Tag Archives: Paul Mirengoff

What A Load Of Scud

Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel at Haaretz:

Two reports from recent days in a Kuwaiti daily shed new light on the recent tension between Israel and Syria and Lebanon. According to the newspaper Al-Rai Al-Aam, Syria has recently shipped ballistic missiles of the Scud type to Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon.

The newspaper further reported that the United States administration has postponed “until further notice” the appointment of a new ambassador to Damascus. The U.S. has not posted an ambassador in Syria since 2005, and the appointment of Ambassador Robert Ford was supposed to get Senate approval on Monday, but did not.

According to the Kuwaiti newspaper, the decision to postpone the appointment was made following the transfer of truckloads of scud missiles from Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon, in a shipment sanctioned by the Syrian government. The report is based on quotes from American sources who spoke with Al-Rai Al-Aam’s Washington reporter.

The report added that Syria trained Hezbollah fighters in the use of Scud missiles and advanced anti-aircraft missiles last summer, on its soil. The exact type of Scud missile was not specified.

Scud B missiles have a range of up to 300 kilometers, which means they can reach most of Israel. Scud C and D missiles can reach as far south as Eilat.

The report says that Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, passed the Syrian leadership a message from the U.S. administration when he visited Damascus earlier this month. Kerry asked for explanations about the relationship between Syria and Hezbollah, and voiced reservations over Syrian support for the Shi’ite organization.

The American source told the reporter the kind of weapons transported to Hezbollah could start a new war with Israel.

Noah Pollak at Comentary:

The Scud-D has been around for decades; why is it being transferred to Hezbollah at this particular moment? There are two likely reasons: (1) the White House has become the most prominent Western critic of Israel, and Syria is confident that President Obama will not do much to either punish an Israeli enemy or speak clearly in Israel’s defense. (2) Under the Obama Doctrine, many enemies of America are treated with kindness in order to prove that they should not fear us, under the theory that once the fear is gone, there will be very little to obstruct the progression of smooth relations. The engagement policy thus requires the overlooking of all kinds of bad behavior.

Syria, it appears, has made an accurate calculation on both of the above counts.

Remember how critics of the Bush administration always said that the neocon cowboys in the White House clung stubbornly to failed policies out of ideological conviction? Here’s the final paragraph of the WSJ story:

U.S. officials stressed, however, that the White House wasn’t second-guessing its engagement strategy and was pushing forward with Mr. Ford’s nomination. “Sending an Ambassador to Syria who can press the Syrian government in a firm and coordinated fashion … is part of our strategy to achieve comprehensive peace in the region,” the White House said in a statement.

I’m sure Mr. Ford is a talented diplomat, but is there any chance that his presence in Damascus would have stopped the transfer of long-range missiles to Hezbollah?

Israel Matzav:

But get a load of the Syrian excuse for slapping Obama and his ‘engagement’ effort in the face:

Syrian officials also have voiced frustration with the pace of the U.S. rapprochement. Some have said they believed sanctions could be removed quicker. They also said Washington appeared unable to extract from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a meaningful commitment to negotiations aimed at reverting the Golan Heights region to Syrian sovereignty.They sound just like the ‘Palestinians.’ They have no concept of what it means to build and maintain trust. They act like a bunch of spoiled children who want their toys NOW.

But the Obama administration doesn’t know how to take ‘no’ for an answer.

White House supporters replied that the U.S. needs close engagement with Syria all the more because of provocations like the Scud surprise, in order to be better placed to sway Syria.

“If anything, we need (an ambassador) in Damascus full time just to ensure that reality gets its day in court now and then,” a senior administration official said.A civilized country should maintain diplomatic relations with civilized countries – not with warmongers. The US should no more maintain diplomatic relations with Syria than it should with Iran, Sudan, North Korea, Venezuela or Cuba. Ooops – those are exactly the countries Obama wants to ‘engage.’

What could go wrong?

The Jawa Report:

If you want to know the truth, I’ve found a lot of Obama’s foreign policy quite rational and I might even have to admit that, looked at individually, many of them make sense.

But there’s a meta-narrative going on here as well, and foreign policy cannot be broken down to a bunch of discrete and unconnected actions: they also send signals.

Add many of Obama’s policies together and the signal being sent to terror supporting states like Syria is that we are much less apt to respond should they attack Israel. Not that Israel needs protection from us, but to the Mad Mullahs and their puppets in Damascus the only thing keeping Israel from utter destruction is our protection.

Mad because in reality the only thing keeping the Israelis from completely annihilating their enemies is our protection … of Israel’s enemies!

We wouldn’t want to upset Arabs with oil now would we?

So, it was only a matter of time before the Syrians decided to carpe dium and pull something like this

Paul Mirengoff at Powerline:

Naturally, the Syrians, while denying the transfer, are complaining about the pace with which the Obama administration is making concessions to them. The implication is that unless Obama moves more quickly on the concessions front, Syria is prepared to make mischief.

The White House, not surprisingly, is basically endorsing Syria’s narrative that the latest mischief counsels in favor of quickening the pace of rapprochement. In response to congressional resistance to confirming an ambassador to Syria in light of Syria’s latest acts of hostility towards Israel, a senior administration official says, “if anything, we need (an ambassador) in Damascus full time just to ensure that reality gets its day in court now and then.”

Unfortunately, reality has gotten its day in court in Damascus. The reality, as Bashar Assad has grasped, is that Syria can do what it wishes without fear of consequential American action because for Obama nothing must stand in the way of engaging our adversaries. Assad also grasps that the Obama presidency reduces the chances of Israeli action against Syria, at least in the short term, because Obama can be counted upon to discourage Israel from taking such action.

UPDATE: Andrew Tabler at Foreign Policy

Chris Dierkes at The League

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All The People With A Last Name Beginning With S, Stand In Line To Receive Your Retirement Watch

Adam Liptak at The New York Times:

Justice John Paul Stevens, who announced his resignation from the Supreme Court on Friday after 34 years, may be the last justice from a time when ability and independence, rather than perceived ideology, were viewed as the crucial qualifications for a seat on the court. He was nominated by President Gerald R. Ford in 1975, who said all he wanted was “the finest legal mind I could find.”

Justice Stevens was confirmed 19 days after his nomination. Though Roe v. Wade had been decided two years earlier, he was asked no questions about the decision, which identified a constitutional right to abortion. His confirmation hearings were the last not to be broadcast live on television.

Justice Stevens, a Republican, gradually became the leader of the court’s liberal wing, and his majority opinions limited the use of the death penalty and expanded the rights of prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Over time, he became increasingly skeptical of claims of government power, and he often voted in favor of criminal defendants, prisoners and people claiming to have been subjected to unlawful discrimination.


Closing one era and opening another, Justice John Paul Stevens notified President Obama on Friday that he will retire from the Court when the current Term ends, probably late in June.  Stevens made his decision public eleven days before he reached his ninetieth birthday, and about two years short of a date on which he would have become the longest serving justice in history.  Justice Stevens’ letter to the president is here.

Stevens chose to make his retirement effective at the end of the Term, rather than waiting until a successor has been named by the president and approved by the Senate.  That choice puts much heavier pressure on both the president and the Democratic leaders of the Senate, because they will not have time to stretch out the process and have a new justice in place when the Court returns for its next term on October 4.

With Friday’s development, the Court was poised for a generational shift, ending its last remaining link to the days of liberal dominance of the tribunal, and, at the same time, removing from the bench the most committed liberal remaining among the nine.

Stevens, who began his career as a mostly unpredictable centrist on a liberal Court, migrated to the Court’s left over the years as new justices moved the Court noticeably to the right.  Stevens has been on the Court since 1975, arriving to serve with such liberal giants as Justices William J. Brennan and Thurgood Marshall.

It has been rumored for weeks that this would be Stevens’ last Term as a justice, but he had largely kept his own counsel until recently, when he began discussing publicly the possibility that he would soon retire.  He had made it clear in recent interviews with news reporters that he intended to leave the Court while President Obama was in the White House, and that gave him the option of continuing to serve for two-plus more years.

It is almost universally expected that Republicans in the Senate, although a minority, will announce a sustained effort to prevent Senate approval of any nominee that President Obama sends up for confirmation.  Sensing that they have a chance of increasing their numbers in the Senate, the GOP minority there may even make an effort to delay the coming confirmation process until after a new election is held on November 2.

Steve Benen:

Stevens’ departure from the high court will mark the end of an era: he is the last justice to have served in World War II, lived through Prohibition, and was around for the start of the Great Depression.

In terms of the Supreme Court’s stark ideological divisions, it’s unlikely that Stevens’ retirement will change the makeup of the bench — despite having been nominated by a Republican president (Ford), Stevens is one of the high court’s most reliably liberal votes. President Obama, who Stevens praised in recent interviews, will almost certainly replace Stevens with another progressive voice, keeping the center-left bloc with four votes (joining Ginsburg, Breyer, and Sotomayor).

