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Iraq: Turning The Tables

President Bush pledged to veto an Iraq war spending bill, coinciding with the four year anniversary of his infamous "Mission Accomplished" declaration.

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GOOD NEWS

“A vote in the New Hampshire Senate on Thursday cleared the way for the state to become the fourth to allow civil unions for same-sex couples, and the first to do so without a court order or a pending lawsuit.”


STATE WATCH

IOWA: Iowa is poised to become the 18th state “to ban discrimination against gay men and lesbians in the workplace, housing and public accommodations.”

ENVIRONMENT: “Lawmakers in at least seven states want to ban ordinary light bulbs in favor of longer-lasting, energy-efficient compact fluorescents.”

WOMEN’S RIGHTS: Govs. Janet Napolitano (D-AZ) and Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS) write Defense Secretary Robert Gates “asking for an investigation into reports of rampant sexual abuse against women in the military.”


BLOG WATCH

THINK PROGRESS: Weekly Standard editor and war hawk Bill Kristol confronted by military wife: “You all don’t understand…we are people too.”

DOWN TO EARTH: Exxon Mobile doubled their lobbying expenditures in 2006.

HORSE’S MOUTH: Right-wing bloggers jump on false scandal.

DRUG WAR RANT: U.S drug czar John Walters caught “cooking the books.”


DAILY GRILL

“[T]here is progress being made…we’ve got to at least give this new strategy a chance to succeed.”
— Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), 4/26/07, arguing to keep U.S. troops in Iraq

VERSUS

“In my view that does not mean as soon as order is restored to Haiti. It does not mean as soon as democracy is flourishing in Haiti. … As soon as possible means as soon we can get out of Haiti without losing any American lives.”
— McCain, 10/6/94, arguing for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Haiti


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Progress Report


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 27, 2007
Turning The Tables
Go Beyond The Headlines
Coffee and Donuts Not Included
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Turning The Tables

Yesterday, the Senate approved a $124 billion war spending appropriations bill, sending to President Bush’s desk a measure that would “force troop withdrawals to begin as early as July 1.” Because of the withdrawal provisions, Bush pledged to veto the bill next week — a period that coincides with the four year anniversary of his infamous “Mission Accomplished” declaration aboard the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln. The Center for American Progress’s Iraq plan — Strategic Redeployment — explains why a phased withdrawal is necessary: it would provide political space for Iraqis to strike power-sharing agreements, empower Iraqi forces to take control, motivate regional powers to get involved, undermine Iraqi support for the insurgency, extricate U.S. soldiers from a civil war, shift our attention back to global terrorist networks, and restore the strength of the all-volunteer ground forces. Before their recent campaigns to demonize the concept of redeployment as “surrender” and “precipitous withdrawal,” a number of conservative lawmakers had urged President Clinton during the 1990s to adopt the position that they now criticize. While the White House and its conservative allies now detest congressional involvement in Iraq policy-making — calling it “micromanagement” — in the 1990s, conservative lawmakers understood and exercised their constitutional rights to shape foreign policy. “Under the Constitution, Congress has a duty to question the war policies of this or any president,” said Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-WV). “We must listen to the voices of the people.” A New York Times-CBS News poll found that the public favors a timeline for withdrawal in 2008 by a wide margin, 64 percent to 32 percent. The poll also found “public support for Congress to have the final say on troop levels in Iraq, 57 percent to 35 percent.” Today’s Progress Report highlights a few examples of the conservative hypocrisy on the need for timetables:

JOHN MCCAIN ARGUED FOR WITHDRAWAL: In Oct. 1994, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) called on President Clinton to withdraw forces from Haiti “as soon as possible.” “In my view that does not mean as soon as order is restored to Haiti,” he said. “It does not mean as soon as democracy is flourishing in Haiti. It does not mean as soon as we have established a viable nation in Haiti. As soon as possible means as soon we can get out of Haiti without losing any American lives.” A year before, in Oct. 1993, McCain argued against giving any strategy the chance to succeed in Somalia. “Mr. President, can anyone seriously argue that another 6 months of United States forces in harm’s way means the difference between peace and prosperity in Somalia and war and starvation there? Is that very dim prospect worth one more American life? No, it is not,” he said. (Watch the video of his statements here.) A McCain spokesman said, “It’s intellectually dishonest to compare the situations in Haiti and Somalia to the current situation in Iraq.” The only intellectual dishonesty comes from McCain’s willingness to contort his views to defend Bush’s failed Iraq policy.

