Rep. Jim McDermott speaks…and offers silence:
(Also: The Friday Night Multimedia Extravaganza is up.)
What kind of craziness do you get when you combine a Reagan-appointed former commandant of the Marine Corps with a former lawyer in the Reagan White House and give them space in the Washington Post to commenting on George W. Bush’s recent Executive Order on detainee treatment?
Let’s begin with the title: War Crimes and the White House.
And the subtitle: The Dishonor in a Tortured New ‘Interpretation’ of the Geneva Conventions.
It gets worse for Bush from there:
But we cannot in good conscience defend a decision that we believe has compromised our national honor and that may well promote the commission of war crimes by Americans and place at risk the welfare of captured American military forces for generations to come.
Last Friday, the White House issued an executive order attempting to “interpret” Common Article 3 [of the 1949 Geneva Conventions] with respect to a controversial CIA interrogation program. The order declares that the CIA program “fully complies with the obligations of the United States under Common Article 3,” provided that its interrogation techniques do not violate existing federal statutes (prohibiting such things as torture, mutilation or maiming) and do not constitute “willful and outrageous acts of personal abuse done for the purpose of humiliating or degrading the individual in a manner so serious that any reasonable person, considering the circumstances, would deem the acts to be beyond the bounds of human decency.”
In other words, as long as the intent of the abuse is to gather intelligence or to prevent future attacks, and the abuse is not “done for the purpose of humiliating or degrading the individual” — even if that is an inevitable consequence — the president has given the CIA carte blanche to engage in “willful and outrageous acts of personal abuse.”
It is firmly established in international law that treaties are to be interpreted in “good faith” in accordance with the ordinary meaning of their words and in light of their purpose. It is clear to us that the language in the executive order cannot even arguably be reconciled with America’s clear duty under Common Article 3 to treat all detainees humanely and to avoid any acts of violence against their person.
Clearly, the Bush administration is finding itself sitting off in its own isolated corner of Neoconlandia.
Bush’s Executive Order is worthless under two circumstances. First, it is meaningless in the Hague and 192 other countries. War crimes are war crimes, regardless of any “Executive Order” whether from George Bush or Adolph Hitler (about which, more later).
Policymakers should also keep in mind that violations of Common Article 3 are “war crimes” for which everyone involved — potentially up to and including the president of the United States — may be tried in any of the other 193 countries that are parties to the conventions.
Secondly, the Executive Order is meaningless if a U.S. court declares it unconstitutional. Torturers torture at their own risk. After all, there will eventually (most likely sooner rather than later) be a new administration that isn’t driving under the influence of Cheney. And some of us expect—and will demand—that war criminals be prosecuted whether at home or abroad.
But why must we even be debating the limits of torture in America? Why do we have a President who dishonors all Americans—who injures our national sense of honor, who trashes our moral standing with the rest of the world—by parsing the Geneva Conventions in order to justify inhumane treatment of prisoners?
We’ve seen this kind of thing before–dismissal of international law in the name of national security. On 6 June 1941, Adolph Hitler signed an “Executive Order” called Instructions on the Treatment of Political Commissars (my emphasis):
In the struggle against Bolshevism, we must not assume that the enemy’s conduct will be based on principles of humanity or of international law. In particular, hate-inspired, cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners can be expected on the part of all grades of political commissars, who are the real leaders of resistance…To show consideration to these elements during this struggle, or to act in accordance with international rules of war, is wrong and endangers both our own security and the rapid pacification of conquered territory…Political commissars have initiated barbaric, Asiatic methods of warfare. Consequently, they will be dealt with immediately and with maximum severity. As a matter of principle, they will be shot at once, whether captured during operations or otherwise showing resistance.
So, replace Bolshevism with “Islamofascism,” replace political commissars with “enemy combatants,” replace Asiatic methods of warfare with “terrorism,” and you pretty much have a Bush stump speech. Of course, sometimes we ship ’em to detention centers and torture them instead of immediately shooting them, but the parallels are stunning.
I find it disgusting that my President of my America is justifying the torture of prisoners using the same rationale that Hitler used to ignore international law.
Given today’s Washington Post commentary, it looks like there are some Righties with significant concerns, too.
There can be little disagreement that the Bush administration is badly tarnishing the Republican brand. But does this damage actually affect whether or not people identify themselves as a Republican?
That is the question I examined at Hominid Views using current and historical poll data that reports party affiliation of respondents. At the national level the fraction who claim to be Democrats has been relatively stable over the last 3.5 years. But the fraction claiming to be Republican has been declining with a corresponding increase in the number of independents.
In Washington state, however, a subtly different pattern emerges over the last two years. Democratic party identity has increased substantially while both Republican and independent identity have declined. The most recent SurveyUSA poll recorded a Democratic affiliation for 40% of the respondents and Republican affiliation for 21% of the respondents. If real, that is a remarkable 2:1 advantage for Democrats!
