Wednesday, May 30, 2012

New Book, New Blog

I may come back to covering the U.S. Senate at some point but am now working on a book that focuses on the human aspect of  post-war America and, much more specifically, the real impact the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have had on two primary groups:  Returning war Vets and the families of those we lost in one of these wars.

I will be profiling Veterans who have returned home and what has happened, for better or worse, in their lives – their joys, struggles, victories and defeats.  I will also be taking an in-depth look at families who have had to make the sad adjustment to losing a loved one to war  -- and all that entails, emotionally, practically and even financially.

But, as I've done my homework, the project has expanded to include the consequences of all of this on distinct groups like interpreters, clergy, medical professionals and others who also served and have also been impacted by these wars.

This will all be written with the sensibilities of a Veteran as I am one myself.

So come on over to When The Shooting Stops.  It may not be as partisan as you've become accustomed to with me but, you never know,  doing the right thing by our Veterans and military families may just be something we can all agree on.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Not Disappearing… Just Not Back Yet

Being a political blogger would be an amazing way to make a living -- if only one could make a living doing it. Hell, I would probably settle for a partial living, a pittance even.

Alas, it pays nothing, while also consuming almost as much time as a full-time job. So I'm taking more time to focus on the corporate job that does pay -- and pay well at that -- and where I'm fortunate enough to have a great boss and interesting work for a good company.

I live and breathe politics and I love writing here and The Huffington Post. And I've made a lot of great friends in the progressive media and on Capitol Hill. But unless that nice Arianna Huffington is going to adopt me and pay me to do what I really love, my focus must remain elsewhere for now.

Blogging doesn't pay the mortgage and it sure doesn't help me be a more attentive father to my son when so much of my time is dictated by the daily news cycle. So, for right now at least, my attention needs to stay on my real, day-to-day life.

The support from my readers, friends and blogging colleagues has always meant so much to me and I thank you all for that.

If you're not already on my mailing list, please sign up if you want to receive the occasional note on what's happening with me next -- and don't worry, it will only be for significant news and not ongoing (and unwanted) e-mail.

Thanks for reading.


Monday, January 05, 2009

No Posting In January

Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Holidays… And a Short Break

I will be taking some time off over the holidays to spend time with family, relax, reflect on our tremendous victories in 2008 and look forward to the coming year. I hope you do the same. Happy Holidays to all of you and thank you for your support. will return with the 111th Congress and an exciting new political year on January 5, 2009.

Today In The Senate

The U.S. Senate is in recess and will be back in session on January 6, 2009, when the 111th Congress will convene.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Saturday Cartoons

* * * * *
Here's Mark Fiore with a timely version of 'Twas The Night Before Christmas -- "Corruption Christmas."

Click on the screenshot above or go here to see it.

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Our friends at Headzup show us Dick Cheney admitting to war crimes on national television:

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And you think Fox News is bad? This week, the best fake news on the web at The Onion breaks the story wide open about the Weather Channel and its clear "pro-weather bias."

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Finally, an added treat today… The game that's sweeping the Internet… Socks and Awe. Throw a shoe at Bush and ring up those points.

Click on the screenshot above or go here to play.

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Thanks to all who have come to visit from other sites -- I'm glad you're here. But please know that this blog is about far more than the Saturday cartoons. They're merely a diversion and provide a humorous take on what's really on our minds. I primarily cover the U.S. Senate but also write about presidential politics and White House activities as well. So please take a look around beyond the 'toons -- and come back soon.

All cartoons are posted with the artists' express permission to Please visit the following sites to see more work from these fine cartoonists:

Nick Anderson, Houston Chronicle
Tony Auth, The Philadelphia Inquirer
Jeff Danziger, Syndicated Political Cartoonist
Matt Davies, NY Journal News
Walt Handelsman, Newsday
Paul Jamiol, Jamiol's World
Chan Lowe, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Mike Luckovich, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Jim Morin, Miami Herald
Steve Sack, Minneapolis Star Tribune
Bill Sanders, Retired Syndicated Cartoonist
Ben Sargent, Austin American-Statesman
Todd Umbarger, Political Cartoonist and Illustrator

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Reader Asks That I Reconsider Obama-Warren

I stopped publicly answering reader mail quite some time ago -- I generally only did it years ago to make fun of right-wingers sending me hate mail -- but I got a note from Michael Rapaport of Brooklyn, New York who had some interesting comments on me and much of the Progressive media jumping Barack Obama for selecting homophobe Rick Warren to give the opening prayer on Inauguration Day.

