Bush / GOP

Attorney General Gonzales v. Senator Specter

This is really incredible.  We've written about the Bush Administration's decision to strip foreigners of their Habeas Corpus rights before, and Simon just linked to Glenn Greenwald's excellent analysis.  But it is worth reading the actual exchange to see the Attorney General, the highest legal authority in the land, say that he doesn't believe that Habeas Corpus is a guaranteed right, and to see Senator Specter rebuke him.  Make sure to read to the end, Specter definitely saves his best critique for last...

SPECTER: Where you have the Constitution having an explicit provision that the writ of habeas corpus cannot be suspended except for rebellion or invasion, and you have the Supreme Court saying that habeas corpus rights apply to Guantanamo detainees — aliens in Guantanamo — after an elaborate discussion as to why, how can the statutory taking of habeas corpus — when there’s an express constitutional provision that it can’t be suspended, and an explicit Supreme Court holding that it applies to Guantanamo alien detainees.

 GONZALES: A couple things, Senator. I believe that the Supreme Court case you’re referring to dealt only with the statutory right to habeas, not the constitutional right to habeas.

 SPECTER: Well, you’re not right about that. It’s plain on its face they are talking about the constitutional right to habeas corpus. They talk about habeas corpus being guaranteed by the Constitution, except in cases of an invasion or rebellion. They talk about John Runningmeade and the Magna Carta and the doctrine being imbedded in the Constitution.

 GONZALES: Well, sir, the fact that they may have talked about the constitutional right to habeas doesn’t mean that the decision dealt with that constitutional right to habeas.

 SPECTER: When did you last read the case?

 GONZALES: It has been a while, but I’ll be happy to — I will go back and look at it.

 SPECTER: I looked at it yesterday and this morning again.

 GONZALES: I will go back and look at it. The fact that the Constitution — again, there is no express grant of habeas in the Constitution. There is a prohibition against taking it away. But it’s never been the case, and I’m not a Supreme —

 SPECTER: Now, wait a minute. Wait a minute. The constitution says you can’t take it away, except in the case of rebellion or invasion. Doesn’t that mean you have the right of habeas corpus, unless there is an invasion or rebellion?

 GONZALES: I meant by that comment, the Constitution doesn’t say, “Every individual in the United States or every citizen is hereby granted or assured the right to habeas.” It doesn’t say that. It simply says the right of habeas corpus shall not be suspended except by —

 SPECTER: You may be treading on your interdiction and violating common sense, Mr. Attorney General.


LA Times Poll Shows Overwhelming Opposition to Bush-McCain Plan

President Bush has said he'll pursue his goals in the Middle East even when his dog Barney is the only one that still supports him.  Based on today's poll by the LA Times, that day appears to be getting ever nearer:

A strong majority of Americans opposes President Bush's decision to send more troops to Iraq, and about half of the country wants Congress to block the deployment, a Times/Bloomberg poll has found.

As he seeks to chart a new course in Iraq, Bush also faces pervasive resistance to and skepticism about the U.S. commitment — more than three-fifths of those surveyed said the war was not worth fighting, and only one-third approved of his handling of the conflict.

One Day In Iraq

Awful news from Iraq today, where three bombs at a Shiite-dominated Baghdad University indicates that sectarian violence continues unabated.  What does all this mean for the Bush-McCain escalation plan:

As one of the most deadly attacks on Shiites since the summer, it suggested that Sunni insurgents remain unfazed, even brash, in the face of the American military’s newest plan to secure the capital...

...In all, at least 108 people were killed in the capital, an Interior Ministry official said, and 25 more were found dead, many showing signs of torture.

American officials have emphasized that such violence justifies the imminent addition of 20,000 troops to make an immediate push to pacify the country.

Prime Minister Nuri Kamal Al-Maliki, by contrast, issued a statement after the bombings blaming supporters of Iraq’s “buried regime” for the violence, stressing again that Sunnis lay at the heart of the country’s problems. He has repeatedly rejected American efforts to crack down on Shiite militias that attack Sunnis, and has demanded control of the effort to bring peace to the country.

His support for the American plan to add troops and stamp out violence from both sects has been tepid at best. On Tuesday, his office released a statement emphasizing that Iraq would continue to build up its armed forces “to prepare for the withdrawal of the multinational forces from the cities or the withdrawal of 50,000 American soldiers from Iraq.”

And support from Sunni allies in the region is equally muted:

“We agree fully with the goals set by the new strategy, which in our view are the goals that — if implemented — would solve the problems that face Iraq,” said Prince Saud al-Faisal, the foreign minister...

...Although Prince Saud’s endorsement of Mr. Bush’s new Iraq plan was lukewarm at best, the prince declined to be drawn into a discussion of potential Saudi actions in the event that Iraq slides into full-blown sectarian civil war.

At home, Senator Hillary Clinton announced her intention to introduce a bill capping US troop levels in Iraq at the 1/1/07 level of 140,000.