Paul Mirengoff at Powerline:

The announcement is hardly a surprise, and we (among many others) have been speculating for months about who will replace him.

The three names one hears most often are Elena Kagan (currently the Solicitor General) and appellate court judges Diana Wood (7th Circuit) and Merrick Garland (D.C. Circuit). Kagan is considered the most likely nominee; Garland, I believe, would be the best of the three.

Daniel Foster at NRO:

The White House has said they will make an announcement ” in the coming weeks,” from a list that includes about 10 names. There will surely be some leftovers from the Sotomayor short-list. So beginning, roughly, with the center-most candidate and moving left, that list likely includes:

Merrick Garland –  a former federal prosecutor and current D.C. Circuit appeals judge. A Clinton appointee, Garland is well-liked by Democrats and even some Republicans in the Senate.

Elena Kagan – The first-female Solicitor General and probably first-runner-up for the Sotomayor seat, Kagan has a record of the kind of cagey jurisprudence that is ideal for a tough confirmation battle. She is well-respected by just about everybody on both sides, but lacks the paper trail that would reveal just how far to the left she’d sit.

Diane Wood – Another Clinton appointee, considered the heaviest liberal counterweight to the conservative Chicago Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals dominated by Richard A. Posner. Wood was a colleague of President Obama at the University of Chicago Law School.

Pamela Karlan – A professor at Stanford Law School, Karlan is a longshot once was described by the New York Times as a “snarky. . . Antonin Scalia for the left.” Karlan is openly gay, and an outspoken liberal.

“Would I like to be on the Supreme Court?” Ms. Karlan asked once asked during a Stanford graduation address. “You bet I would. But not enough to have trimmed my sails for half a lifetime.”

A longer list would include some Obama DOJ officials / liberal legal intellectuals like Harold Koh and Cass Sunstein. And the administration reportedly vetted a number of politicians for the Sotomayor spot that could be reconsidered here, including Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano (“the system worked”), Sens. Byron Dorgan (D., N.D.) and Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.), and Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm (D.)

My two cents: It’s Kagan or somebody nobody is even talking about.

Glenn Greenwald:

When President Obama chose Sonia Sotomayor to replace David Souter, that had very little effect on the ideological balance of the Court, because Sotomayor was highly likely to vote the way Souter did in most cases.  By stark contrast, replacing Stevens with Kagan (or, far less likely, with Sunstein) would shift the Court substantially to the Right on a litany of key issues (at least as much as the shift accomplished by George Bush’s selection of the right-wing ideologue Sam Alito to replace the more moderate Sandra Day O’Connor).  Just click on the links in the last paragraph here, detailing some of Kagan’s “centrist” (i.e., highly conservative) positions on executive power, civil liberties and Terrorism for a sense of how far to the Right she would be as compared to Stevens.

Over the past decade, the Court has issued numerous 5-4 decisions which placed at least some minimal constraints on executive power.  Stevens was not merely in the majority in those cases, but was the intellectual leader justifying those limits.  And he often went further in demanding due process and accountability for the Executive than even the “liberal” wing in general was willing to go — as exemplified by his joining Justice Scalia’s dissent in Hamdi, where the two unlikely allies both argued that the President could never detain U.S. citizens as “enemy combatants,” but instead must charge them with a crime (e.g., treason) and obtain a conviction in order to imprison them.

As Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron put it today:  Stevens was a “master tactician” who “emerged as one of the Court’s most vocal and eloquent spokespersons for individual liberties, separation of powers, and equal access to justice.”  Given Stevens’ status as the leader of the Liberal wing, The Nation‘s Ari Melber said today:  “With Justice Stevens retiring, it will take a nominee like Harold Koh just to maintain the Court’s status quo.”

The danger that we won’t have such a status-quo-maintaining selection is three-fold:  (1) Kagan, from her time at Harvard, is renowned for accommodating and incorporating conservative views, the kind of “post-ideological” attribute Obama finds so attractive; (2) for both political and substantive reasons, the Obama White House tends to avoid (with a few exceptions) any appointees to vital posts who are viewed as “liberal” or friendly to the Left; the temptation to avoid that kind of nominee heading into the 2010 midterm elections will be substantial (indeed, The New York Times‘ Peter Baker wrote last month of the candidates he said would be favored by the Left:  “insiders doubt Mr. Obama would pick any of them now“); and (3) Kagan has already proven herself to be a steadfast Obama loyalist with her work as his Solicitor General, and the desire to have on the Court someone who has demonstrated fealty to Obama’s broad claims of executive authority is likely to be great.

On to the next one, Mr. Stupak.

Marc Ambinder:

Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) plans to announce his retirement today, Democrats briefed on his decision said. Stupak, the leader of a pro-life faction within his party, had received death threats and was under intense political pressure after he agreed to support the Democratic health care reform legislation even though pro-life groups insisted that it would allow federal funds to be used for abortion.

Stupak negotiated a compromise with the White House, which resulted in President Obama’s issuing of an executive order clarifying the executive branch’s view of the subject. For that, Stupak was called a traitor to the pro-life cause. Stupak has represented Michigan’s first congressional district for 18 years. He will make public his decision at a press conference later today.

David Dayen at Firedoglake:

If you’re a politician not inclined to deliver under “intense political pressure,” you have no business being a politician. And if death threats were a factor in resigning, there pretty much wouldn’t be a member of the Democratic caucus left. Stupak sought the spotlight. He wanted to lead the pro-life Caucus and hijack the health care debate. He refused to quit even when he essentially won by getting the Nelson compromise, which functionally did about everything he wanted. He made the debate a living hell and went out of his way to punish half the US population. And in the end, everybody hated him, left and right. Well played.

Stupak’s district is swingy, but a lot of the top legislators in the area are Democrats. Right now, Connie Saltonstall is in the race, but I would expect a state legislator to get in. This Swing State diary has some potential names, including Senate Minority Leader Mike Prusi and State Rep. Mike Lahti. It sounds like Prusi would be the less conservative and more winnable option – and he happens to be pro-choice, which would be an interesting turnabout for a seat where Stupak said he was merely voting his district.

I can’t shed much of a tear for Bart Stupak. He put himself in the spotlight, then realized he didn’t like it.

UPDATE: Here’s Stupak’s full resignation statement to constituents. He pulled out the “spend more time with my family” form letter.

Ezra Klein:

But Stupak isn’t alone. If Sen. Ben Nelson was up for reelection this year, there’s a good chance he’d be retiring too. The two of them took the most damage during health-care reform, and for the same reason: They took a hostage and then accepted the ransom. And while that strategy might have worked in the past, it’s proven a disaster.

There were no end of legislators who didn’t like the bill — or didn’t want to vote for it — for one reason or another. But there were a very small group who used their ambivalence to elevate their public profile and strengthen their bargaining position. Nelson became a frequent guest on the Sunday shows, explaining how the bill wasn’t good enough and he wasn’t sure he could vote for it. He waited until the last minute, and then used all the anti-bill credibility he’d built to cut the best deal for his state: Free Medicaid expansion, in perpetuity.

The only problem was that his state didn’t care about Medicaid. Nelson had helped convince them this wasn’t a good bill, and now he was flip-flopping to support the monstrosity. Stupak followed a similar path: He spent months threatening to kill the thing and telling anyone who was listening that it would lead to taxpayer-funded abortions, and then flipped to support it. These flips were not necessarily unprincipled. Both Nelson and Stupak got real policy concessions. But they were unpopular. The left hated them for their preening ambivalence, the right for their eventual support.

Compare Nelson and Stupak to people such as Mark Warner or Brad Ellsworth, both of whom are moderate Democrats who had serious concerns about the bill, but who spent their time quietly getting those concerns addressed rather than using them to get TV bookings in advance of a high-profile deal. Nelson and Stupak made themselves into targets for both the left and the right, and ended the process with lots of notoriety but even more new enemies. Warner and Ellsworth haven’t suffered from the same backlash. The old model in which moderate Democrats justify their vote for a bill by talking trash about it until they get bought off doesn’t work in an environment where the media and the political opposition is waiting to pounce on the buy-off.

Michelle Malkin:

Stupak’s press conference statement was heavy on the Demcare cheerleading, silent on his pro-life views.

That was left to his wife, who introduced him by stating: “His word is his bond.”

A bond of Silly Putty.

Ann Althouse:

When you play a pivotal role in monumentally important legislation, you’d better face the public and justify what you did with the power they trusted you with. If you’re not up for that, we should read it as an admission that you did the wrong thing — without even the nerve to come out and say I’m sorry, I was wrong.

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You Just Can’t Tip-Toe Back From The Civil War Or “Slavery It Is, Sir!”

