New poll finds that today’s youth are more likely to vote and engage in politics than any other generation since the Vietnam era.
OREGON: State House passes two landmark gay marriage bills; Oregon Senate and Gov. Ted Kulongoski (D) are expected to approve the legislation.
TEXAS: Texas House “will consider a measure withdrawing the investments of two state pension plans in firms that do business with Sudan.”
MISSOURI: State senators manage to stall “a wide-ranging bill designed to restrict access to abortion.”
THINK PROGRESS: Military analyst’s firsthand experience in Iraq contradicts right-wing rhetoric on escalation.
TALK LEFT: New York state agrees to stop isolating mentally ill prisoners for 23 hours a day with a diet of only bread and cabbage.
LEFT COASTER: Princeton economist predicts 40-million high-skilled jobs headed over seas.
UN DISPATCH: “World Health Organization: violence in Iraq threatens health services.”
“Students who took part in sexual abstinence programs were just as likely to have sex as those who did not, according to a study ordered by Congress.”
— AP, 4/14/07
“[O]ne logical conclusion is that to achieve the greatest effectiveness, programs must be intensive and long-term, so that the knowledge, attitudes, and skills needed to reject sex before marriage are constantly reinforced.”
— Family Research Council, 4/16/07, on “one logical conclusion” from the abstinence study
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.
Bush’s New Bubble
President Bush will meet today with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to discuss Congress’s Iraq withdrawal legislation. Bush has spent the last several weeks driving home three misleading talking points justifying his intent to veto this bill over the wishes of the American public. To aid his efforts, Bush turned to some reliable crutches: in his latest Iraq speech on Monday, Bush repeatedly referenced September 11th and conjured dark visions of “death and destruction…here in America” if U.S. troops were to withdraw. The result: more people oppose Bush’s position, and support a safe and responsible end to the war, than they did two months ago. As Washington Post columnist Dan Froomkin writes, “Bush’s public campaign to push back against Congressional demands for withdrawal from Iraq is becoming highly reminiscent of his failed effort two years ago to win support for a radical overhaul of Social Security.” The more the President speaks, the more isolated he becomes. Behold Bush’s new bubble.
SOCIAL SECURITY PRIVATIZATION REDUX: The Washington Post reported this week that 58 percent of Americans trust Congress to do a better job of handling the Iraq war than they trust Bush. The Post pointed out that Bush had “taken advantage of the congressional spring recess to pound” war critics over their legislation. “Despite those efforts, Bush has actually lost a little ground” to Congress, which was trusted by 54 percent to set Iraq policy in February. The Washington Monthly’s Kevin Drum noted, “This reminds me of the Social Security fiasco: every time Bush opened his mouth on the subject, polls moved in the opposite direction. Now the same thing is happening with Iraq.” One day after Bush “used a backdrop of military families to declare: ‘We should not legislate defeat in this vital war,'” Froomkin observed, “The meticulously choreographed settings, the carefully controlled audiences, the mind-numbing repetition of hoary talking points (with a particular emphasis on stoking fears) — it’s like deja vu. And so is the result: A public that is apparently more turned off to Bush’s ideas the more he talks about them.”
ESCALATION STILL NOT WORKING: New evidence continues to emerge that Bush’s escalation policy is not working. Last month “marked the first time that the U.S. military suffered four straight months of 80 or more fatalities,” McClatchy news reported. “April, with 58 service members killed through Monday, is on pace to be one of the deadliest months of the conflict for American forces.” Iraqi civilian casualties across the country rose 10 percent from February to March. Iraq’s political benchmarks are not being met; the latest Brookings Institution Iraq index, released two days ago, finds “no progress thus far” on reversing de-Baathification, scheduling provincial elections, drafting a plan for national reconciliation, amending the constitution, or reaching a political agreement on disbanding the militias. Last month saw the deadliest attack since the war began, a suicide truck bombing in Tal Afar that killed 152 people in a Shiite area. (Seventy people died in retaliatory attacks led by Shiite militias, including government security forces.) Last week’s suicide bombing in the Iraqi parliament was the deadliest attack yet inside the Green Zone. A Red Cross report issued last week said the “disastrous” situation in Iraq is “getting worse, with mothers appealing for someone to pick up the bodies on the street so their children will be spared the horror of looking at them on their way to school.” (Center for American Progress senior fellow Lawrence Korb returned this weekend from a 10-day visit to Baghdad and uncovered results that affirm that “the surge is not working.” Read his full trip diary.)