And Senators Joe Biden (D-DE), Carl Levin (D-MI), and Chuck Hagel (R-NE) introduced a non-binding resolution today that strongly opposes the Bush-McCain escalation.  It will be important to watch the levels of bipartisan support it receives.  The full text is here, you can read the press release, and I'll post video of the presser as soon as it's up.  In the meantime, enjoy Rep. David Wu's explanation for the White House's foreign policy.

Update 1/18/07 at 10:30am:

Watch Senator Clinton's explanation of her resolution:

Senator Jim Webb to Give Democratic Response to the State of the Union

Senator Jim Webb has been tapped to give the Democrats' response to President Bush's State of the Union next week.  It's short notice, but this is a man who wrote his own op-ed for the Wall Street Journal without running it by his staff, so his speech may end up being must-see-tv, with more candor than usual.  Senator Webb is a marine combat veteran, whose son is currently serving in Iraq, and his outspoken oppostion to the President's Iraq policy will provide an important voice, as we debate America's involvement going forward

Rep. Harman Holds Bush Administration Accountable

Rep. Harman is leading the effort to hole the Bush Administration accountable for Iraq and make funding for our involvment in Iraq more transparent.  Read her op-ed from today's San Francisco Chronicle in its entirety here:

Stop Conducting the War Off the Books

- Jane Harman
Friday, January 12, 2007

As new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, there will be no more "blank checks" for the war in Iraq. Congress will hold President Bush accountable for the way he has fought this war, for what he plans to do next and for how he plans to pay for it.

Bush has funded the war in Iraq and the broader "war on terror" almost entirely through "emergency supplemental" appropriations bills -- in other words, off the books. Ninety-three percent of the approximately $507 billion appropriated for the war in Iraq has come through such bills, and the president is reportedly set to ask for another $100 billion in "emergency" funds in February to cover costs.

By designating budget requests as "emergencies," the president and the former Republican-led Congresses placed them on a legislative fast-track. Congress had little opportunity to ask tough questions about how these funds were being spent, and little opportunity to strip out offending items -- including a litany of earmarks and other domestic spending that had nothing to do with the war.

Calling these funding requests "emergencies" also automatically exempts them from spending caps. The president can thus claim that more than $500 billion in recent spending is not part of the deficit. Nonsense.

By doing so, the true costs of the war are not understood in relation to the other programs that are shortchanged to pay for it -- including providing veteran's benefits to the 22,714 American servicemen and women wounded in the war, funding the chronically underfunded No Child Left Behind education law, paying for affordable housing for Hurricane Katrina victims and investing in clean energy.

Last year's budget resolution, which this Congress has adopted, defines "emergency" as addressing a situation that is "sudden," "urgent," "unforeseen" and "temporary." After almost four years, the war in Iraq cannot reasonably be called "sudden." The Pentagon is capable of "foreseeing" the costs of the war with a reasonable degree of accuracy. And it stretches credulity to call either the war in Iraq or the "war on terror" "temporary." (I will grant the situation is, without question, "urgent").

There is ample precedent for considering the costs of war through the regular appropriations process. President Lyndon B. Johnson sought emergency supplemental funding for the first two years of the Vietnam War, but the war was almost entirely funded through the regular appropriations process in subsequent years. Similarly, most of the cost of the first year of the Korean war was paid for through supplementals, but the following two years were almost entirely paid for through the normal process. The war in Iraq should be no different.

No one in Congress wants to deprive our brave military men and women of the protective gear or equipment they need, or to fail to fund their safe exit from Iraq. That is why the 2007 supplemental appropriation is likely to pass -- and finding spending to cut in the 2007 budget to offset theses costs will be hopeless. But the marker can be set down for future funding. No more "emergency" supplementals, Mr. President.

Future funding for the war in Iraq must be on-budget, so Congress and the public can see the trade-offs and finally have a chance to "share" what is sacrificed.

U.S. Rep. Jane Harman, D-Venice, is in her seventh term in Congress and served for the past four years as the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee.


So That's How We're Going to Balance the Budget...

The President has a lengthy editorial in today's Wall Street Journal.  He opens with a reminder that he still has "the next two years -- one quarter of my presidency, plenty of time to accomplish important things for the American people." And closes with the best byline in the business "Mr. Bush is the President of the United States."  There is lots to parse, and take issue with, in between.  But the one line that stood out to me was the President's promise to "balance the budget by 2012 while funding our priorities and making the tax cuts permanent.  In early February, I will submit a budget that does exactly that."  You'll remember budgets as those things that Congress used to pass, before the Republican 109th came along.  There aren't many details about how the President plans to cut taxes, fund priorities, and balance the budget.

But maybe the President's fiscal goals can all be accomplished be eliminating all the senior State Department staff.  In more distressing news from the State Department, John Hillen the Assistant Secretary for Political-Military affairs is resigning his post, joining a long list of recent, top-level departures, all of them unfilled.  Hillen is described by the Washington Wire as "the principal link between State and the Pentagon and was leading the administration’s effort to build better security ties with Arab allies in the Persian Gulf in a bid to contain Iran’s growing influence."  At a time when America is facing unprecedented foreign policy challenges, we can little afford to lose talented people who are rushing to the exits of the flailing Bush Administration.  2008 can't come soon enough. 