David Frum at FrumForum:

Has anybody out there actually read the Bob McDonnell Confederate history month proclamation that is causing such a fuss?

Here it is, in full:

Confederate History Month

WHEREAS,  April is the month in which the people of Virginia joined the Confederate States of America in a four year war between the states for independence that concluded at Appomattox Courthouse; and

WHEREAS,  Virginia has long recognized her Confederate history, the numerous civil war battlefields that mark every  region of the state, the leaders and individuals in the Army, Navy and at home who fought for their homes and communities and Commonwealth in a time very different than ours today; and

WHEREAS,  it is important for all Virginians to reflect upon our Commonwealth’s  shared history, to understand the sacrifices of the Confederate leaders, soldiers and citizens during the period of the Civil War, and to recognize how our history has led to our present; and

WHEREAS, Confederate historical sites such as the White House of the Confederacy are open for people to visit in Richmond today; and

WHEREAS, all Virginians can appreciate the fact that when ultimately overwhelmed by the insurmountable numbers and resources of the Union Army, the surviving, imprisoned and injured Confederate soldiers gave their word and allegiance to the United States of America, and returned to their homes and families to rebuild their communities in peace, following the instruction of General Robert E. Lee of Virginia, who wrote that, “…all should unite in honest efforts to obliterate the effects of war and to restore the blessings of peace.”; and

WHEREAS,   this defining chapter in Virginia’s history should not be forgotten, but instead should be studied, understood and remembered by all Virginians, both in the context of the time in which it took place, but also in the context of the time in which we live, and this study and remembrance takes on particular importance as the Commonwealth prepares to welcome the nation and the world to visit Virginia for the Sesquicentennial Anniversary of the Civil War, a four-year period in which the exploration of our history can benefit all;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Robert McDonnell, do hereby recognize April 2010 as CONFEDERATE HISTORY MONTH in our COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, and I call this observance to the attention of all our citizens.

Now, I yield to very few in my dislike of the Confederate cause. Grant’s verdict that the Confederacy was the worst cause for which men ever fought has been rendered obsolete by the terrible events of the 20th century. It must still count among the top 10.

That said:

It’s hard to imagine a more anodyne remembrance of the Confederacy than this issued by McDonnell. It does contain the eyebrow-raising language that the Confederates “fought for their  homes and communities and Commonwealth.” None of those things were in danger in 1861. Beyond that, however, it’s a bland invocation of the importance of studying history. There are no adjectives of praise for any Confederate leader, and the proclamation fully endorses the outcome of the war:  the return to allegiance to the United States.

More Frum:

I’ve spent much of the day thinking about McDonnell’s proclamation, and on second thought I have to walk back a little from my post below. I continue to think that McDonnell’s motive here was to tip-toe away from controversy. But on these fundamental issues of nationhood, tip-toeing just is not possible.

Paul Mirengoff at Powerline:

McDonnell’s two Democratic predecessors refused to issue this proclamation, first given by George Allen when he was governor. But those who fought for the South were mostly honorable (and in many cases even heroic) men, even though they were on the wrong side. They deserve a proclamation.

Unfortunately, McDonnell decided to remove anti-slavery language from the proclamation. George Allen’s original proclamation did not contain such language, but Gov. Jim Gilmore added it. McDonnell explained its omission from his proclamation this way:
There were any number of aspects to that conflict between the states. Obviously, it involved slavery. It involved other issues. But I focused on the ones I thought were most significant for Virginia.

This attempt to give Virginia a pass on the issue of slavery is historically untenable and, I must add, rather offfensive.

It also seems like bad politics. To my knowledge, McDonnell has no problems with his base. To be sure, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli has supplanted him as the base’s favorite by being out-front on certain social issues. But by keeping a lower profile, McDonnell has been able to come across, to his benefit, as a somewhat moderate figure without actually “moderating” himself.

Now he is a polarizing figure. Already, former Gov. Douglas Wilder, an African-American who has been supportive of McDonnell and who declined to endorse his opponent last year, has expressed his dismay over McDonnell’s failure to mention slavery in the proclamation.

Republicans may be on the verge of gaining a share of national power, but the electorate still has justifiable reservations about whether the Party deserves power. McDonnell’s decision won’t inspire confidence.

James Joyner:

I agree with McDonnell and SCV spokesman Brandon Dorsey that the legacy of the Civil War is complicated and I understand the desire to honor the sacrifices of one’s ancestors and to remind people that the war was about more than slavery and that, in any case, the men who fought it — on both sides — were motivated by other issues. Even in the north, the war was about Union, not abolition.

But proclaiming Confederate History Month, much less after it had ceased being customary, reopens old wounds while doing next to nothing to heal them.  The classic Simpsons answer, “Slavery it is, sir!” is what people will remember about the war.  And flying the Confederate flag and otherwise glorifying the war is simply offensive to most black Americans and quite a few others.   And, as Hardy Jackson, as ardent a lover of the South as any man alive, taught me, it’s simply bad manners to go around hurting people’s feelings for no good reason.

Further, while I voted for McDonnell and generally support his policies, taking this action in the way he did was simply cowardly.   If you’re going to issue a proclamation, then, damn it, have the gumption to Proclaim it.   How does timidly posting it on the website and hoping no one will notice advance the stated goals?  How the hell is it supposed to increase tourism or promote reading of history if no one knows about it?

Damon Root at Reason:

In Reason’s August/September 2001 issue, Contributing Editor Charles Oliver demolished the myth that slavery had nothing to do with the Civil War. As Oliver wrote:

Just look at what those fighting the war had to say. If we do that, the lines are clear. Southern leaders said they were fighting to preserve slavery….

Perhaps the most famous statement came from Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens. In 1861, in Savannah, Georgia, Stephens bluntly declared that slavery was “the immediate cause of the late rupture and the present revolution.” He said the United States had been founded on the false belief that all men are created equal. The Confederacy, in contrast, had been “founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the Negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural moral condition.”

There’s plenty more along those lines. Read the whole thing here.

Perhaps somebody should hand a copy to Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell, who just declared April to be “Confederate History Month” and failed to include a single reference to the crime of slavery in his official proclamation. When the Washington Post questioned him about this offensive and historically illiterate omission, McDonnell said, “there were any number of aspects to that conflict between the states. Obviously, it involved slavery. It involved other issues. But I focused on the ones I thought were most significant for Virginia.”

Deep thoughts! Here’s something else to think about: Richmond, Virginia was the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War. The Confederacy wanted to preserve and extend the slave system. That makes slavery one of the issues that are “most significant for Virginia.”

Ed Morrissey:

As a history buff myself, I agree that it’s important to study history, but that doesn’t require a Confederacy Appreciation Month, which is what this sounds like.  McDonnell could have broadened the perspective to a Civil War History Month, which would have allowed for all of the issues in the nation’s only armed rebellion to be studied. This approach seems needlessly provocative and almost guaranteed to create problems for Republicans in Virginia and across the country.  It might have a short term effect of strengthening McDonnell’s attachment to his base, which didn’t appear to be threatened at all in the first place.

Andrew Sullivan

Matthew Yglesias:

Two points on this. One is that in 1860 about 60 percent of the human beings in Virginia were slaves and thus neither leaders nor soldiers nor citizens of the Confederacy. Why should Virginians neglect to think of them? Surely slavery was a significant part of the conflict for the 30 percent of Virginians who were slaves and did, in fact, welcome the advancing Union soldiers as liberators. Allow me to quote from Jay Winik’s April 1865:

As white Richmond retreated behind shutters and blinds, black Richmond spontaneously took to the streets. From the moment Union troops entered the city – ‘Richmond at last!’ Black Union cavalrymen shouted – crowds, the skilled and the unskilled, household servants and household cooks, rented maids and hired millworkers, jammed the sidewalks to catch a glimpse of the spectacle. No longer enslaved, they thrust out their hands to be shaken or presented the soldiers with offerings: gifts of fruit, flowers, even jugs of whiskey. Federal officers riding alongside promptly reached for the liquor bottles and smashed them with their swords. But the crowd was undaunted. Just a day earlier, they had been prohibited from smoking, publicly swearing, carrying canes, purchasing weapons, or procuring ‘ardent spirits.’ Yet now, to the sounds of ‘John Brown’s Body,’ they jubilantly waved makeshift rag banners; to the tune of the ‘Battle Hymn of the Republic,’ they enthusiastically hugged and kissed the bluecoats.