Yes, I have Michael's permission to use his name and his full message and, no, I'm not going to make fun of it -- I thought he gently raised a point worthy of discussion and it's representative of many e-mails I received yesterday.

Here's Michael:
Bob, I understand your sentiments when you wrote that article asking what was Barack thinking with the selection. I am a 61 year old individual who can't believe I lived to see the day when someone like Barack could be elected. It made all the dreams I've had since I worked in Bobby Kennedy's campaign come true.

However, please look at what Barack's selection is really saying. The first task our new POTUS will have is to bring us all together after our beloved nation has been purposefully rendered apart for the past eight years for the most nefarious of reasons. It is why I wonder how truly progressive those who call themselves "progressives" really are. No POTUS has ever entered office facing the humongous challenges facing Obama and instead of criticizing him I think it is time we get behind him.
Fair enough, Michael, and I agree to some extent with the spirit of what you're saying. I've spent no time at all criticizing some of President-elect Obama's cabinet selections that may have raised my eyebrows, including retaining Robert Gates as Defense Secretary. While I'm inclined to say Obama should start fresh as he moves to end the Iraq debacle, I'm willing to concede that Gates is undoubtedly clear on Obama's intent to leave Iraq and will follow the Commander-in-Chief's directive. I also give Obama credit for wanting to begin the withdrawal with as little upheaval as possible at the Defense Department.

I'm also mindful of the huge challenges Obama is inheriting and the extent to which he needs support and not sniping from his own side of the political divide and, the fact is, I donated money and worked hard to help elect the man. I believe in him and I believe he will be a great president.

I say all of this to point out that I'm as far from an Obama basher as you'll find and hated even having to write my piece yesterday -- and I strongly considered not posting it precisely for the points you raise.

But this situation is different and his choice of Warren does anything but bring us together as a people.

Obama is not including someone from the other side of the aisle who has a mere philosophical difference with Progressives/Liberals and who, for example, may take a different stance on Iraq or stem cell research than we do. On this day of national pride and celebration, he's chosen to include someone who believes that a certain portion of our population should be demonized and deprived of the same rights enjoyed by other Americans.

The President-elect has picked someone to share center stage with him on January 20th who is, tacitly, a self-proclaimed bigot, who strongly supports discrimination against the gay community and who believes gay folks are something less than the rest of us.

It is as simple as that and, the last time I looked, that kind of bigotry was considered downright un-American.

What Warren believes is not exactly the same as the ugliness we saw during the Civil Rights struggle but it's damn close. And Rick Warren is someone who essentially takes the same approach toward gay people, based simply on their sexual orientation, as George Wallace, Bull Connor and that whole Cracker Brigade took against African-Americans in the 1960s.

So I appreciate what you're saying, Michael, and the support you believe we should all show for Barack Obama as he charts some incredibly tough waters ahead. As I said, I believe he will be a great president and that as the next few years unfold, I will feel far more pride and solidarity with him than I will disappointment.

But that doesn’t make choosing a known bigot to speak on Inauguration Day something we can ignore. Barack Obama will be taking that oath of office on January 20th because the majority of Americans, as Dr. King longed for, looked at the content of his character and not the color of his skin.

Our gay family, friends and neighbors deserve nothing less than the same standard of decency.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Rick Warren??? What Is Team Obama Thinking?

Even through my utter euphoria at Barack Obama being elected president, I knew there would be times in the coming years when I would disagree with certain decisions and policy stances taken by our new Democratic president. That's a natural thing -- I just didn’t think one of those moments would come a month before he's even sworn into office.

The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, has announced a good program to usher in the Obama presidency on January 20th that, most unfortunately, includes rabid homophobe Rick Warren giving the opening prayer.

Warren is a prominent evangelical and founded the Saddleback Church in Southern California, strongly supported California's ugly Proposition 8 and has long fought against gay rights saying that "this is not a political issue — it is a moral issue that God has spoken clearly about."

He will give the invocation after Inaugural Committee Chairwoman, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) calls the event to order.

