This evening, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) took to the Senate floor and paid tribute to Republican senators who lost their re-election bids. While McConnell had plenty of nice words for Gordon Smith, Elizabeth Dole, John Sununu, he never mentioned Ted Stevens, who lost his bid in a tight race after being convicted on seven felony charges. McConnell’s office insisted that “the oversight was nothing personal and pointed out McConnell did not give a farewell speech for retiring Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska either.” Stevens is the longest-serving Republican senator in history, in office for almost 40 years.
Kagan: Status Of Forces Agreement Was ‘A Great Accomplishment For Us’ Because It’s ‘Opposed By Iran’
On Sunday, after nearly a year of intense negotiations, Iraq’s cabinet overwhelmingly approved a security agreement that requires coalition forces to withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011. The next day, surge architect and American Enterprise Institute scholar Frederick Kagan appeared on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, declaring that the Status Of Forces Agreement (SOFA) was a defeat for Iran.
“The Iranian leadership has been pulling out all the stops to get the Iraqis not to do this,” said Kagan, adding that it was “a great accomplishment for us” because “the Iraqi government has done it anyway“:
KAGAN: Well, actually, it’s opposed by Iran, not just Iranian-affiliated groups. The Iranian leadership has been pulling out all the stops to get the Iraqis not to do this. The Iranians are desperate for Iraq not to align itself strategically with the United States, and they have been literally trying to bribe everybody they can bribe in Iraq, and running a fantastic information operations campaign in Iraq to make this an unpopular and hard thing to do. And the Iraqi government has done it anyway. And that is actually a great accomplishment for us, and it tells us a lot about where this Shia Iraqi government actually stands on whether it wants to be aligned with the United States, or whether it wants to be aligned with Iran.
Kagan’s claims echo those of former Coalition Provisional Authority spokesman Dan Senor, who argued on Monday that the SOFA’s passage represented a “defeat” for Iran. But their argument misreads the reality on the ground.
As CNN’s Michael Ware, who has been reporting from Iraq for the last six years, told the Wonk Room’s Matt Duss, the SOFA agreement “could potentially be a victory for Iran” because “Tehran — whether we like it or not — was in the room” during negotiations. Watch it:
Though it’s true that Sadr has rejected the agreement, Iranian officials actually responded with “strikingly positive remarks on the security agreement after criticizing it for months.” Indeed, before the vote, Iraqis won a major concession barring the United States from launching attacks on neighboring countries from Iraq, which is thought to have softened Iranian resistance to the deal.
The so-called paper of record ran a major story Tuesday on the country’s most infamous climate-driven pest, “Bark Beetles Kill Millions of Acres of Trees in West.” Great story, other than neglecting to mention climate change. It’d be like an article on an outbreak of avian flu that left out any discussion of birds
So we have the national “liberal” media, like the NYT and NBC, blowing this story, while the local, conservative media get it right, see “conservative San Diego Union knows climate change is killing Western forests” and “Oldest Utah newspaper: Bark-beetle driven wildfires are a vicious climate cycle.”
Of course, the journal Nature understands the science, as an April article made clear: “Mountain pine beetle and forest carbon feedback to climate change.” So does the Canadian media: “Climate-Driven Pest Devours Canada’s Forests.”
The NYT did get the grim, superficial facts of the story right:
From New Mexico to British Columbia, the region’s signature pine forests are succumbing to a huge infestation of mountain pine beetles that are turning a blanket of green forest into a blanket of rust red. Montana has lost a million acres of trees to the beetles, and in northern Colorado and southern Wyoming the situation is worse.
“We’re seeing exponential growth of the infestation,” said Clint Kyhl, director of a Forest Service incident management team in Laramie, Wyo., that was set up to deal with the threat of fire from dead forests. Increased construction of homes in forest areas over the last 20 years makes the problem worse.
Yeah, home building is the cause of this problem — that’s why in Alaska, “over three million acres of forest land has been devastated by the beetle,” as senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) described in a May 2006 speech on climate change. Seriously, that is pretty much the only explanation the NYT story offers, although the accompanying video does inch much closer to the truth, strangely enough.
‘Kristol Ball’ Breaks: Stevens Will ‘Hang On In Alaska,’ McCain Will Conquer The ‘Path To The Presidency’
Yesterday, Anchorage mayor Mark Begich was declared the winner in Alaska’s tight U.S. Senate race, defeating Ted Stevens’s hopes of coming back for a seventh term. Stevens conceded earlier today. A big part of Stevens’s downfall was his conviction in October on seven felony charges for making false statements.
This is a loss for Stevens, but it is also a loss for Fox’s beloved Kristol Ball. On election night, Bill Kristol bravely predicted not only would Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) win the presidency, but Stevens would win re-election to the Senate. He also dismissed Stevens’s ethics violations, calling them “seven counts of something-or-other”:
WALLACE: Bill? Your surprise for Election Night.