JON KYL WANTED FORCES OUT BY CERTAIN DATES: Another senator who has displayed intellectual dishonesty over the need for a timetable is Jon Kyl (R-AZ). Recently on CNN, he attacked the withdrawal plan, claiming it was “the first time I know of — in the middle of a war — that a country just announces that on a specific date it’s walking off the battlefield.” But in June 1998, Kyl voted in favor of provisions that called for U.S. forces to “walk off the battlefield” by a certain date in Kosovo and Bosnia. In June 1998, he supported a bill to “require the President to submit Congress a plan for withdrawing United States forces from Bosnia and Herzegovina if the Congress does not so act by March 31, 1999.” In May 2000, Kyl supported an effort by Congress to compel Clinton to withdraw all ground forces from Kosovo by July 1, 2001.

JOHN BOEHNER VOTED TO LIMIT TROOP DEPLOYMENTS: House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) recently warned that we cannot leave Iraq — “like we did in Somalia” — because “we will leave chaos in our wake.” Yet, Boehner voted numerous times to limit the deployment of troops in Somalia. On at least two occassions, he supported amendments to move up the deadline to bring toops home from Somalia (House Roll Call Vote #179, 5/22/93 and House Roll Call Vote #555, 11/9/93). He also voted against $1.8 billion in funding for the operation in Somalia (House Roll Call Vote #188, 5/26/93).

EVEN BUSH ARGUED FOR DEADLINES: Earlier this week, Bush said, “I believe artificial timetables of withdrawal would be a mistake. An artificial timetable of withdrawal would say to an enemy, just wait them out.” But in 1999, George W. Bush criticized President Clinton for not setting a timetable for exiting Kosovo, and yet he refuses to apply the same standard to his war. Bush explicitly said, “I think it’s also important for the president to lay out a timetable as to how long they will be involved and when they will be withdrawn.” Bush also said, “Victory means exit strategy, and it’s important for the president to explain to us what the exit strategy is.” Now, Bush has taken exactly the opposite position, arguing it’s important for the president not to explain the exit strategy. 

Under the Radar

ETHICS — BUSH ADMINISTRATION TARGETED FORMER MINNESOTA U.S. ATTORNEY IN PURGE: McClatchy newspapers reported Thursday that “the Bush administration considered firing the former U.S. attorney in Minnesota, but he left his job voluntarily before the list of attorney to be ousted was completed.” Congressional investigators told reporters that they noticed U.S. Attorney Thomas Heffelfinger’s name “on a version of the list that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales’ former chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, began assembling in early 2005.” Heffelfinger, who served as the U.S. attorney for Minnesota from September 2001 to February 2006, resigned more than nine months before the Justice Department finalized their list of prosecutors to purge. The list with Heffelfinger’s name has been examined by congressional investigators, but was not made public in the thousands of  pages of documents released by the Justice Department since the investigation into the scandal began. Heffelfinger has previously said that politics were not a factor in his decision to step down, but when asked by McClatchy about the early list, he said he “had no indication whatsoever at any point during my service as U.S. attorney that anybody at Justice was less than fully satisfied with my work.” He met with Sampson “no less than three times,” but says if Sampson had concerns about his performance, “they were never raised.” “Heffelfinger’s case interests congressional investigators because he worked in one of the states that White House political adviser Karl Rove identified as an escalation battleground, and because he was replaced by a 34-year old Bush administration loyalist who’d been a member of Gonzales’ inner circle.” Rachel Paulose, Heffelfinger’s replacement, has caused turmoil in the Minnesota U.S. attorney’s office, where four top staffers voluntarily stepped down in protest of her “highly dictatorial style of managing.”

CONGRESS — RICE ‘NOT INCLINED TO COMPLY’ WITH CONGRESSIONAL SUBPOENA:
Earlier this week, House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) issued a subpoena to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for her failure to adequately respond to his multiple requests for information on “the Bush administration’s prewar claims about Saddam Hussein’s seeking weapons of mass destruction.” A defiant Rice said yesterday she is “not inclined to comply” with the subpoena, claiming a precedent of executive privilege and that she has already sufficiently answered Waxman’s inquiries. “I addressed these questions, almost the same questions, during my confirmation hearing. This is an issue that has been answered and answered and answered. … There is a separation of powers and advisers to the president under that constitutional principle are not generally required to go and testify in Congress,” she said. But there is no such precedent. Under President Clinton, 31 of his top advisers appeared in 47 different testimonies in front of Congress. Rice’s predecessors, including Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright, and Warren Christopher, have each testified during their tenures as Secretaries of State. Furthermore, Rice has hardly responded sufficiently to Waxman’s inquiries. In his letter, Waxman clearly outlines the questions Rice has failed to answer concerning her knowledge of the fabricated intelligence leading up to the Iraq war. “The gist of [Rice’s responses] is that the Secretary either didn’t know about the forged evidence or forgot what she knew. Her staff has also suggested that the Secretary is too busy to answer these questions. … There has been no inquiry about what went wrong inside the White House. There was one person in the White House who had the primary responsibility to get the intelligence about Iraq right: and that was Secretary Rice,” Waxman said.

