let me just say that the constitutional principle at stake in this AP scandal is so paramount that I've been loathe to even write about the details of the case. The idea that the government has the right to do sweeping fishing expedition subpoenas of the allegedly free press without their knowledge or any judicial oversight is mind boggling to me and regardless of the precedent in other cases, I'm simply appalled that any administration would do it. There are ample ways to go about dealing with issues that don't chip away at the first and fourth amendment. Unfortunately, this administration is in love with secrecy and covert activity and has turned national security into an intimidation tactic against a free press. It's extremely disappointing.
Around April 22: John Brennan takes over drone targeting from JSOC
April 22: Drone strike that–WSJ reports, “Intelligence analysts [worked] to identify those killed” after the fact, suggesting possible signature strike
April 24: Robert Mueller in Yemen for 45 minute meeting, presumably to pick up UndieBomb
April 25: WSJ reports that Obama approved use of signature strikes
April 30: John Brennan gives speech, purportedly bringing new transparency to drone program, without addressing signature strikes
May 2: Government asks AP to delay reporting the UndieBomb 2.0 story, citing national security
May 6: Fahd al-Quso killed
May 7: Government tells AP the national security concerns have been allayed; AP reports on UndieBomb 2.0
May 8: ABC reports UndieBomb 2.0 was Saudi-run infiltrator
May 15: Drone strike in Jaar kills a number of civilians
That tells quite a story when you look at it in full context doesn't it, particularly the fact that the debate over the drone strikes was bubbling up at the time. And it isn't exactly the story the government is telling people about the cowboy press putting American lives in jeopardy with their irresponsible reporting, is it? I urge you to read through Marcy's reporting and click those links above if you are interested in the details that led to this scandal.
But what strikes me as the single most important detail that nobody's talking about is this, which Marcy wrote about many times over the past year and which should have precluded John Brennan's confirmation as CIA director:
WASHINGTON | Fri May 18, 2012 12:46pm EDT
(Reuters) - White House efforts to soft-pedal the danger from a new "underwear bomb" plot emanating from Yemen may have inadvertently broken the news they needed most to contain.
At about 5:45 p.m. EDT on Monday, May 7, just before the evening newscasts, John Brennan, President Barack Obama's top White House adviser on counter-terrorism, held a small, private teleconference to brief former counter-terrorism advisers who have become frequent commentators on TV news shows.
According to five people familiar with the call, Brennan stressed that the plot was never a threat to the U.S. public or air safety because Washington had "inside control" over it.
Brennan's comment appears unintentionally to have helped lead to disclosure of the secret at the heart of a joint U.S.-British-Saudi undercover counter-terrorism operation.
A few minutes after Brennan's teleconference, on ABC's World News Tonight, Richard Clarke, former chief of counter-terrorism in the Clinton White House and a participant on the Brennan call, said the underwear bomb plot "never came close because they had insider information, insider control."
A few hours later, Clarke, who is a regular consultant to the network, concluded on ABC's Nightline that there was a Western spy or double-agent in on the plot: "The U.S. government is saying it never came close because they had insider information, insider control, which implies that they had somebody on the inside who wasn't going to let it happen."
The next day's headlines were filled with news of a U.S. spy planted inside Yemen-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), who had acquired the latest, non-metallic model of the underwear bomb and handed it over to U.S. authorities.
At stake was an operation that could not have been more sensitive — the successful penetration by Western spies of AQAP, al Qaeda's most creative and lethal affiliate. As a result of leaks, the undercover operation had to be shut down.
That detail about the informant wasn't in the AP story, it came from John Brennan, super spy, who let the cat out of the bag after the fact. And yet the government subsequently went on a witchhunt against the AP. And it's fair to suspect that it did so not because of national security --- after all, the AP simply reported a glorious thwarted terrorist plot success story without the detail the government claims put lives in danger --- but rather as an act of ... something else.
Read the rest of that story to get the background on what the dispute between the AP and the government really was at the time. It's laughably prosaic: the government had agreed to let AP release their story of glory, but says they refused AP's request not to comment for an hour after its publication. The AP denied that there was any such request. That's it.
But there was a leak about the informant and it came from John "loose lips" Brennan in that conference call with administration mouthpieces getting ready to go on TV:
Several days after the first leaks, counter-terrorism sources confirmed to Reuters that a central role in the operation had been played by MI-5 and MI-6, Britain's ultra-secretive domestic and foreign intelligence services, whose relationship with their American counterparts has been periodically strained by concern about leaks.
