Earlier today, a federal judge ordered the Secret Service to “disclose records of visits by nine prominent conservative Christian leaders to the White House and Vice President Dick Cheney’s residence.” U.S. District Court Judge Royce Lamberth wrote that “The most that can be said is the Secret Service acts as if the White House has legal control over these records. Upon closer inspection, however, even this proposition seems suspect.” Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington have been seeking the records since the fall of 2006.
“Senator Chris Dodd won a temporary victory today after his threats of a filibuster forced Democratic leadership to push back consideration of a measure that would grant immunity to telecom companies that were complicit in warrantless surveillance.” Watch it:
A Reid aide tells Greg Sargent that “Reid refused to jam this bill through the Seante because he believes it’s an important bill that deserves to be debated thoroughly.” FireDogLake writes, “Well played, Senator Dodd.”
UPDATE: Sen. John Rockefeller (D-WV): “I’m disappointed legislation to modernize and improve FISA will now have to wait until January. As I’ve said many times, it is one of the most important bills before Congress, and one that should not be rushed in the final hours before Protect America Act expires.”
UPDATE II: Harry Reid’s statement here.
This evening on CNN’s The Situation Room, former Sen. Bob Kerrey asserted that Barack Obama had spent time “in a secular madrassa” and argued this was a “tremendous strength” for Obama:
I’ve watched the blogs try to say that you can’t trust him because he spent a little bit of time in a secular madrassa. I feel quite the opposite — I think it’s a tremendous strength. Whether he’s in the United States Senate or whether he’s in the White House, I think it’s a tremendous asset for him.
Note to Kerrey: Barack Obama never attended a “secular madrassa” — an inherently contradictory term because a madrassa is, by definition, a religiously-based school. The claim that Obama attended a madrassa didn’t come from blogs, but rather from right-wing outlets. Insight Magazine, a right-wing magazine tied to the Washington Times, first reported in January that Obama attended an Islamic madrassa school as a 6-year-old child. Fox News then amplified the smear.
CNN, the network on which Kerrey appeared today, debunked the Obama smear in January. CNN’s Senior International Correspondent John Vause traveled to Indonesia, visited the school that Obama attended, and reported it was a public school that did not focus on religion.
President Bush has said he first learned that there was new intelligence on Iran’s nuclear program “in August” when DNI Mike McConnell told him “we have some new information.” The White House later revealed that Bush was told at that time that Iran’s nuclear weapons program “may be suspended.” Gareth Porter of IPS News writes that “it now appears” that “Bush likely knew about that intelligence as early as February or March 2007,” months before the White House has conceded.
I’m going to tell you something — we have fabulous health care in America, just so you know. I think it’s very important — before people start griping about the health care system here — and of course there’s always grounds for complaint — just to compare it with other systems around the world.
Bush may not be aware, but U.S. health care has already been systematically compared to other systems around the world. In many cases, the results are not good for Americans.
In 2002, the U.S. spent more on health care per person than other industrial countries like Britain, Canada, France, and Germany. But unlike those countries, which have universal health care systems, there are roughly 47 million Americans who lack health coverage.
In 2000, the World Health Organization (WHO) did a comparative assessment of the health systems of 191 countries. The WHO found that in terms of the five measured performance indicators, the U.S. ranked 37th:
The U. S. health system spends a higher portion of its gross domestic product than any other country but ranks 37 out of 191 countries according to its performance, the report finds. The United Kingdom, which spends just six percent of gross domestic product (GDP) on health services, ranks 18th . Several small countries — San Marino, Andorra, Malta and Singapore are rated close behind second- placed Italy.
In his recent documentary, SiCKO, Michael Moore illustrated clearly how U.S. health care ranked far behind much of the industrial world. Watch a clip:
As Paul Krugman has noted, American health care “at its best is the best in the world,” but for millions of Americans “it’s all too easy to fall through the cracks in our system.”
Mainly, though, I think it would be a mistake to take candidates’ claims about this sort of thing too seriously. Suppose somebody said “policy outcomes over the long run are mostly determined by structural factors rather than election results; what’s more, it’s very unlikely that your vote — or your $250 contribution, or your time volunteering — can make a difference in the election.” Well, I think that’d be a much more accurate “theory of change” than anything I’ve heard from a presidential candidate, but ceteris paribus I’d still rather vote for someone with appealing rhetoric. That’s because a campaign’s not a seminar and the candidate’s job is to win. The candidates aren’t offering theories, they’re offering campaign messages. The theory is that a good message wins you the election and then you make your changes.
Scott Lemieux notes, for example, that “Bush in 2000, after all, didn’t campaign as a 50%+1 conservative who would increase party polarization in Congress, but that’s what he did.” I’ll just reiterate that on the big domestic policy issues, if you assume a Democratic win in 2008, the big determinant of what happens legislatively is the makeup of the Senate not the “theory” of the president. What’s more, insofar as “theory” matters, you can’t really infer anything from what people say in the middle of a primary campaign.