Slavery obviously seemed significant to the slaves. And, of course, it was significant to the architects of rebellion as well. Here’s the first paragraph of Virginia’s ordinance of secession:

The people of Virginia in their ratification of the Constitution of the United States of America, adopted by them in convention on the twenty-fifth day of June, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-eight, having declared that the powers granted under said Constitition were derived from the people of the United States and might be resumed whensoever the same should be perverted to their injury and oppression, and the Federal Government having perverted said powers not only to the injury of the people of Virginia, but to the oppression of the Southern slave-holding States:

And there you go. Of course a long and bloody war has a number of aspects, but this was primarily a conflict around the issue of slavery.

Ta-Nehisi Coates:

I don’t really have much to say. The GOP is, effectively, the party of willfully unlettered Utopians. It is the party of choice for those who believe global warming is a hoax, that humans roamed the earth with dinosaurs, and that homosexuals should work harder at not being gay.

That the party of unadulterated quackery also believes that Birth Of A Nation is more true to the Civil War than Battle Cry Of Freedom, is to be expected. Ignorance does not respect boundaries. It is, at times, qualified and those who know more, often struggle to say more. But people who believe that the Census is actually a covert attempt to put Americans in concentration camps, are also likely to believe that slavery was incidental to the Civil War.
This is who they are–the proud and ignorant. If you believe that if we still had segregation we wouldn’t “have had all these problems,” this is the movement for you. If you believe that your president is a Muslim sleeper agent, this is the movement for you. If you honor a flag raised explicitly to destroy this country then this is the movement for you. If you flirt with secession, even now, then this movement is for you. If you are a “Real American” with no demonstrable interest in “Real America” then, by God, this movement of alchemists and creationists, of anti-science and hair tonic, is for you.

The Huffington Post:

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s apologized on Wednesday for declaring April as “Confederate History Month,” but failing to mention slavery anywhere in his proclamation.

“The proclamation issued by this Office designating April as Confederate History Month contained a major omission. The failure to include any reference to slavery was a mistake, and for that I apologize to any fellow Virginian who has been offended or disappointed,” McDonnell said in a statement.

The newly-minted GOP governor added: “The Confederate History Month proclamation issued was solely intended to promote the study of our history, encourage tourism in our state in advance of the 150th Anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War, and recognize Virginia’s unique role in the story of America.”

UPDATE: Jon Meacham in NYT

Matthew Yglesias in Daily Beast

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Will You Be My Friend? Circle Y For Yes, Circle N For No

Laura Rozen and Ben Smith at Politico:

The Obama administration shifted this week from red hot anger at Benjamin Netanyahu to an icier suspicion of the Israeli prime minister, who made clear during marathon meetings with U.S. officials that he would give ground only grudgingly on their goal of stopping construction of new Israeli housing units on disputed territory.

Netanyahu met with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office on Tuesday evening for an unexpectedly long 89 minutes until about 7 p.m., then stayed to consult in the Roosevelt Room with his own staff, according to a source briefed on the meeting. Obama and Netanyahu then met again for 35 minutes at 8:20 p.m. at Netanyahu’s request, the source said. But the meetings were shrouded in unusual secrecy, in part because U.S. officials, who just ten days earlier called the surprise announcement of new housing in East Jerusalem an “insult” and an “affront,” made sure to reward Netanyahu with a series of small snubs: There were no photographs released from the meeting and no briefing for the press.

And as of late Tuesday evening, neither side had released the usual “readout” of the meetings’ content — a likely indicator of the distance between the sides.

Jackson Diehl at WaPo:

Obama has added more poison to a U.S.-Israeli relationship that already was at its lowest point in two decades. Tuesday night the White House refused to allow non-official photographers record the president’s meeting with Netanyahu; no statement was issued afterward. Netanyahu is being treated as if he were an unsavory Third World dictator, needed for strategic reasons but conspicuously held at arms length. That is something the rest of the world will be quick to notice and respond to. Just like the Palestinians, European governments cannot be more friendly to an Israeli leader than the United States. Would Britain have expelled a senior Israeli diplomat Tuesday because of a flap over forged passports if there were no daylight between Obama and Netanyahu? Maybe not.

The White House’s explanations for Obama’s behavior keep shifting. At first spokesmen insisted that the president had to respond to the “insult” of the settlement announcement during a visit to Jerusalem by Vice President Biden — even though the administration knew that, far from being a calculated snub, the decision by a local council had taken Netanyahu himself by surprise.

Next the administration argued that the scrap was a needed wake-up call for Netanyahu’s right-wing government, which, it was said, had been put on notice that its failure to move toward a settlement with Palestinians was endangering U.S. interests in the region. But — assuming for the moment that the administration’s premise is correct — Obama chose to challenge Netanyahu on a point that is not material to the creation of a Palestinian state. As the Israeli leader has pointed out, previous U.S. administrations and the Palestinians themselves have already accepted that Jewish neighborhoods in and around Jerusalem will be annexed to Israel in exchange for territory elsewhere.

U.S. pressure on Netanyahu will be needed if the peace process ever reaches the point where the genuinely contentious issues, like Palestinian refugees or the exact territorial tradeoffs, are on the table. But instead of waiting for that moment and pushing Netanyahu on a point where he might be vulnerable to domestic challenge, Obama picked a fight over something that virtually all Israelis agree on, and before serious discussions have even begun. As the veteran Middle East analyst Robert Malley put it to The Post’s Glenn Kessler, “U.S. pressure can work, but it needs to be at the right time, on the right issue and in the right political context. The administration is ready for a fight, but it realized the issue, timing and context were wrong.”

A new administration can be excused for making such a mistake in the treacherous and complex theater of Middle East diplomacy. That’s why Obama was given a pass by many when he made exactly the same mistake last year. The second time around, the president doesn’t look naive. He appears ideological — and vindictive.

Jennifer Rubin at Commentary:

Quite obviously the relationship is anything but “rock solid,” after 14 months of Obami Middle East policy. Having picked a losing fight over the issue nearest and dearest to Israelis and American Jews and provoking a retort that may now become a slogan of defiance (”Jerusalem is not a settlement — it’s our capital!”), the Obami have no where to go. More stony silence? More condemnation statements with each new housing announcement? The proximity talks, yet another accommodation to Palestinian intransigence, are a dead end. And meanwhile, the mullahs proceed with their nuclear program. A nuclear-armed Iran may be “unacceptable” to the Obami, but in all this brouhaha it should not go unnoticed that they are making no progress in thwarting the Iranians’ nuclear ambitions.

Quin Hillyer at American Spectator:

After yesterday’s meetings between Binyamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama, for the first time in my life I quite literally feel more allegiance to the head of a foreign state than I do to the president of the United States. Mind you, this is personal: NOT allegiance to the foreign state, nor allegiance to its office of PM over this American government or the office of the president, but a greater personal allegiance — greater trust in, greater belief that his goals and stances are actually better for the United States itself — to the person of Netanyahu than to that of The One. Just so the left and MSM can’t go screaming like madmen, let me be even more clear: Let me change the word “allegiance” to “trusting respect,” and let me say also that this means I believe Netanyahu’s words, trust his judgment, and feel more secure in his motives, more than I believe, trust, and feel more secure with Obama. (This has nothing whatsoever with my loyalty to the United States of America, of course, which is undying. All too often, too many people conflate the man with the office of the presidency, but they are not one and the same. Obama is my president. But he is not a good one, and I do not have to respect him for me to respect the office.)

I write this not as a Jew, but as a cradle Episcopalian, or a sort of hybrid Anglo-Catholic. In short, not based on faith, but on reason. If the Jewish state can’t allow free people to build housing in Jerusalem, then the Irish state may as well not let Irish build in Dublin.

Daniel Larison responds:

This is silly. No one contests the sovereignty of Ireland over any of Dublin’s territory. There is not a population of die-hard Unionists living in Dublin that desire their own state. The Irish government isn’t sponsoring construction for zealous republicans in Unionist parts of the city on territory seized during one of the Republic’s previous wars with Britain. I’m sure Mr. Hillyer knows the differences in status between Jerusalem and Dublin. Like other sympathizers with the Israeli government’s position, he simply chooses to ignore them and pretends that this is a matter of perfectly legitimate housing policy decisions. He is free to do this if he likes, just as the Israeli government can persist in claiming this, but it isn’t likely to persuade the rest of the world that it is wrong not to recognize Israeli sovereignty over East Jerusalem.

Having read Netanyahu’s address to AIPAC, I was trying to think of another example of a contested city that was politically divided before a war and then completely captured in wartime that the victorious party declared as its capital city. Making such a city into a national capital is a very unusual thing to do, but then the circumstances during and after 1967 were unusual. The special religious status of Jerusalem makes the situation even more unusual, and obviously the place of Jerusalem in Jewish history makes it unusually important to Israelis. Indeed, the most reasonable claims Israel has on East Jerusalem derive from recognition that Israelis have legitimate claims on Jerusalem based in prior history and general agreement that Jerusalem is a very special case that is unlike every other case of disputed territory. If that is not the case, it certainly does not help Israel’s position regarding new construction on occupied territory.

