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Today, House conservatives announced they would go into a “secret session” to discuss classified portions of a proposed FISA update, the sixth closed session in history. According to an internal GOP memo, they are to have a “candid debate on the importance of passing a long-term modernization of our nation’s foreign surveillance.”
In reality, the session is not a “candid debate.” Next week, the House is scheduled to go into recess. The Hill reports that the conservatives are organizing the session in order to “delay” Democrats’ FISA legislation, raising the possibility that nothing will be passed until after break:
House Republicans had been seeking the closed session to delay a vote on a new Democratic FISA overhaul, unveiled Tuesday, and discuss its national security implications.
Weeks ago, however, conservatives were uncomfortable with the idea of a secret session. When Democrats proposed a closed session in late February to “discuss the legal underpinnings” of Bush’s spy program, Minority Leader John Boehner’s (R-OH) office said it was a “stalling tactic“:
“There are clear rules and procedures for how Congress handles classified information,” [Boehner's spokesperson] said. “This nonsense is nothing more than another stalling tactic from a bunch of liberals who don’t want to give our intelligence officials all the tools they need to keep America safe.“
“Every day” that a FISA update is delayed, Boehner said at the time, is “wrong and dangerous” and “we are losing valuable information about terrorists’ plans.”
This morning, President Bush fearmongered that “children” may be not “safe from terror” without a FISA fix, urging Congress to get him a bill before this weekend. His criticism is better directed at House GOP for their own “stalling tactic.”
Boehner’s flip-flop underscores how the conservatives’ “secret session” isn’t about a “candid debate” or improving intelligence gathering. Instead, they are clearly more concerned with theatrics.
(HT: Glenn Greenwald)
I think we need better pundits than Michael O’Hanlon:
“How could Democrats possibly hand McCain a better issue than to let him run on his record of advocating a robust U.S. presence in Iraq with all the positive battlefield news that is filtering out of that country?” asked Michael O’Hanlon, a national security adviser at the Brookings Institution who has been at the center of the Iraq debate since the war’s outset.”
Not having any real credentials myself, I don’t like to question the credentials of others, but it’s worth noting that O’Hanlon is a defense budget analyst and not some kind of Iraq expert or brilliant strategist in either the military or political sense. He is, in short, just a pundit like me but he’s a pundit who plays an expert on TV. If you think we could use a better class of foreign policy pundits, you might want to consider buying Heads in the Sand and making me a famous best-selling author just like Jonah Goldberg. Speaking of which, official blurbs are now up at the HITS Amazon page and one of them’s kinda funny.
On a more substantive note, look — there are a lot of things making George W. Bush unpopular right now. But the disaster of Iraq is at the very heart of what it is that’s brought the conservative movement into its current state of discredit. Democrats obviously want to keep that whole storyline front and center. The problem is that keeping it front and center is problematic for a certain number of people, O’Hanlon included, who were complicit in the selling and prolonging of the war. The interests of people like that just aren’t well-aligned with the interests of progressive politics in the United States.
In an interview with PBS that aired last night, host Susie Gharib asked the President about rising oil prices. Bush, however, replied that he was “just a simple president” and was unable to explain how his oil policy would actually work:
GHARIB: Well, you’ve pressed OPEC to increase oil production –
BUSH: I did.
GHARIB: And they didn’t do it. Let’s say that OPEC did pump more oil. How much do you think that that would bring down oil prices, by $20, $30?
BUSH: You know, I don’t know. You’re going to have to ask the experts that. I’m just a simple president. But I really don’t know what it would do. I do know that the main problem is supply and demand and excess supply obviously would help.
Just last week, when Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) was asked what he would do about rising gasoline prices, he was similarly clueless: “I would love to tell you that I have an immediate answer for that. And I don’t.”
Some further notes on the perennially controversial issue of pizza:
Whatever an NYC pizza lover may say in virtue of my hometown’s best pies, there’s also no denying that NYC has a staggering quantity of terrible by-the-slice outlets. Meanwhile, one should not overlook the fact that New York’s Italian-American population has largely decamped to the suburbs at this point and brought a lot of good pizza with them (I would guess that Rhode Island, which is filled with the right kind of people, has good pizza, but I’ve never had the chance to test this theory out).
By the same token, while Ezra Klein is right to note that some good pizza is now available in DC, it tends to be a very different kettle of fish — more “gourmet,” less rooted kind of thing — largely owing to the district’s lack of Italian-American heritage.
Last, one shouldn’t neglect the fact that the pizza in Italy seemed better to me than the pizza here; I was going to random places without any real insight or know-how and stumbling across tons of great pies. In general, there are better ingredients available in Europe, but cheaper labor available in the U.S. so we do well with really labor-intensive foods but pizza is much closer to the ingredients side of the scale.
At this point, I think we’ve all stopped hearing arguments of the form “Obama lost Massachusetts in the primary so he’ll lose it in a general election” or “Obama won South Carolina in the primary so he’ll win it in a general election” but there’s a frustrating persistence of the idea that performance in a primary campaign in a swing state might be a good indication of general election strength there. In reality, there’s just very little reason to believe that. I would very strongly prefer Obama over Clinton, but that doesn’t stop me from very strongly preferring Clinton over McCain. All this throat-clearing by way of introducing a quote from this post from Noam Scheiber, commenting on some new Pennsylvania polling data:
A poll showing that Obama can get blown out in the Pennsylvania primary and still hold his own there against McCain suggests working-class white Democrats simply prefer Hillary, not that they find something inherently objectionable about Obama, whom they’re apparently happy to support in the general.