Ann Coulter’s latest book, If Democrats Had Any Brains They’d Be Republicans, “hasn’t caught fire with book buyers,” according to data from Nielsen BookScan. “The title spent just four weeks on The New York Times’ best-seller list–compared with 12 for her previous book–and has sold 97,000 copies in the last 10 weeks. … Coulter’s last effort, Godless, sold 233,000 copies over the same time span, according to BookScan.”
Mike Huckabee pretends to put politics aside, starts conducting his campaign as an explicit appeal to Christian identity politics:
Of course the more secular Jewish liberals complain, the better Huckabee will do.
This morning, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) made news by crossing party lines and endorsing Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) for president. Announcing his support, Lieberman said he backed McCain because the Arizona senator is “a leader who can break through the partisan gridlock.”
Today on MSNBC, Lieberman admitted that McCain was the only ’08 presidential candidate who sought him out, telling MSNBC’s Monica Novotny that “not one of the Democrats asked for my support”:
NOVOTNY: Well, it is unusual, as you know, for a Democrat or an independent Democrat, as you call yourself, to endorse a Republican. Did you consider any of your Democratic colleagues?
LIEBERMAN: Well, I did. I mean, to have full disclosure, not one of the Democrats asked for my support, which may be a story in itself. John McCain and I are friends. He did ask for my support.
Later in the interview, Lieberman admitted he wouldn’t have supported a Democrat anyway. “I think it’s obviously because I have such a different view of foreign policy,” said Lieberman. Watch it:
Lieberman’s right that he has a “different” view of foreign policy. Lieberman and McCain oppose withdrawing troops from Iraq, while the overwhelming majority of the American public supports it.
As Matt Stoller notes, Lieberman’s endorsement “means that they must think [he] has appeal to Republican primary voters, and given his strong support from Republicans in Connecticut and constant praise from George Bush and Dick Cheney, Lieberman probably does.” A Research 2000 poll conducted recently showed that Lieberman’s foreign policy views have caused him to lose support among Democrats and Independents in his own state.
UPDATE: Lieberman told the New Haven Register:
There’s no question that at times I think some of the Democrats look at me sort of like the… eccentric uncle, perhaps even the odd uncle at the family gatherings: ‘We like him, but every now and then he says things that makes us wonder.’
Ari Melber has more.
Transcript: Read more
Via Matt Duss, a great map showing rather conclusively that those who warned withdrawal advocates that the result of leaving Iraq would be ethnic cleansing got their continued war, but also their ethnic cleansing as well. We can also see the dubious success of the surge here. The level of violence kept going up during the early surge months and seems to have died down because the radical decline in the number of mixed communities has reduced the opportunities for violence.
I don’t get the sense that when people talk about “the success of the surge” that this is the sort of thing they have in mind.
But whether or not you want to characterize walling off Baghdad into a series of separated, segregated neighborhoods while the government remains dominated by a sectarian clique and unable to actually govern in vast swathes of the country (areas where rival cliques rule through force) as “success” this is the new reality. And, of course, for liberals part of that new reality is that the levels of violence really are much lower than they used to be. It’s still really violent in that, for example:
At least 20 people were killed or found dead in and around Baquba, the largest city in Diyala Province, which is north of Baghdad. The police said that a suicide motorcycle bomber killed at least seven people and wounded 24 in one of the city’s markets. Six were killed in two separate shootouts. Two died from roadside bombs and the authorities found six bodies in two locations on the city’s western outskirts.
That, however, isn’t typical anymore. The question is what, if anything, follows from that. Iraq might go back to falling apart at the seams if we leave. On the other hand, it might go back to falling apart at the seams even if we stay. The extent of our impact on the situation isn’t clear. What is clear is that the political causes of the conflict are still in place, which is why the violence continues to persist, albeit at a lower level.
Given that, I’d be happy to keep our troops in the country for some reasonably short period of time if there were some reasonable prospects that doing so would push the situation over a positive tipping point where political reconciliation lays the groundwork for lasting peace. But according to our current policy’s architects that’s not on the table and, instead, their belief is that military engagement will need to continue for over a decade to bring about their desired results. That’s not an idea that makes sense to me. The costs would be enormous. And the time-frame itself would be enormous. If American troops just vanished tomorrow maybe Iraq would be at peace again in 10-15 years. There’d be no way of telling if we were really doing any good.
Now if you think it’s strategically useful for the United States to be engaged in the military occupation of a medium-sized country in the Persian Gulf region, then things look different. By I think it’s strategically bonkers — making our al-Qaeda problem worse at vast cost for no good reason — and the “surge” policy itself isn’t promising “success” in the “let’s keep doing this for a bit longer and then we’ll have won” sense, it’s promising to have laid the groundwork for an extremely prolonged new occupation phase that we shouldn’t undertake.