Due to the House remaining in session tomorrow “to consider an energy bill, delaying the start of the August recess by a day,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Congressman Rahm Emanuel are officially canceling their scheduled YearlyKos Convention appearances. Sen. Charles Schumer may still be able to attend the Ask The Leaders forum, but convention organziers will not know for sure until late Friday evening.
Earlier today, the White House rejected an agreement that had been struck between congressional leaders and the Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell to make changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), opting instead to launch a fresh political offensive over its spying activities. House Intelligence Chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) explained to CQ (sub. req.) the administration pushed for more changes after Democrats reached an agreement with McConnell:
“DNI McConnell told us, ‘We need these three things.’ We gave them to him. Then he turned around and said, ‘Well, I have some other concerns.’”
Spencer Ackerman reports that the White House weighed in and overruled McConnell’s agreement with the congressional leaders. Bush declared today that he was “going to ask Congress to stay in session until they pass a bill” to his liking. The White House communications department then spammed reporters with “fact sheets” and emails about “why America needs FISA reform now.”
A central reason for the rush to push FISA legislation through Congress was revealed by House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) during an appearance on Fox News earlier this week when he made reference to a secret legal opinion declaring “a key element of the Bush administration’s wiretapping efforts illegal.” “There’s been a ruling, over the last four or five months, that prohibits the ability of our intelligence services and our counterintelligence people” Boehner told Fox News anchor Neil Cavuto. Watch it:
In the decision, a “judge, whose name could not be learned, concluded early this year that the government had overstepped its authority in attempting to broadly surveil communications between two locations overseas that are passed through routing stations in the United States.” The legislation hammered out with McConnell fixes the holes created by the ruling, but the congressional leadership rejects “the administration’s insistence that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales be given an expanded role to oversee the program.”
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), the Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said “the administration proposal to grant Gonzales greater authority ‘is simply unacceptable’” in light of “allegations that the embattled attorney general has misled Congress about legal disputes over the surveillance program.”
After illegally conducting the spying program, the White House and surrogates like Boehner are using the FISA legislation to score political points. Tell Congress not to cave in to fear by rubber stamping a spying program without proper oversight HERE.
The AP reports that one day after approving a medal claiming former NFL player Pat Tillman had been cut down by “devastating enemy fire” in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal tried to warn President Bush that the story might not be true.
In a sometimes contentious November interview under oath and via videoconference, Pentagon investigators sharply questioned McChrystal about the conflicting accounts, according to the testimony obtained by the AP under the Freedom of Information Act.
McChrystal acknowledged he had suspected several days prior to approving the Silver Star citation on April 28, 2004, that Tillman may have died by fratricide.
He said that suspicion led him to send a memo to top generals imploring “our nation’s leaders,” specifically “POTUS” — the acronym for the president — to avoid cribbing the “devastating enemy fire” explanation from the award citation for their speeches.
“Why did you recommend the Silver Star one day and then the next day send a secret back-channel message warning the country’s leaders about using information from the Silver Star in public speeches because they might be embarrassed if they do?” an investigator asked McChrystal.
Despite numerous questions, the general never directly explained the discrepancies.
Despite this apparent contradiction, Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal was spared punishment in the latest review of Tillman’s shooting.
John “The Israel Lobby” Mearsheimer isn’t shying away from controversy. He says he sees four options for Israel/Palestine — A two-state solution, a binational solution, the expulsion of the Arab population from a Greater Israel, and the construction of a Greater Israel governed along apartheid lines — and that he thinks the apartheid outcome is the most likely one. He says Israeli leaders, despite agreeing to the UN partition plan, have never been interested in seeing the creation of a viable Palestinian state and he includes Yitzhak Rabin (though he says the Palestinians got “tantalizingly close” to a viable state at Camp David and Taba) in that category.
To Mearsheimer, the key point is that the mainstream Israeli view would create a Palestinian state that doesn’t control its own airspace, its own borders, or its own water supply — conditions that he says don’t create the basis for a viable state. I don’t imagine you’ll see any of the Democratic politicians stopping by the conference tomorrow endorsing these views or anything like it.