These sources acknowledged that British authorities were deeply distressed that anything at all had leaked out about the operation.
The White House places the blame squarely on AP, calling the claim that Brennan contributed to a leak "ridiculous."
"It is well known that we use a range of intelligence capabilities to penetrate and monitor terrorist groups," according to an official statement from the White House national security staff.
"None of these sources or methods was disclosed by this statement. The egregious leak here was to the Associated Press. The White House fought to prevent this information from being reported and ultimately worked to delay its publication for operational security reasons. No one is more upset than us about this disclosure, and we support efforts to prevent leaks like this which harm our national security," the statement said.
The original AP story, however, made no mention of an undercover informant or allied "control" over the operation, indicating only that the fate of the would-be suicide bomber was unknown.
I'm going to take a wild leap and guess that the AP sweep was a CYA operation to placate the British who were upset that the AP even had the original story of the glorious thwarted bomb plot --- a story that the administration clearly wasn't all that upset about except for the timing. (According to the AP, the administration had planned to make the announcement themselves a day later.) After all, if the agreement to hold the story broke down over the alleged request that the government not comment for one hour as government officials alleged, it's fairly obvious their concerns were less about national security and more about spin. It was only after Brennan spilled the beans about their real secret that this thing came apart.
The DOJ is saying this investigation is completely divorced from the rest of the government, a task taken on inside the agency at the direction of James Cole, since Eric Holder recused himself. I guess we should all be properly grateful that the department is so concerned with our foreign policy and national security that it has taken it completely upon itself to police government leaks to the press more stridently than any DOJ in recent memory without any guidance from the national security apparatus. But if that's the case, this one should have been an easy one: obviously this AP story was planted by someone who was quite proud of the operation, not someone who was critical of it. And the one detail that potentially put people's lives at risk was clearly accidentally leaked by James Brennan after the fact. I don't think it was all that complicated.
A new study published online today in the journal Environmental Research Letters puts a figure on how real this (genuine) scientific consensus is. The takeaway figure? Ninety-seven percent of scientific papers that take a position on anthropogenic climate change say it exists, and of authors of those papers, 97 percent endorse the idea of human-caused warming. That suggests both a consensus, and an overwhelming one. (Yes, that’s right in line with smaller past surveys, but no, still not universal.)
As the paper’s nine authors, headed by University of Queensland physicist John Cook, conclude: “A systematic, comprehensive review of the literature provides quantitative evidence countering this assertion [that a consensus is collapsing]. The number of papers rejecting [anthropogenic global warming] is a miniscule proportion of the published research, with the percentage slightly decreasing over time.”
But largely because of big money obfuscation and a pliant press that prefers to report he-said she-said controversy rather than established scientific consensus, a huge swath of the general public has been snowed by the deniers:
While the researchers used crowd-sourcing to help analyze the nearly 12,000 papers reviewed, the crowd itself is in no way so unified. As the paper notes, there is a “consensus gap” between science and the man on the street; a Pew poll from March reported that while 69 percent of Americans believe there is “solid evidence” the Earth is warming, only 42 percent accept this is mostly due to human activity. (Those are actually the highest figures in five years; as recently as 2006 the relevant numbers were 77 and 47 percent respectively.)
This difference between objective reality and public perception works out very well for the big money behind the fossil fuels industry.
However, the increasingly obvious connection between human activity and global warming is leading to a shift by the conservative denial crowd. First, they insisted that warming isn't happening at all. While there are still a few holdouts on that front, most have given that one up. Now the lie is that warming is happening, but humans aren't to blame for it. That lie is also unraveling. So many deniers are already moving to the "well, there's nothing we can do about it" stage. That's also not true. Doing something about it would just be economically inconvenient for the deniers and the people who write their checks.
One day the climate deniers will be as universally scorned as the Ku Klux Klan and the wealthy conservatives who defended the practice of child labor. But unfortunately, it's worse than that. Future generations can slowly repair the damaging legacy of racism and economic exploitation. But if we don't do something about climate, we may well reach a situation on the planet that future generations are unable to repair.
Most of the lead deniers know that they're lying about an issue that could realistically lead to the destruction of over 90% of the world's population (if not the entire human race) as well as most of the world's living species, within just a few generations. And they're doing it purely for momentary self-enrichment, at a time of record global inequality between rich and poor.
That makes them without exaggeration potentially the greatest villains in all of human history.
