Last week, Center for American Progress senior fellow Lawrence Korb debated The Nation’s Katrina vanden Heuvel about the military surge in Afghanistan. The debate, which was sponsored by Robert Greenwald’s Brave New Foundation and is part of the Rethink Afghanistan documentary campaign, will be posted in three parts this week. Vanden Heuvel, who urges withdrawal from Afghanistan, argued, “Military escalation will inflame and recruit more terrorists.” Korb countered that more troops are “necessary but not sufficient” to counter the security threats which emanate from the region. The extra troops, Korb said, will “enable the United States and its allies to secure particularly the south and the east part of the country where the Taliban is strongest.” Watch part one of the debate:
The mayor of a failing Pennsylvania steel town will join Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and Vice President Al Gore in testifying on behalf of a clean energy economy this week. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce has announced an ambitious week of hearings on the Waxman-Markey American Clean Energy and Security Act, comprehensive legislation intended to answer President Obama’s mandate for green economic reform. Braddock, PA mayor John Fetterman will testify on Wednesday how his town needs a change from the pollution-based status quo:
After opening statements by members of the committee on Tuesday, the rest of the week will feature three different sessions each day. The hearings begin on Wednesday with the testimony of Cabinet officials Lisa Jackson, Steven Chu, and Ray La Hood, followed by a panel of representatives of the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, and concluding with Fetterman and other green jobs advocates. Thursday’s hearings discuss questions of carbon revenue allocation, international competitiveness, and smarter and cleaner energy. Vice President Al Gore and former senator John Warner (R-VA) will begin Friday’s hearing, followed by policy experts on transportation, energy efficiency, market regulation, and adaptation to the ravages of global warming.
Full schedule of the hearings, which will take place at 2123 Rayburn House Office Building: Read more
I’m reading some of this coverage of Meghan McCain’s latest thoughts on the direction of the Republican Party and I can’t help but wonder to myself who on earth is Meghan McCain? To the best of my knowledge we’re talking about a young woman who’s never accomplished anything or held a job.
But, you know, before I begrudge the success of a not-clearly-qualified young blogger/pundit I suppose I’d better the insulation on my glass house. So instead I’ll just say that the fact that Meghan McCain is, apparently successfully, launching a career as a political pundit capable of garnering a book deal worth hundreds of thousands of dollars all based on being the daughter of a failed presidential candidate should give people pause about the meritocratic nature of American capitalism. I mean, more power to her. But I’d sleep better at night knowing she’s going to pay a very high tax rate on that book deal, and the money could be put to use giving Pell Grants and health insurance to kids who don’t have multi-millionaire celebrity dads.
Yesterday, President Obama shook hands and briefly chatted with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, explaining in a press conference afterwards that he was trying to move towards a “more constructive” relationship with the South American country.
The right wing has responded with outrage to Obama’s meeting with Chavez, claiming face-to-face talks with a dictator show that Obama is projecting weakness. On NBC this morning, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said Obama “bows to the Saudi King and is friends with Venezuela” and claimed the President showed “shallowness” in talking with Chavez. Gingrich then claimed that U.S. presidents do not “smile and greet” with Russian leaders:
Q: But do you think he should not be trying to mend relationships with other world leaders?
GINGRICH: How do you mend relationships with somebody who hates your country, who actively calls for the destruction of your country and who wants to undermine you?
Q: But we certainly have mended relationships with countries that have hated us in the past. Russia comes to mind, China comes to mind.
GINGRICH: But we didn’t rush over, smile, and greet Russian dictators. We understood who they were.
Dr. Gingrich, who has a Ph.D. in European history, should re-read his history books. As the Cold War waned, President Reagan (whose foreign policy Gingrich repeatedly praises) met with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev at four summits, leading to nuclear arms reductions. President George H. W. Bush negotiated the Start II treaty alongside Russian President Boris Yeltsin, and President Clinton discussed foreign investment with Yeltsin. President Bush, of course, said he saw into Vladimir Putin’s soul after a private engagement. Each meeting had smiles all around:
House Energy and Commerce Chair Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Energy and Environment Subcommittee Chair Ed Markey (D-MA) are holding hearings the rest of this week on “The American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009″ — A solid “B+” bill that boosts the economy, creates green jobs, and puts the country on a path to preserve a livable climate.
I’d say that if you were going to tune in to any of these, the top priority would be Friday morning, where Gore and Former senator John Warner testify. The next most interesting is probably the second panel Tuesday, just to hear fellow members of USCAP — Jim Rogers of Duke Energy and Frances Beinecke, NRDC — and look at their body language (see How does Duke CEO Jim Rogers sleep at night, generating so much coal-fired CO2: “Lunesta” and “NRDC and EDF endorse the weak, coal-friendly, rip-offset-heavy USCAP climate plan“).
Here is the full set of hearings:
Today’s Politico notes that the GOP is “stumbling” to find new ideas for reforming the health care system:
There’s no Republican plan yet. No Republicans leading the charge who have coalesced the party behind them. Their message is still vague and unformed. Their natural allies among insurers, drug makers and doctors remain at the negotiating table with the Democrats. So Republicans now worry the party has waited so long to figure out where it stands that it will make it harder to block what President Barack Obama is trying to do.
