“Israel’s Security Cabinet approved early Tuesday widening the ground offensive in Lebanon and rejected a cease-fire until an international force is in place,” the AP reports. Meanwhile, “Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told the Syrian military on Monday to raise its readiness, pledging not to abandon support for Lebanese resistance against Israel.”
“Key Democratic leaders in the House and Senate” — including Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Joseph Biden, and John Murtha — united today “to call on President Bush to begin pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq by the end of the year,” the AP reports. Read their letter.
In an interview with the Washington Times published yesterday, House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) promised to privatize Social Security:
Q: Where does Social Security reform stand?
A: I just met with Congressman [Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican], a few minutes ago with his SAFE Commission [formed to fix the entitlement programs]. In 1990 when I first ran for Congress, I talked about the need to reform these big entitlement programs because the sooner we began the process, the easier it would be to make the necessary changes so that these programs were sustainable for the long term. … If I’m around in a leadership role come January, we’re going to get serious about this.
Privitization plans championed by Boehner and others would sharply cut guaranteed benefits and are opposed by the overwhelming majority of Americans. Nevertheless, Boehner is just the latest prominent conservative to reaffirm his commitment to privatize Social Security in the months and years to come.
“Islamic nations will not forgive the entities that hinder a cease-fire,” Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said today “in a clear reference to the United States.” The Iraqi leader added that “dire consequences will befall the region” if a cease-fire is not agreed upon. Last week, it was reported that Sistani was “on the verge of withdrawing his tacit but vital support” for U.S. efforts in Iraq.
In an interview today with Fox News’ Neil Cavuto, President Bush declared, “We have a very strong military and we can deal with any threat to the homeland there is and will if we have to.”
Army readiness is in crisis. The administration has brought us here because of a lack of planning and a lack of funding. Today two-thirds of the brigade combat teams in our operating force are unready.
As a result of the crisis, the Army is being forced to cut resources to nondeployed forces to make sure front-line troops stay at the highest combat readiness. Rep. John Murtha explained that these are “the units that could be called upon or would be called upon to go to war in North Korea, Iran, or any other country or region.”
In 2000, Bush explained who should be blamed for a military that is overextended:
So let’s get something straight right now. To point out that our military has been overextended, taken for granted and neglected, that’s no criticism of the military. That is criticism of a president and vice president and their record of neglect. [CNN, 11/3/00]
Today, two-thirds of the Army’s brigade combat teams are a testament to Bush’s record of neglect.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger are convening a series of high-profile meetings this week to discuss solutions to global climate change. Twenty-five chief executive officers of major corporations around the world will be in attendance, including the heads of BP, DuPont Co., and Goldman Sachs Group.
The Bush administration’s top environmental adviser received an informal invitation to attend the California-UK event, but White House Council on Environmental Quality Chairman Jim Connaughton’s spokeswoman said he could not participate because of a scheduling conflict.
Connaughton’s spokeswoman, Kristen Hellmer, said the deal did not upset the Bush administration.
“This is just a wonderful amplification of the work that President Bush and Prime Minister Blair agreed to at the G8 last year,” she said. “This wasn’t a surprise.”
The meeting may not be a suprise, but it is an embarrassment for the administration. The agenda will focus on items that Bush pledged he would act on but hasn’t: 1) regulating carbon dioxide and 2) encouraging new, greener technologies.
Barry Rabe, a University of Michigan professor and an expert on U.S. climate policy at the state level, said the administration’s failure to attend sends the wrong message. “It suggests certainly in this instance the federal government is really conspicuous by its absence,” he said.
“Iraq’s interior minister faced calls for his dismissal Monday because of the security crisis in Baghdad and surrounding towns,” the AP reports, while an Iraqi vice president said that Cabinet changes “would be made soon but did not specify which ministers would be replaced.”
Four months ago, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) described the conditions in Iraq as a “low grade civil war.” Today, his view is much more bleak. In an interview with the Omaha World Herald, the Vietnam War veteran said that the country had descended into “absolute anarchy” and the war was “an absolute replay of Vietnam.”
Hagel also blasted the Pentagon’s plan to send 5,000 additional U.S. troops to Iraq, saying the move was opposed by several four-star generals:
[Hagel] said that in the previous 48 hours, he had received three telephone calls from four-star generals who were “beside themselves” over the Pentagon’s reversal of plans to bring tens of thousands of soldiers home this fall.
Instead, top Pentagon officials are suspending military rotations and adding troops in Iraq. The Pentagon has estimated that the buildup will increase the number of U.S. troops from about 130,000 to 135,000.
“That isn’t going to do any good. It’s going to have a worse effect,” Hagel said. “They’re destroying the United States Army.“
Hagel — unlike Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) — understands that “staying the course” in Iraq isn’t an option.
A few hours earlier, Rep. Zach Wamp (R-TN) went on the House floor to brag about this ploy, which has little chance of passing the Senate. Wamp said to his opponents, “I know why you’re so mad and why you say things you don’t really mean. It’s because you have seen us really outfox you on this issue tonight.” Watch it:
Transcript: Read more
47 percent of South Dakotans will vote to overturn the near-total abortion ban passed into law this year, which included no exceptions for incest or rape, according to a new poll. 39 percent said they would uphold the ban. More at South Dakota Campaign for Health Families.