when you’ve got a perfectly good fabricated Abraham Lincoln quote?
I want to say something about Undersecretary of State Nick Burns’ presentation on Iran policy which I attended this afternoon, but for now just follow along with Spencer Ackerman’s points that Burns says it’s now US policy that al-Qaeda is less important than Iran and his willingness to go beyond the president’s claims about the Iranian government’s culpability for weapons getting into Iran. Meanwhile, here we have Hillary Clinton following the precedent that’s been set by Harry Reid and some other Democratic leaders in staking out a clear stance on presidential authority to initiate a war with Iran:
It would be a mistake of historical proportion if the administration thought that the 2002 resolution authorizing force against Iraq was a blank check for the use of force against Iran without further Congressional authorization. Nor should the president think that the 2002 resolution authorizing force after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 in any way authorizes force against Iran. If the administration believes that any, any use of force against Iran is necessary, the president must come to Congress to seek that authority.
As a matter of politics, optics, etc. I like to hear this kind of thing from our major Democratic legislators. As a citizen concerned about the course of events in the world, the problem is that I continue to think it’s false. The War Powers Act grants the president authority to initiate hostilities against anyone he likes for a period of sixty days. The Clinton administration’s Department of Justice, meanwhile, took the view that, by granting the Clinton administration’s request for an emergency supplemental appropriation for military operations in Kosovo, congress had implicitly authorized the continuation of hostilities after the sixty day time frame. The Bush administration, for obvious reasons, is unlikely to take a more restrictive view of presidential power in this regard than did its predecessor. Meanwhile, congress is very unlikely to refuse to grant a supplemental appropriation to continue hostilities if they are initiated — just look at their view on providing supplemental appropriations for Iraq.
UPDATE: Sorry, my initial effort to cut-and-paste what Clinton said went a bit awry and I had her saying the wrong thing. The correct line is up there now.
UPDATE II: Okay, as Henley points out, the War Powers Act actually requires “a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.” Obviously, the administration is already laying the groundwork for a suitable predicate along these lines with this IED business. Which, when you think about it, is more than Clinton bothered to do in Kosovo.
In an op-ed in the Washington Post today, former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith counters Pentagon Inspector General Thomas Gimble’s recent report on his pre-war intelligence gathering activities. The IG report claimed Feith took “inappropriate” actions in advancing conclusions on Iraq/Al Qaeda connections not backed up by the nation’s intelligence agencies. Feith writes in response:
In his Senate testimony, Gimble said his report — and therefore all related claims that my office “manipulated intelligence” — concerned only this single briefing. His whole argument rests on the claim that the briefing was “disseminated” as “an intelligence product” rather than a policy product. … His objections applied solely to the briefing that Hadley and Libby received in September 2002.
Astonishingly, the IG acknowledged that his office had not interviewed either of these officials to ask whether they thought the briefing was an intelligence product.
Feith seems to be suggesting that the Pentagon Inspector General negligently failed to question key players who were involved in his intelligence stovepipe operation. The reality is that the IG tried to question Hadley, but the White House refused to allow it:
GIMBLE: We requested an interview with Mr. Hadley. The lawyers at the National Security Council did not let us interview him. So we requested and were unable to.
As part of its continuing inquiry into Feith’s intelligence operation, the Senate Intelligence Committee has “has requested records and interview transcripts from the Pentagon’s Inspector General’s review of the activities of” Feith. If Feith is so “astonished” by the IG’s inability to interview Hadley, perhaps he should call on the White House to allow him to talk to the committee.
Today, the House Education and Labor Committee begins markup on the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which has strong bipartisan backing in Congress. The EFCA would make it easier for workers to form a union. Under the current law, “even when a majority of workers ask for union representation, their employers can force them to undergo an election process” administered by the Bush administration’s “anti-worker” National Labor Relations Board.
Roll Call reports today, “Deep-pocketed corporate lobbying groups have joined together to defeat” the EFCA. Speaking before a business lobby group this morning, Vice President Cheney announced that Bush will veto the EFCA legislation. Watch it:
The current union organization system is tilted against America’s workers. Each year, over 20,000 U.S. workers are illegally fired, demoted, laid off, suspended without pay, or denied work by their employers as a result of union activity. Under the Bush administration, American workers have seen union levels — and their wages — steadily drop:
– In Oct. 2006, Bush’s National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) — “easily the most anti-worker labor board in history” — issued a decision that will deny the right to organize to as many as 8 million workers in 200 occupations.
– In 2000, 13.5 percent of all wage and salary workers were unionized. In 2006, just 12 percent of workers were in unions.