My friend Pam Spaulding at Pam's House Blend has some excellent coverage going on at her site and brings us some failed spin control from the Obama transition team from spokeswoman Linda Douglas: "This is going to be the most inclusive, open, accessible inauguration in American history," said Douglas. "The president-elect certainly disagrees with him on [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender] issues. But it has always been his goal to find common ground with people with whom you may disagree on some issues."

Please also check out AMERICAblog for what will certainly be outstanding coverage of every aspect of this nonsense.

My take on this is that President-elect Obama and his staff are being incredibly disrespectful to Progressives who were a major part of getting the Obama-Biden ticket elected and having Warren anywhere near the festivities on January 20th is just flat-out stupid politically.

People in the Religious Right will never support Barack Obama or his agenda, so giving a homophobic bigot like Warren such a prominent place on such a special day for our country will do absolutely nothing to gain Obama support from that lot. Meanwhile, he will piss off a lot of his supporters before he even takes office and will be going against what the mainstream of America thinks by boosting someone who is anti-choice, for continuation of the Iraq occupation and who clearly hates gay people.

And, of course, Warren's also at least a partial nut job, as shown in things like the episode on Sean Hannity's show in which he responds to Hannity saying we need to "take out" Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by saying that stopping evil “is the legitimate role of government. The Bible says that God puts government on earth to punish evildoers.”

Here's Warren's who-would-Jesus-bomb moment:

This isn’t change any of us can believe in and Obama needs to find a graceful way to have someone else -- anyone else -- do the opening prayer on his big day. He also needs to remember that this isn't just his big day, it's also a huge occasion for our country and he has a responsibility to present people who represent the best of American life, not the worst.

This isn’t a prime-time television special, so it isn't even necessary to pick someone who is well known -- how about a community-organizer member of the clergy who toils with silent dignity and doesn't support and defend discrimination? How about giving one of them a place on the national stage?

But a confirmed bigot? No way.

Update: If you haven't read John Aravosis's piece in the Huffington Post, he does a beautiful job inventing a dialog that explains why the Warren choice is so awful far better than I ever could. Go here to see it.

BuzzFlash's Media Putz Of The Week

The folks at BuzzFlash check in today with their Media Putz of the week, "for reporting that is an embarrassment to the profession of journalism, and for being beholden to corporate paymasters rather than the citizens of America."

This week, the award goes to Glenn Beck for completing a classic right-wing, two-for-one deal: He invents a problem with a Democrat -- in this case, Hillary Clinton -- and then proceeds to analyze and find fault with a situation that nobody envisions and that will never happen.

Specifically, Beck was talking to that famed political genius, Joe the Plumber -- and here you thought his 15 minutes were over -- and they were both a bit aghast about the thought of Senator Clinton serving as a U.S. Senator and being Secretary of State at the same time. Of course, that scenario is not planned, nor would it ever happen -- but when you're a conservative radio host, you don’t need to worry about having listeners smart enough to call you on this.

BuzzFlash comes in right after the part where Beck says that "…one of my guys who's deep in the Constitution, he's saying that she can't have two offices. That's the problem."
Hey, Glenn: "one of my guys" doesn't know what he is talking about. And neither do you. Nobody, and we mean nobody, thinks Clinton, or anyone else would do both jobs at the same time. Being a U.S. Senator is a lot of work, and being Secretary of State is a huge amount of work.

And the whole idea that "it's kind of iffy on that." Are you now saying Clinton might legally occupy both posts as you are saying that she couldn't be both? And what does this have to do with the subject being talked about in the United States on the planet Earth?

As Keith Olbermann succinctly put it, "You are less well-informed than Joe the Plumber."

Usually, when the rabid right-winger rants, an argument is presented with lies and misleading statements. Here we have an argument that is a lie, a fiction no one ever thought to create. And Beck doesn't even have the guts to say this from his own heart: he hides behind referring to "one of my guys who's deep in the Constitution."

To be fair, this is probably why right-wing talk shows such as Beck do get the Republican talking points. Because when they come up with their own talking points, they screw them up. If someone else does not write down for Beck, there apparently is this chance Beck will go off and come up with tangents such as this.
Please go here to read more.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Buzz Around Caroline Kennedy

Unless you've been ignoring the news entirely, you know that there's significant buzz in New York and nationally over Caroline Kennedy as a possible choice by Governor David Paterson to replace Hillary Clinton in the Senate as Clinton departs to become Barack Obama's Secretary of State.