On a different, but related note, Robert Wright at NYT:

Are you anti-Israel? If you fear that, deep down, you might be, I have important news. The recent tension between Israel and the United States led various commentators to identify hallmarks of anti-Israelism, and these may be of diagnostic value.

As you’ll see, my own view is that they aren’t of much value, but I’ll leave it for you to judge.

Symptom no. 1: Believing that Israel shouldn’t build more settlements in East Jerusalem. President Obama holds this belief, and that seems to be the reason that Gary Bauer, who sought the Republican presidential nomination in 2000, deems Obama’s administration “the most anti-Israel administration in U.S. history.” Bauer notes that the East Jerusalem settlements are “entirely within the city of Jerusalem” and that Jerusalem is “the capital of Israel.”

That’s artful wording, but it doesn’t change the fact that East Jerusalem, far from being part of “the capital of Israel,” isn’t even part of Israel. East Jerusalem lies beyond Israel’s internationally recognized, pre-1967 borders. And the common assertion that Israel “annexed” East Jerusalem has roughly the same legal significance as my announcing that I’ve annexed my neighbor’s backyard. In 1980 the United Nations explicitly rejected Israel’s claim to possess East Jerusalem. And the United States, which normally vetoes U.N. resolutions that Israel finds threatening, chose not to do so in this case.

In short, accepting Gary Bauer’s idea of what it means to be anti-Israel seems to involve being anti-truth. So I don’t accept it. (And if you’re tempted to accept the common claim that Israel is building only in “traditionally Jewish” parts of East Jerusalem, a good antidote is this piece by Lara Friedman and Daniel Seidemann, published on Foreign Policy Magazine’s excellent new Middle East Channel.)

Gary Bauer responds to Wright at The Weekly Standard:

I’ve read Mr. Wright’s article a half dozen times, and I’m struggling to understand his strange definition of what it means to be pro-Israel. It seems that to Mr. Wright the more loudly you criticize Israel, the more pro-Israel you can claim to be. By that standard, the United Nations is a bastion of pro-Israel sentiment.

That’s a strange view of friendship. Wright and the Obama administration are in a frenzy over the view that Jews in certain Jerusalem neighborhoods are the biggest obstacle to peace in the Middle East. Wright certainly knows that most Palestinians consider all of Israel a “settlement.” They don’t want Jews in Jerusalem, and they don’t want them in Tel Aviv. They don’t want a Jewish state period.

The disputed area of Jerusalem, Ramat Shlomo, is not a settlement. It’s not in a Palestinian neighborhood. Twenty thousand Israeli Jews live there. The idea that neighborhoods like Ramat Shlomo should be relinquished has never been on the negotiating table. It’s not a neighborhood that the Palestinians have ever had any intention of taking control of until the Obama administration raised it as an issue.

Wright also, in criticizing remarks by Abe Foxman, says more “settlements” in East Jerusalem makes it “harder to find a two-state deal that leaves Palestinians with much of their dignity intact.” But it’s wrong to suggest that Palestinians’ dignity would be endangered by Jews living in their own country. Arabs are free to live anywhere in Israel. Does Mr. Wright think Jews would  be welcomed and be able to live safely in a new Palestinian state?

During the 19 years that Jordan occupied East Jerusalem, it expelled all the Jews living in what was historically the Jewish Quarter, and it destroyed all the synagogues and the homes of Jews. In contrast, when Israel reunited Jerusalem, it allowed Jews and Muslims to live in any part of the city and to worship freely.

There are some who publicly insist that America’s support for Israel irritates Middle East Muslims. But those in the Muslim world who hate America do so for many reasons. They dislike our support for Israel, but they also loathe our freedom. The truth is that many Muslims hate America—as they hate Israel—because we exist and insist on pluralism and tolerance.

Max Boot in Commentary:

The condescension — and ignorance — implicit in this argument is staggering. Wright suggests that Israel’s elected leaders from all the major parties — all of them united in supporting the construction of housing for Jews at least in traditionally Jewish parts of East Jerusalem — don’t know what’s good for their country. But he does. And anyone who disagrees with him is objectively “anti-Israel.”

Perhaps he could explain why the greatest progress toward a two-state solution was made in the 1990s, when construction continued in the West Bank, and why talks are at a standstill now even though Netanyahu agreed in November to halt all construction in the West Bank (though not in Jerusalem) for 10 months. Perhaps he could explain why Palestinian leaders have repeatedly refused to embrace Israeli offers to turn over almost all the West Bank and even part of Jerusalem in return for a lasting settlement. Or why Israeli concessions such as evacuating the Gaza Strip and southern Lebanon have been met with more attacks rather than any lasting peace. But no. The honest answers to those questions might shake his certitude that he knows better than those whose lives are actually on the line about what’s good for them.

Justin Logan at Cato:

I have been and remain skeptical that Washington could successfully force a deal on the Israelis and Palestinians.  To my mind, neither side seems willing to make the sorts of very painful concessions that would be necessary for peace.  I think that the big problem the I/P dispute presents for the United States is less inherent in the conflict than it is in the fact that the United States has placed itself in a position, as George Kennan wrote, where “each [side] has the impression that it is primarily through us that its desiderata can be achieved, with the result that we are always first to be blamed, no matter whose ox is gored; and all this in a situation where we actually have very little influence with either party.”

But as long as we’re implicated in this sorry affair, we ought to be throwing our weight around to try to push both parties in the directions we think they ought to go.  As Wright writes, smiling and nodding no matter what Israel does isn’t friendship.

Andrew Sullivan:

Here’s the impression I get. Obama just faced down a loud bully, the GOP base, in crafting a needed and moderate settlement on a deep domestic issue. Don’t the odds of his facing down Netanyahu thereby get a little bit better? Linkage, dear reader, linkage.

UPDATE: Paul Mirengoff at Powerline


Glenn Greenwald

UPDATE #2: Dan Drezner and Henry Farrell at Bloggingheads


Filed under Israel/Palestine, Political Figures

H.R. 4872

This post will be updated through-out the day.

Joe Gandelman at Moderate Voice:

Former President Bill Clinton was reportedly working the phones to maximize Democratic votes on health care reform yesterday — all aimed at today, D Day for the Democratic party and for President Barack Obama.

Why is it D Day? Because unless there is some unexpected twist, by the end of the day (a phrase used literally here, not as a figure of speech) political junkies and Americans will one way or another be thrust upon a new political policy course with some answers


Today’s new and old media stories will (correctly) focus on the horse race aspect of the votes.

The House is expected to take up debate around 2 pm. EST and the day is expected to end around 6 or 7 p.m. with the final of several votes.

But it’s D.Day:

A win will change the narrative for the Democrats and Obama.

And so will a loss.

Kate Pickert at Swampland at Time:

Pelosi seems to be on the cusp of success, with various news media tallies indicating she will have enough votes to declare victory by Sunday evening. Even so, Republican opposition was still in full force all day Saturday with House Minority Leader John Boehner saying passage of the Democratic plan for health reform would constitute “Armageddon” that would “ruin our country.” Republican and Democratic leaders are lined up to duke it out again on the Sunday morning talk shows.

To assure House Democrats worried Senate Democrats might not follow through on passing a package of changes to the Senate bill, Pelosi circulated a letter on Saturday from Senate Majority Harry Reid that pledged in writing to do just that. And an earlier proposal to pass the package of changes without ever formally voting on the Senate bill was reportedly discarded on Saturday. Republicans celebrated what could be viewed as a small victory for them – they had heavily criticized the so-called “deem and pass” strategy as circumventing fair legislative practice. But it’s just as possible that Pelosi figured she could pass the Senate bill without making the vote indirect – meaning that throwing out “deem and pass” was actually a sign of Democratic strength.

Pro-life Democrats who supported language in the original House bill that would have restricted access to abortion still constituted the largest bloc of holdout votes Saturday night. There were rumors late Saturday that Obama would issue an executive order reaffirming that health reform legislation will not provide federal funds for abortion, which could provide some political cover and allow some of these Democrats to vote for the Senate bill. Bart Stupak, the pro-life Democratic congressman who authored the original House abortion language, abruptly canceled a morning press conference on Saturday.

But barring something unforeseen, it seems likely that, by Monday, Democrats will have something to celebrate after so many months of uncertainty.

Rick Klein at ABC at The Note:

It’s down to the wire and one of the top Democrats in the House says the Democrats have the votes to pass health care reform – but that some Democrat members might lose their seats as a result.

“We have the votes. We are going to make history today,” Rep. John Larson D-Conn., the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said today on “This Week”. “President Roosevelt passed Social Security; President Roosevelt passed Medicare; and today, Barack Obama will pass health care reform, demonstrating whose side we are on,” Larson told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl.

