The House today voted 227 to 189 to approve the RESTORE Act, which updates the hastily-passed Protect America Act and restores judicial oversight to the “surveillance of foreign targets outside the United States.” Watch House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) comments on the legislation shortly before its passage:
At tonight’s CNN Democratic debate, the candidates heard a strong warning against U.S. military action against Iran from Christopher Jackson, a Marine who served three tours of duty in Iraq:
I feel that if we continue on the path we’re at, that’s where we’re going to end up — in Iran. And that’s not what our troops need. Our troops need to come home now.
The entire audience, including the candidates, stood and gave Jackson a rousing ovation. Watch it:
Jackson’s mother, who was standing next to her son at the event, went on to say that after she “finally got her son home” from Iraq, “members of the Bush administration and neoconservative members of Congress are beating the drums of war again.”
She said her son is still a member of the Marines Individual Ready Reserve and could be called up again. She concluded by asking the candidates, “How are you going to show us your leadership on this issue now?”
UPDATE: Digby notes that the standing ovation came from the crowd after they learned of his service in Iraq. The crowd also separately applauded Jackson’s call to bring the troops home.
As ever, it’s really striking to observe the difference between the audience-generated questions and the journalist-generated questions. Wolf Blitzer’s main interest is in asking questions designed to put Democrats on the wrong side of public opinion, even if those questions are about things like driver’s licenses or “merit pay” for teachers that aren’t really under federal purview. Efforts to reframe those questions by putting those topics in the larger context of immigration policy more generally or education more generally are derided as cowardly dodges. The point, after all, is to force a choice — piss off an interest group, or say something that could be used in a GOP attack ad.
The real people, by contrast, ask about problems in their lives. The mother of an individual ready reserve member wants to know about Iran policy. The mother of an active duty soldier wants to know about military pay versus pay for military contractors. An Arab-American wants to know about racial profiling. Then the candidates explain what they think about these issues.
The voters are curious and want to learn where the candidates stand. Blitzer doesn’t care about informing the public about the issues — he actually objects when candidates try to explain their views on broad immigration policy issues — he’s just interested in trying to embarrass the candidates.
UPDATE: Great example. An audience member makes the sensible observation that the candidates haven’t talked about the Supreme Court and asks them to say something about their approach to picking nominees. I’d be interested to hear the answers to these questions. The journalists decide to change this isn’t a pointed question about a Roe litmus test — gotcha! — do Democrats violate the “no litmus test” taboo, or do they piss off feminists? Good work! Blah.
The debate’s finally gotten back to this issue, which is good because earlier today I read a very good precis of exactly what’s so troubling about Clinton’s support of the resolution, notwithstanding her backpedalling since she started taking heat for it. I’ll just turn this over to John Judis:
Clinton’s reason for supporting the resolution was that, as the Times put it, she was shifting from “primary mode, when she needs to guard against critics from the left, to general election mode, when she must guard against critics from the right.” Clinton, the article said, was also “solidifying crucial support from the pro-Israel lobby.”
These explanations reinforce the impression that for narrow political reasons, Clinton lent her support to a measure that might eventually lead to war. And that, of course, revives doubts about Clinton’s vote in October 2002 for the Iraq war: Namely, has she really rethought her support for the Iraq war? And even if she has, will pressure from Washington lobbies or from political opponents who accuse her of timidity sway her to back new military misadventures?
Right. This isn’t just about the impact of the vote, it’s about what the vote tells us about Clinton’s approach to these issues.
Mortgage reform passes House 291 to 127. The Blue Dogs took some heat over this issue, but at the end of the day they did the right thing and every single Democrat voted for the bill. The leadership tends to only attract attention when something goes wrong, but this is a significant success.
Al Gore and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) “are planning a bipartisan presidential forum on energy and climate change in New Hampshire in December.” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has already agreed to attend.
In an interview with the Council on Foreign Relations, Gen. David Petraeus’s adviser Stephen Biddle said that much of the U.S.’s recent “tactical successes” in Iraq have little to do with the impact of Bush’s escalation but instead are largely “luck.”
Q: Well what do you attribute this whole change on the ground to? Is this due to what is called “the surge,” or good diplomacy by the U.S. military, or just luck?
BIDDLE: All of those things have some role but I would put “luck” as probably the biggest.
Newt Gingrich is an anti-environmentalist who spreads disinformation and has done more than any politician in the last two decades to thwart a sensible climate policy that includes a major clean technology component, as I have explained. Absent serious regulations, no technology-only strategy can possibly avoid catastrophic global warming (as we should have learned in the 1990s).
Some well-meaning people, like the New York Times‘ first-rate climate reporter Andy Revkin and the great conservation biologist, E. O. Wilson, have gotten taken in by Newt’s new
clothes rhetoric. Why? They don’t know the history of climate technology policy that I and others have written about — and they don’t understand the explicit Luntz/Bush strategy of trying to get political credit on the climate while blocking the crucial regulatory (and technological!) solutions by talking about “technology, technology, blah, blah, blah,” as I put it. I am in 100% agreement with Gristmill’s David Roberts analysis on this.
