Bush Compromised

President Bush has never been big on compromise. Whenever he spoke of bipartisanship, it always seemed to mean that Democrats should give him exactly what he demanded. But this week he described what I’d consider to be a very big compromise he made, and it seems he didn’t even realize it.

In his farewell address a few nights ago, he made the following statements to explain the idea (or at least what he currently claims to be the idea) behind his invasion of Iraq:

Bush smilingAs we address these challenges — and others we cannot foresee tonight — America must maintain our moral clarity. I’ve often spoken to you about good and evil, and this has made some uncomfortable. But good and evil are present in this world, and between the two of them there can be no compromise. Murdering the innocent to advance an ideology is wrong every time, everywhere. Freeing people from oppression and despair is eternally right. This nation must continue to speak out for justice and truth. We must always be willing to act in their defense — and to advance the cause of peace.

In her column in today’s New York Times, Maureen Dowd commented on that statement:

It’s astonishing that, as banks continue to fail and Americans continue to lose jobs and homes, W. was obtuse enough to go on TV and give a canned ode to can-do-ism. “Good and evil are present in this world,” he reiterated, “and between the two of them there can be no compromise.”

He gives the good-and-evil view of things a bad name. Good and evil are not like the Redskins and the Cowboys. Good and evil intermingle in the same breath, let alone the same society. A moral analysis cannot be a simplistic analysis.

But I think she missed the most obvious irony in what Bush said. Look at the three sentences in the middle of Bush’s paragraph:

But good and evil are present in this world, and between the two of them there can be no compromise.

Murdering the innocent to advance an ideology is wrong every time, everywhere.

Freeing people from oppression and despair is eternally right.

All three sentences involve absolutes: no compromise, wrong every time, everywhere, eternally right. There’s no wiggle room in any of those sentences.

The concept that freeing people from oppression and despair is eternally right is an ideology. Bush tends to use the word “ideology” in a pejorative sense, but it really just means a system of beliefs. Bush believes in spreading freedom. That’s part of his ideology.

He sought to advance that ideology by invading Iraq. And of course when you go to war, people get killed, including civilians. That’s certainly the case with the war in Iraq. Innocents were killed in Bush’s effort to advance his ideology of spreading freedom.

So in doing something that he views as “eternally right,” (that is, good) he had to do something he views as “wrong every time, everywhere” (evil).

It seems to me that that’s a compromise between good and evil — something he claims can’t exist.

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What Lies Beneath

This may take a while to load, and it’s of rather low technical quality, but what the hey — give it a try. I tried turning it into a video file, but the supposedly transparent background (with the speckly bits I failed to remove) turned black when I opened it in Camtasia. It seems that once you’ve exported the hundred or so layers you’ve created to ImageReady, it’s too late to fix the background. That meant that I couldn’t add the sound effects I’d been planning (an opening “My friends,” a popcorn pop for each bandage going on, a nice tearing noise for their removal, and maybe some evil cackling for the big surprise ending), but that’s OK, since I’ve already blown the evening on this thing. The “special effects” for the Bottoms Up, Johnny post only took a couple of minutes and came out a hell of a lot better, it seems to me. So, not so long story about as short as I can make it, I’ve just uploaded it as a gif. Enjoy!


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Angie and Barack Sitting in a Tree

You all remember this lovely metaphor for America’s relationship with our close ally, Germany, during the Bush administration:
Bush tries to massage Angela Merkel

It looks like, should all go according to plan, things are going to be different in the future. According to Reuters, Angela Merkel was asked yesterday, before she’d met Barack Obama, what she thought of him.

Merkel responded: “I would say that he is well-equipped — physically, mentally and politically.”

Physically? Um… OK.

She was further asked, in reference to the image above, whether she expected more massages from the next American president.

“That’s not really up to me,” she joked. “But I wouldn’t resist.”

Heh. Just what are we supposed to make of that? I’m hoping she’s just toying with the media’s preoccupation with personality and celebrity rather than real political issues. I really, really hope that’s it, because I’d hate to think Merkel’s thinking of relations with a US president who’s… hot. Because when I think of that, I feel like this:
Bush tries to massage Angela Merkel

Ein Tipp der Hut to Blue Gal.