Ezra Klein, on Saturday:

The president gave a rousing, rambling speech before the House Democratic Caucus this afternoon. It wasn’t so much a closing argument as it was a summation: of the bill, of the politics, of the moment, of the history, and even of the Democratic Party. When I wrote to the White House’s press folks to ask why they hadn’t send out the prepared remarks, they said there were none. The president was just talking, which explains the loose structure and the raw, emotional feel of the text. Here’s the transcript, one of the final important documents in a long and important debate:

I have the great pleasure of having a really nice library at the White House. And I was tooling through some of the writings of some previous Presidents and I came upon this quote by Abraham Lincoln: “I am not bound to win, but I’m bound to be true. I’m not bound to succeed, but I’m bound to live up to what light I have.”

This debate has been a difficult debate. This process has been a difficult process. And this year has been a difficult year for the American people. When I was sworn in, we were in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression. Eight hundred thousand people per month were losing their jobs. Millions of people were losing their health insurance. And the financial system was on the verge of collapse.


Now, is this bill perfect? Of course not. Will this solve every single problem in our health care system right away? No. There are all kinds of ideas that many of you have that aren’t included in this legislation. I know that there has been discussion, for example, of how we’re going to deal with regional disparities and I know that there was a meeting with Secretary Sebelius to assure that we can continue to try to make sure that we’ve got a system that gives people the best bang for their buck. (Applause.)

So this is not — there are all kinds of things that many of you would like to see that isn’t in this legislation. There are some things I’d like to see that’s not in this legislation. But is this the single most important step that we have taken on health care since Medicare? Absolutely. Is this the most important piece of domestic legislation in terms of giving a break to hardworking middle class families out there since Medicare? Absolutely. Is this a vast improvement over the status quo? Absolutely.

Now, I still know this is a tough vote, though. I know this is a tough vote. I’ve talked to many of you individually. And I have to say that if you honestly believe in your heart of hearts, in your conscience, that this is not an improvement over the status quo; if despite all the information that’s out there that says that without serious reform efforts like this one people’s premiums are going to double over the next five or 10 years, that folks are going to keep on getting letters from their insurance companies saying that their premium just went up 40 or 50 percent; if you think that somehow it’s okay that we have millions of hardworking Americans who can’t get health care and that it’s all right, it’s acceptable, in the wealthiest nation on Earth that there are children with chronic illnesses that can’t get the care that they need — if you think that the system is working for ordinary Americans rather than the insurance companies, then you should vote no on this bill. If you can honestly say that, then you shouldn’t support it. You’re here to represent your constituencies and if you think your constituencies honestly wouldn’t be helped, you shouldn’t vote for this.

But if you agree that the system is not working for ordinary families, if you’ve heard the same stories that I’ve heard everywhere, all across the country, then help us fix this system. Don’t do it for me. Don’t do it for Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid. Do it for all those people out there who are struggling.

Some of you know I get 10 letters a day that I read out of the 40,000 that we receive. Started reading some of the ones that I got this morning. “Dear President Obama, my daughter, a wonderful person, lost her job. She has no health insurance. She had a blood clot in her brain. She’s now disabled, can’t get care.” “Dear President Obama, I don’t yet qualify for Medicare. COBRA is about to run out. I am desperate, don’t know what to do.”

Do it for them. Do it for people who are really scared right now through no fault of their own, who’ve played by the rules, who’ve done all the right things, and have suddenly found out that because of an accident, because of an ailment, they’re about to lose their house; or they can’t provide the help to their kids that they need; or they’re a small business who up until now has always taken pride in providing care for their workers and it turns out that they just can’t afford to do it anymore and they’ve having to make a decision about do I keep providing health insurance for my workers or do I just drop their coverage or do I not hire some people because I simply can’t afford it — it’s all being gobbled up by the insurance companies.

Don’t do it for me. Don’t do it for the Democratic Party. Do it for the American people. They’re the ones who are looking for action right now. (Applause.)

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo:

Things are getting pretty heated in the Capitol with crowds of anti-Reform/Tea Party activists going through the halls shouting slogans and epithets at Democratic members of Congress.

As our Brian Beutler reports, a few moments ago in the Longworth office building, a group swarmed a very calm looking Henry Waxman, as he got on the elevator, with shouts of “Kill the bill!” “You liar! You crook!”

Not long before, Rep. Barney Frank got an uglier version of the treatment. Just after Frank rounded a corner to leave the building, an older protestor yelled “Barney, you faggot.” The surrounding crowd of protestors then erupted in laughter.

At one point, Capitol police officer threatened to throw a group of protestors out of the building but that only seemed to inflame them more; and apparently none were ejected.

Brian Beutler at Talking Points Memo:

Civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and fellow Congressional Black Caucus member Andre Carson (D-IN) related a particularly jarring encounter with a large crowd of protesters screaming “kill the bill”… and punctuating their chants with the word “nigger.”

Standing next to Lewis, emerging from a Democratic caucus meeting with President Obama, Carson said people in the crowd yelled, “kill the bill and then the N-word” several times, while he and Lewis were exiting the Cannon House office building.

“People have been just downright mean,” Lewis added.

And that wasn’t an isolated incident. Early this afternoon, standing outside a Democratic whip meeting in the Longworth House office building, I watched Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) make his way out the door, en route to the neighboring Rayburn building. As he rounded the corner toward the exit, wading through a huge crowd of tea partiers and other health care protesters, an elderly white man screamed “Barney, you faggot”–a line that caused dozens of his confederates to erupt in laughter.

After that incident, Capitol police threatened to expel the protesters from the building, but were outnumbered and quickly overwhelmed. Tea party protesters equipped with high-end video cameras were summoned to film the encounter and the officers ultimately relented.

After the caucus meeting, TPMDC’s Evan McMorris-Santoro caught up with Frank, who reflected on the incident.

“I’m disappointed at a unwillingness to be just civil,” Frank said. “[T]he objection to the health care bill has become a proxy for other sentiments.”

“Obviously there are perfectly reasonable people that are against this, but the people out there today on the whole–many of them were hateful and abusive,” Frank added.

James Joyner:

The nature of attracting tens of thousands of people from around the country to protest is such that you are bound to attract a disproportionate share of yahoos, reprobates, and slimeballs.   Whether the Tea Party movement has more of these than your average anti-war rally or World Trade Organization protest, I don’t know.

But Barney Frank is right on all scores here.

Not only is uncivil conduct “disappointing,” it’s ultimately destructive.  (Indeed, while I share common cause on some issues, I’ve been dismissive of the Tea Party movement precisely because of their unfocused anger and rude behavior.) If the Civil Rights protests of the 1960s taught us anything, it was that the quiet dignity of citizens gathered to respectfully demand justice is enormously powerful — especially when it’s juxtaposed against thuggish behavior from the other side.

Movements with significant numbers of incidents like this — whether representative or not — are simply much easier to dismiss.


DOES CLYBURN OWE TEA PARTY PROTESTERS AN APOLOGY? The bogus racism card has been played so often that I no longer find such charges very credible. I’m sure, however, that, true or not, they’ll be played much more loudly than the indisputably true statements about the antiwar movement.

UPDATE: Reader Rob Kleine writes: “All the focus on the anti-Obamacare protests has me wondering: Are there any pro-Obamacare protesters? Or is the Emperor truly w/o clothes?” I think there was an anti-war protest today in DC, too, but if there were pro-Obamacare protesters I haven’t heard about ‘em.

And several readers note a conundrum for the media — since they ignored the anti-ObamaCare protests, it’ll be awkward for them to suddenly start running stories about charges of racism at those nonexistent protests.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Short on hate: “The rally earlier today on the West Lawn in opposition to the health-care legislation before Congress had all the fingerprints of a somewhat organic celebration of democracy. There was a pretty focused message, but mostly displayed on handwritten signs. . . . As I walked around, if it weren’t for the congressmen and some right-wing organization types speaking, one might think people had gathered for an Independence Day celebration. There were smiles and babies and families and goodwill. Now and again I would run into some lone guy responding to a speaker with ‘then we’ll dismantle the government.’ But that guy also got weird looks — and not just from me. I was struck by how few mass-produced signs there were. Many groups might try to take credit for the rally, but concerned Americans are responsible for it.” Lots of pics at the link.

Plus this: “Those gathered today, among many others across the country and in Washington who oppose this ill-conceived legislation from a condescending, patronizing administration — will not be giving up tomorrow. Because Monday is another day. And so is the first Tuesday in November.”

And, by way of contrast, here are some photos from that antiwar rally today in DC. Note the Soviet-nostalgia T-shirt. But guess which one the press will cast as “extremist?”