KRISTOL: Ted Stevens, the 40-year incumbent in Alaska, recently convicted of seven counts of something-or-other, hangs on in Alaska. The voters of Alaska are loyal to their man. They don’t believe some D.C. grand jury. (Laughter.) Stevens hangs on, which helps Republicans keep the Democratic margin in the Senate reasonable.
And of course, since John McCain is going to take that narrow path to the presidency, let me add, he’ll be there to stop that Democratic Congress with overwhelming majorities from doing all the damage –
Kristol acknowledged that Stevens was “behind a lot in the polls,” but said, “I just sense that the Alaskans might want to not take the word of a D.C. grand jury.” Watch it:
Transcript: Read more
Ross Douthat forecasts Barack Obama’s political strategy:
Even with the GOP brand in the toilet, Republicans are still trusted as much or more than Dems on foreign policy, mostly for somewhat nebulous “toughness” reasons. So why give the Right a chance to play what’s just about its only winning card, when you can satisfy your base with a phased withdrawal from Iraq that’s scheduled to happen anyway while waxing hawkish on Pakistan, Afghanistan … and who knows, maybe Iran as well? (I have a sneaking suspicion that a President Obama will be slightly more likely to authorize airstrikes against Iran than a President McCain would have been.) [...] And with his right flank safely guarded (assuming, of course, that Afghanistan or Pakistan or Iran doesn’t become his Administration’s Iraq), he’ll have that much more political for the big-ticket goals that will guarantee his place in the liberal pantheon – universal health care, a New Deal for energy policy, a succession of young liberal judges who will tilt the Supreme Court leftward for a generation, etc.
I object! All the work here is being done between the parenthesis. A phased withdrawal from Iraq plus a stepped-up campaign against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan wouldn’t be a lurch to the right, that’s what Obama’s been calling for throughout the campaign. And, indeed, way back in 2002 he was saying that instead of invading Iraq, we should have a stepped-up campaign against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But add “authorize airstrikes against Iran” to the mix, and then you’re talking about something entirely different. Obama made repeated, explicit promises during the campaign for a new approach to Iran, and the new approach wasn’t “bomb, bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran.”
But I’m going to make a bold prediction. During the campaign, Obama stood foresquare for major health care reform and major energy legislation. When events occurred that made major economic stimulus seem desirable, he stood for that as well. Then for about a week on either side of Election Day there was a lot of talk about how Obama maybe should go back on all those pledges. But as he’s rolled out what we’ve seen of his team so far, they’re talking about throwing “long and deep” and fulfilling their key campaign pledges. On the only national security issues the transition has addressed, he’s reiterated his determination to close Gitmo and end torture.
Maybe he’ll break the pattern. But until he actually does, I think the safe thing to assume on foreign policy is that we’ll keep seeing more of the same — a President who meant what he said when he was a presidential candidate. That means withdrawal of troops from Iraq and a renewed focus on Afghanistan/Pakistan issues, along with a new diplomatic initiative aimed at Iran, and work on an Israel-Arab peace accord “starting from the minute I’m sworn into office”. That’s the agenda he campaigned on, and there was no real reason for him to have campaigned on it unless he meant to do it.
But don’t take my word for it, it’s right here on Jezebel. He’s not only the world’s hottest male blogger (which isn’t even a close call), he’s actually the fifth-hottest “everyday man” of 2008.
Conservative talker Bill Bennett interviewed Mike Huckabee on his radio show this morning. In the course of their interview, Huckabee falsely claimed that in approving Prop. 8, California did not “ban” or “prohibit” marriage equality, but rather simply affirmed the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman:
HUCKABEE: The very people who voted for Barack Obama in California…also voted to sustain traditional marriage. I refuse to use the term, “ban same-sex marriage.” That’s not what those efforts did. They affirmed what is. They did not prohibit something. They simply affirmed that which already has and forever has existed.
Huckabee, who seems to see himself as a bit of an expert on LGBT rights, ought to do a little research before issuing his next bigoted proclamation. In approving Prop. 8, California — by definition — “banned same-sex marriage.” Prior to November 4, same-sex couples in California could marry. Afterward, they were banned from doing so.
As the ballot read, Prop. 8 “eliminates the right of same-sex couples to marry”:
In addition, as Nate Silver recently documented, Huckabee’s claim that “the very people that voted for Barack Obama” also voted to ban same-sex marriage is false.
The AP reports this evening that the California Supreme Court has “agreed to hear legal challenges to a new ban on gay marriage, but is refusing to allow gay couples to resume marrying until it rules.”
In the Wall Street Journal today, Thomas Frank wrote that — in light of the new progressive mandate — “it is likely that we really do want universal health care and some measure of wealth-spreading, and even would like to see it become easier to organize a union in the workplace.”
