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Administration: Talking Point Self-Defense

President Bush and congressional conservatives are circulating demonstrably false talking points about Congress' legislation on Iraq and taxes.

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GOOD NEWS

On Palm Sunday, 1,436 churches distributed “364,000 eco-palm stems,” which are “collected in a way that helps preserve the forest” and benefits local workers.


STATE WATCH

NEW YORK: Legislature agrees to put a major expansion of children’s health insurance into state budget.

MASSACHUSETTS: Gov. Deval Patrick (D) orders the reversal of a restrictive same-sex marriage rule made by his predecessor, Mitt Romney.

HEALTH CARE: In response to a lack of federal action, several states “have been taking bold steps to improve access to health care and lower costs.”


BLOG WATCH

THINK PROGRESS: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) strolls through Baghdad market, accompanied by 100 soldiers, 3 Blackhawks, 2 Apache gunships.

BLOGGERNISTA: Right-wing ex-porn star in trouble.

TALK LEFT: Newt Gingrich on Spanish — “the language of living in a ghetto.”

ONE BLOG A DAY: Profile of ThinkProgress.org.


DAILY GRILL

“But what we’re doing today is different. And to say it’s not different is just really not being fair. … We went to the market and were just really warmly welcomed. I bought five rugs for five bucks. And people were engaging, and just a few weeks ago, hundreds of people, dozens of people were killed in this same place.”
— Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), 4/1/07, on visiting the Shorja market in Iraq

VERSUS

“Just yesterday, an Iraqi soldier was shot in his shoulder by a sniper, and the day before, two civilians were shot by a sniper as well. … Everybody closes their shops by 2:30 p.m. … It is not even 10 percent of our work before the bombings, because people are afraid to come.”
— Amir Raheem, 4/2/07, a floor carpeting merchant at the Shorja market


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STUDENTS

Politics with an Attitude: Everyone from Barack Obama to Stephen Colbert talks to Campus Progress. Right-wingers seem scared of us. Find out why here.

  April 2, 2007
Bye Bye Payson
Talking Point Self-Defense
Go Beyond The Headlines
Coffee and Donuts Not Included
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Talking Point Self-Defense

According to President Bush and his conservative allies, Congress is on the verge of abandoning U.S. forces in the field and passing “the largest tax increase in history.” Of course, these doomsday talking points aren’t true, but Bush is in a bind. Unlike him, Americans want U.S. forces to redeploy out of the civil war in Iraq. Americans believe providing basic health care for our children is a moral imperative. They believe the tax system should be rebalanced to reward work and not wealth; and that spending for veterans care and the Gulf Coast are emergency needs. So instead of arguing against these bills on the merits, President Bush and congressional conservatives are circulating demonstrably false talking points. Below, we take apart their spin:

FALSE CLAIM: ‘FUNDING FOR TROOPS WILL RUN OUT IN MID-APRIL’: The Bush administration has been trying to force Congress to abandon its support for an Iraq withdrawal time line by claiming that a “clean” Iraq spending bill must be signed by mid-April or U.S. troops will suffer. According to The Hill, the Pentagon and the White House have been “sounding alarms and sketching worst-case scenarios if Congress does not pass the 2007 supplemental by April 15.” Renewing his veto threat on Wednesday, President Bush told Congress “the clock is ticking for our troops in the field,” and that “funding for our forces in Iraq will begin to run out in mid-April.” Meanwhile, Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) and others have been arguing that Bush is wrong, and that funds won’t dry up until June, giving plenty of time for negotiations. “We’ve never had a year where they didn’t give us bad information,” Murtha said. “We’ve been asking people and we think it’ll be the end of May.” Now we know who’s right. A report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service makes clear that Bush’s deadline is completely fabricated. According to the CRS, “the Army has enough money in its existing budget to fund operations and maintenance through the end of May — about $52.6 billion. If additional transfer authority is tapped, subject to Congress approving a reprogramming request, the Army would have enough funds to make it through nearly two additional months, or toward the end of July.” Commenting on the report, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) said, “This study confirms that the President is once again attempting to mislead the public and create an artificial atmosphere of anxiety. He is using scare tactics to defeat bipartisan legislation that would change course in Iraq.”

