The New York Times reports that over the weekend, the top aides to President Bush “made a furious attempt” to sell Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey to the right wing, “inviting at least six leading conservative thinkers to the White House for meetings with Mr. Mukasey. Participants said a range of issues were discussed, from Mr. Mukasey’s views on national security matters to his Republican pedigree.” Nevertheless, as ThinkProgress reported earlier, many on the right wing are “deflated” by Bush’s choice.
I missed the news earlier today that Blackwater’s security contractors have now been banned in Iraq. This will probably serve to make American policy in Iraq even less sustainable if the ban is enforced, but it’s a no-brainer on the merits. As Mark Kleiman explains: “Blackwater’s fighters-for-hire aren’t subject to military discipline, which excludes them from the protections of the Geneva Conventions. They’re exempt from prosecution in Iraq under rules left over from CPA days. And recklessly killing people in Iraq violates no U.S. domestic law.”
Letting people like that wander around the country was a kind of criminal negligence on the part of the Iraqi government and the fact that it took years for this measure to get enacted is fairly shocking. Nevertheless, though Blackwater is the highest-profile contracting firm involved in Iraq, I don’t think they’re the only one and such unaccountable mercenaries haven’t been banned in toto. That that hasn’t happened, and that the CPA-era immunity hasn’t been repealed, tells you a lot about the imperial character of this venture.
In what was billed as a major televised address on Iraq, President Bush last week “recycled tired rhetoric” and “mumbo jumbo” about staying the course. Sen. Jack Reed delivered a direct response, pledging the Democratic leadership would “exercise our Constitutional duties and profoundly change our military involvement in Iraq.”
In case any more evidence was needed that the American public has tuned Bush out and is anxious to hear ideas for a responsible exit strategy from Iraq, we received it today. On both Fox and CNN, more viewers watched the Democratic response than they did the Bush speech. And on MSNBC, only a narrow sliver separate the viewership of the two speeches. Courtesy of TVNewser:
Network Time Program Viewers FOX 9:00 Bush 745,000 FOX 9:19 Dem. Response 813,000
MSNBC 9:01 Bush 455,000 MSNBC 9:20 Dem. Response 446,000 CNN 9:00 Bush 454,000 CNN 9:20 Dem. Response 507,000
In January, in the lead-up to Bush’s speech announcing the escalation, Tony Snow claimed, “My sense is that the American people want to hear what the President has to say.” Bush decided not to listen to the public, so the public has increasingly decided not to listen to Bush.
In April, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was asked his policy on Iran, and he began by singing “bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran” to the tune of the Beach Boys’ Barbara Ann. Today on Hardball, host Chris Matthews jokingly asked McCain: “Are you still for the Beach Boys lyric on that one?” McCain responded, “You don’t want me to sing it again do you?” To which Matthews answered, “No I don’t want you to sing it. … I think though the lyrics were somewhat scary. You don’t really wanna bomb Iran do you?” McCain demurred on answering the question, but instead claimed, “You gotta have some humor.” Rather than pressing McCain, Matthews said:
I agree, I appreciate that. You’re a great guy. … We love you here at Hardball. We consider you one of our own even though that hurts you on the right.
Unfortunately, while it’s very easy to describe incredibly wrongheaded approaches to non-proliferation policy (“bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran,” for example, or “faster, please”), outlining a sounder course tends to be a more complicated undertaking. To get a flavor for what a serious (as opposed to “serious”) might look like, though, take a gander at Jessica Matthews:
As she says near the beginning, this really needs to be put into a broader context. If we really want the international community to hold Iran to its NPT commitments, we need to demonstrate some real commitment to the arms control process. That means ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and starting to work in a cooperative way with Russia. In principle, all of the existing nuclear powers have a pretty clear interest in there not being any more nuclear powers, so it should be possible to work with Moscow on the Iran front. But that would mean not picking fights with Russia on other strategic issues.
In an e-mail to supporters, Sens. Chris Dodd (D-CT) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) announced that they were reintroducing the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act as an amendment to a defense authorization bill today. Last fall’s Military Commissions Act stripped detainees charged as enemy combatants of their right of habeas corpus. Watch Dodd introduce the bill on the Senate floor today:
Learn more about restoring habeas here.
Advocates of international trade agreements frequently express wonderment at their adversaries’ alleged inability to understand the basic principles of the economics of international trade (see, e.g., Clive Crook’s latest column in the print Atlantic) but what’s truly baffling is the tendency of the proponents of such agreements to totally mangle the theoretical basis for their policies. Check out this McClatchey account of wrangling over proposed trade deals with Peru and other Latin American countries:
“Members of Congress need to understand that a ‘no’ vote on any one of these (free-trade agreements) will not create a single job in the United States or sell a single pound of meat or a single piece of medical equipment or software,” U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab told an “FTA rally” last Monday on Capitol Hill. [...]
“This is a time to step it up,” said Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, who took a delegation of nine lawmakers to Peru, Colombia and Panama last week. “It’s good for exports, good for the economy and good for leaving a solid record for the future as to how we treat our friends and how we treat our allies.”
Gutierrez argues that U.S. exports have risen faster to countries that have signed free-trade agreements with the United States. He points out that the United States is running a trade surplus with five Central American nations and the Dominican Republic after enacting CAFTA, as the free-trade agreement with those nations is called.
This is very odd stuff. Schwab and, especially, Gutierrez appear to be arguing that the purpose of these agreements is to generate trade surpluses. This, of course, is mercantilism, precisely the approach to policy that trade advocates have traditionally disparaged. And they’ve disparaged it with good reason. If Schwab and Gutierrez really want to run trade surpluses, signing these deals is a terrible idea. Instead, we should erect really high barriers to imports and try to use our non-trade forms of geopolitical leverage to force other countries to be more open to US exports than we are to their products.
Not that I’m saying we should implement those policies — we shouldn’t — but that’d be the way to maximize our trade surplus.
And, of course, Schwab and Gutierrez aren’t really confused about this. Rather, they think, as apparently all politicians do, that the American people aren’t grown-up enough to hear the actual case for lowering trade barriers. But given the public’s apparently diminishing tolerance for these agreements, it seems to me that one potentially promising approach to rebuilding support would be for the advocates of diminished barriers to start putting the real argument on the table.
I was a bit distressed to learn from Justin Logan that World War IV: The Long Struggle Against Islamofascism by Norman Podhoretz is Amazon.com best-selling book in the Islamic section. It’s also the number two book in world history (number one is by Naomi Klein which I’m not too thrilled with either, but I doubt her ideas would lead to nearly the sort of bloodshed of a Podhoretz).
Even more disturbing, though, is what follows Podhoretz on the Islamic history list. Number two is Robert Spencer’s The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam, number three is The Truth About Muhammad: Founder of the World’s Most Intolerant Religion, and number four is The Day of Islam: The Annihilation of America and the Western World.
Reza Aslan’s book eventually checks in at number five, but it seems that insofar as Americans are interested in Islam what they want is some good, old-fashioned Muslim-bashing. That can’t bode well for the future of our foreign policy.
Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), and Keith Ellison (D-MN) have agreed to take the food stamp challenge. They will “limit their spending to $1 per meal for a week” in an effort to “highlight inadequacies with the current food stamp program.” This past summer, four lawmakers first took the food stamp challenge. Read more about their experiences here.
Taping today with Mike Tidwell at 10:40 am. Stations that broadcast or rebroadcast it can be found here. DC 89.3 FM broadcasts live. The whole show should be good if you tune it at 10 am, starting with an Arctic ice expert.