In a “rare scolding of his fellow judges,” Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas defended his silence on the bench. “My colleagues should shut up!” he said. “I think that they should ask questions, but I don’t think that for judging, and for what we are doing, all those questions are necessary.”
During last night’s Republican presidential debate, Retired Brig. Gen. Keith Kerr, an openly gay man, asked the candidates why they “think that American men and women in uniform are not professional enough to serve with gays and lesbians.” Soon after the debate, controversy erupted around Kerr’s question when it was revealed that the general is actually a co-chair of “Veterans and Military Retirees for Hillary Committee” and a steering member of “LGBT Americans for Hillary.”
Since the debate, CNN has rightly been criticized for its “huge mistake” in not properly vetting the question. But, despite CNN’s labeling mistake, the solid, non-partisan question asked by Kerr is one that presidential candidates should address.
On Fox News today, however, conservative pundit Pat Buchanan personally attacked for Kerr for merely asking the question, saying that he “obviously did not have the courage” to “come out of the closet” while he was still serving in the military:
There’s an element of fraud here. When the general did not identify himself as a fierce partisan of Hillary Rodham Clinton and presented himself simply as a military man who had served and was gay. And who obviously did not have the courage, frankly, when he was in the military to come out of the closet and say I’m gay. And to attack the Republicans for lacking the courage to take a position he was unable to take, I think makes him look rather bad.
Considering that just last week Buchanan penned a column lamenting that “homosexual sodomy” is no longer “a crime” but “a lifestyle,” it’s not surprising to see him focus his attack on Kerr’s experience as a gay soldier. Regardless of the homophobia involved, however, Buchanan’s point is non-sensical.
What Buchanan neglects to note is that unlike the lawmakers, Kerr would have faced real consequences for speaking out against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” If Kerr were to “tell” about his sexual identity while serving, he would have joined the roughly 11,000 servicemembers that have been forced out of service since the policy was implemented in 1993.
So, while the right wing attacks Hillary Clinton (even though the Clinton campaign had nothing to do with Kerr’s question), and everybody criticizes CNN, only Pat Buchanan attacks the retired general who served his country for 43 years.
UPDATE: Over at TAPPED, Adele M. Stan notes how at the debate Gen. Kerr was “booed by an audience of Republicans” when he stood up to re-ask his question.
Media Matters reports that during last night’s CNN special Campaign Killers: Why Do Negative Ads Work?, anchor Campbell Brown said: “General David Petraeus made his reputation taking on insurgents in Iraq. But when he came to Capitol Hill in September, he was confronted by American insurgents, a liberal anti-war group called MoveOn.org.”
Dana Goldstein thinks this new Republican Majority for Choice ad airing in New Hampshire and Iowa and presumably aimed at boosting Rudy Giuliani’s fortunes is “backfiring and mostly benefiting” Mike Huckabee:
Huckabee quite possibly will benefit from the ad, but the underlying dynamic is that Huckabee is in many ways Rudy Giuliani’s best friend in this race. As Ramesh Ponnuru says:
I have always thought that Giuliani could not win a two-man primary. I no longer believe that. He could beat Huckabee even in a two-man race. He can root for Huckabee to take out all his stronger competitors.
Right. Obviously, best-case for Giuliani would be to win Iowa. But that hasn’t looked realistic for a long time. A Huckabee win is probably his next best option.
While many in the media credited the network with bringing “originality and spontaneity” to the debate process by partnering with YouTube, its debates have more often been characterized by sloppy preparation, a lack of transparency, and theatrics that undermine the intelligence of the American public. Some lowlights:
– CNN planted a softball question with an audience member. During the recent Democratic debate, CNN stopped UNLV student Maria Luisa from asking a question about Yucca Mountain, instead telling her to ask Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY): “Do you prefer diamonds or pearls?”
– CNN failed to disclose a questioner’s support for Clinton. Last night, CNN failed to disclose during the debate that ret. Brig. Gen. Keith Kerr, who asked about gays and lesbians serving in the military, is actually a co-chair of “Veterans and Military Retirees for Hillary Committee” and a steering member of “LGBT Americans for Hillary.”