Right. The poll indicates that Clinton will do much better than Obama
in the Democratic primary but Obama will do slightly better than Clinton in a general election. There’s nothing paradoxical or even counterintuitive about that, but somehow we’ve gotten twisted around in knots over this sort of thing.
Earlier this week, PBS’ Charlie Rose posted an interview with Karl Rove in Rose’s “Green Room.” Rove was asked about the “mentors that most affect your career path.” He said it was Bush 41 and 43 who taught him his major life lessons:
Well I’ve been privileged to work for two men who’s last name is Bush. George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush are two pretty remarkable men. And I’ve learned a lot from them, learned a lot about life, learned a lot about character, learned a lot about loyalty and trust and honesty and straightforwardness.
Mitt Romney forms a Political Action Committee. I’m looking forward to the Huckabee-Romney 2012 primary fight already.
In Part 1, Dan Weiss explained why the “new” study by The National Association of Manufacturers and the American Council for Capital Formation on the Lieberman-Warner Climate bill is just a rehashing of the analyses of the Clean Air Act sulfur trading program that were proven wrong by reality, which is to say by the ingenuity and technology of entrepreneurs.
I have some further comments, since ACCF is one of the leading oil-industry-funded denier/delayer groups, since the economic model they use is the same one that the Energy Information Administration (EIA) has used over to make one wrong-headed prediction after another, since NAM/ACCF misrepresent their own study’s results — and since I otherwise needlessly suffered through the NAM/ACCF press call this morning.
Let me start by making this post useful for readers who already know this study is bunk by strongly recommending a terrific website that allows you to do your own economic analysis of greenhouse gas mitigation. The website, “See for Yourself,” is based on the work of one of very best economists in this area, Robert Repetto, who showed that the economic models used in the climate debate give different results primarily because of the assumptions they make in seven different areas.
NAM/ACCF use the EIA’s National Energy Modeling System” (NEMS). That should be reason enough to ignore it. Let me make four points about NEMS:
- I’m not sure the EIA has ever made an accurate long-term prediction using this model. Certainly if you go back a mere 2 years, their projection for the price of oil today is off by a factor of two. But for as long as anyone can remember, they have incorrectly projected oil and gas prices, among others things. If you look up the saying, “Never right, never in doubt,” they have a link to EIA.
- NEMS typically makes the most pessimistic assumptions in each of the areas analyzed by Repetto.
- When I was at the DOE, the engineers and analysts in my office were so distressed at how EIA modeled energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies, we convened numerous meetings to try to get them to change. We didn’t succeed. What kinds of things do they do? Well, when NEMS was showing much more wind generation coming online then the EIA thought reasonable, they just went back inside the model and artificially capped the amount of wind generation possible.
- To see what others think about NEMS, google “EIA NEMS flaws” [not in quotes].
I would call NEMS “pseudo-economics,” but I think that is redundant.
As for the NAM/ACCF study, it is strictly garbage in garbage out. On the press call, we learned the “model calculates the [carbon] price needed to force down US energy use.” Energy efficiency? Fuggeddaboutit. NEMS is a “no pain, no gain” approach, as I pointed out earlier in a post on the EIA’s own dubious modeling of the costs of meeting Kyoto.
We also learned the study built in “realistic assumptions about how quickly we will have new technology and nuclear power.” I kid you not. If you think “$1.6 million in ExxonMobil funding since 1998 = realistic assumptions” then I have some carbon dioxide offsets to sell you for $228/ton ($836/ton of carbon!) — the “low cost” estimate of the model for 2030.
Fundamentally, the study tells you what greenhouse gas mitigation would cost if your two mains strategies for reducing emissions were a high carbon price and lots of nuclear power. Think of it as modeling Sen. McCain’s approach to climate.
Even so, the study summary makes the same old typically misleading statements about the results:
When Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced CentCom commander Adm. William Fallon’s resignation on Tuesday, he told the press that it was “a cumulative kind of thing,” not “any one issue” that led Fallon to leave his post. According to the New York Times’s Thom Shanker, “premature departure” at least partially “stemmed” from policy disagreements with Gen. David Petraeus, “a favorite of the White House“:
But there was no question that the admiral’s premature departure stemmed from what were perceived to be policy differences with the administration on Iran and Iraq, where his views competed with those of Gen. David H. Petraeus, the American commander in Iraq, who is a favorite of the White House.
Writing on the Washington Post’s website today, former intelligence analyst William Arkin posits that Petraeus is “the man most responsible for the departure of Fallon” because “the two were at odds on virtually every element of Iraq policy”:
Yesterday, I was hearing from Pentagon officials, high-ranking military officers and close observers of the building that the two were at odds on virtually every element of Iraq policy, which of course put Fallon on a collision course with the White House. In other words, Iran was the excuse but Iraq was the reason.
Arkin says Fallon believed “that the surge should [be] brought to a quick and successful conclusion.” But Petraeus had the White House, and “Fallon, despite his command and authority to set priorities and decide on what resources are needed, was frozen out.”
Most recently, the two top commanders disputed the length and purpose of the upcoming “pause” in troop withdrawals from Iraq this summer. Fallon thought it should be “temporary and brief” while Petraeus wants “to wait until as late as September to decide when to bring home more troops.”
Slate’s Fred Kaplan writes that Petraeus and Fallon “dislike each other and that their disagreements have been tense, sometimes fierce.” From this, he surmises that “Fallon’s departure” is a “signal that Petraeus has won that contest.”
UPDATE: For more on Fallon’s resignation, check out today’s Progress Report here.