For years, Washingtons conventional wisdom has held that candidates for President are judged not by their wisdom, but rather by their adherence to hackneyed rhetoric that make little sense beyond the Beltway. When asked whether he would use nuclear weapons to take out terrorist targets in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Barack Obama gave the sensible answer that nuclear force was not necessary, and would kill too many civilians. Conventional wisdom held this up as a sign of inexperience. But if experience leads you to make gratuitous threats about nuclear use inflaming fears at home and abroad, and signaling nuclear powers and nuclear aspirants that using nuclear weapons is acceptable behavior, it is experience that should not be relied upon.
Barack Obamas judgment is right. Conventional wisdom is wrong. It is wrong to propose that we would drop nuclear bombs on terrorist training camps in Pakistan, potentially killing tens of thousands of people and sending Americas prestige in the world to a level that not even George Bush could take it. We should judge presidential candidates on their judgment and their plans, not on their ability to recite platitudes.
Now, obviously, the next step would be to develop some clearer actual policy differentiation. Silly as it was for Hillary Clinton’s campaign to criticize Obama for being unwilling to launch a nuclear attack on Pakistan, I’m pretty sure President Clinton won’t use nuclear weapons in South Asia either. But since both campaigns seem to think that public disagreements about foreign policy serve their interests, maybe I can hold hope open that they’ll move on to some broader issues.
Atrios, or as we call him in real life, “Duncan,” has been wandering around wondering why there’s such a thing as a foreign policy community. It’s a good question. The consequences of its existence don’t seem to be particularly beneficial. Steve Clemons is talking at a panel on foreign policy, blogging, and activism and gives voice to something that I think a lot of us tend to suspect, saying he was one of the few members of said community to go on television and speak against the Iraq War not because he was the only one to think it was a bad idea, but “because everyone else was a coward.”
“People like me,” he says, “were being fed quite a bit of inside information from people who were every bit as horrified” but very few people said anything. And it’s true — alongside the famously pro-war elements of the establishment, there’s a shockingly large number of people at places like Brookings, CSIS, the CFR, etc. where if you try to look up what they said about Iraq it turns out that they said . . . nothing at all.
His perspective, he says, is that Washington is “a corrupt town.” From that perspective, he says that “the political-intellectual arenas is essentially a cartel” — a cartel that’s become extremely timid and risk-averse in the face of a neoconservative onslaught — and “blogs allow smart people to break the cartel.” That all seems very true to me, and I’m not sure what I have to add.
There’s a great article in today’s Washington Post that goes beyond merely noting how dysfunctional the government of Nouri al-Maliki and his party is in Iraq, but tries to help explain why:
At times consumed by conspiracy theories, Maliki and his Dawa party elite operate much as they did when they plotted to overthrow Saddam Hussein — covertly and concerned more about their community’s survival than with building consensus among Iraq’s warring groups, say Iraqi politicians and analysts and Western diplomats. [...]
But Dawa members and other Shiites remained suspicious of the motives of the United States and the Sunnis, partly because of the Shiites’ history of being oppressed and betrayed, including what they viewed as an American failure to back a Shiite uprising after the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
On the one hand, this makes the leaders of the Shiite parties hesitant to compromise with Sunnis. It also, in a totally understandable way, makes them freak out about things like the U.S. military giving training and support to local armed Sunni groups that we’re partnering with to fight al-Qaeda. They have no trust in Iraq’s Sunni elites and no trust in the United States. At the same time, trying to work with Sunnis who are willing to cooperate with us against al-Qaeda is the right strategy for us. Except that the real right strategy for us is to recognize that things are far, far, far too screwed up for us to unscrew them at this point.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Eli J. Medellin
Now that the DLC has a blog, I wonder if they’ll devote nearly as many posts to being used as a club with which the RNC can bludgeon the Democratic Party as they have to complaining (one, two, three) about Noam Scheiber’s op-ed from last Saturday?
Pardon the coastal provincialism, but I’d been catching glimpses of this giant body of water that extended all the way out to the horizon and contained sailboats and it just dawned on me that that’s not an ocean, it’s a really big lake.
Insofar as Hillary Clinton intends to listen to Gene Sperling on economics and Barack Obama intends to listen to Austan Goolsbee, it doesn’t seem that they’re going to have a great deal to disagree about. Thus, after Sperling spoke at the panel on the economy I’m sitting in, Goolsbee didn’t exactly lay into his analysis. He did, however, rather pointedly include the cost of the Iraq War on his list of “things that have changed” about the economy since the beginning of the Clinton administration, noting that with the $1 trillion+ that were spent on Iraq, one could easily have paid for all the various safety-net enhancements that Sperling had been saying we should adopt.