John Cole:

The Politico, so for those of you avoiding clicks, you’ve been warned:

In the jittery days following Scott Brown’s Senate victory, Nancy Pelosi was eager to resurrect comprehensive health reform. But first, she had to get past longtime ally Rahm Emanuel, who was counseling President Barack Obama to consider a smaller, piecemeal approach. During a mid-February conference call with top House Democrats, Pelosi made it clear she would accept nothing short of a big-bang health care push – dismissing the White House chief of staff as an “incrementalist.”

Pelosi even coined a term to describe Emanuel’s scaled-down approach: “Kiddie Care,” according to a person privy to the call.

Pelosi’s remark was more than just a diss. It sent a clear signal to House leadership that Pelosi wouldn’t compromise – and it coincided with Obama’s own decision to renew his push for an all-encompassing bill after weeks of confusion and discussion.

So… Do you think you’d be seeing puff pieces in Dick Cheney’s personal diary, the Politico, if the bill had failed? And puff pieces about Nancy Pelosi, of all people?

This is what I have never understood about those who voted yes the first time around but were then spooked on purely political matters (and not the actual content of the bill). The Republicans simply are going to oppose you no matter what (as Blanche Lincoln is learning, years of tongue-kisses to the GOP doesn’t amount to a bucket of warm spit), and if the bill passes, the entire narrative changes. For everyone. And the way the teabaggers are playing along, throwing out racial epithets and yelling faggot while screaming about taking matters into their own hands, they are providing the perfect frame for this comeback story.

As an aside, I think when people feel comfortable to talk on record, meaning years from now, I think it is going to turn out that the toughness of Nancy Pelosi and the patience of Obama are what saved his Presidency. She might turn out to be the best partner he has in all of DC, and will probably, depending on what happens, go down as one of the greatest speakers in recent memory. Every time she needs the votes, she gets them.

Paul Mirengoff at Powerline:

I don’t know whether Nancy Pelosi has her 216 votes yet, but there’s reason to think she didn’t as of around noon today. That’s when Reps. Driehaus (D., Ohio) and Dahlkemper (D., Penn.), both of the Stupak coalition, met with the Speaker in her office. Apparently, she still needed to win a few more votes from members of that coalition.

Another member of the Stupak group, Dan Lipinski (D-Ill), told The HIll that Stupak still commands more than seven votes against the bill. “There’s still time and they still need votes,” Lipinski said.

The thinking here is that Pelosi will find a way to get what she needs. But the clock is ticking and she may not be there yet.

UPDATE: Jeffrey Anderson at NRO’s Critical Condition blog says Pelosi is still short. He counts 208 leaning in favor, 214 leaning against, and nine undecided. At this point, though, “leaning against” may mean “waiting for an inducement” in some cases.

JOHN adds: This is consistent with what James Hohmann of Politico told us on our radio show this morning, i.e., that as of around 1:00 this afternoon, Pelosi had 206-208 “yes” votes.

UPDATE: Jared Allen at The Hill:

Democrats have reached a deal on an executive order on abortion that could hand them a victory on healthcare.

“Eight or nine” Democrats, including Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), will announce the deal at a 4 p.m. press conference, according to an anti-abortion Democrat.

“We’ve changed [our votes],” said Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio).

Jonathan Chait at TNR:

Unless something goes awry, it’s game, set, match.

Update: Stupak says “We have an agreement.”

UPDATE #2: Steve Benen:

As you may have heard, the House passed the rule on health care reform.

House Democrats have approved the rule for debate on the healthcare bill, moving them one step closer toward a final vote on the legislation.

The rule was passed 224-206, with 28 Democrats voting against the measure. All Republicans cast “no” votes. A procedural vote on the rules passed by a similar count, 228-202.

The tally is a key test vote for Democrats, who hours earlier were able to bring aboard Rep. Bart Stupak’s (D-Mich.) anti-abortion rights voting bloc by striking a compromise with the White House.

Under House procedure, lawmakers must approve the rules for debate before taking up actual legislation.

The vote allows formal debate to begin on the healthcare bill.

Here’s the roll call; note that 28 Dems voted with Republicans in opposition. It’s the first of the three key votes.

Megan McArdle:

One cannot help but admire Nancy Pelosi’s skill as a legislator.  But it’s also pretty worrying.  Are we now in a world where there is absolutely no recourse to the tyranny of the majority?  Republicans and other opponents of the bill did their job on this; they persuaded the country that they didn’t want this bill.  And that mattered basically not at all.  If you don’t find that terrifying, let me suggest that you are a Democrat who has not yet contemplated what Republicans might do under similar circumstances.  Farewell, social security!  Au revoir, Medicare!  The reason entitlements are hard to repeal is that the Republicans care about getting re-elected.  If they didn’t–if they were willing to undertake this sort of suicide mission–then the legislative lock-in you’re counting on wouldn’t exist.
Oh, wait–suddenly it doesn’t seem quite fair that Republicans could just ignore the will of their constituents that way, does it?  Yet I guarantee you that there are a lot of GOP members out there tonight who think that they should get at least one free “Screw You” vote to balance out what the Democrats just did.
If the GOP takes the legislative innovations of the Democrats and decides to use them, please don’t complain that it’s not fair.  Someone could get seriously hurt, laughing that hard.

1 Comment

Filed under Health Care, Legislation Pending, Politics

The Word Of The Day Is “Grahamanuel”

Jonathan Weisman and Evan Perez at WSJ:

The White House is nearing a deal with a bipartisan group of senators to close the Guantanamo Bay prison and pave the way for more detainees to be tried before military commissions, a move that would reverse a signature Obama administration security policy.

The deal would put the alleged mastermind of the attacks of September 2001, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, his fellow plotters and other top terror suspects before revamped military commissions, rather than in civilian trials as the Obama administration had sought.

Andy McCarthy at The Corner:

The Wall Street Journal reports that Sen. Lindsey Graham and the White House are close to a deal that would close Guantanamo Bay in exchange for some amorphous concessions on the legal proceedings to which terrorist detainees will be subjected.

The Journal says two other Senate Republicans (not identified) are prepared to join Graham in breaking ranks, which ensures that the pact will be filibuster-proof.

There’s not much more I can say beyond what I’ve already said (see here and here) about what a disaster this will be for our national security. Senator Graham will try to spin it as a great result — just as the Gang of 14 compromise was spun, despite its acquiescence in the Left’s torpedoing of several qualified Bush nominees, leaving unfilled slots that Obama is now filling with his kind of judges. It will be a terrible result.

The good parts of the deal will be either things we’d have gotten anyway (like no civilian trial for KSM) or unenforceable (like promises that the Obama administration will be more open to using options other than the criminal justice system for top terrorists). The bad parts will be horrific, and no matter what Senator Graham says, he can’t do a thing about them: The place or places where the terrorists are held will become targets that we will have to spend tons of money to protect; the tons of money we have already spent to make Gitmo a first-rate, ideally secured facility, will be lost; and, most significantly, the physical presence in the U.S. of the detainees will mean they are unquestionably in the jurisdiction of the federal courts, where judges will be able to say the Constitution requires all sorts of remedies, including release.

Spencer Ackerman:

If the Wall Street Journal has it right, the Grahamanuel deal to swap a Khalid Shaikh Mohammed military commission for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility is inching forward in the Senate. Well, sort of. The paper claims that anonymous Democratic Senate aides “say Mr. Graham believes two other Republicans are willing to join the compromise.” Still, presume that it’s true.

OK then. I usually leave the whip-counting to my friend David Dayen, who does it better than I possibly could. But a couple things. First, who’s really going to vote against the Afghanistan war funding request, which is the legislative vehicle for the money for shutting down the GTMO detention facility — thereby calling into question whether the White House needs Graham to close GTMO in the first place. I know, I know, that’s being tragically literal: the White House just wants to work with Graham on a variety of stuff, from climate change to immigration reform to all manner of other things that no Republicans will vote for. This is the choice.

But that brings the second point. Say the opposition to closing Guantanamo — will John McCain prove to be against it after he’s been for it? — results in either a) the Thomson-purchase funding gets stripped from the Afghanistan request or b) somehow manages to provoke a credible filibuster threat to the Afghanistan funding request. How many progressive Democrats are going to back a bill that paves the way for a military commission for KSM in exchange for entrenching all the bad stuff (except for torture) making GTMO problematic in a new zip code? If Graham is really dedicated to getting the White House on a path to seek a coalition for a filibuster-proof majority — well, then, we’re in the legislative position that we’ve been in on health care or the jobs bill or whatever else, where everyone’s vote takes on outsized importance. So, if, say, progressives like Russ Feingold or Al Franken or whomever — Arlen Specter if Sestak keeps pressing him, perhaps — say they’re not going to vote for such a crummy deal, who knows what could happen. Just saying.