– CNN failed to disclose Carville’s ties to the Clinton campaign. In its post-debate roundtable after the Democratic debate earlier this month, CNN featured commentator James Carville. Yet CNN failed to disclose up front that Carville has raised money for Clinton.
– CNN gave airtime to a question from a right-wing activist. CNN and YouTube billed last night’s GOP debate as one in which “YOU ask the questions of the candidates through videos you submit on YouTube.” The network rejected a question by Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R), arguing that he “has regular access to politicians.” Instead, one of the 34 videos it chose (out of 5,000 submissions) was from right-wing Washington insider Grover Norquist.
– CNN claimed American public can’t be trusted to choose questions. CNN senior vice president David Bohrman claimed that if allowed, the public would likely choose questions about “whether Arnold Schwarzenegger was a cyborg” or UFOs. He failed to remember that at the Oct. 31 Democratic debate, moderator Tim Russert also asked Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) about whether he had ever seen a UFO.
– CNN took sponsorship funding from the “clean coal” industry. The coal industry sponsored both last night’s Republican debate in Florida and the Democratic one in Nevada earlier this month. The sponsorships appeared to be aimed at pressuring anti-coal lawmakers in the states. In both debates, no questions were asked about climate change or the negative impact of the coal industry.
– CNN’s post-debate analysis focused on the trivial, inconsequential. After July’s Democratic YouTube debate, CNN ran a segment critiquing the candidates on their body language and dress. Wolf Blitzer: “Candidates also sighed, they rolled their eyes, they looked at their watches during the debate.” CNN’s Carol Costello commented, “Look at how the candidates were dressed. The men wore dark suits, but Hillary Clinton wore a brightly-colored jacket.”
Following CNN’s Democratic debate two weeks ago, the New York Observer’s Steve Kornacki even went so far as to suggest that CNN, once the “gold standard for all-news television,” should “never again be entrusted with a presidential debate.”
One distinctive attribute of Amsterdam relative to the American cities I’ve spent time in is its extensive use of electric trams for mass transit purposes. I don’t really understand why we don’t see more of this in the United States. From one point of view, we’re a country that has preposterously little in the way of mass transit options. At the same time, we seem in some respects to be a bit subway-crazed, with little metro systems popping up in places like LA and Miami and even Baltimore.
There’s nothing wrong with subways, of course, but a lot of these systems seem a bit half-assed and consequently don’t wind up being very useful, which is really no good for anyone. The problem with building bigger subway systems, though, is that it’s obviously really expensive. For the same amount of money, you could build a lot more tram track. Now it’s true that a tram line won’t let you move as many people as a heavy rail line, but a tram can carry substantially more capacity than a bus, and it’s cleaner, quieter and takes up less space as well. And at the end of the day, though the large carrying capacity of subway systems is great for those cities where the system is comprehensive enough to draw a large customer base (New York, Washington, etc.) there’s really no point in building a system that a lot of people could use in principle if it doesn’t actually have sufficient scope to make the system an attractive option.
Also, though it’s hard to quantify this precisely, I think the trams look cool (the ones they have here in Amsterdam, at least, I recall feeling that the trams I saw in Prague and Nizhny Novgorod in the 1990s were ugly) which is nice. And on some level, aesthetics do matter. My impression of the Philadelphia subway system mostly related to the overpowering stench of urine in whatever station I was waiting in.
Following a speech in South Texas yesterday, Karl Rove responded to former White House press secretary Scott McClellan’s claim that Rove, along with “Libby, the vice President, the President’s chief of staff, and the president himself” were responsible for McClellan “unknowingly” passing “along false information” about the outing of Valerie Plame. Rove dodged the question, stating that McClellan said it “had all gotten carried out of proportion“:
Away from the podium today, Rove took time to respond to a new book by former White House spokesman Scott McClellan. In it, McClellan reportedly says Rove gave him false information to pass along to the news media. “He sent me a couple of emails saying that this had all gotten carried out of proportion and that he was surprised they’d done it and said he’d give me a fair explanation in the thing and he’s a friend and he’s a good guy and we’ll see what the book actually says.”
