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Friday Talking Points [Vol. 11]

[ Posted Friday, December 7th, 2007 – 18:55 UTC ]

It's been a week of circular logic from the political world.

To begin with, Mitt Romney gave a speech on religion. This speech was brilliantly summed up in a comment to Chris Kelly's recent Huffington Post column:

1. We should all be tolerant of religions, even ones we don't agree with.

2. Secularism/atheism is a religion.

3. Let's all hate on those traitorous, treasonous, blasphemous secularists/atheists!

Seriously, though, I wrote my column yesterday about Romney's speech (and other things), and managed not to mention JFK once, which has to be some kind of record.

From elsewhere in the world, the man President Bush would have you believe is a dictator and totalitarian, Hugo Chavez, narrowly lost a referendum in Venezuela that would have allowed him to be president-for-life. Chavez gracefully accepted the defeat at the polls. Meanwhile, that buddy of Bush, Vladimir Putin (or, as Bush calls him, "Pooty-Poot"), that paragon of democracy, won an election of his own using the novel strategy of chucking anyone in jail who tries to run against you. Since this didn't fit the White House spin, they didn't say much about either of these elections.

In Congress, Democrats are rumored to be considering voting for $30 billion for the war in (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) Afghanistan, while not putting any restrictions on the money... just in case... you know... the White House might want to use it for the war in Iraq or something. This will (in their eyes) fulfill Nancy Pelosi's pledge not to vote for more Iraq money "this year," while insulating themselves from Republican attacks that they're not "funding the troops." We'll see how this plays out for Democrats, but my guess is that Americans are smart enough to see through this display of circular logic.

The CIA, meanwhile, had to destroy some interrogation tapes in order to save them. Or something. But then the CIA using circular logic isn't exactly a surprise, it's what you actually expect from them.

But the gold standard in circular logic this week has got to be President Bush's explanation for why the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran not only doesn't change anything in regards to U.S. policy towards Iran (even though they're not building nuclear weapons), but in fact vindicates Bush's policy towards them in the first place. You see, they don't have a program now, but they used to! Because they used to but don't now, they're just as dangerous as if they actually had a nuke! Heck, they're dangerous because they not only know how to enrich uranium, but because they know that making a nuclear bomb is possible! And because the CIA tells us that they used to have a weapons program, we've got to continue sanctions against them because... um... because....

OK, I admit that at this point in Bush's explanation, my head totally unscrewed from my neck as I tried to follow his spin, and while I was picking it up off the floor and reattaching it, I kind of missed the last piece in his logical circle. I'm sure he'll be repeating it ad nauseum in the days ahead, though, so I'm sure I'll hear it eventually.


Most Impressive Democrat of the Week

But enough of these musings. Let us move onward to the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award.

There were a few good candidates this week. The first has remained nameless in news reports so far, being referred to only as "Democratic House and Senate negotiators." These are the people who hammered out a bill which should be able to pass both houses which will restrict the CIA to using only the techniques detailed in the Army Field Manual for interrogation of any prisoners. This would limit the federal government at large to the military's rules, which flat-out forbid waterboarding, hypothermia, withholding medical treatment, and all other forms of torture. The bill needs to get voted on in both houses, after which it will most likely be vetoed by President Bush, but that doesn't mean this isn't an important thing to be doing. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it will also develop the issue of torture as a campaign wedge issue for next year. John McCain and other Republican candidates are already on the record opposing torture, so this will give them an opportunity to speak out. Which is going to divide the Republican party base. Democrats need to force Republicans to go on record on this issue, even if it only results in political ammo to use against them next year. And who knows? Maybe Bush will sign it.

Next up was Patrick Leahy, who would have won the award if he had not been blocked by Republican Arlen Specter. Leahy, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, is finally (finally!) going to start issuing contempt citations for White House characters who have been called to testify but have refused. Specter objected to the committee vote on the citations, saying he wasn't happy with the language. But this will only delay the vote one week, so look for a Christmas present to the White House next week from this committee. And a possible MIDOTW award for Leahy.

But our winner for this week's MIDOTW is Senator Dick Durbin. While he was followed by many others, Durbin was the first out of the gate with a letter to the Attorney General demanding an investigation into the destruction of the CIA's interrogation tapes. Durban is the Majority Whip, the number two Democratic leadership job in the Senate, and he immediately sent a letter to the Justice Department demanding to know "whether CIA officials who destroyed these videotapes and withheld information about their existence from official proceedings violated the law." Good for him. Whether there will be an investigation, or whether it will quietly fade into the background like so many other Bush White House investigations remains to be seen, but I've got to salute Dick Durbin for leading the pack on this issue for now by awarding him this week's Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week.