A mere four days after news broke that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had improperly targeted conservative political groups for scrutiny, GOP Sen. Dean Heller (NV) is threatening to introduce legislation that would “deny the IRS funds to hire new agents to implement Obamacare.” The bill would effectively make it impossible for the agency to provide millions of Americans with federal subsidies to buy the very health coverage they are required to have under the law.
Heller argues that this extreme measure may be necessary in light of the unfolding IRS scandal, echoing a growing trope among conservative politicians and right-wing commentators. Since last Friday, big-name conservatives including House Oversight Committee Chair Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), former presidential contender Newt Gingrich, former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, and various right-wing media outlets have questioned whether or not the IRS can be trusted to implement Obamacare. The implication is that if the IRS singles out conservative political groups, what’s to stop them from snooping through Americans’ private health care information or imposing fines on companies they don’t like?
While right-wing commentators and politicians are already using the incident to smear the health law by raising questions about IRS access to Americans’ private medical data, Bachmann took things one step further:
Since the IRS also is the chief enforcer of Obamacare requirements, [Bachmann] asked whether the IRS’s admission means it “will deny or delay access to health care” for conservatives.
As you know, Bachman has been on a jihad against Ohbaaaaamacare for years and notoriously proclaimed that it would "literally kill people." Considering what the IRS will be charged with doing --- approving applications for subsidies and tax credits to purchase insurance --- apparently Bachman is now upset at the prospect that the IRS will refuse to allow conservatives to be subsidized by the government for their Ohbaaaamacare.
There will always be a reason to deny aid to poor people
To anyone who is thinking the shrinking deficit has shut down the fever for austerity, think again:
Congressional Republicans are seeking deeper cuts to nutrition programs this year even as the federal budget deficit is shrinking faster than expected.
The deficit-obsessed House GOP wanted a $16 billion cut to food assistance last year, when the deficit topped $1 trillion, and now wants a $20 billion cut this year, when the deficit is expected to be $642 billion. What gives?
"As long as were six or seven hundred billion dollars out of balance, all parts of government have to do their part to restore fiscal integrity to the system," Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, said on Wednesday.
There's always a reason.(And if all else fails, there's always "dependency.")
And, by the way, it's only a matter of time before the Republicans get back in power, declare that happy days are here again, and start genuflecting to John Maynard Keynes' edict that government should be cut when times are good. And it's always a perfect day for tax cut for the job creators.
“I am not going to stop talking now," Holder countered as Issa objected to the attorney general’s attempts to interject.
"It is inappropriate and too consistent with the way in which you conduct yourself as a member of Congress," Holder said. "It is unacceptable. It is shameful."
Issa is such an unctuous little grandstander that no matter what Holder is guilty of, he clearly deserved it.
If we're going to go into full blown scandal mode, I demand better wingnuts please. Where's Henry Hyde when you need him?
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday that President Obama's policies have contributed to "the most rapid deficit reduction since World War II."
How proud they must be to see the results of their great accomplishment:
Spectrum Generations, midcoast Maine's non-profit Area Agency on Aging, says Meals On Wheels is taking a hit due to automatic spending cuts in the so-called "sequester" austerity budget. Meals On Wheels, which receives funding through the Older Americans Act, delivers meals to homebound seniors over 60 and disabled individuals. In Knox County, the program also has two on-site meals for seniors at the Methodist Conference Home in Rockland and the John Street Methodist Church in Camden. Lee Karker, executive director of the social service agency MCH, which administers the program, says that while funding for Meals On Wheels has been flat in recent years, the demand for the service has spiked.
"There are a lot of people out in the community who are eligible for this program, but because of pride or whatever don't ask for it," said Karker. "But with economic conditions that we've had, people have decided that they really do need it."
I'm not saying they are solely responsible for the hideous consequences of the austerity push we've seen over the past three years. But they certainly seem eager to credit for it anyway so I'm going to guess they are proud of the results.
This deficit hysteria has led to massive casualties in the country and around the world --- an entire generation has been delayed in even starting to seriously pursue its hopes and dreams, millions have lost their jobs and their homes and have had to start over and the rest of their lives are going to be financially insecure because of it. We have a huge group of long term unemployed who nobody cares about and who are probably never going to be employable again. We have more poverty even as the wealthiest are once again drowning in a sea of money, richer than they were before the financial crisis began. Austerity isn't to blame for all of it, but there can be no doubt that the constant garment rending over deficits has made it impossible to even talk about doing what's necessary to fix the real problems we're facing.