Gingrich is most certainly NOT part of a “move to the pragmatic center on climate and energy,” as Revkin writes — especially not an imaginary center that Revkin claims includes Bj¸rn Lomborg (!) and Shellenberger & Nordhaus (for a debunking of these folks, click here and follow the various links). Gingrich and Lomborg may not be classic global warming deniers — since they realize denial is now politically and scientifically untenable — which is why I label them delayers. (I will come back to S&N’s ongoing disinformation campaign in a future post.)
Gingrich and his coauthor are not “realists and visionaries” — the phrase Wilson uses in a foreword to their book, A Contract
with on the Earth (you can read the foreword — and, if you’re clever and have a huge amount of time, the whole book — for free if you click here [reg. may be req'd]). I have emailed Wilson, who I don’t know, my earlier Gingrich post. I’ll focus on Revkin, since I do know him and he has a blog where he is fighting back against Roberts (and others) who criticize him.
As an aside, I consider this subject of technology vs. regulations to be one of the seminal climate change issues of our time, maybe the seminal issue of climate politics — so I will continue to devote a considerable amount of ink to it. To engage in this discussion, though, you MUST read Frank Luntz’s 2002 “Straight Talk” conservative strategy memo on the environment and global warming — trying to understand the current climate debate without reading that memo is like trying to understand Christianity without reading the Bible. You should also read Luntz’s early 2005 strategy document “An Energy Policy for the 21st Century” since it echoes the key technology-only strategy.
Luntz figured out years ago what the Newt Gingrich of the 1990s didn’t understand at all — it could be politically dangerous to be seen as opposing all action on global warming. And so we have Luntz’s central strategic breakthrough:
Greg Sargent reports that the “version of the FISA bill that was just reported out of the Judiciary Committee does not — repeat, does not — contain retroactive immunity for the telecom companies.” Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) had threatened to place a hold on any FISA bill that contained immunity. The Judiciary Committee’s action today renders moot the need for such a hold.
UPDATE: Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) issued the following statement:
“The FISA legislation reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee today is a distinct improvement over the legislation passed by the Intelligence Committee last month. Though it still falls short in many areas, the bill includes several significant provisions that will better protect the privacy of innocent Americans. I applaud Senator Leahy for the package of changes he put together, and I appreciate my colleagues’ support in passing two additional amendments that I offered to further enhance privacy protections. I hope that, when the full Senate considers this issue, the Majority Leader brings up the Senate Judiciary Committee bill instead of the badly flawed Intelligence Committee alternative.
“There is still much to be done to fix this bill. In addition, the issue of retroactive immunity for companies that allegedly participated in the President’s warrantless wiretapping program will be fought out on the floor. I will continue to strongly oppose retroactive immunity when the full Senate considers this legislation.
“As a member of both the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees I have been fighting for months to pass a strong FISA bill that adequately protects the privacy of Americans who are not suspected of having done anything wrong. I will oppose and filibuster any bill on the Senate floor that fails this test or contains retroactive immunity.”
UPDATE II: Christy Hardin Smith explains what’s going on.
On Monday, President Bush explained his veto of the recent Labor-HHS bill, claiming the “majority” in Congress had abandoned his “clear goals for the Congress to reform the earmarking process” and was “acting like a teenager with a new credit card.”
In reality, Bush “stuffs his budget with billions for pet projects.” According to Senate Democrats, Bush placed 580 earmarks worth $15.6 billion in a recent military and veterans appropriations request, along with “billions” in the energy and water spending bill:
Some presidential earmarks have obvious roots, such as $24 million for the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program. The president earmarked a billion dollars for the Reading First program, which was criticized by government auditors for steering contracts to favored companies. He also sought $8.9 million for the Points of Light foundation, a pet project started by his father, former President George H.W. Bush.
Congress slashed $676 million from Bush’s request for Reading First and eliminated the Points of Light funding. Bush retaliated by vetoing the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education bill.
The Democratic-led Congress has made major advances in earmark reform in contrast to the profligate spenders of recent conservative-led Congresses. An analysis by Citizens Against Government Waste estimates that earmarks in FY08 appropriations bills are “down about 33 percent from the $29 billion in earmarks in FY06 spending bills”:
The report showed a significant reduction in one of the largest magnets for earmarks, the Defense appropriations bill. The FY08 measure, by the group’s reckoning, included 2,074 projects worth $6.6 billion. This compared to 2,822 projects worth $14.9 billion in the FY06 bill.
The group also said Democrats have made strides against earmarks in the Labor-HHS spending bill, which Bush vetoed Tuesday.
Last week, Bush also hypocritically lambasted “the majority” in Congress, ignoring the fact that the largest earmarks in the legislation that he vetoed were from Republican Sens. Mitch McConnnell (KY) and Richard Shelby (AL).
“Republicans’ newfound fascination with spending stems from a simple reality: They suffered badly over the issue in 2006,” notes the Wall Street Journal. Ironically, President Bush should be the target in his “war over earmarks.“