REDEPLOYMENT DEBATE SENDS THE RIGHT MESSAGE TO IRAQIS: Defense Secretary Robert Gates yesterday affirmed a core element of war critics’ strategy — that the prospect of redeployment offers our best tool for motivating the Iraqi government. Speaking during a Middle East tour, Gates said the debate in Congress “has been helpful in demonstrating to the Iraqis that American patience is limited. The strong feelings expressed in the Congress about the timetable probably has had a positive impact…in terms of communicating to the Iraqis that this is not an open-ended commitment.” Last year, Bush sent the exact opposite message to Americans. “Artificial timetable for withdrawal sends the wrong message to the Iraqis, they’re seeing it’s not worth it,” Bush said. “Artificial timetable for withdrawal…sends the message to the enemy, we were right about America. That’s what they said. Al Qaeda has said it’s just a matter of time before America withdraws. They’re weak, they’re corrupt, they can’t stand it, and they’ll withdraw. And all that would do is confirm what the enemy thinks.” Likewise, just last week, Vice President Cheney said setting a timeline “sends a message to our enemies that the calendar is their friend, that all they have to do is wait us out — wait for the date certain, and then claim victory the day after.” Such hypocrisy isn’t confined to the Bush administration. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who regularly maligns the “date certain for surrender,” admitted he used those very calls for redeployment to “motivate the Maliki government” during a dinner with Prime Minister Maliki recently.
Under the Radar
MEDIA — RIGHT-WING PUNDITS SUGGEST VIRGINIA TECH VICTIMS LACKED ‘COURAGE’ IN STAYING ALIVE: In his initial comments responding to the tragedy at Virginia Tech, President Bush said that “our nation grieves with those who have lost loved ones at Virginia Tech. We hold the victims in our hearts, we lift them up in our prayers, and we ask a loving god to comfort those who are suffering today.” But not everyone in the political realm reacted with such empathy. “Where was the spirit of self-defense here?” mused John Derbyshire on the National Review’s blog yesterday. “Why didn’t anyone rush the guy? It’s not like this was Rambo, hosing the place down with automatic weapons. He had two handguns for goodness’ sake — one of them reportedly a .22.” Nathanael Blake, writing on Human Events’s The Right Angle, agreed. “Something is clearly wrong with the men in our culture,” wrote Blake. “Among the first rules of manliness are fighting bad guys and protecting others: in a word, courage. And not a one of the healthy young fellows in the classrooms seems to have done that.” Though both pundits admit that they don’t know if they “would live up to” their own notions of bravery, Blake says he would be “ashamed” of himself if he did not, suggesting that the innocent victims at Virginia Tech should feel embarrassed for “ducking, running and holding doors shut” to avoid the bullets of a killer. As MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann said when he awarded them his “Worst Person in the World” award last night, “[I]t is John Derbyshire and Nathanael Blake who should be ashamed today.”