This is a standard talking point for the White House, don't forget. The following quote came from Jason Furman just last February:
The deficit this year is projected to be about 5 percent of GDP. It's come down by nearly 5 percentage points in the last four years. That’s the most rapid pace of deficit reduction the United States has seen since the end of World War II. The reason we're seeing this is in part due to the recovery of the economy, but also in part because the President has already signed into law $2.5 trillion of deficit reduction, including $1.4 trillion of spending cuts through the continuing resolutions and Budget Control Act, and another $600 billion of revenue from high-income households in the tax agreement and then the associated intrasavings.
But that wasn't good enough then. back in the days before Reinhardt-Rogoff exploded the austerity assumptions, this was the second part of the talking points:
So that $2.5 trillion gets you more than halfway to the $4 trillion that you need to stabilize your debt over the long term, and it actually has been sufficient to be bringing your deficit down quite strongly over the short run.
What we do need, though, is a lot more medium- and long-term deficit reduction.
This was the argument against the sequester, of course. "Yes we must have much more deficit reduction, but we need to drag it out over the medium and the long term so we can keep cutting the budget for decades to come!" (Yes, I know that wasn't the stated logic, but it might as well have been.)
I don't know at what moment the Democratic party became the proudest lil' deficit hawks on Washington but I'm going to guess it was somewhere around the time that George W. Bush started giving away lavish tax cuts to the wealthy. It's nice to see them once again strutting proudly and proclaiming that "the era of big government is over" so that when the Republicans take over ( as a consequence of "austerity fatigue" dontcha know)they can offer up big tax cuts and increase military spending again. But hey, at least the Democrats can all go to bed at night secure in the knowledge that history will record they were the grown-ups in the room.
Some wealthy Manhattan moms have figured out a way to cut the long lines at Disney World — by hiring disabled people to pose as family members so they and their kids can jump to the front, The Post has learned.
The “black-market Disney guides” run $130 an hour, or $1,040 for an eight-hour day.
“My daughter waited one minute to get on ‘It’s a Small World’ — the other kids had to wait 2 1/2 hours,” crowed one mom, who hired a disabled guide through Dream Tours Florida.
“You can’t go to Disney without a tour concierge,’’ she sniffed. “This is how the 1 percent does Disney.”
The woman said she hired a Dream Tours guide to escort her, her husband and their 1-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter through the park in a motorized scooter with a “handicapped” sign on it. The group was sent straight to an auxiliary entrance at the front of each attraction.
The Obama administration sought on Wednesday to revive legislation that would provide greater protections to reporters from penalties for refusing to identify confidential sources, and that would enable journalists to ask a federal judge to quash subpoenas for their phone records, a White House official said.
The official said that President Obama’s Senate liaison, Ed Pagano, called Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, who is a chief proponent of a so-called media shield law, on Wednesday morning and asked him to reintroduce a bill that he had pushed in 2009. Called the Free Flow of Information Act, the bill was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in a bipartisan 15-to-4 vote in December 2009. But while it was awaiting a floor vote, a furor over leaking arose after WikiLeaks began publishing archives of secret government documents, and the bill never received a vote.
White House Proposes Changes in Bill Protecting Reporters’ Confidentiality
By CHARLIE SAVAGE
Published: September 30, 2009
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has told lawmakers that it opposes legislation that could protect reporters from being imprisoned if they refuse to disclose confidential sources who leak material about national security, according to several people involved with the negotiations.
The administration this week sent to Congress sweeping revisions to a “media shield” bill that would significantly weaken its protections against forcing reporters to testify.
The bill includes safeguards that would require prosecutors to exhaust other methods for finding the source of the information before subpoenaing a reporter, and would balance investigators’ interests with “the public interest in gathering news and maintaining the free flow of information.”
But under the administration’s proposal, such procedures would not apply to leaks of a matter deemed to cause “significant” harm to national security. Moreover, judges would be instructed to be deferential to executive branch assertions about whether a leak caused or was likely to cause such harm, according to officials familiar with the proposal.
The two Democratic senators who have been prime sponsors of the legislation, Charles E. Schumer of New York and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, said on Wednesday that they were disappointed by the administration’s position.
Mr. Specter called the proposed changes “totally unacceptable,” saying they would gut meaningful judicial review. And in a statement, Mr. Schumer said: “The White House’s opposition to the fundamental essence of this bill is an unexpected and significant setback. It will make it hard to pass this legislation.”
But Ben LaBolt, a White House spokesman, called the proposed changes appropriate and argued that the administration was making a significant concession by accepting some judicial review. He noted that the Bush administration had strongly opposed such a bill as an incursion into executive power.