To this end, Frank makes the case for the Employee Free Choice Act, which would enable workers to form a union by signing cards of consent, instead of having to undergo a full unionization campaign and vote, which often ends in employer intimidation or a simple denial of the right to vote.
The Wonk Room has noted before the widespread public support for the Free Choice Act, and the conservative fearmongering about the results the bill would have. In his piece, Frank lays out one of the more virulent reactions, courtesy of Home Depot founder and former CEO Bernie Marcus:
“This is the demise of a civilization,” moaned Bernie Marcus, cofounder and former CEO of The Home Depot, during an Oct. 17 conference call about card check. “This is how a civilization disappears. I’m sitting here as an elder statesman, and I’m watching this happen, and I don’t believe it.” Mr. Marcus sketched out the doomsday scenario for his listeners, with unions going after what he called the “low hanging fruit” and proceeding to organize workers in industry after industry.
Marcus allegedly added that “If a retailer has not gotten involved with this, if he has not spent money on this election, if he has not sent money to Norm Coleman and these other guys,” who oppose the Free Choice Act, then the retailers “should be shot; should be thrown out of their goddamn jobs.”
But easing the path toward unionization is hardly the end of civilization, unless Marcus deems increased wages along with better health and pension benefits for America’s workers to be civilization’s death knell.
As Michael Whitney explained on the SEIU blog:
CEO-types like Home Depot’s Bernie Marcus and Wal-Mart’s Lee Scott have their hands on the steering well, and anyone who fails to heed their battle cry to block attempts by workers to take control of the wheel ‘should be shot.’ It’s too bad that for the last several decades, this cavalier attitude has led these greedy CEOs to drive the car off the economic cliff.
Indeed, as corporate profits have been going up in recent years, workers wages have stagnated. Shared prosperity through increased unionization, not the end of civilization, is what backers of the Employee Free Choice Act are looking to create.
E&E News (subs. req’d) has the breaking story on the political pugilistic prizefight to police pollution:
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) scored a slim opening round win today in his bid to take the gavel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee from Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.).
Waxman captured a majority of support from the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, a group heavily tilted toward allies of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). The final tally was 25-22, according to Steering Committee co-Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.)
So this was definitely not a knockout, but more of a split decision by the judges. The bad news for Waxman is that he scored a close win in a Pelosi-friendly group that is more liberal than the Democratic caucus as a whole.
To win the chairmanship, Waxman, a 17-term lawmaker from Beverly Hills, still needs a majority vote from the entire House Democratic Caucus. A secret-ballot vote is scheduled for 9 a.m tomorrow among approximately 260 Democrats who will serve in the 111th Congress — and a heavy dose of lobbying from both sides is expected before then.
The prize remains a big one, which is why this is a major prizefight:
The victor will play an important role over the next two years in moving President-elect Barack Obama’s energy, environment and health care agenda.
Here are more details:
Ever since Iraq’s cabinet “overwhelmingly approved” a proposed security agreement that mandates the full withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Iraq by the end of 2011, the White House has been engaged in a rhetorical dance — in large part due to President Bush’s long-held opposition to “artificial timetables.”
On Monday, White House press secretary Dana Perino tried to mold the agreement to fit her boss’s view, saying that the withdrawal timeline contained within is only “aspirational” and tied to conditions on the ground remaining favorable. (It’s not). Today, Perino went further, claiming that the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) represents a celebration of victory in Iraq:
Q: Can you remind us again why this agreement is not the timetable that the president fought so hard against? [...]
PERINO: This is a mutually agreed to agreement. And that’s what one of the things that is different about an arbitrary date for withdrawal when you say you’re going to leave win or lose. We believe that the conditions are such now that we are able to celebrate the victory that we’ve had so far and establish…a strategic framework agreement.
The firm redeployment deadline is less a declaration of victory and more a reflection of Iraqis’ long-held dissatisfaction with the occupation. For months, Iraqis have been pushing the Bush administration to set a final date. Part of the reason that the final SOFA has such a deadline is not because of “victory,” but because the Iraqis were able to leverage Obama’s election “to pressure the Bush administration to make last-minute concessions.”
The most recent National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) completed last month suggests that Perino shouldn’t be bringing out the champagne bottles just yet either. The new NIE reportedly warns that “unresolved ethnic and sectarian tensions in Iraq could unleash a new wave of violence, potentially reversing the major security and political gains achieved over the last year.”
In fact, even CentCom commander Gen. David Petraeus will not use the term “victory” or “winning” regarding Iraq. But more importantly, as the Wonk Room’s Matt Duss has noted, there will never be any “victory” there. “Let’s understand,” Duss writes, “there is no plausible scenario in which the decision to invade Iraq can or will ever be vindicated. In the best case, we will have simply averted disaster.”