IRAQ — WHITE HOUSE ATTEMPTS TO DISAVOW ‘MISSION ACCOMPLISHED’ SPEECH: Yesterday, the Senate passed legislation ordering the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by Oct. 1. President Bush has promised to swiftly veto the bill, which will reach him on Tuesday, the fourth anniversary of his infamous “Mission Accomplished” speech. In yesterday’s press briefing, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino called it a “ridiculous P.R. stunt” that “is the height of cynicism, and absolutely so unfortunate for the men and women in uniform and their families who are watching the debate.” She added, “And I would just remind you that I know that our opponents for years have tried — have misconstrued that speech. … The President never said ‘mission accomplished’ in his speech.” In January, spokesman Tony Snow also tried to claim, “[T]he president, on that very speech, said just the opposite, didn’t he?” Despite these statements, the President’s U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln speech on May 1, 2003, was a public relations stunt announcing the end to “major combat operations in Iraq.” He called the “battle of Iraq” a “victory.” In his radio address shortly after the speech, Bush boasted, “I delivered good news to the men and women who fought in the cause of freedom: their mission is complete and major combat operations in Iraq have ended.” Additionally, as Bob Woodward reported in Oct. 2006, then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had to pressure the White House to take out of the speech the actual phrase “Mission Accomplished,” but he couldn’t “get the sign down.” Four years ago, the Boston Globe also reported that the Bush administration extended by one day the deployment of the sailors aboard the Lincoln — which had already been at sea for 10 months, the longest by carrier in 10 years — as part of its public relations stunt: “[T]he carrier was just 30 miles from shore by the time he arrived, and officials said it had slowed down so that Bush could spend the night on board before the USS Abraham Lincoln docks today.”


Think Fast

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) “asked 27 federal departments and agencies yesterday to turn over information related to White House briefings about elections or political candidates,” substantially widening the scope of his investigation into potentially illegal partisan activities being conducted by federal officials.

Embattled World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz “will be allowed to argue for his job in front of a bank committee investigating him.” But one senior bank official “suggested that members of the committee had already decided to recommend Wolfowitz’s ouster, casting Monday’s appearance as a last-ditch appeal.”

World Bank “members of a team drafting a strategy to root out corruption in bank lending, an initiative pressed aggressively by Wolfowitz, sent a letter to the bank board on Thursday complaining that the scandal was jeopardizing their work.” The letter was signed by 46 officials.

“NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin held an unusual meeting with the staff of the inspector general who oversees his agency and then ordered that video recordings of the meeting be destroyed, a House panel said yesterday.” In a letter, Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC) accused Griffin of “improperly trying to influence the watchdog office’s decisions on what it should investigate.”

84 percent: Number of Americans who believe that human activity is contributing to global warming, according to a new New York Times/CBS News poll. “The poll also found that Americans want the United States to support conservation and to be a global leader in addressing environmental problems.” 

In a “startling departure from his previously stated position on civil unions,” Mayor Rudy Giuliani came out yesterday “in opposition to the civil union law just passed by the New Hampshire state Senate.”

Media Matters documents how during the first presidential primary debate yesterday, several questions about Iraq, immigration, and national security were “based on false premises.”

Federal prosecutors have decided not to file insider-trading charges against former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) for his sales of stock in a family-owned chain of hospitals, a charge for which the “legal standards are high.”

And finally: Looks like House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) will have to find a new smoking spot. With smoking bans in the House Speaker’s Lobby and the Republicans’ Capitol Hill Club, Boehner has been lighting up at the National Democratic Club. But that venue will also now be going smoke-free. A spokeswoman for Rep. Allen Boyd (D-FL) said the congressman “won’t miss the smoke, but I’m sure he’ll miss the bipartisan company.”