FALSE CLAIM: ‘WE OPPOSE THIS BILL BECAUSE IT HAS DOMESTIC SPENDING’: Conservatives are also claiming they oppose the emergency spending bill because it includes money for domestic priorities, including aide for veterans, children’s health care funds, and housing assistance and reconstruction funds for the Gulf Coast. During his radio address Saturday, President Bush complained that the emergency bills were “loaded up…with billions of dollars in domestic spending completely unrelated to the war.” This from the same President Bush who has engineered tens of millions of dollars in executive earmarks, and never once vetoed any of Congress’s previous pork-laden spending bills. Likewise, Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-MS) claimed he opposed the emergency spending bill because it “heap[s] pork on the backs of our men and women in uniform.” This from the same Trent Lott who authored “the largest earmark ever,” the $700 million “railroad to nowhere.” The truth is that Bush and his conservative allies oppose this bill because it changes course in Iraq; they just don’t want to make that their first argument, because they know it’s so unpopular.

FALSE CLAIM: ‘THE LARGEST TAX INCREASE IN HISTORY’: President Bush said on Saturday that the annual budget resolutions passed recently by the House and Senate “would raise taxes by a total of nearly $400 billion over the next five years,” which he described as “the largest tax increase in our Nation’s history.” This is the new right-wing talking point as conservative House leaders say they gear up for “a good old-fashioned tax fight.” But it’s false. There is no tax increase. Indeed, the House budget resolution is notable for its fiscal discipline, the first passed in years under pay-as-you-go rules. Consistent with those rules, which require that all tax cuts and entitlement increases be paid for, “the plan assumes the same level of revenues over the 2007-2012 period as projected by the Congressional Budget Office under its current-policy baseline; the baseline essentially assumes no change in current laws governing taxes.” In other words, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities states, “charges that the plan requires multi-hundred-billion dollar tax increases are not correct.” Likewise, the Concord Coalition, a nonpartisan group that advocates for “responsible fiscal policy,” calls the new budget a “successful first test of how seriously [House leaders] plan to abide by [the PAYGO] rule, [assuming] no entitlement expansions or tax cuts that are not fully offset.” Ironically, the tax cut expiration dates conservatives are now attacking are the same ones they wrote and supported in 2001 and 2003.

Under the Radar

ETHICS — WHITE HOUSE COMPLAINING ABOUT GONZALES HEARING DESPITE BEING OFFERED EARLIER DATE: The White House is now complaining that the Senate Judiciary Committee refuses to move up the date for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’s hearing. Presidential counselor Dan Bartlett said yesterday on CBS that the date should be changed from April 17 to next week, and suggested that senators were playing politics by preventing him from testifying earlier: “If they wanted to get to the bottom of it, they would accept the proposal the President’s put forward. They would have the attorney general up there next week, having the testimony in open hearing, on the record, for everybody to see.” This is a ruse. The Senate is on recess next week, virtually assuring that it couldn’t respond to the White House request. Moreover, according to a Senate aide, Gonzales was offered an earlier date and rejected it. Staff members “had proposed an appearance the week of April 10, but the Justice Department ‘said no.'” Additionally, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) argues that there is now a good reason to keep the current date. The committee plans to use the interim to interview other Justice Department officials and develop a “factual groundwork” before Gonzales testifies. “So, I think to rush this and then have the attorney general say, ‘Well, I don’t know,’ when if you prepared it properly you could say, ‘Well, Mr. So-and-so says you were at this meeting,'” he said. “That’s why we have to wait.”