Is this just an outlier? Perhaps this is the consequence of damage brought on by BushCo? Or maybe the Washington State Republican’s antics are causing real damage to the party?
I report, you decide. The graphical tour begins here.
If you find yourself in the Tri-Cities area this evening, check out McCranium for the local Drinking Liberally. Otherwise, check out the Drinking Liberally web site for dates and times at a chapter near you.
NOTE (from Goldy):
I’m filling in for Frank Shiers tonight from 9PM to 1AM on 710-KIRO, so while I’ll be stopping by early, I won’t be hanging out. FYI, my guests tonight will be former KIRO host Allan Prell at 9PM and KC Prosecutor candidate Bill Sherman at 10PM.
The FEC reports for the second quarter (1 Apr–30 Jun) are in. The result: Darcy Burner has raised more money than Dave Reichert (R-WA-08). She has also spent less money, and has more cash on hand.
Here is how Real Clear Politics describes it:
The NRCC may be concerned about three of their incumbents who raised less than $200,000 for the quarter. Washington Congressman Dave Reichert (R-WA 08) raised $192,000, while his 2006 opponent, businesswoman Darcy Burner (D), raised $199,000. Burner held on to $185,000, while Reichert retains $162,000.
The reason the NRCC should be concerned is because of Reichert’s anemic performance. The 19 Republicans enrolled in the NRCC’s (erronously titled) Retain Our Majority Program for vulnerable incumbents raised an average of $316,000 with an average of $455,000 in hand. It seems that Reichert’s fundraising prowess and fiscal management are not quite up to snuff.
Burner not only out-fundraised Reichert, but her campaign spent only 38% of what Reichert’s campaign spent (Reichert: $140,000; Burner: $53,000).
The contribution profile differs between the two candidates. Darcy raised $183,500 from individual contributions compared to Reichert’s $99,600. Nearly half of Reichert’s contributions ($92,800) came from political action committees; whereas, Burner took in only $16,000 in PAC contributions.
Reichert’s anemic fundraising is likely a symptom of voter dissatisfaction with the continued military operations in Iraq. That is, Reichert’s 100% support for Bush on Iraq is causing him the same difficulties that Presidential hopeful John McCain has. As Goldy pointed out earlier, Daniel Kirkdorffer at On the Road to 2008 predicts a Reichert flip-flop on the Iraq issue this coming September, right after the Petraeus report.
That might help his fundraising a bit. On the other hand, a Reichert flip-flop will highlight Reichert’s blind loyalty to Bush for three years in which thousands of U.S. soldiers died and tens of thousands were wounded.
I suspect voters will be ready for a change.
Bob Geiger reports on the…
…status of cosponsorship on the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2007, a bill by Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) that would “…restore habeas corpus for those detained by the United States.” At that point, the legislation had 23 cosponsors — 22 Democrats and Independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont — and I thought I would check back in today and see who has stepped up to show leadership on this issue since then.
The current list of sponsors includes Washington state’s junior Senator, Maria Cantwell. But, surprisingly, Sen. Patty Murray is absent from the list.
That means it is time for a letter….
Dear Sen. Murray,
One of the worst pieces of legislation in the history of America was the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that removed the right of habeas corpus from millions. There is now a bill introduced by Sen. Specter called the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2007 that will reverse this abomination.
This is an extremely important piece of legislation. It restores habeas corpus to non-citizens (including some 12 million permanent residents who, under the current law, can be held indefinitely and with no legal recourse), and allows them to challenge arbitrary detention in the U.S. court system.
I was surprised to see that you are not a cosponsor of this bill.
Please cosponsor this legislation, and do whatever it takes to enact it into law. Lets minimize this ugly blemish on American history.
Click here to send your own letter to Sen. Murray. Or call the toll-free number at the U.S. Capitol at (800) 862-5530, or Sen. Murray’s office directly at (202) 224-2621, or send a Fax to (202) 224-0238.
Naturally I was really busy on Thursday, on a news day replete with interesting Republican accomplishments. Here’s a recap….
First there was Bush’s report to Congress (and the nation) on “progress” in Iraq since the Surge™ began. Check out Fred Kaplin’s Slate piece on the “accomplishments” titled “You Call That Progress? The outrageous White House report on Iraq.” I sense skepticism.
President George W. Bush achieved something of his own “benchmark” when he tied Richard Nixon’s low mark in a recent Harris poll of presidential approval.
Florida Rep. Bob Allen (R-Men’s Room) shows that even Republicans can try earning $20 the good ol’ fashion way.
President George W. Bush creates more scandal by trying to fire someone.
Now 3600+ U.S. soldiers have given their life for
Saddam’s WMD Saddam’s role in 9-11-2001 stopping the Iraqi humanitarian crisis ousting Saddam training…er…fighting them over there oil somethin’ or the other that is really, really worthwhile.