Ed Morrissey:

Why should we pay hundreds of millions of dollars to build the facility in Thomson?  It will have the very same kind of military commission courtroom as we built in Gitmo, for the very same purpose.  It will use the very same military commission system that Congress authorized three times, one that Graham insists will work and even the Obama administration agreed to use in several cases — and that can be conducted in Gitmo, too.  The processes and resources available to detainees in Thomson have been available to detainees in Gitmo for several years now.

So why spend the money and the time just to transport terrorists into the US?  Vanity, and not just presidential vanity, either.  Barack Obama may have spent three years claiming that Gitmo encourages terrorism, but he wasn’t the only one — Graham spouted the same nonsense, too, as did Democrats and a few other Republicans.  What exactly is the evidence for this, other than the proclamations of a few politicians?  Terrorism existed before Gitmo opened; we have a massive hole in the ground in Manhattan to testify to that.  It will exist regardless of where we hold detainees.  The terrorists are not at war with us because of Gitmo, and the suggestion that they are is absurd.

Adam Serwer at Tapped:

Take with the necessary salt, given that so much of it is off the record.

I will say that if this is just about closing Gitmo, it’s a profoundly stupid idea–and with the climate bill and immigration reform in the balance, it’s probably not just about Gitmo–but for reasons that I’ll explain I still think it’s a bad offer. The money for closing Gitmo, as Spencer Ackerman points out, is in the Afghanistan war funding request, so filibustering it would be incredibly bad politics. Graham’s partners won’t even name themselves, so it’s unclear this deal is coming along with anyone but Graham. Worse, trying KSM in a military commission might mean putting off a trial of any kind indefinitely because of possible constitutional challenges.


The KSM trial is an opportunity to banish–or at least diminish–the totemic power of al Qaeda terrorists, a power which for narrow political reasons the Republican Party has worked to enhance. I disagree with Wittes in that I think our current legal structure is entirely adequate, but I also don’t see how a “better” one could be constructed in a climate of the kind of paralyzing fear that makes us afraid to try murderers in own legal system.Wittes point on the “rule of law message” is well taken. Part of the problem the administration is having here is that it has no consistent message to offer.

Paul Mirengoff at Powerline:

Lindsey Graham has been called a RINO (Republican in name only). The label doesn’t fit because he votes with Republicans most of the time. But to me, Graham is worse than the RINOs because, unlike that breed, he comes from a rock-ribbed conservative state.

A South Carolina Senate seat is a terrible thing to waste on a squishy figure like Graham, who mindlessly subscribes to portions of the liberal narrative and relishes opportunities to stick it to conservative Republicans.

UPDATE: Sen. Graham’s office is disputing the WSJ’s report that a deal is close. It claims that that “we’re not near a deal.”

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The Technical Term Is “Oopsy-Doopsie”

Kathryn Jean Lopez at The Corner:

After not responding to NRO for comment, the Department of Justice did respond to Fox News yesterday about our Burck/Perino piece on Eric Holder’s non-disclosure of his Jose Padilla amicus briefs during his confirmation hearings.

It’s not like these were dental records Eric Holder left out. It’s a little more than “unfortunate.” It’s disingenuous. And it just happens to be about our national security. And he just happens to be attorney general now.

Andy McCarthy at The Corner:

K-Lo, I think this crusade against the attorney general that you and Bill and Dana are on is just shameful, and if I were a GOP Beltway Barrister, why I’d be pulling the gang together this very minute for a group preen, a quick letter, and maybe a few guest spots on MSNBC’s Countdown — you know, to raise the tone of our public discourse.

Look, I don’t know if John Adams ever accidentally forgot to remember one of his briefs in the Boston Massacre case, but Mr. Holder was clearly acting in the proud tradition of lawyers who zealously represent their unpopular clients themselves by accidentally, mistakenly omitting, inadvertently of course, to include, er, unpopular information in response to a document demand.

And what’s the big whup anyway? Padilla was an obscure case — it’s not like anyone in the country was talking about an American citizen dispatched by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to carry out a second wave of post-9/11 mass-murder attacks on U.S. soil. It’s not as if Holder’s predecessor as attorney general had written a 100-page legal opinion as a district judge presiding over Padilla’s case. And it’s not as though we’re in a situation where, only two months ago, the attorney general’s memory might have been jogged by, say, writing a five-page letter discussing the Padilla case at length and in a manner strikingly similar to the arguments in the missing brief — and it’s certainly not as if such a letter was prompted by the fact that the attorney general had ordered that the Christmas bomber be Mirandized and charged in the criminal justice system . . . just like he argued in the brief should have happened to Padilla.

Furthermore, you know full well that if this sort of inadvertent accidental totally innocent oversight had happened to, say, John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales, or Michael Mukasey, the Senate Judiciary Committee would have completely understood that these very unfortunate accidental honest mistakes happen all the time.

John McCormarck at The Weekly Standard:

In response to the news that AG Eric Holder failed to disclose a brief he signed in support of detainee Jose Padilla, Sen. Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, released this statement:

“I am deeply concerned by Attorney General Holder’s failure to disclose to the Judiciary Committee his third-party brief in support of Jose Padilla’s Supreme Court case.  Not only was the Attorney General required to provide the brief as part of his confirmation but the opinions expressed in it go to the heart of his responsibilities in matters of national security.  This is an extremely serious matter and the Attorney general will have to address it.”

Department of Justice spokesman Matt Miller, formerly a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said yesterday: “In preparing thousands of pages for submission, it was unfortunately and inadvertently missed.”

Michelle Malkin:


GOP Sen. Sessions is “deeply concerned.” Unfortunately, Sen. Sessions was one of the 19 GOP Senators who misguidedly gave Holder the benefit of the doubt and voted to confirm him.

It’s not like they hadn’t been forewarned of Holder’s “forgetfulness.”

Let me remind you that before his confirmation, Holder “forgot” to mention that disgraced former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich had appointed him to probe corruption in the state’s casino licensing decisions. Holder pocketed $300,000 and — surprise, surprise — concluded that no corruption existed.

Bill Burck and Dana Perino at National Review:

In the brief — whose primary author, incidentally, was Robert Litt, at the time a prominent attorney at a major D.C. law firm and now appointed by President Obama as the intelligence community’s top lawyer — Holder and company made the argument that traditional law-enforcement tools, such as wiretaps, search warrants, Mirandized questioning, and the like, have served the nation’s security well and were sufficient to do the job. The government need not resort, they argued, to holding terrorists caught in the U.S. as enemy combatants, with no right to a criminal trial or to remain silent or to counsel during questioning, particularly if they are U.S. citizens.

The brief contains some candid admissions we haven’t heard from Holder since he took office: “It may be true that in some instances the government will not be able to obtain information from citizens who are informed of their right to counsel, or that obtaining that information may be delayed.” The authors do cite an academic study purporting to show that two-thirds of suspects provide incriminating information after being read their rights — but this suggests, of course, that one-third did not. Maybe that’s okay for criminals, but the prospect of one out of three suspected terrorists not cooperating is far from reassuring.

Whatever the numbers are, the brief leaves no doubt that Holder views the loss of intelligence information as sometimes an acceptable tradeoff because, to quote from the brief again, “as a Nation we have chosen to place some limits on Executive authority in order to protect individual authority.” Pre-Obama Holder well appreciated that under some circumstances, treating terrorists like criminal defendants may be less protective of national security than treating them like enemies of the United States. But he was willing to take the risk to reduce what he perceived as possible abuses of power by the executive branch.

The most illuminating statement on this point comes a bit later in the brief:

[We] recognize that these limitations might impede the investigation of a terrorist offense in some circumstances. It is conceivable that, in some hypothetical situation, despite the array of powers described above, the government might be unable to detain a dangerous terrorist or to interrogate him or her effectively. But this is an inherent consequence of the limitation of Executive power. No doubt many other steps could be taken that would increase our security, and could enable us to prevent terrorist attacks that might otherwise occur. But our Nation has always been prepared to accept some risk as the price of guaranteeing that the Executive does not have arbitrary power to imprison citizens.”

The brief does not specifically quantify what level of risk the nation should be willing to accept. Perhaps it is 33 percent, reflecting the one-third of people who don’t cooperate after being Mirandized. Or maybe it’s something like the 20 percent of detainees released from Guantanamo who return to the fight, which, the president’s top counterterrorism adviser John Brennan said, “isn’t that bad” compared to the 50 percent recidivism rate of criminals.

Conn Carroll at Heritage:

Attorney General Eric Holder may be our nation’s top law enforcement officer, but he is also a political appointee subject to Senate confirmation. The United States Senate should have been informed about what Holder views as ‘acceptable’ and ‘unacceptable’ risks to national security. Holder, the Department of Justice, and the White House all owe the American people a believable explanation as to why Holder failed to disclose these views.

Paul Mirengoff at Powerline

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