And Chris Cillizza reports yesterday that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has made a call to Paterson urging him to select Kennedy -- and if this is true, I agree with Senator Reid.

There's two basic schools of thought around Paterson selecting Kennedy to replace Clinton: One is that she's a political neophyte who has spent her life avoiding the spotlight and that she simply isn’t qualified. The other is that she's serious, smart, has name recognition and star quality -- perhaps those two go hand-in-hand with the Kennedy name? -- and that she'll be up to the task.

At this point, I fall into the latter group.

There's no doubt that there's more experienced politicians who could get the nod from Paterson, but Republicans are salivating over the thought of possibly being able to pick up this seat in 2010 and who will run best in that race has to be a consideration in the selection process.

Although she appears a bit shy and tentative when speaking in public, Caroline Kennedy will grow on the campaign trail in 2010. I also believe people will be drawn to her and, if appointed, she will make a formidable, compelling candidate two years from now.

She will also have strong support from President-elect Obama -- who she endorsed and for whom she campaigned this year -- and she will be helped very ably by Reid, New York's senior Senator Chuck Schumer and will undoubtedly surround herself with an experienced Senate staff who will guide her through all the administrative minutia of the office.

We don’t know when Paterson will make his choice as the seat is not even formally up for grabs until Hillary Clinton is confirmed for her next job and resigns from the Senate.

And I guess you should take my words as just more fodder for a debate that will continue throughout the holiday season. Especially with me having watched Democrats be such a minority in Washington for the bulk of the last eight years, I fully admit that I'm a fierce partisan who wants nothing more than to extend the Democratic majority in both houses of Congress going forward.

So in some ways, I'm a single-issue voter on how this is decided -- and I'm "voting" for who I think can retain this Senate seat in 2010.

Who To Replace Salazar? It Should Be An Improvement…

Now that Senator Ken Salazar (D-CO) has been nominated by President-elect Barack Obama to be the new Secretary of the Interior -- and will certainly be confirmed based on qualifications and a favorable Democratic Senate majority -- all eyes in Colorado go to see who will replace Salazar in the 111th Congress.

Salazar was up for reelection in 2010 anyway and whoever this person may be will have to make a full run for the seat then -- this happens anyway when you're appointed to the Senate.

In my mind, it will be hard for anyone not to be an improvement over Salazar who as part of the infamous "Gang of 14" in the Senate, proved he is a Democrat who is hardly a lock to vote with the Democratic party on important issues.

Nate Silver, at, has a good rundown today on the pool of candidates from which Colorado Governor Bill Ritter will likely make his pick.

Please go here to read the post.

As far as I'm concerned, selecting Senator Salazar's brother John, who is in his third Congressional term for Colorado would be a big mistake. A conservative Democrat, John Salazar is a member of the disgusting Blue Dog Caucus in the House -- you know, people who wake up and decide over their morning coffee whether they are a Democrat or a Republican on a given day.

Obama's new Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) need to be making a few calls to Ritter to urge against that.

I lean toward Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper or Congresswoman Diana DeGette. Both would be improvements over Salazar in the area of Progressive dependability and both would be a boost toward our new president being able to move the agenda that got him elected.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Reid Announces Senate Committee Chairmanships For 111th Congress

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) yesterday announced his recommendations to the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee regarding committee chairmanships for the 111th Congress.

“I am pleased to recommend these capable men and women to chair the Senate’s Committees during the 111th Congress," said Reid on Monday. "We have much work to do and many challenges facing our nation. I know that these Senators will be able to deliver on the change that the American people have called for to help move our country in the right direction.”

Here's the list of anticipated Chairmanships for the 111th Congress.