Daniel at On the Road to 2008 noticed that Rep. Dave Reichert’s web site has carefully documented Reichert’s “record of independence and bi-partisan leadership.” Mmmmmm….impressive!
Republicans show their fund raising prowess by finishing somewhere in the top five.
Wingnut Pundit Jack Burkman demonstrates his commitment to small businesses.
President George W. Bush finally takes credit for his administration’s accomplishments in the Valerie Wilson covert dissemination case.
You gotta give them wingnuts credit…they’re always accomplishing stuff….
The media seems surprised that Fred Thompson used to be pro-choice. The LA Times broke the story on Saturday:
Fred D. Thompson, who is campaigning for president as an antiabortion Republican, accepted an assignment from a family-planning group to lobby the first Bush White House to ease a controversial abortion restriction, according to a 1991 document and several people familiar with the matter.
A spokesman for the former Tennessee senator denied that Thompson did the lobbying work. But the minutes of a 1991 board meeting of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Assn. say that the group hired Thompson that year.
His task was to urge the administration of President George H. W. Bush to withdraw or relax a rule that barred abortion counseling at clinics that received federal money, according to the records and to people who worked on the matter.
But Fred Thompson is just another Republican whose views on abortion apparently change with the political winds. I’ve found a number of articles published in the 1990s that suggest Thompson used to be pro-choice.
The New Republic article, published on 10 Apr 1995 (pg. 15) and subtitled “Meet Fred Thompson (R-Hollywood),” pointed out (emphasis added):
On the current Republican hot-button topics, [Fred Thompson] evinces just the right degree of political honesty. He’s pro-choice and is one of the few Republicans willing to broach the subject of cuts in Social Security. But he swaddles his words in soothing balm about not wanting to hurt the “old folks.” Not bad for a beginner. Good enough, even, to make him a distant but conceivable vice presidential pick in 1996.
By 1997, Newsweek (3 Feb, U.S. edition, pg. 30) points out that (emphasis added):
Thompson is hard to pin down politically. He refuses to announce a clear position on abortion (though he consistently votes pro-life).
A few months later, The Economist (July 12, 1997, U.S. edition, pg. 32) writes (emphasis added):
Though he has been in the Senate less than three years, and though the extent of his ambition is uncertain, Mr Thompson is a natural presidential hope. He is six foot six; he has a folksy charm; he is frequently compared to Ronald Reagan. […]
Mr Thompson’s fight against corrupt politics is attractive, to be sure; his open support for abortion choice in a party of abortion foes is politically courageous.
Should he run for POTUS, Fred will have to make up some Romneyesque bullshit story like an epiphany caused by the “obvious” immorality of stem cell research that changed his stance on abortion.
For now, Fred Thompson is just spewing bullshit without the epiphany. Responding to the LA Times piece at the Young Republicans National Convention on Saturday, Thompson said:
“I’d just say the flies get bigger in the summertime. I guess the flies are buzzing,” said Thompson, who is considering running for president as a social conservative. He refused comment on whether he recalled doing the work.
Basically, Fred, like Mitt, has changed his position on abortion. The difference is that Mitt at least made the effort to concoct a bullshit excuse, whereas Fred is just spewing utter bullshit.
There will be some gnashing of teeth by the Washington State Republicans to this July 3rd press release from Governor Gregoire:
Governor Chris Gregoire today designated the Washington Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) as a voter registration assistance agency and directed the agency to appoint a voter registration assistance officer, efficiently help citizens register to vote and work with the Secretary of State’s office to ensure compliance with established voter registration procedures.
“It is one of the primary duties of government to make available to all citizens the opportunity to register to vote and, if needed, provide registration assistance,” said Governor Gregoire. “Our social service agency serves a diverse group of people every day and therefore is an ideal place to help more Washingtonians register to vote.”
Governor Gregoire also encouraged all state agencies to provide on their web sites a link to the Secretary of State’s voter registration page and to consider other ways in which they might support and promote voter registration.
This is the way government ought to work. It should take concrete steps to maximize opportunities for all eligible citizens to exercise their constitutional right to vote. It is curious, then, that over the last decade the Republican Party has increasingly become the party of voter suppression and disenfranchisement. (Luke Esser looks prescient with his 20-year-old disenfranchisement satire.)
We saw the Republican vote suppression in action days before the 2005 election when Lori Sotelo (apparently inspired by a Karl Rove briefing, filed an error-prone series of voter challenges. Subsequently, the Washington State laws were changed to prevent such abuse.