ADMINISTRATION — WHITE HOUSE CLAIMS FORMER AIDE TURNED ON BUSH BECAUSE OF ‘PERSONAL TURMOIL’:
Over the weekend, Matthew Dowd, President Bush’s former chief campaign strategist, went public with what he called “misplaced” faith Bush’s leadership. In an interview with the New York Times, Dowd criticized Bush’s handling of Iraq war, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal. Dowd — who was intimately involved in securing Bush’s election in 2000 and again in 2004 — said he was in “denial” about the reality of Bush’s tenure as president. In the lead up to Bush’s 2004 victory — while he publicly criticized Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) as “proposing ‘a weak defense'” — Dowd was privately hoping Bush’s “my way of the highway” mentality would give way to his “Texas style of governing” where he worked closely and productively with both Democrats and Republicans. Now, Dowd says, Bush is losing “his gut-level bond with the American people” and has authored, but not published, an op-ed entitled “Kerry Was Right.” Dowd — who’s son will soon be deployed to Iraq — faulted Bush further, saying he was “ignoring the will of the people on Iraq. He added, “If the American public says they’re done with something, our leaders have to understand what they want … They’re saying, ‘Get out of Iraq.'” Asked why he chose to go public with his criticisms he said, “I’m a big believer that in part what we’re called to do … is to restore balance when things didn’t turn out the way they should have. … Just being quiet is not an option when I was so publicly advocating [Bush’s] election.” Over the weekend, Bush’s “shrinking circle of trusted aides” retaliated; counselor Dan Bartlett attempted to smear Dowd as emotional and suggested that Dowd’s views were in some way related to the “personal turmoil” he’s experienced over the last few years. But, as Dowd put it, “I really like [the President], which is probably why I’m so disappointed in things.”

CLIMATE CHANGE — NEW U.N. REPORT FINDS HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS THREATENED BY GLOBAL WARMING: “Climate change could threaten the lives of hundreds of millions of people in the decades to come,” according to a draft of a major U.N. report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to be released later this week. While its “basic findings won’t change” from the last report released in February, which said that human activities were “very likely” the cause of global warming, this report will further document the human and environmental impacts of global warming. “Even the most optimistic forecasts say the climate will continue to change and the planet will be irrevocably damaged. … In the absence of action to curb emissions of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases, the future looks bleak.” The new report indicates that “within two or three decades, there could be 1.5 billion people without enough water,” creating “refugee crises like we’ve never seen.” Poorer nations are likely to bear a disproportionate amount of the negative impacts, as “industrial powers are spending just tens of millions of dollars on ways to limit climate and coastal hazards in the world’s most vulnerable regions — most of them close to the equator and overwhelmingly poor.” For example, as oceans swell, “it is the crowded river deltas in southern Asia and Egypt, along with small island nations, that are most at risk.” While some colder nations believe they stand to benefit from warmer climate, Rajendra Pachauri, head of the IPCC, rebuffed their misconceptions: “Clearly there would be no winners left anywhere.”


Think Fast

For the second year in a row, President Bush will skip the tradition of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch in Washington’s baseball home opener. With Bush’s approval ratings stuck in the low 30s in recent polls, a White House spokeswoman “was asked whether the president feared he’d get booed. ‘No,’ she replied. ‘Certainly not.'” Last Opening Day, Vice President Cheney filled in for Bush and was peppered with loud boos. (Watch it.)

Amir Raheem, a merchant at the Shorja market visited by Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), disagreed with the senators’ claims that the market is proof Iraq is getting safer. “Just yesterday, an Iraqi soldier was shot in his shoulder by a sniper, and the day before, two civilians were shot by a sniper as well. … Everybody closes their shops by 2:30 p.m.

“Iraqi figures estimate civilian deaths in violence across the country rose by 13% last month, despite the security crackdown in Baghdad.”

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) “has installed longtime friends and political associates on several boards,” including his dentist on the state dental board and his chiropractor as chair of the chiropractic panel. They are “facing complaints that they are unqualified, beholden to the industries they oversee or otherwise mired in conflicts of interest.”

“As Al Qaeda rebuilds in Pakistan’s tribal areas, a new generation of leaders has emerged under Osama bin Laden to cement control over the network’s operations, according to American intelligence and counterterrorism officials.” Michael Scheuer, a former head of the CIA’s bin Laden tracking unit, said, “Al Qaeda is still humming along, and with a new generation of leaders.” 

The American Prospect details the connections between former MZM lobbyist Mitchell Wade and Vice President Cheney, offering some clues as to how Wade was able to receive a federal contract from the Vice President’s office without having any previous experience. From 1991-93, Wade worked in Cheney’s Pentagon as an intelligence officer.

And finally: Google celebrated April Fool’s Day yesterday by announcing that it will offer broadband Internet service through home plumbing systems — Toilet Internet Service Provider (TiSP). “[T]oday our Toilet ISP team is pleased to be leading the way through the sewers, up out of your toilet and splat right onto your PC,” said co-founder and president Larry Page in the facetious statement.