So it was extremely watered down, at the behest of the administration, before it passed the committee. Still, it's better than nothing. As Charlie Savage points out in the article it would have possibly prevented the Justice Department from doing an end run around the media companies to issue their subpoenas. On the other hand, the Justice Department could easily have acted as if the law the administration ostensibly wanted was in place. There was no law saying they had to do what they did.
David does a nice job unpacking the dreadful Politico gossip item in his post below. But as a long time Village observer from afar, I thought I might add a little more context. The first observation is that apparently Sally Quinn has officially passed the baton to Vandehei and Allen. How do I know this? Well, take the first sentence:
The town is turning on President Obama — and this is very bad news for this White House.
When Establishment Washingtonians of all persuasions gather to support their own, they are not unlike any other small community in the country.
On this evening, the roster included Cabinet members Madeleine Albright and Donna Shalala, Republicans Sen. John McCain and Rep. Bob Livingston, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan, PBS's Jim Lehrer and New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, all behaving like the pals that they are. On display was a side of Washington that most people in this country never see. For all their apparent public differences, the people in the room that night were coming together with genuine affection and emotion to support their friends -- the Wall Street Journal's Al Hunt and his wife, CNN's Judy Woodruff, whose son Jeffrey has spina bifida.
But this particular community happens to be in the nation's capital. And the people in it are the so-called Beltway Insiders -- the high-level members of Congress, policymakers, lawyers, military brass, diplomats and journalists who have a proprietary interest in Washington and identify with it.
They call the capital city their "town."
And their town has been turned upside down.
"This is a community in all kinds of ways," says ABC correspondent Cokie Roberts, whose parents both served in Congress. She is concerned that people outside Washington have a distorted view of those who live here. "The notion that we are some rarefied beings who breathe toxic air is ridiculous. . . . When something happens everybody gathers around. . . . It's a community of good people involved in a worthwhile pursuit. We think being a worthwhile public servant or journalist matters."
"This is our town," says Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, the first Democrat to forcefully condemn the president's behavior. "We spend our lives involved in talking about, dealing with, working in government. It has reminded everybody what matters to them. You are embarrassed about what Bill Clinton's behavior says about the White House, the presidency, the government in general."
Muffie Cabot, who as Muffie Brandon served as social secretary to President and Nancy Reagan, regards the scene with despair. "This is a demoralized little village," she says. "People have come from all over the country to serve a higher calling and look what happened. They're so disillusioned. The emperor has no clothes. Watergate was pretty scary, but it wasn't quite as sordid as this."
NBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell adds a touch of neighborly concern. "We all know people who have been terribly damaged personally by this," she says. "Young White House aides who have been saddled by legal bills, longtime Clinton friends. . . . There is a small-town quality to the grief that is being felt, an overwhelming sadness at the waste of the nation's time and attention, at the opportunities lost."
Message: they care. About themselves.
There was one guy who got it right:
Lloyd Cutler, former White House counsel to Presidents Carter and Clinton and considered one of the few "wise men" left in Washington, gives yet another reason why people take the scandal more seriously here. "This is an excitement to us, a feeling of being in on it, and whichever part of the Washington milieu we come from, we want to play a part. That's why we're here."
Yes. The president had made a grave mistake if he forgot that it's not about the people and it's not about the Party and it's not even about his own legacy. It's all about the Villagers:
Obama’s aloof mien and holier-than-thou rhetoric have left him with little reservoir of good will, even among Democrats. And the press, after years of being accused of being soft on Obama while being berated by West Wing aides on matters big and small, now has every incentive to be as ruthless as can be.
This White House’s instinctive petulance, arrogance and defensiveness have all worked to isolate Obama at a time when he most needs a support system.
Clearly, the president should have given them all frat-boy nicknames and insulted them in public. That's what they crave.
VandeAllen is doing an excellent job of stepping up now that Quinn has semi-retired. The president --- and the country --- is on notice: the Village is upset. They feel they've been ignored. And they will not be ignored.
Are these bubbling scandals the consequence of official malfeasance or ineptitude? Are they threats to the constitutional order, the result of executive overreach or something that affects the balance of power in the government? You will never know. In the Village nothing like that is ever important. They are there to give us the inside information on how the Villagers are feeling and what has offended their sensibilities so we will understand how our government really works. We will not be able to tell the difference between a real scandal and a trumped piece of partisan nonsense because they cannot tell the difference and they don't want to. And that works out very nicely for the permanent political establishment, doesn't it?