Under the worst of circumstances, the Republican-sponsored disenfranchisement becomes operational through a Republican-controlled government…. In 2000, we saw a massive, and error prone disenfranchisement operation undertaken in Florida, under the supervision of Secretary of State Katherine Harris—an operation that almost certainly swung the presidential election by inappropriately purging thousands of African Americans from the voter rolls. A US Commission on Civil Rights report summarized it this way:
…poorly designed efforts to eliminate fraud, as well as sloppy and irresponsible implementation of those efforts, disenfranchise legitimate voters and can be a violation of the VRA. Florida’s overzealous efforts to purge voters from the rolls, conducted under the guise of an anti-fraud campaign, resulted in the inexcusable and patently unjust removal of disproportionate numbers of African American voters from Florida’s voter registration rolls for the November 2000 election.
African American voters were placed on purge lists more often and more erroneously than Hispanic or white voters. For instance, in the state’s largest county, Miami-Dade, more than 65 percent of the names on the purge list were African Americans, who represented only 20.4 percent of the population. Hispanics were 57.4 percent of the population, but only 16.6 percent of the purge list; whites were 77.6 percent of the population but 17.6 percent of those purged.
Florida easily could have, and should have, done much more to protect the voting rights of African Americans and other Floridians.
(They also found other ways that African American voters were disproportionately disenfranchised in Florida in 2000.)
On the face of it, the Republican problem seems to be paranoia, with the biggest cheerleader of paranoia being Karl Rove. Don’t you believe it. If there is anything that Republican strategists learned from the 2000 election is that disenfranchising voters works for Republicans! Karl Rove almost certainly knows he is feeding the Republican masses a load of horseshit.
Republican voter fraud “paranoia” is really theatre in two acts, designed to disenfranchise subpopulations that vote Democratic.
The first act shakes the confidence of ordinary voters in the election system—that is, it spreads paranoia through unfounded fears of widespread (presumably Democratic) election fraud.
We certainly saw this fear-mongering played out in Washington State in 2004. During the election contest trial, Republican lawyers opened with a bold statement about how they would prove election fraud. The trial proceeded without any evidence of election fraud being offered. Judge Bridges Oral Decision stated:
There is no evidence that anybody associated with any of the candidates in the governor’s race had anything to do with causing the errors. There is no evidence that has been produced in this Court to suggest that the errors resulted from partisan bias. During the 2004 general election, the various polling sites across the State were populated by inspectors, judges, Accuvote judges, observers, attorneys and the media. No testimony has been placed before the Court to suggest fraud or intentional misconduct. Election officials attempted to perform their responsibilities in a fair and impartial manner. There is no evidence before the Court to question ballot security as to those ballots actually counted.
The second act in the G.O.P. theatre is to make registration and/or voting more difficult for “certain voters.” That would be the poor, people of color, and people living in urban environments. You know, various schemes to cancel registrations, laws to require photo IDs at the polls, that sort of thing. These gimmicks particularly hit poor people of color—people that some Republicans believe shouldn’t even have a right to vote.
That is why Gregoire’s memo will cause some political consternation and constipation among state Republicans. We all know who uses DSHS: the same people Republicans build gated communities to keep out.
Tonight there will be another fun-filled meeting of the Seattle chapter of Drinking Liberally. I appeal to you to scooter on over and join us for an evening of politics under the influence. We meet at 8PM at the Montlake Ale House, 2307 24th Avenue E. Pardon the pun, but it’s an easy commute.
If you find yourself in the Tri-Cities area, there is a Drinking Liberally for you—Jimmy will have the details.
The Drinking Liberally web site has dates and times for 210 chapters in 44 states (plus DC). And if you don’t find a chapter near you…start one!
Editor & Publisher summarizes today’s editorials slamming President Bush for commuting convicted felon Scooter Libby’s sentence.
Here are a couple of poignant ones:
From the [New York] Times’ Tuesday editorial: “Mr. Bush’s assertion that he respected the verdict but considered the sentence excessive only underscored the way this president is tough on crime when it’s committed by common folk …
“Within minutes of the Libby announcement, the same Republican commentators who fulminated when Paris Hilton got a few days knocked off her time in a county lockup were parroting Mr. Bush’s contention that a fine, probation and reputation damage were ‘harsh punishment’ enough for Mr. Libby.
“Presidents have the power to grant clemency and pardons. But in this case, Mr. Bush did not sound like a leader making tough decisions about justice. He sounded like a man worried about what a former loyalist might say when actually staring into a prison cell.”
Seattle Post-Intelligencer: “President Bush’s commutation of a pal’s prison sentence counts as a most shocking act of disrespect for the U.S. justice system. It’s the latest sign of the huge repairs to American concepts of the rule of law that await the next president.”
San Jose Mercury News: “Other presidents have doled out pardons and the like, usually on the way out of office. It’s never pretty. But few have placed themselves above the law as Bush, Cheney and friends repeatedly have done by trampling civil liberties and denying due process. Chalk up another point for freedom. Scooter’s, at least.”
Read the rest of ’em here.