– The portion of private sector workers covered by union protections has fallen steadily from 23.2 percent in 1979 to 8.5 percent in 2005.
– In 2004, 92 percent of employers forced workers to attend “mandatory captive audience meetings” where workers often had to “listen to hours of anti-union presentations by corporate representatives.”
– “The median hourly wage for American workers has declined 2 percent since 2003″ — after factoring in inflation — even though average worker productivity “has risen steadily over the same period.”
Unions ensure a better standard of living for working Americans. Workers represented by unions earn 28 percent more than nonunion workers and are 62 percent more likely to have medical insurance through their jobs. Contact your lawmakers and tell them to support the Employee Free Choice Act.
Transcript: Read more
For the first time since the Iraq war, the Bush administration has announced plans to expand its Iraq refugee program. “The United States has allowed only 463 Iraq refugees into the country since the war began in March 2003, even though some 3.8 million have been uprooted.” The new plan will allow 7,000 Iraqis to settled in the United States over the next year.
Yesterday, ThinkProgress highlighted CNN’s Ed Henry’s aggressive questions about whether the administration is standing behind claims that the “highest levels” of the Iranian government have ordered weapons shipments to Iraqi insurgents.
Today, Henry continued his dogged pursuit to get to the bottom of the administration’s contradiction with Gen. Peter Pace, who said he has not seen evidence that the Iranian government “clearly knows or is complicit” in the weapons smuggling. Henry confronted Bush about this contradiction and forced him to acknowledge “I don’t think we know” whether the Iranian government is ordering the weapons shipments.
While other reporters are already hyping and overstating the administration’s claims on Iranian intelligence, Henry has maintained healthy skepticism of their public statements. “What assurances can you give the American people that the intelligence this time will be accurate?” Henry asked Bush. “Ed, we know [Iranian weapons] are there,” the President responded, again dodging the question. Watch it:
Full transcript: Read more
At his press conference today, President Bush refused — four times — to discuss any aspect of Scooter Libby’s trial, including whether he would consider pardoning Libby if he is convicted. Watch it:
Transcript: Read more
Chris Cillizza runs down some polling indicating a healthy, albeit surmountable, level of skepticism about the wisdom of voting for a Mormon among Republican primary voters. In some ways, I think this may be a bigger problem for Romney than Cillizza quite sees. The trouble, as I see it, has to do with Romney’s convenient conversion to social conservatism over the past two years or so. One assumes that to win, Romney is going to need to talk about his newfound commitment to abortion-banning and gay-hating and the most obvious way to do that would be within the context of talking about his deep Christian faith and so forth. But while that might work great for a Protestant or a Catholic, I don’t think it goes over so well if your deep faith is something most Christians consider weird and, indeed, not really Christian.
Similarly, it’s hard to do the standard JFK-style “my faith is not an issue” thing if you’re simultaneously trying to convince politically mobilized Christian traditionalists that you’re the candidate for them. It seems to me that this winds up being a very difficult sweet spot to locate. Indeed, under normal circumstances it would seem almost crippling to me. Romney’s good fortune, however, is that the leading contenders are Rudy Giuliani and John McCain, neither of whom are exactly what you’d call social conservative heros either.
During yesterday’s House floor debate on escalation, Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA) unwittingly demonstrated his profound ignorance of Iraqi culture. “Some people from the other side seem to believe that if we pull out of Iraq, the Iraqi people are going to go back to tending sheep and herding goats,” he said. Watch it:
Westmoreland’s statement comes as little surprise. Last year, he led opposition to renewal of the Voting Rights Act, arguing that racism in the South is as irrelevant today as U.S.-British tensions over the Revolutionary War: “Do we treat the British any differently because of the Stamp Act? If we’re going to do that, then let’s go back to the Indians and say they butchered Custer.”
Unfortunately, the civil war in Iraq has decimated the country’s once-thriving professional class. Roughly 40 percent of Iraq’s middle class — which at one time included professors, doctors, and business owners — has fled Iraq since the war began, U.N. officials estimate. “The flight has undermined basic services such as water and sanitation and disrupted commerce, making it increasingly difficult for Iraqi society to function.”
Transcript: Read more
Yesterday’s House Armed Services Committee hearing on the war in Afghanistan “drew only the weakest of spotlights.” Despite featuring testimony from Gen. Karl Eikenberry, the outgoing commander of all NATO troops in Afghanistan, “as the hearing was set to begin, the only member of the media on hand to hear Eikenberry was a camera guy from CNN doing a pool report.” Last year was the bloodiest since the United States overthrew the Taliban in 2001, and opium production “broke all records in 2006.”