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS — BUSH TO DELIVER MAJOR SPEECH ON DARFUR AS VIOLENCE SPIRALS OUT OF CONTROL: The situation in Darfur is as “desperate as ever.” Attacks in Darfur over the past four years have “left as many as 450,000 dead, thousands of villages burned, and about 2.5 million people living in camps. Although the Bush administration described the situation as ‘genocide’ nearly three years ago, the United States and other world powers have been unable to end either the conflict or the humanitarian crisis.” Yesterday, with resistance from the Sudanese government, the United Nations and African Union pledged to move “expeditiously” to deploy 3,000 U.N. peacekeepers into Chad, Sudan, and the Central African Republic, countries that have been “wracked by fighting” spilling over from Darfur. Even with the allowance of the peacekeepers, the Sudanese government may still be exacerbating the violence. A confidential U.N. report revealed that “the government of Sudan is flying arms and heavy military equipment into Darfur in violation of Security Council resolutions and painting Sudanese military planes white to disguise them as United Nations or African Union aircraft.” Furthermore, the Sudanese government’s accession for peacekeepers “seemed designed, at least in part, to head off coercive U.S. action,” as the “White House has for months been working on a ‘Plan B’ for Darfur, which contemplates tough financial sanctions and other measures to pressure the government.” President Bush today will deliver a major address presumably to “announce a new set of sanctions on Sudan.” Take action on Darfur at the Enough Project.
ETHICS — GOODLING OFFERED IMMUNITY IN EXCHANGE FOR TESTIMONY: In an attempt to compel her testimony, the House Judiciary Committee “may grant limited-use immunity” to Monica Goodling, the former counsel to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) said yesterday, “As the White House Liaison in the Department while the US Attorney firings were planned and carried out, Ms. Goodling clearly has much to contribute to the Committee’s understanding of the surrounding circumstances.” Goodling — who resigned her post at the Justice Department as a result of the Judiciary Committee’s probe — previously refused to testify by invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. While Rep. Conyers hoped that Goodling’s testimony could “begin to clear up the many inconsistencies and gaps surrounding” the U.S. Attorney firings, committee member Rep. Chris Cannon (R-UT) said that “the immunity offer was ‘merely meant to fan the flames of speculation and grab headlines.'” “Goodling’s attorney, John Dowd, declined to comment on the offer.” To pass, the immunity offer would “require the approval of two-thirds of the nearly 40-member panel.” The vote — previously scheduled for today — was postponed for at least a week late yesterday “in order to take a better look at the facts,” according to a spokesperson for Ranking Committee member Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX). The spokesman added, “We want to make sure this is the best way to get the facts to the public.”
A CNN poll finds that most Americans (72%) say they are closely following the ongoing dispute over timetables for Iraq withdrawal. “Six in ten think that they would wind up siding with the Democrats in this dispute; 37% say they are more likely to take the President’s side.”
The New York Times writes that the selection of comedian Rich Little as headliner for the White House Correspondents Association dinner this weekend is seen as “a symbol in the liberal blogosphere for what its members consider the proclivity of Washington reporters to give Mr. Bush and his administration a pass.”
“The World Bank’s board of directors is scheduled to convene tomorrow and may try to figure out what to do about calls that the bank’s president, Paul Wolfowitz, resign because he gave a big raise and promotion to his girlfriend, Shaha Riza.”
Gov. Tim Kaine (D-VA) will name an independent panel to conduct “a very thorough after-action review” of the events surrounding Monday’s mass shooting at Virginia Tech. “The idea is to do this after any significant incident,” Kaine said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon.
The House yesterday passed the Taxpayer Protection Act, to protect taxpayers against “identity theft, deceptive Web sites and loan sharks.” It also makes it “easier for taxpayers to retrieve property lost as a result of a wrongful Internal Revenue Service levy and directs the IRS to notify lower-income people that they qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit.”
Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq has requested changes that would break down that firewall between the military’s public affairs office and “Pentagon efforts that use deception, propaganda and other methods to influence foreign populations.”
“Under criticism for poor treatment of injured soldiers, the Pentagon announced new measures Tuesday to provide more health screenings, improve its record-keeping system and simplify an unwieldy disability claims system.”
And finally: Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) is “seriously thinking” about granting Doors singer Jim Morrison a posthumous pardon for his “1970 indecent exposure and profanity convictions stemming from a Miami concert the year before.” “He died when he was 27. That’s really a kid, when you think about it, and obviously he was having some challenges. There’s some dispute about how solid the case was,” Crist said.