Though Rove had been a confirming source for Robert Novak’s column that blew Valerie Plame’s undercover CIA status, McClellan had told the press in 2003 that Rove and “Scooter” Libby were “not involved.” Libby was later convicted for lying about his involvement.
UPDATE: Today at a speech in Dallas, Rove was asked, “Who is Valerie Plame?” Rove responded, “Somebody whose name I wished I’d never knew.”
Dana Goldstein remarks after watching the Republicans debate that they “are terrified of the words ‘George W. Bush.’ A smart Democrat would force her or his Republican opponent to face up, as often as possible, to the legacy of his party’s leader.”
Quite so. Which is one reason why it’s probably a good thing for the Republicans that their race is being shaken up a bit by somewhat unorthodox candidates. It’s also why the Democratic nominee is going to have to be prepared to mount an ideological critique of Bush and Bushism rather than a purely personal one. One will want to argue “Bush was President, all this terrible stuff happened that made him incredibly unpopular, that stuff followed from his ideology, Republican X shares the relevant aspects of that ideology, therefore if you hate Bush, don’t vote for Republican X.”
In particular, I think Democrats need to worry about a possible Republican blurring strategy on Iraq especially if the Democratic nominee voted for the war. On a political level, “incompetence dodge” arguments suggest that what’s needed isn’t a different approach to foreign policy but a president with better “strong leader” attributes, which is a place where Rudy Giuliani and John McCain both rate pretty well. Bush’s onpopularity is bound to be a drag on the GOP one way or the other, but you can see in the early head-to-head polling that dislike of the incumbent doesn’t automatically transfer to the rest of his party.
Rep. Hoekstra Was Source Of Joe Klein’s FISA Lies, Decries ‘Paranoid,’ ‘Self-Absorbed’ ‘Far-Left Critics’
Today, House Intelligence Committee member and “Bush loyalist” Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) revealed that he was a “source” for Klein’s error-filled column, and proudly defends Klein in a column titled “Klein Kerfluffle” in the National Review.
In his original column, Klein insisted that Democrats’ legislation to provide constitutional protections for government surveillance of Americans, or the RESTORE Act, would require a court order to spy on foreign terrorists (Klein has since recanted these statements). In the column, Hoekstra insists that “Klein was correct in his original contention.” In reality, as the legislation clearly states:
A court order is not required for electronic surveillance directed at the acquisition of the contents of any communication between persons that are not known to be United States persons .
Klein ignorantly claimed the RESTORE Act “would give terrorists the same legal protections as Americans.” Hoekstra adds that Klein’s assertions are a “demonstratable fact.” Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), a chief author of the RESTORE Act, countered that the legislation does exactly the opposite:
This bill provides exactly what the Director of National Intelligence asked for earlier this year: it explicitly states that no court order is required to listen to the conversations of foreigners that happen to pass through the U.S. telecommunications system. It does not grant Constitutional rights to foreign terrorists.
In his National Review piece, Hoekstra attacks progressive bloggers as “civil liberties extremists,” stating that a “belief that efforts to target al-Qaeda operatives in foreign countries” may involve U.S. citizens is evidence of “self-absorption” and “paranoia.” “The issue is not nor has it ever been about surveillance of Americans,” he alleges.
But under the hastily-passed Protect America Act, there are “virtually no protections” for U.S. callers in international communications, leaving surveillance authority to the administration. In fact, 61 percent of voters favor court protections for surveillance of Americans.
UPDATE: FDL posts the 4th amendment, stating, “Reporting skillz 101: read the original material.”
UPDATE II: Greenwald responds: “Hoekstra’s assurances of the Government’s good faith is identical to the assurances issued by Richard Nixon’s Attorney General, John Mitchell, at exactly the time the Nixon administration was abusing their eavesdropping powers.”