Keith Ellison to be sworn in on Thomas Jefferson’s old Koran.
In the February ’07 issue of Vanity Fair, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is quoted telling a group of conservatives last October that the Iraq war “isn’t going to be around in 2008.”
According to Vanity Fair, an audience member told McCain, “The war’s the big issue. Some kind of disengagement — it’s going to have to happen. It’s a big issue for you…in 24 months.” McCain responded:
“I do believe this issue isn’t going to be around in 2008. I think it’s going to either tip into civil war … ” He breaks off, as if not wanting to rehearse the handful of other unattractive possibilities. “Listen,” he says, “I believe in prayer. I pray every night.” And that’s where he leaves his discussion of the war this morning: at the kneeling rail.
Later, McCain told Vanity Fair editor Todd Purdum, “It’s just so hard for me to contemplate failure that I can’t make the next step.”
Quotes attributed to anonymous McCain advisers also suggest that the Arizona senator — who passionately supported the initial Iraq invasion and is leading the charge for escalation — now sees his initial support as a liability:
Asked whether, knowing all that is known now (no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, no effective Iraqi army), McCain would have still supported the invasion, his aides say he doesn’t view the question in such simple terms. …
“He stands by his support for doing something,” one aide said. …
“If you knew we were going to lose, would you still be for it?” the aide asked. “That’s a different hypothetical question, that he doesn’t have to answer yet.”
Read the full Vanity Fair article HERE.
The pageant, “whose ratings had declined steadily on broadcast TV,” will air January 29.
Chris Matthews asks the tough questions about Ann Coulter: “Do you find her physically attractive, Tucker? … Mike, do you want to weigh in here as an older fellow. Do you find her to be a physically attractive woman? … OK, Rita, do you find her to be a physically attractive woman?” Matthews’ answer to his own question: “No, I find her — I wouldn’t put her — well, she doesn’t pass the Chris Matthews test.”
In an op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal, President Bush urges the new Congress to not “play politics as usual.” He writes, “If the Congress chooses to pass bills that are simply political statements, they will have chosen stalemate. If a different approach is taken, the next two years can be fruitful ones for our nation.”
But three of the most egregious examples of partisan politicking in the 109th Congress — gay marriage, flag burning, and Terry Schiavo — were pushed by the President.
Ban on Gay Marriage: In every year of the 109th Congress, Bush urged lawmakers to pass a constitutional ban on gay marriage. From the beginning, the move received little public support and was considered “likely to fail,” but Bush and other conservatives continued to push it as one of the most important issues facing the nation. When the amendment failed in the Senate in June, the New York Times reported that Bush “expressed disappointment,” but urged lawmakers to “take several [more] tries.”
Ban on Flag Burning: Conservatives’ attempt to ban flag burning was opposed by the majority of Americans, called a “non-problem” by a Republican senator, and would have violated rulings by the Supreme Court that declared flag burning protected free speech. Yet Bush supported the amendment and when the vote in the Senate failed, called on the senators to keep trying.
Terry Schiavo Legislation: Bush and conservative leaders in Congress used the tragic case of Schiavo as an opportunity for political grandstanding. A memo, which the AP reported was distributed by Senate leadership to right-wing members, called Schiavo “a great political issue.” Bush played his part in the spectacle by flying to Washington from his ranch in Crawford to sign the bill, even though waiting a few hours for the bill to be flown to him would likely “have made no difference in whether Ms. Schiavo lives.”
Under Bush’s watch, the 109th Congress used valuable time to “play politics as usual.” It failed to raise the minimum wage, left nine out of 11 spending bills undone, and left unresolved a long list of national security priorities.
Yesterday, the Financial Times reported that energy “will be a central theme of President George W.”‰Bush’s state of the union speech this month”:
Al Hubbard, chairman of the National Economic Council, who is co-ordinating White House energy policy, has also raised expectations. In a speech at De Pauw University he predicted “headlines above the fold that will knock your socks off in terms of our commitment to energy independence.”
In every one of his previous State of the Union addresses, Bush has promised to push America towards energy independence:
- 2006: Keeping America competitive requires affordable energy. And here we have a serious problem: America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world. The best way to break this addiction is through technology. [1/31/2006]
- 2005: To keep our economy growing, we also need reliable supplies of affordable, environmentally responsible energy. … I urge Congress to pass legislation that makes America more secure and less dependent on foreign energy. [2/2/2005]
- 2004: Consumers and businesses need reliable supplies of energy to make our economy run — so I urge you to pass legislation to modernize our electricity system, promote conservation, and make America less dependent on foreign sources of energy. [1/20/2004]
- 2003: Our third goal is to promote energy independence for our country, while dramatically improving the environment. …Even more, I ask you to take a crucial step and protect our environment in ways that generations before us could not have imagined. [1/28/2003]
- 2002: Good jobs also depend on reliable and affordable energy. This Congress must act to encourage conservation, promote technology, build infrastructure, and it must act to increase energy production at home so America is less dependent on foreign oil. [1/29/2002]
- 2001: We can produce more energy at home while protecting our environment, and we must. We can produce more electricity to meet demand, and we must. We can promote alternative energy sources and conservation, and we must. America must become more energy-independent, and we will. [2/27/2001]
Yet the Financial Times also reports today that “U.S. dependence on the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries for its oil imports has risen to its highest level in 15 years.” “At more than 52 per cent, Opec’s share of US oil imports is at its highest since 1992.” As of Septmeber 2006, 70 percent of oil consumed in the United States came from foreign sources, up from 58 percent in 2000.