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There’s Only One Helen Thomas

Helen Thomas…and that’s a damn shame. It seems Thomas is the only member of the White House press corps who cares about the truth and holding the administration’s feet to the fire.

Have a look at Thomas’ interaction with Dana Perino at yesterday’s press briefing:

Thomas: The President has said publicly several times, in two consecutive news conferences a few months ago, and you have said over and over again, we do not torture. Now he has admitted that he did sign off on torture, he did know about it. So how do you reconcile this credibility gap?

Perino: Helen, you’re taking liberties with the what the President said. The United States has not, is not torturing any detainees in the global war on terror. And General Hayden, amongst others, have spoken on Capitol Hill fully in this regard, and it is — I’ll leave it where it is. The President is accurate in saying what he said.

Thomas: That’s not my question. My question is, why did he state publicly, we do not torture –

Perino: Because we do not.

Thomas: when he really did know that we do?

Perino: No, that’s what I mean, Helen. We’ve talked about the legal authorities –

Thomas: Are you saying that we did not?

Perino: I am saying we did not, yes.

Thomas: How can you when you have photographs and everything else? I mean, how can you say that when he admits that he knew about it?

Perino: Helen, I think that you’re — again, I think you’re conflating some issues and you’re misconstruing what the President said.

Thomas: I’m asking for the credibility of this country, not just this administration.

Perino: And what I’m telling you is we have — torture has not occurred. And you can go back through all the public record. Just make sure — I would just respectfully ask you not to misconstrue what the President said.

Thomas: You’re denying, in this room, that we torture and we have tortured?

Perino: Yes, I am denying that.

Elaine, did you have one?

[other reporter]: I have one on Zimbabwe, actually.

Thomas: Where is everybody?

The best video I could find doesn’t include Thomas’ last line, but you can see how she feels about the situation:

It’s a sad situation when you not only have the administration simply lying about its crimes, and only a single journalist is willing to challenge them on it. I’m sure Thomas knows she’s right, but I wonder if she knows how much she’s appreciated.

Some of the folks at reddit have come up with the right idea: let’s all send her flowers.

Here’s her office address:
Helen Thomas
c/o Hearst Newspapers, Washington Bureau
700 12th St. NW Suite 1000
Washington, DC 20005

If enough people do this, I think that we’ll not only demonstrate our appreciation, but it might even become a story in and of itself, which will give Thomas the opportunity to tell the rest of the media the background of the story — that the administration continues to lie about torture in spite of the irrefutable evidence that it has happened.

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Save Us, Dubsy!

I love this thing. I saw it at Crooks and Liars, and they got it from my.break.com. Spread the love, people. Let’s viralofy this bugger.

Bush Worried About New Threat

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Congressional Democrats Utterly Impotent

George BushLet’s have ourselves a little history lesson. The became law in 1978. It was intended to regulate searches and surveillance on sources of foreign intelligence in order to protect American citizens from having their civil rights infringed on. How was it to work?

FISA provides two documents for the authorization of surveillance. First, FISA allows the Justice Department to obtain warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) before or up to 72 hours after the beginning of the surveillance. FISA authorizes a FISC judge to issue a warrant for the electronic cameras if “there is probable cause to believe that… the target of the electronic surveillance is a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power.” 50 U.S.C. §1805(a)(3). Second, FISA permits the President or his delegate to authorize warrantless surveillance for the collection of foreign intelligence if “there is no substantial likelihood that the surveillance will acquire the contents of any communication to which a United States person is a party”. 50 U.S.C. §1802(a)(1).

A lot of civil libertarians were pretty upset over this. After all, we’re talking about a secret court authorizing secret surveillance, and the Justice Department didn’t even have to wait for the court to authorize their activities before they started.

Fast forward to 2001, when (say it with me) September 11 changed everything.

