Facing strong congressional opposition, the White House yesterday withdrew its nomination of William Wehrum to head the EPA’s air pollution office. Wehrum was the “the behind-the-scenes architect” of some of the Bush administration’s most controversial initiatives, including a plan to loosen emission caps on dangerous air toxins.
CALIFORNIA: An “overwhelming percentage of Californians believe global warming is a serious problem” and that the federal government is not doing enough to solve it.
SOUTH DAKOTA: Federal court reconsiders South Dakota’s law requiring doctors to warn women seeking abortions.
COLORADO: “Nearly two in 10 soldiers who have returned to Fort Carson from Iraq in the past two years have suffered a traumatic brain injury.”
THINK PROGRESS: Senate launches first major effort to rein in use of national security letters.
THE CARPETBAGGER REPORT: “Pot [Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN)] calls kettle [Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA)] black” on oversight.
DESMOG BLOG: The political scrubbing of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change summary report.
THE NEXT HURRAH: The lobbying for U.S. Attorney jobs begins.
“Let’s put aside for a moment the small politics of the day. The judgment of history should be the approval we seek, not the temporary favor of the latest public opinion poll.”
— Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), 4/12/07, defending the unpopular escalation in Iraq
“And we cannot cut-and-run. And I’m glad that 58 percent of the American people believe that we should stay the course, as well.”
— McCain, 6/28/05
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.
Don’t Veto Like It’s 1995
The debate in Washington over Iraq has been narrowed to a basic choice: whether to endorse a blank check for President Bush to continue his war in Iraq, as conservatives are demanding, or to begin the safe and responsible redeployment of U.S. forces, as Congress has endorsed. Put on the defensive, Bush has adopted a strategy “patterned after Bill Clinton’s 1995-96 showdown with the then-Republican Congress: shift blame to lawmakers for failing to fund the troops.” Bush’s arguments justifying a veto are easily debunked. But the power of the president’s bully-pulpit have some in the media suggesting that Bush will end up victorious, as Clinton was. The problem is that President Bush is no President Clinton, and defending an unpopular policy of war without end is much different than fighting to preserve Medicaid. Bush cannot recreate the outcome of 1995-96 because he is missing the crucial incredient that ensured Clinton’s success — the support of the American people.
A DIFFERENT PRESIDENT: Prior to the first government shutdown, which began on November 14, 1995, Clinton’s job approval ratings were “significantly higher than Bush’s are now.” The Roper Center for Public Opinion Research “noted that Clinton had a 54 percent job performance rating in a November 10-13, 1995, ABC/Washington Post poll and a 52 percent job performance rating in a November 6-8, 1995, USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll.” Meanwhile, Bush’s approval ratings are lodged in a ditch. According to Gallup polling, Bush’s poll numbers have been mired in the 30s for seven consecutive months. “Since the advent of modern polling, only two presidents have suffered longer strings of such low ratings. One was Harry Truman, whose popularity sank during the final 26 months of his tenure as the Korean War stalemated. The other was Richard Nixon during the 13 months leading up to his resignation amid the Watergate scandal.”
A DIFFERENT ISSUE: In 1995-96, “polls also showed stronger support for Clinton’s position on the budget problem that led to the shutdown than for the position held by the then-Republican-led Congress,” as Media Matters documented. Days before the first government shutdown, the New York Times reported “a continuing erosion of public support” for the conservative budget program, with Americans opposed 45 percent to 35 percent. A USA Today/CNN poll released on November 10, 1995, “suggested Americans by wide margins have soured on the Republican agenda, with 60 percent saying he [Clinton] should veto the budget bill and 33 percent saying he should sign it.” In contrast, a CNN poll last month found that 58 percent of Americans “want to see U.S. troops leave Iraq either immediately or within a year,” with a majority saying they “would rather have Congress running U.S. policy in the conflict than President Bush.” According to a March Pew poll, 59 percent of Americans wanted their congressional representatives “to support a withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq by August 2008,” while a March Gallup poll found 60 percent of Americans “favor a timetable for withdrawing all U.S. troops from Iraq by fall 2008.”
BUSH AS NIXON: “The president is as isolated, I believe, on the Iraq issue as Richard Nixon was when he was hunkered down in the White House,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said yesterday. This analogy is far more apt. Bush’s credibilty with the American people has evaporated. Iraq critics in Congress are broadly united on setting a timeline for withdrawal, while conservatives face immense pressure to distance themselves from the president’s disastrous war policy. And they are already beginning to crack. The Politico reported this week that a “diverse collection of House Republicans has formed an ad hoc group to negotiate with the White House on a compromise Iraq spending bill.” Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD) said he and others in the group “will encourage the White House to compromise on negotiations with Syria and Iran and on setting a date for withdrawal from Iraq.” This is the key for Bush: compromise. For the sake of our national security, it is time for him to accept the multiple invitations of Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to sit down and compromise on a bill that fully funds our troops and finally brings them home.