The Colbert Report has temporarily reclaimed a framed photo of Bill O’Reilly — presented to Harvard University by Stephen Colbert early last month — “in anticipation of an expected appearance by Bill O’Reilly on the Colbert Report in the near future,’” a Harvard communications official says. (HT: RawStory)
Conservatives have repeatedly argued that Muslim Rep.-elect Keith Ellison’s (D-MN) decision to take an unofficial swearing-in photograph with his hand on the Koran was un-American.
Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA) warned last month that “if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran.” Talk show host Dennis Prager said Ellison’s act “undermines American civilization.”
In a symbolic decision showing how misguided this argument is, Ellison has chosen to take his photograph with a personal copy of the Koran once owned by Thomas Jefferson:
Jefferson’s copy is an English translation by George Sale published in the 1750s; it survived the 1851 fire that destroyed most of Jefferson’s collection and has his customary initialing on the pages. This isn’t the first historic book used for swearing-in ceremonies — the Library [of Congress] has allowed VIPs to use rare Bibles for inaugurations and other special occasions.
Jefferson was a champion of religious tolerance. His 1777 Draft of a Bill for Religious Freedom states…
…that our civil rights have no dependance on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry; that therefore the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right.
In an ironic twist, the Washington Post reports that Virgil Goode “represents Jefferson’s birthplace” of Albemarle County, Virginia, but had no comment on Ellison’s book choice.
Energy and Environment Daily reports, “Several prominent sources ready to track the upcoming legislative debate say Senate Democrats may be positioned to move a [climate change] bill faster than the House, perhaps even with the make-or-break 60 vote threshold needed to overcome a filibuster.” Industry attorney Mark Menezes said, “I think 60 is in play depending on how it’s written.”
“In 1962, President Kennedy succeeded in captivating Americans by explaining the advantages of being the first country to reach the moon and the dangers of allowing another nation to beat us there,” writes Mario Cuomo in USA Today, “As a result, we did beat the Russians to the moon, and every year for the past four decades, we have invested billions of dollars in space exploration with little political or public opposition and produced brilliant success.” Cuomo helpfully offered a link to Kennedy’s speech, so I followed it. After all, I’m curious — what advantages were there to having been the first country to reach the moon? In what way are Americans better-off than Canadians or Belgians in virtue of Armstrong’s voyage? The speech doesn’t actually enlighten on this front:
There is no strife, no prejudice, no national conflict in outer space as yet. Its hazards are hostile to us all. Its conquest deserves the best of all mankind, and its opportunity for peaceful cooperation may never come again. But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain. Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas? . . .
Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said, “Because it is there.”
These analogies aren’t crazy reasons for doing things, but they do seem like odd reasons for public-sector endeavors. Rice plays Texas for honor, but also because people will buy tickets to the game, watch it on television, etc . . . football rivalries are entertaining spectacles financed by the people who find them entertaining. Mallory joined the Alpine Club to pursue his passion for mountain-climbing, he didn’t get a job at the Royal Mountaineering Agency.
I’m not one of these “open outer space to more private-sector activity and we’ll have colonies on Titan in seven weeks” people but it does seem to me that there’s probably a sufficient mix of legitimate commercial uses for space and rich eccentric space enthusiasts (and, of course, there’s the intersection of the two: providing space-related commercial services to wealthy eccentrics) to keep human activity going out there without giant subsidies to the aerospace industry. A general public-sector pullback from outer space in favor of NGOs and business enterprises would be a natural corollary to the principle of outer space as international ad demilitarized. The Bush administration, in keeping with longstanding Air Force priorities, seems more inclined in the opposite direction.
CNN reports “President Bush is expected to announce his new Iraq strategy in an address to the nation early next week.” According to the BBC, “The speech will reveal a plan to send more US troops to Iraq.”
Last night on NBC News, Jim Miklaszewski reported that the new strategy will be announced next Tuesday, and that an administration official “admitted to us today that this surge option is more of a political decision than a military one.” Watch it:
Just weeks ago, CentCom commander Gen. John Abizaid told Congress “I met with every divisional commander, General Casey, the corps commander, General Dempsey, we all talked together. And I said, in your professional opinion, if we were to bring in more American Troops now, does it add considerably to our ability to achieve success in Iraq? And they all said no.”
Transcript: Read more