The White House put through an executive order authorizing the NSA to begin tapping phone calls without either gaining permission from the FISC in advance, or even letting them know about it before the 72 hour deadline. Why? Apparently, it was because September 11 changed everything. The White House felt that they needed to be able to move quickly against threats, and that FISA was just too slow and clumsy to keep up with them. They never really explained why a law that allowed them to go ahead and bug people and then get permission three days later was too slow, but it was probably just because, you know, September 11 changed everything.

On to August of 2006:

On August 17, 2006 U.S. District Court Judge Anna Diggs Taylor ruled in ACLU v. NSA that the Terrorist Surveillance Program was unconstitutional under the Fourth and First Amendments and enjoined the NSA from using the program to conduct electronic surveillance “in contravention of [FISA or Title III]“.In her ruling, she wrote:

The President of the United States, a creature of the same Constitution which gave us these Amendments, has indisputably violated the Fourth in failing to procure judicial orders as required by FISA, and accordingly has violated the First Amendment Rights of these Plaintiffs as well.

Of course, the judge failed to take into account that September 11 changed everything.

So we found ourselves in a situation where the executive branch requested that the legislature clarify FISA — basically to give them more latitude, by allowing the Attorney General to make the final decision as to whether surveillance was justified in each case. But the Democrats took the majority (albeit a narrow one) in both houses of Congress last year. Of course, they would fight this effort.

Then again, this is the same Democratic majority that folded on Bush’s funding request for the war in Iraq, despite the fact that they were swept into office on a wave of dissatisfaction and anger over Bush and his war. In other words, the public gave them the majority to stop Bush.

Well, they’ve done it again. First the Senate, and then the House voted to approve Bush’s plan. The only compromise, if you can call it that, is that in six months they’re going to revisit the issue. In other words, in six months they’ll wimp out and approve this crap all over again.

Do they not understand what’s going on here? Their majority isn’t big enough to overturn a presidential veto. I get that. But their majority is big enough to stop Bush’s programs from being approved. When he says they’re endangering Americans and emboldening the enemy (because September 11 changed everything), they have to clearly and loudly respond by stating that he is lying in order to keep us afraid so that he can continue to strip away what’s left of our civil rights. They mustn’t give him an inch.

So they just roll over and let him have everything. Fucking everything.

Some people say the Democrats are doing this in order to make it clear that this is Bush’s war, thus giving them a political advantage in next year’s election. Bullshit. Do they give a damn about the country at all? You don’t stand by and let these people eviscerate the Constitution in order to have something to put in your negative ads.

Rush D. Holt, a representative from New Jersey, is quoted as follows:

I’m not comfortable suspending the constitution even temporarily. The countries we detest around the world are the ones that spy on their own people. Usually they say they do it for the sake of public safety and security.

I can’t understand how a single member of the Democratic party could vote for this. It’s absolutely disgusting, and folding because of fear mongering and a threat to have your vacation delayed is just cowardly.

To hell with them.

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The Incredible Folding Democrats

It’s 2:30 am on Thursday, and I’m fucking livid over the way the Democratic leadership completely folded on the issue of funding Bush’s war. And what do they have to say about it? I go to the party’s site and there’s no mention of it on the home page. The latest blog post is ten days old and it’s about DoD blocking soldiers from accessing YouTube and MySpace. There are three press releases dated May 23, but their headlines are:

  • Statement by DNC Chairman Howard Dean on the Kentucky Primary
  • McCain’s Missed Votes Elicit Call for His Resignation From Home-state Republican
  • Giuliani’s Credibility Crumbles As Granite State Voters Learn More About His Influence-Peddling Ways

Maybe there’s something about it The Gavel, the blog published by Pelosi’s office… Nope. They’ve got “International Climate Cooperation” and a bunch of clips from Monica Goodling’s testimony. Not a word about this.

Next attempt: democrats.com. Is that an official party site? No, their “About” page says

Democrats.com is an independent community of Democratic Party activists. We proudly support the Democratic National Committee (http://democrats.org) and its chairman Howard Dean.

Democrats.com was launched at the 2000 Democratic convention in Los Angeles by two veteran Democratic consultants Bob Fertik and David Lytel. (Lytel left at the end of 2002 to launch ReDefeatBush.com.)