To the extent that Republicans are discussing health care, they’re relying on trite McCain-campaign talking points and old-hands from the 1990s. In other words, they’ve outsourced the conversation to attack dogs Conservatives for Patients Rights, Betsy McCaughey, and Sally Pipes and have, for the most part, relinquished the serious debate about how to lower costs, increase access and improve quality.
The truth is, and what the Politico article hints at, is that the GOP leadership has little understanding of the health care issues. So much so, in fact, that Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX), M.D. published a “Health Care Primer for Members” in the run-up to the general election. The document, whose only notable feature is the resemblance of its front page to Sen. Baucus’ white paper, is like a ‘health care for dummies’ introduction to Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP, FDA, CDC, NIH etc… The package contains most of Burgess’ editorials, poll data, and talking points that instruct GOP members to stress that “freedom is the foundation of life in America” and “we must work to pass forward-looking, long-lasting legislation dealing with doctors first.”
So while Sens Max Baucus and Ted Kennedy just sent the White House a letter “affirming their commitment to marking up health care legislation in June,” most Republicans are busy recycling old free-market ideology that even elementary economic textbooks dismiss as impractical.
The Washington Independent’s David Weigel makes this point:
Newt Gingrich, who’s a more credible expert on Republican health care strategy than he is on most other things, floats a pretty good argument: Republicans can pivot off voter anger and confusion with the government takeover of banks and auto companies to make the case that health care reform would amount to another takeover. Negative arguments like that are clearly better than any positive arguments the harried House Republicans will come up with in this short timeframe.
Somehow or other the conservative movement has gotten so intellectually bankrupt that the lunatics running the asylum think that Newt Gingrich is an intelligent and canny man. Consequently, he’s snagged himself a situation where he’s in the news constantly offering aperçus like “The Democratic Party has been the active instrument of breaking down traditional marriage.”
Far be it from me to say that Newt Gingrich’s 1981 decision to ask his first wife for a divorce while she was in the hospital recuperating from cancer should bar him from commenting on the value of traditional marriage. But six months after the divorce was finalized, he married a new woman, Marianne Ginther, which suggests there was some infidelity involved. Then in 2000 he divorced Ginther and married a third woman with whom it turns out he’d been having an affair. That, I think, is a bit much. Then after that, he became a Catholic!
I’ve suggested this before, but if we want to bolster traditional marriage it seems to me that a much more reasonable measure than discrimination would be to say that you only get two divorces. After that, you can go about your business as you please, but no more spouses; you’re clearly not a person capable of making credible commitments.
Yesterday, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said that when it came to the Bush administration’s illegal torture program, “those who devised the policies…should not be prosecuted.” Today, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs confirmed that these officials would not be “held accountable”:
CNN’S ED HENRY: Just so I understand, you’re saying the people in the CIA who followed through on what they were told was legal, they should not be prosecuted? But why not the Bush administration lawyers who, in the eyes of a lot of your supporters on the left, twisted the law, why are they not being held accountable?
GIBBS: The president is focused on looking forward. That’s why.
When he released the torture memos last week, President Obama reaffirmed, I believe strongly in transparency and accountability,” and repeated that “the United States is a nation of laws.”
Last week, hate radio host Michael Savage, in conjunction with the Thomas More Law Center, filed a lawsuit against Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. They claim DHS has violated the plaintiffs’ First and Fifth Amendment rights by “attempting to chill their free speech, expressive association, and equal protection rights.” GWU Law Professor Orin Kerr responds:
Isn’t the lawsuit frivolous? As I read it, the lawsuit is claiming that the issuance of a government report criticizing certain groups violates the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights. But the Constitution doesn’t provide a constitutional right to have the government not say things that might be considered criticism. Perhaps the plaintiffs want the Constitution to be radically reinterpreted by activist judges to invent some brand-new constitutional rights?
Today’s Progress Report has more here on what the DHS report actually says and how conservatives are reacting.
The House GOP’s leader, John Boehner (R-OH), took some time over the weekend to wallow a bit in ignorance and dishonesty:
STEPHANOPOULOS: So what is the responsible way? That’s my question. What is the Republican plan to deal with carbon emissions, which every major scientific organization has said is contributing to climate change?
BOEHNER: George, the idea that carbon dioxide is a carcinogen that is harmful to our environment is almost comical. Every time we exhale, we exhale carbon dioxide. Every cow in the world, you know, when they do what they do, you’ve got more carbon dioxide.
Joe Romm observes that Boehner doesn’t even seem to know what the climate change debate is about. But suffice it to say that it’s not about carbon dioxide being a carcinogen. It’s about the fact that carbon dioxide, in high levels, contributes to the destabilization of the planet’s climate.
On the subject of cow farts, Boehner’s a bit confused in that the issue is methane rather than CO2. But methane really is a contributor to climate change. The fact that this is a bit funny doesn’t change the fact that climate change is a real problem and that bovine flatulence genuinely contributes to it, albeit not on the same scale as industrial activity.