Huckabee on Iran and Iraq

31 10 2007

Republican Presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee’s sudden surge in the Iowa and national polls has fittingly led to heightened scrutiny of his views and policy positions. But as the veneer begins to peel off voters may see some neocon leanings hiding behind that campionate conservative guise.

Take for instance his recent interview with Wolf Blitzer on Late Edition this past Sunday where he fielded questions on Iran and Iraq. When Blitzer asked Huckabee to describe his strategic approach toward preventing Iran from attaining nuclear weapons, Huckabee’s response was flip, ill-considered and uninformed.

Whatever it takes. We cannot allow Iran to have nuclear capacity. It’s as simple as that. We can’t allow it for a couple of reasons. One, they’ve already made clear their intentions to destroy Israel. (Secondly,) they have not shown a level of responsibility or restraint.

This response sounds as if Huckabee’s briefing book on Iran was simply filled with doomsday scenarios that some campaign consultant on the Weekly Standard payroll told him to spout at will. Interestingly enough, few people especially in the Republican or Democratic camp, have mentioned anything about the slow hard slog of diplomacy taking place currently taking place between the Pyongyang and Washington, who are presently much further along in their weapons program than the Iranians. As evidenced by the North Korean example, diplomatic negotiations are a far better option in dealing with Iran.

In recent weeks, Chairman of the International Atomic Energy Agency Mohammed ElBaradei has made this point much more forcefully as the administration’s rhetoric on Iran has become increasingly hawkish. During separate interview with Wolf Blizter on CNN, ElBaradie had this to say about the administration posture toward Iran.

Well, this is the U.S. policy. I can’t really pass judgment on it. All I can say, Wolf, the earlier we go into negotiation, the earlier we follow the North Korean model, the better for everybody. Negotiation stopped with North Korea from five years. They ended up with nuclear weapons. They ended up with a nuclear test.

You resume negotiation, now we see a positive result. I always compare between the Korean model and the Iraq model. And I believe that these security or insecurity issues can best — can only be resolved through negotiation.

ElBaradie was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 for his work in preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. After conducting inspections of Iraq in 2003, he also warned reported it had no weapons of mass destruction. But at the time ElBaradie was summarily dismissed by the Bushies.

Read the rest of this entry »


John Tanner Gets the Grilling of His Life

31 10 2007

John Tanner got the grilling of his life by a House Judiciary Subcommittee yesterday on his record as chief of the voting rights section at the Justice Department and his remarks about minority elderly voters.

Under Tanner’s leadership the Justice Department has approved the most stringent voter ID laws in places such as Arizona, Georgia, and Indiana that make it harder not easier for the poor, people of color, and the elderly to vote. Many civil rights advocates consider current voter ID laws a tool of voter suppression because of their onerous provisions.

As Bradblog reported weeks ago, Tanner stated his rationale for not believing elderly voters of color are discriminated against in the implementation of these laws because “they die first.”

Since then, Tanner offered a meager apology that sounded more like as if he regretted how others misinterpreted his statement than an attempt to be genuinely contrite.

I want to apologize for the comments I made at the recent meeting of the National Latino Congreso about the impact of voter identification laws on elderly and minority voters. I understand that my explanation of the data came across in a hurtful way which I deeply regret.

Alabaman Congressman Artur Davis, however, wasn’t buying it. He began his questioning by leaning into Tanner regarding his rationale for his offensive remarks. Tanner began to explain away his statements by referring to certain inequities in the healthcare system and other “sad facts.” But curiously cited very few facts and statistics to support his views.

As he probed John Tanner reasoning, Congressman Davis asked him the most salient question all morning: Was Tanner familiar with the numbers regarding voter turnout among minority voters in Georgia? After a few failed attempts at dodging the question, John Tanner, chief of the DOJ voting section, said no.

Mr. Davis did not stop until he hammered this critical point home.

You’re a policy maker, sir. You’re in charge of enforcing the voting rights laws in this country and if you are not fully informed about you are talking about and pontificating about…. If you are basing your conclusions on stereotypes rather than facts, then it suggests to some of us that someone else can do this job better than you can.

Watch it.