Our vision was to create the leading news and community Web site for the progressive base of the Democratic Party, in order to lead the fight against the radical right and the Republican Party. We called ourselves the “Aggressive Progressives.”

So what do the Aggressive Progressives have to say about this?

Why did Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi surrender to Bush on the Iraq War Supplemental? Not because they wanted to – both Reid and Pelosi are passionately opposed to the war. Unfortunately, there are simply not enough Democrats and Republicans in Congress who are willing to join them in standing up to Bush.

More importantly, what can we do to change those numbers? How can we get pro-war Democrats and Republicans to change and vote against the war?

We thought we sent Congress a loud-and-clear message in 2006 when we swept pro-war Republicans out and swept anti-war Democrats in. Unfortunately a majority in Congress didn’t get the message, so we have to do it again in 2008.

Harry ReidNovember of 2008. Are they fucking kidding? If the votes aren’t there, then obviously we have to wait to get the votes. That’s not the point. The Democratic leadership knows full well why they were given the majority: the war. Their job is to do everything in their power to stop the war. If they can’t stop the war, that doesn’t mean they should sit back and tell us all to wait for the next election. How many people are going to die between now and then?

Nancy PelosiIt’s an absolute betrayal for them to simply give up like this. They need to keep this in front of absolutely everything else. Even if Bush isn’t bluffing, they still have to call him on it by not allowing a bill that gives him what he wants to get to his desk. Keep sending him bills to veto, and don’t let him spread the lie that you’re endangering the troops by doing so. The nation wants the war over, and it’s your job to keep hammering that message into the heads of anyone in DC who’s either detached, dishonest, or dumb enough to see it any other way.

Olbermann, as usual, says it better than I do:

This is, in fact, a comment about… betrayal.

Few men or women elected in our history — whether executive or legislative, state or national — have been sent into office with a mandate more obvious, nor instructions more clear:

Get us out of Iraq.

Yet after six months of preparation and execution — half a year gathering the strands of public support; translating into action, the collective will of the nearly 70 percent of Americans who reject this War of Lies, the Democrats have managed only this:

  • The Democratic leadership has surrendered to a president — if not the worst president, then easily the most selfish, in our history — who happily blackmails his own people, and uses his own military personnel as hostages to his asinine demand, that the Democrats “give the troops their money”;
  • The Democratic leadership has agreed to finance the deaths of Americans in a war that has only reduced the security of Americans;
  • The Democratic leadership has given Mr. Bush all that he wanted, with the only caveat being, not merely meaningless symbolism about benchmarks for the Iraqi government, but optional meaningless symbolism about benchmarks for the Iraqi government.
  • The Democratic leadership has, in sum, claimed a compromise with the Administration, in which the only things truly compromised, are the trust of the voters, the ethics of the Democrats, and the lives of our brave, and doomed, friends, and family, in Iraq.

You, the men and women elected with the simplest of directions — Stop The War — have traded your strength, your bargaining position, and the uniform support of those who elected you… for a handful of magic beans.
You may trot out every political cliché from the soft-soap, inside-the-beltway dictionary of boilerplate sound bites, about how this is the “beginning of the end” of Mr. Bush’s “carte blanche” in Iraq, about how this is a “first step.”
Well, Senator Reid, the only end at its beginning… is our collective hope that you and your colleagues would do what is right, what is essential, what you were each elected and re-elected to do.
Because this “first step”… is a step right off a cliff.

And this President!
How shameful it would be to watch an adult… hold his breath, and threaten to continue to do so, until he turned blue.
But how horrifying it is… to watch a President hold his breath and threaten to continue to do so, until innocent and patriotic Americans in harm’s way, are bled white.
You lead this country, sir?
You claim to defend it?
And yet when faced with the prospect of someone calling you on your stubbornness — your stubbornness which has cost 3,431 Americans their lives and thousands more their limbs — you, Mr. Bush, imply that if the Democrats don’t give you the money and give it to you entirely on your terms, the troops in Iraq will be stranded, or forced to serve longer, or have to throw bullets at the enemy with their bare hands.
How transcendentally, how historically, pathetic.
Any other president from any other moment in the panorama of our history would have, at the outset of this tawdry game of political chicken, declared that no matter what the other political side did, he would insure personally — first, last and always — that the troops would not suffer.
A President, Mr. Bush, uses the carte blanche he has already, not to manipulate an overlap of arriving and departing Brigades into a ‘second surge,’ but to say in unequivocal terms that if it takes every last dime of the monies already allocated, if it takes reneging on government contracts with Halliburton, he will make sure the troops are safe — even if the only safety to be found, is in getting them the hell out of there.
Well, any true President would have done that, Sir.
You instead, used our troops as political pawns, then blamed the Democrats when you did so.