First step: admitting you aren't winning ... but not losing

In an interview with reporters from The Washington Post yesterday, President Bush discussed multiple issues ranging from Iraq to his domestic agenda. On Iraq, the President turned to politics by asking if Republicans and Democrats can work together to fix problems like those addressed recently by top officials like Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker and former secretary of state Colin L. Powell (both have said in the last week that the active Army will break or is about broken). Answering the President's question, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) fired back: "I am glad he has realized the need for increasing the size of the armed forces . . . but this is where the Democrats have been for two years."

On whether persuing domestic policy will be tougher with the 110th Congress, the President said:

Quite the contrary. Quite the contrary. The microphone of the president has never been louder, and I think we have a good -- in other words, to talk about what I think is important. But it turns out that what I think is important, the Democrat leadership thinks is important, as well -- energy security, immigration reform, education -- and Republicans on the Hill agree. And so my task is going to be to talk about big issues that the American people expect us to work on, and work with both Republicans and Democrats.

Discussing the issue of comprehensive immigration reform, the President said:

I'm interested in getting a comprehensive bill out, because I believe it is vital to solving the pressure we have on our border.

One of the interesting things that, if you notice from the recent enforcement activities that ICE took, there are a lot of people who are using forged documents to do jobs Americans are not doing. And my attitude is that there ought to be a way for people to come to this country on a temporary basis and fill those jobs in an open way, a transparent way, that doesn't cause there to be, one, a smuggling operation that's vibrant and making money, a housing operation that is illegal, and a document forgery operation that clearly is in effect.

There is a better way to treat people, and there's a better way to deal with the issue of finding workers Americans are not doing, to fill on a temporary basis. And, therefore, there need -- and that in itself will take pressure off our border. In other words, if people feel like they can come in on a temporary, legal basis, they're not going to have to sneak in, which in itself does away with -- that in itself does away with this kind of underground industry that has sprung up.

The point I make to you on that is that it's a comprehensive reform of the immigration system that is going to make our borders more secure. I strongly believe that is important, and look forward to working with people on the way forward. It's hard for me to predict the dynamics yet on how the Congress is going to handle the immigration bill. The point I'm telling you is that I think it's vital and necessary, and this is an area where we can work together to get it done.

(For more on the immigration debate, check out NDN's work on it here. Also look at how business has been dealing with immigration, check out this article from the WSJ about Swift & Company's hiring processes.)

More on the GOP Latino collapse in the Washington Post today

Another in a long line of pieces about the Republican meltdown with Latinos, and the role immigration played in bringing it about. 

Update: the Manhattan Institute's Tamar Jacoby weighs in through the LA Times with a similar message:

"ACROSS THE NATION, Republicans are asking what they did wrong in the 2006 midterms. This is a question with many answers. But few missteps were more foolish — and few will be harder to correct — than those made with Latino voters. The appointment this week of Cuban-born Sen. Mel Martinez of Florida to chair the Republican National Committee is a good way to make a new start. But the damage done in the last year goes deeper than symbolism, and it will take more than one appointment to undo it."

An Awful Lott

But what a sad statement Lott's return to the leadership makes: With all his history, it appears that the senator from Mississippi is still the best that Republicans seeking renewal of their party's fortunes can come up with.

Back to the Future With Trent Lott, John Nichols at the Nation gives an overview of why everyone should be a little regretful that the GOP decided not to pick the reasonable, moderate Lamar Alexander to be their Whip. 

McCain: Looking Wobbly

Its interesting to see the beginnings of a McCain backlash take shape. Yesterday he was rebuked by the top general in Iraq, who (for reasons that should be perfectly obvious to anyone paying attention) knows that more troops in Iraq is not an option for a host of good reasons. Today, CAP take a close look at McCains "dangerous vision", otherwise known as the plan to send another hundred thousand more troops. It has the benefit of being politically completely infeasible. And that is about the best which can be said about it. It is too early to say the wheels are coming off. But, frankly, McCain looks weaker this week than the week before last. 

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) will deliver two major speeches today to prominent conservative political groups -- GOPAC and the Federalist Society -- in what is being billed as his assessment of the current state of conservatism and "how he would lead it." For an American public that just recently registered its utter dissatisfaction with the current course in Iraq, McCain's prescription for the future will be extremely unsatisfying. He has repeatedly called for an increase in U.S. troop levels, isolating himself from most national security experts and U.S. generals in Iraq. Yesterday, Gen. John Abizaid, the Commander of U.S. Central Command, rejected McCain’s calls for increased U.S. troop levels, informing him that he “met with every divisional commander, Gen. [George] Casey, the core commander, Gen. [Martin] Dempsey” and asked them if bringing “in more American troops now, [would] add considerably to our ability to achieve success in Iraq and they all said ‘no.’” Escalation in Iraq would be a disastrous course for our nation's strategic security interests. Moreover, the overstretched American military does not have the manpower to provide more troops in Iraq. "He would just repeat the mistake of Vietnam," said Michael O'Hanlon, a military analyst at the Brookings Institution. "If McCain refuses to acknowledge that some wars can become simply unwinnable, he may be exposing a weakness in his thinking that ultimately deprives him of the presidency."


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