Pressure Mounts on Mukasey to Denouce Torture

29 10 2007

A growing number of Senators are starting to mount pressure on attorney general nominee Michael Mukasey to denounce water boarding as a form of torture.  Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) told Face the Nation yesterday that Mukasey “should not be confirmed unless he is very, very clear about these aggressive techniques, which violate our laws and violate (the international) Geneva (convention on treatment of prisoners of war), as being totally unacceptable.”

And even Republican conservatives such as South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham voiced concerns about Mukasey’s legalistic and dispiriting response stance on waterboarding. “I am urging him that he needs to come forward. If he does not believe that waterboarding is illegal, then that would really put doubts in my own mind because I don’t think you have to have a lot of knowledge about the law to understand this technique violates” international and domestic laws.

Democratic Presidential hopeful Senator Chris Dodd of Conneticut also announced his opposition to Mukasey recently in this statement:

Mr. Mukasey’s position that the President does not have to heed the law disqualifies him from being the chief attorney for the United States. We have seen for too long, and at great expense to our national security, an Administration that has systematically attacked the rule of law and turned our Justice Department into a political wing of the White House. I’m afraid that Mr. Mukasey as Attorney General would be more of the same.

Not only does statements like these makes you doubt if Mukasey has the votes to get confirmed right now, but, more importantly, whether or not the Bush administration will take a nominee who has gone on record denouncing torture, if Mukasey reverses himself. 

Seeing mere skeptics and lukewarm supporters of  Mukasey’s nomination turn into outright opposers also makes you wonder if the administration is going to allow this nominee sink, and start over with say a Ted Olson, or if it just inept at tackling this meltdown.

McCain Hedging on Waterboarding

28 10 2007

Presidential hopeful Senator John McCain (R-AZ), has championed anti-torture legislation and has remained a steadfast critic of the Bush Administration’s torture policies. In 2005, he took on the White House in battling for the passage of a “law banning cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of foreign suspects in the war on terror,” which, among many other torture techniques, outlaws waterboarding.

And as recently as this past summer at a GOP Presidential Debate in New Hampshire, he castigated his fellow Republicans for implying that pro-torture policies helped U.S. in its so-called “war on terror.” At that forum he said, “And it was interesting, during the debate on torture, the retired military, from Colin Powell on down and others, sided with me. Those who had no military experience took the other side.” As it is often noted, Sen. McCain’s position on the issue is rooted in his experience of being tortured while held captive by the Vietnamese after his plane was shot down 40 years ago this week.

So given McCain’s history of being a fierce anti-torture advocate, one would think he would be much more forceful in his criticism of Attorney General nominee Michael Muskasey’s refusal to call waterboarding torture. During his confirmation hearings, Mukasey said if waterboarding was unconstitutional it was indeed torture, a statement that completely ignoring the passage of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, or at best suggesting the law itself was inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution. Either way Mukasey’s response implied he might at worst permit, if not encourage, certain techniques already banned by Congress to continue.

But Mr. Straight Talk Express actually did nothing of the sort while on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos earlier today. In fact, when asked point blank “Will Mr. Mukasey have to say clearly that waterboarding is torture to get your vote for attorney general?” McCain sounded coy and cautious. He simply retorted:

I can’t be that absolute. But I want to know his answer. I want to know his answer. Obviously, you judge a candidate for office or nominee for office on the entire record. But this is a very important issue to me.

Watch it!

In recent days, a number of other Senators have voiced their criticism of Mukasey’s refusal to unambiguously condemn the use of torture, including Sens. Arlen Specter (R-PA), Majority Leader Harry Reid, Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT). Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has already stated he will vote against Muskasey’s confirmation.

In the coming days, we will see if Mukasey credibly repositions himself on the torture issue to merit Senate support. If Muskasey wins Senate approval despite an unequivocal rebuke of all torture methods, the rest of the Senate will be using the same double-talk play book the administration has been using on the American public since the Abu Garaib.

(H/T: Think Progress)

School to Prison Pipeline

26 10 2007

In its preliminary shadow report of the United States compliance with an international treaty on ending racial discrimination, the American Civil Liberties Union summarized the “school to prison pipeline” in very succinct and sobering terms.

The “school to prison pipeline,” a disturbing national trend, refers to the increasingly widespread practice of funneling primarily children of color out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. These are often children with learning disabilities or histories of poverty, abuse or neglect. Rather than addressing their needs through additional educational services, they are isolated and punished.