Under the Radar
IRAQ — GREEN ZONE NO LONGER INSULATED FROM ATTACKS: At least two members of the Iraqi legislature were killed today as bombs struck the Parliament building, which is located “inside the well-protected Green Zone.” The Green Zone, which also contains the U.S. and British embassies as well as thousands of American troops, is located in Baghdad and “has been frequently targeted by mortars and rockets, but the attacks rarely cause serious casualties.” The fatal bombing on the Iraqi Parliament today marks the second major attack on the Green Zone in recent weeks. “During a visit to Baghdad last month, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon was rattled when a mortar exploded in the zone while he was holding a press conference.” Several smaller attacks have plagued the zone in recent weeks as well, raising questions as to the efficacy of the U.S. troop escalation in Baghdad. “It’s clear that there have been increasing targeting attacks against the international zone,” a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad said recently. The increased use of mortars and rockets is a “change in tactics,” he said, and “part of an overall strategy to disrupt the government and incite sectarian violence.” The Washington Post notes that today’s Parliament attacks “confirmed the continuing ability of insurgents to carry out major operations despite an American-led security crackdown in the Iraqi capital.” Despite this evidence indicating that the U.S.-led escalation has not tamed the violence in Baghdad, President Bush recently reiterated his refusal to negotiate any change in Iraq strategy with Congress.
ETHICS — WHITE HOUSE CLAIMS IT LOST RNC E-MAILS: E-mails released by the Bush administration last month revealed that White House aides may have been “conducting sensitive official presidential business via non-governmental accounts to get around a law requiring preservation — and eventual disclosure — of presidential records.” In response, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) wrote to the Republican National Committee and the Bush-Cheney ’04 campaign early last week and directed them to preserve all e-mails by and for White House officials because they “may be relevant to multiple congressional investigations.” He has asked that the records be delivered no later than April 18. The RNC-owned-and-operated e-mail system has been “used by dozens of officials for more than six years,” including senior presidential advisor Karl Rove for “95% of his e-mail communications.” Indeed, while the non-governmental e-mail system is heavily used, White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said yesterday that “the White House has not done a good enough job overseeing staff using political e-mail accounts” and that as a result, “some official e-mails have potentially been lost.” He added that the White House is doing “everything practical” to recover the lost messages. Waxman, who initiated the request for the administration’s records, issued a brief statement: “This is a remarkable admission that raises serious legal and security issues. The White House has an obligation to disclose all the information it has.” The administration, however, “told Mr. Waxman’s committee on Wednesday that it would not be able to comply fully.” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) responded saying, “This sounds like the administration’s version of the dog ate my homework. … I am deeply disturbed that just when this administration is finally subjected to meaningful oversight it cannot produce the necessary information.”
EDUCATION — FLORIDA LEGISLATURE FORCES UNIVERSITY TO IDOLIZE JEB BUSH: Two weeks ago, the University of Florida voted to deny Jeb Bush an honorary degree. By a 38-28 vote, the faculty Senate rejected the former governor’s nomination, citing concerns about some of Bush’s educations initiatives, including his dismantling of affirmative action programs in the state. Under Bush’s “One Florida” plan, which outlawed affirmative action at state universities, African-American enrollment dropped at the University of Florida and across the state, as critics predicted it would. Bush’s policies of “rewarding and punishing schools according to students’ standardized test results and using vouchers to send certain students to private schools at public expense” also contributed to the rejection of his nomination. The faculty’s decision did not sit well with Bush’s supporters in the Florida legislature, especially Rep. David Rivera (R-Miami), who was “outraged” and responded by introducing a proposal to name the school’s college of education after Bush. The measure passed the conservative-controlled House Schools & Learning Council on Tuesday. So now, over the faculty’s objections, the school will “have to erect ‘suitable markers’ noting the college’s new name and include the revised name in all university documents, including catalogues and brochures.” That new name? The “Jeb Bush College of Education.”
White House officials privately concede that much of the added domestic funding projects in the Iraq supplemental is necessary, contrary to President Bush’s claim that they are “pork barrel projects.” “We agree that the funding is needed,” one official said, specifically citing added funds for homeland security and to help Gulf Coast states still recovering from Hurricane Katrina.
“Tony Blair yesterday claimed the spate of knife and gun murders in London was not being caused by poverty, but a distinctive black culture. His remarks angered community leaders, who accused him of ignorance and failing to provide support for black-led efforts to tackle the problem.”
“A librarian who fended off an FBI demand for computer records on patrons said Wednesday that secret anti-terrorism investigations strip away personal freedoms.” George Christian said his experience “should raise a big patriotic American flag of caution” about the strain that the Bush administration has put on civil liberties.
The war in Iraq has “spawned new terror in the region,” the Oxford Research Group, a British think tank, states in a new report. The United States and Britain have tried to “keep the lid on” terrorism problems with military force but “failed to address the root causes.” The report also states that Iran, Syria, and North Korea have become “emboldened.”
“Al Qaeda’s new affiliate in North Africa asserted responsibility Wednesday for the deadliest attacks in Algeria’s capital in a decade as 24 people were reported killed and 222 injured in bombings that shattered the prime minister’s headquarters and a police base.”
Conservative state legislators killed an effort yesterday to hang Coretta Scott King’s portrait in Georgia’s Capitol, next to a photo of her late husband, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Mrs. King certainly is a wonderful humanitarian…but this is not a museum,” said State Rep. Calvin Hill (R).
“Five years after the Bush administration began a crackdown on voter fraud, the Justice Department has turned up virtually no evidence of any organized effort to skew federal elections.” Just 120 people have been charged with voter fraud crimes, and 86 convicted as of last year.
And finally: Freshmen Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) “are locked in a tight race over who will be class geek.” They are competing to win the Golden Gavel Award, which “goes to any senator who has presided over the Senate for 100 hours in any given year.” At this point, Klobuchar is winning by a mere 20 minutes.