Not that these Democrats, who had this country’s support and sympathy up until 48 hours ago, have not since earned all the blame they can carry home.

“We seem to be very near the bleak choice between war and shame,” Winston Churchill wrote to Lord Moyne in the days after the British signed the Munich accords with Germany in 1938. “My feeling is that we shall choose shame, and then have war thrown in, a little later…”

That’s what this is for the Democrats, isn’t it?

Their “Neville Chamberlain moment” before the Second World War.
All that’s missing is the landing at the airport, with the blinkered leader waving a piece of paper which he naively thought would guarantee “peace in our time,” but which his opponent would ignore with deceit.
The Democrats have merely streamlined the process.
Their piece of paper already says Mr. Bush can ignore it, with impugnity.

And where are the Democratic presidential hopefuls this evening?
See they not, that to which the Senate and House leadership has blinded itself?

Judging these candidates based on how they voted on the original Iraq authorization, or waiting for apologies for those votes, is ancient history now.

The Democratic nomination is likely to be decided… tomorrow.
The talk of practical politics, the buying into of the President’s dishonest construction “fund-the-troops-or-they-will-be-in-jeopardy,” the promise of tougher action in September, is falling not on deaf ears, but rather falling on Americans who already told you what to do, and now perceive your ears as closed to practical politics.
Those who seek the Democratic nomination need to — for their own political futures and, with a thousand times more solemnity and importance, for the individual futures of our troops — denounce this betrayal, vote against it, and, if need be, unseat Majority Leader Reid and Speaker Pelosi if they continue down this path of guilty, fatal acquiescence to the tragically misguided will of a monomaniacal president.

For, ultimately, at this hour, the entire government has failed us.

  • Mr. Reid, Mr. Hoyer, and the other Democrats… have failed us.
    They negotiated away that which they did not own, but had only been entrusted by us to protect: our collective will as the citizens of this country, that this brazen War of Lies be ended as rapidly and safely as possible.
  • Mr. Bush and his government… have failed us.
    They have behaved venomously and without dignity — of course.
    That is all at which Mr. Bush is gifted.
    We are the ones providing any element of surprise or shock here.

With the exception of Senator Dodd and Senator Edwards, the Democratic presidential candidates have (so far at least) failed us.

They must now speak, and make plain how they view what has been given away to Mr. Bush, and what is yet to be given away tomorrow, and in the thousand tomorrows to come.

Because for the next fourteen months, the Democratic nominating process — indeed the whole of our political discourse until further notice — has, with the stroke of a cursed pen, become about one thing, and one thing alone.
The electorate figured this out, six months ago.
The President and the Republicans have not — doubtless will not.
The Democrats will figure it out, during the Memorial Day recess, when they go home and many of those who elected them will politely suggest they stay there — and permanently.
Because, on the subject of Iraq…
The people have been ahead of the media….
Ahead of the government…
Ahead of the politicians…
For the last year, or two years, or maybe three.

Our politics… is now about the answer to one briefly-worded question.
Mr. Bush has failed.
Mr. Warner has failed.
Mr. Reid has failed.
Who among us will stop this war — this War of Lies?
To he or she, fall the figurative keys to the nation.
To all the others — presidents and majority leaders and candidates and rank-and-file Congressmen and Senators of either party — there is only blame… for this shameful, and bi-partisan, betrayal.

I know, Pelosi is against this, and she’s not going to vote for it. She’s the speaker. She shouldn’t allow this crap to come up for a vote.

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