Policy trends responsible for this problem include “zero-tolerance” policies criminalizing minor instances of school misconduct; schools increasingly ignoring due process protections for these children, expelling them from public schools and placing them in alternative schools and detention facilities; and policy initiatives including the federal No Child Left Behind Act that place an undue emphasis on ‘high stakes testing,’ providing schools the incentive to push out low performing students.

For example, in the Winner school district in South Dakota, middle and high schools disproportionately punish Native American students for alleged misconduct. Native American students, many with learning disabilities, are 3 times more likely than Caucasian students to be suspended and more than 10 times more likely to be arrested for school misconduct.

Over one-third of the Native American students will be suspended, and roughly 1 in every 7 Native children will be arrested for violating a school disciplinary rule, in any year. Native children who defend themselves against racial harassment by Caucasian children are routinely arrested.

The U.S. report, by contrast, barely mentioned the school to prison phenomenon.

To read the U.S. report on its compliance with the CERD click here.

To read the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) click here.

Click here to read the rest of the ACLU report.

Update: Learn more about the school to prison pipeline Legal Defense Fund’s site by clicking here. Learn about the ACLU’s campaign against the school to prison pipeline by clicking here.

Base Politics

25 10 2007

When asked about the different approaches Congresswoman Pelosi and Senator Clinton have toward policy making, foreign policy maven Walter Russell Read told the Politico:

Pelosi is a grass-roots politician who is interested in making policy out of the views of the base. Hillary Clinton is a national politician who is interested in formulating good policy and then selling that to the base.

That kind of assesment makes you wonder what the fate of great social change is when people continue to think along the lines of these false dichotomies.  Or worse, when people begin to personify these false dichotomies themselves.

Flag Pin Patriotism

25 10 2007

After hearing that Obama was criticized a few weeks ago for not wearing the flag pin anymore and seeing that bit of information being treated as newsworthy fodder for pudits and reporters alike, I thought the mainstream media must be really bored to spend time on this.  But then I began to pay attention to this dishonest discussion about patriotism take place and watched people act as if they were really taking the whole charade seriously.

Perhaps, I am alone on this, but I thought Obama response was a good one because it shifted the focus away from the mini-smear campaign right wingers such as Sean Hannity were waging against Obama to criticizing those who wrap themselves in the flag only to violate the U.S. Constitution in how they govern or craft policy. 

You know, the truth is that right after 9/11, I had a pin. Shortly after 9/11, particularly because as we’re talking about the Iraq war, that became a substitute for, I think, true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security, I decided I won’t wear that pin on my chest; instead I’m gonna try to tell the American people what I believe will make this country great, and hopefully that will be a testimony to my patriotism.

But apparently that answer did not satisfy critics such as Stanley Renshon who said in the Politico yestersday,

Certainly dissent is important, and it’s both the right and the privilege of all Americans. However, equating it with true patriotism is like comparing dating with a good marriage.

That’s assesment is unfair and fails to acknowledge how the post-9/11 America became infused with extremist rhetoric that led to disatrous polices. 

Consider the following. Immediately after 9/11 right-wingers such as the late Jerry Falwell said,  

I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU….I point the finger in their face and say ‘you helped this happen’.

And as late as fall of 2006 Rep. Dennis Hastert and others, attributed Democratic opposition to legalizing the President’s unlawful wiretapping to wanting to “coddle terrorists.” And since 9/11, the Bush administration has held suspects indefinitely without charge, tortured people, and of course unsuccessfully prosecuted an unnecessary war.

Now to be fair to Renshon larger criticism was that Obama was conflating the demonstration of solidarity in wearing the pin after 9/11 with the hyper-patriotism of the right wing or even initial support for foreign adventures.  Patriotism, Renshon argued, can be the glue that binds people together for the sake of community service or overcome “identity politics.” And perhaps that true. 

But thats not how it has been recasted in this current environment, and to forget that is to be either blind or purposefully forgetful.  Patriotism and loyalty whether Renshon admits it or not were defined by the right in very stark terms.  It was either you are with us or you are against us. Or as Ashcroft warned the American public, criticism of administration policies would only provide aid and comfort to the enemy.

So while some might want to dismiss Obama’s justification for not wearing the flag pin the way he did as just some ill-considered platitude, he still has a point. Somehow that got lost in the translation.

Bill Maher of course had a much more witter take on the faux controversy.