[Congratulate Senator Durbin on his Senate contact page to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]


Most Disappointing Democrat of the Week

Glenn Greenwald makes a persuasive case on his blog for Senator Jay Rockefeller, IV, and Representative Jane Harman as most disappointing Democrats, but Jay's already won MDDOTW (twice -- out of only seven times this award has been given) and he (so far) is supporting Durbin's calls for investigation, so I'm giving him and Jane a break this week.

While I did consider giving this week's MDDOTW award to the Democrats in both houses of Congress who have been breaking ranks with their party on important votes this week (such as the energy bill which was defeated in the Senate today), upon reflection I have to award this week's Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week to Joe Lieberman. OK, I know ol' Joe doesn't call himself a Democrat anymore, but since I created the award myself, I am fully capable of making my own rules up. In fact, I'll do it right now -- Lieberman's MDDOTW award will be given with the special "Republican Tool" oak clusters, in recognition of Lieberman's stunning display of being used by the other party to advance several saber-rattling bills against the dreaded Iranian threat in the past three months or so. While Bush knew Iran's nuclear threat was non-existent, he nonetheless talked Joe into being a "Democrat" sponsor of legislation which did nothing more productive than drive up the price of oil to unseen highs. This allowed Bush to have his plausible deniability, and made Joe Lieberman into nothing more than a Republican tool. Well done, Joe!

[Contact Senator Lieberman on his Senate contact page to let him know what you think of his actions.]

Awards duly given, it's time now for the talking points of the week.


Friday Talking Points

Volume 11 (12/7/07)


Independent Counsel

Teddy Kennedy's got a pretty good lead-in to this posted on the Huffington Post. These two words are guaranteed to strike fear into the hearts of anyone working for the White House.

"The actions of this White House have sadly left Congress with no other option but to pass an Independent Counsel act to create a special prosecutor to look into their behavior. Time and time again, the Bush White House has destroyed evidence -- emails, videotapes, who knows what else? -- and refused to cooperate with any investigation into its misdeeds. Because we think laws have been broken and there seems no other way to get to the bottom of this mess, we hereby call for a new Independent Counsel law. President Bush has left us no other choice."


The White House is not a castle, and Bush does not sit on a throne

Freshman Senator Sheldon Whitehouse from Rhode Island has been digging into classified White House legal opinions, and it should come as no surprise that he's discovered that they believe that "if the King does it, it is legal." Oh, sorry, I meant to say "President."

"The view of the Bush White House that anything the President does is legal simply because he does it has no basis in reality, no basis in fact, no basis in the law itself. President Nixon famously said 'if the President does it, it's legal,' but even he waited until he was out of office to espouse this bizarre belief. Bush, on the other hand, hires lawyers to tell him this while he's in office. America is not a monarchy. Bush is not king. We are a nation of laws, and everyone -- up to and including the President -- are bound by them."


Heckuva job at the State Department

This one writes itself.

"The State Department's Inspector General finally quit this week due to family ties with Blackwater. This was the man, you understand, who was supposed to be overseeing Blackwater contracts. I guess this continues the Bush tradition of putting incompetent people in high positions in our government. Heckuva job, Condi."


Even military families have abandoned Bush

"It's a sad commentary on President Bush that six out of ten members of military families no longer support him or his war."


GOP about to set record for obstructionism

Thanks to Senator Kerry for pointing this one out.

"The Republicans in the Senate are just four votes shy of setting the record for most cloture votes ever in the Senate. What this means is that in one short year, they have obstructed more votes than any other Senate has in a two-year cycle. Anyone looking to why we can't get any responsible legislation passed need look no further than the Republicans' obstructionist record in the Senate."


Fiscally irresponsible Republicans

Republicans are using this obstructionism to force Democrats to abandon "pay as you go" rules, which stipulate that when you pass something that costs the government money (like the Alternative Minimum Tax bill), you have to also provide a way to pay for it -- a way of recovering that money, so the government doesn't go even deeper into debt.

"If President Bush is so worried about fiscal responsibility that he's willing to veto budget bills passed by Congress to make a political point, maybe he ought to talk to members of his own party who are refusing to exhibit fiscal responsibility by actually paying for things as we pass them. He'd be a lot more believable as some fiscal champion if he joined us in actually fighting the deficit with pay-as-you-go rules."


Oil companies = welfare queens

And finally, since Senate Republicans have successfully blocked the energy bill today, they have stood up for oil companies instead of doing what is right for the country. This needs to be made clear in no uncertain terms. Terms we can thank Ronald Reagan for.

"Senate Republicans are apparently so worried about the oil companies that they have shot down an important energy bill in the Senate. They did this not because we were raising taxes on the oil industry after it has just made the highest profits known to mankind in the entire history of the planet Earth, but because we wanted to reduce the subsidies to these poor oil companies. 'Subsidies' is just another way of saying 'welfare.' So the Republicans have thrown their lot in with the biggest welfare queens of all time -- the oil companies. Come election time, we'll see what Americans think of this."


Cross-posted at The Huffington Post


-- Chris Weigant


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