Change in Chairmanship
  • Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriations; Replaces Robert Byrd (D-WV), who resigned his chairmanship.
  • Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Chairman, Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation; Was Inouye, who becomes chair of the Appropriations Committee.
  • John Kerry (D-MA), Chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations; Upon the resignation of Joe Biden (D-DE).
  • Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chairwoman, Senate Intelligence Committee; Was Rockefeller, who will now chair the Commerce Committee.
  • Charles Schumer (D-NY), Chairman, Senate Committee on Rules and Administration; Was Feinstein, who will now chair the Intelligence Committee.
  • Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Chairwoman, Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship; Was Kerry, who will now be chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

No Change in Chairmanship
  • Herb Kohl (D-WI), Chairman, Senate Special Committee on Aging
  • Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman, Senate Committee on Agriculture
  • Carl Levin (D-MI), Chairman, Senate Committee on Armed Services
  • Christopher Dodd (D-CT), Chairman, Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs
  • Kent Conrad (D-ND), Chairman, Senate Committee on Budget
  • Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Chairman, Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
  • Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairwoman, Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works
  • Max Baucus (D-MT), Chairman, Senate Committee on Finance
  • Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
  • Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), Chairman, Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
  • Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Chairman, Senate Committee on Indian Affairs
  • Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chairman, Senate Committee on Judiciary
  • Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Chairman, Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs
Final approval will be ratified with an Organizing Resolution when the Senate returns to session in January 2009, but it is highly unlikely that this roster will change.

Kerry Comes Full Circle on Foreign Relations Committee

On April 22, 1971, young Lieutenant Junior Grade John F. Kerry appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations committee to give testimony in hearings about ending the Vietnam war. The opportunity put Kerry center stage in the anti-war movement and, sadly, would later become the linchpin in Republican attacks on his patriotism when he became the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004.

Of course the rest is history and the Senate part of Kerry's story began when he was elected to that body in 1984 and he has been a member of the Foreign Relations committee ever since.

And things really came full circle on Monday when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced that Kerry would be the new chairman of that powerful committee for the 111th Congress, which convenes in January.

“I am honored to serve as Chairman of a committee which I know from my own experience as a young man can impact the course of our security and help advance our values and interests in the world," said Kerry. "I look forward to working with all members of the committee to help strengthen America’s hand in Afghanistan and Pakistan, work towards global climate change solutions, and end the war in Iraq responsibly."

"We have a big agenda ahead of us, just as our country faces big challenges across the globe.”

During his tenure on the committee, Senator Kerry has chaired the Asia and Middle East subcommittees and authored and passed major legislation on international drug trafficking, global AIDS, international money laundering, and climate change – and negotiated the UN’s genocide tribunal to prosecute war crimes in Cambodia’s Killing Fields.

“John will do an excellent job as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the nation’s fortunate to have him in this high position," said Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA). "I know he’ll make significant contributions to our foreign policy in dealing with the many challenges we face in our relationships with other countries, and he’ll work well with President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton to restore America’s respect in the world.”

Kerry assumes his chairmanship with Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) moving on to the White House and the only Democratic colleague with more seniority, Chris Dodd (D-CT), choosing to remain chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs committee.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Another Clue On Why We Like Obama

In the January 2009 issue of Esquire magazine, New Mexico Governor and Commerce Secretary nominee Bill Richardson gives us another clue as to why so many Americans have been drawn to Barack Obama. Here's part of the interview in which Richardson, a Democratic presidential candidate this year, tells of Obama being a total gentleman and saving his butt during one of the primary debates:
As I'm chatting with Obama, the moderator says, "Governor Richardson, what do you think of that?" And I look at him like a deer in the headlights. I was about to say that I hadn't heard, when Obama puts his hand over his mouth and says, "Katrina." So I gave my four-point plan on Katrina. When I was done and the debate moved on, I looked over and said, "Thanks, you're okay." He said, "Nothing to it, brother."

It confirmed to me that this guy was something special.
There's an old saying about how the word integrity means doing the right thing when nobody is looking -- there you have it.

The President-Elect's Weekly Address

In case you missed it, here is President-elect Barack Obama with his weekend radio/web address in which he discussed a major part of the country's economic problems -- the mortgage crisis. He also used the opportunity to formally announce that he has selected Shaun Donovan, New York City's commissioner of Housing Preservation and Development to be the next U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

"In the end, expanding access to affordable housing isn’t just about caring for the least fortunate among us and strengthening our middle class -- it’s about ending our housing mess, climbing out of our financial crisis, and putting our economy on the path to long-term growth and prosperity," said Obama. "And that is what Shaun and I will work to do together when I am President of the United States."

Have a look:

Today In The Senate

The U.S. Senate is in recess and will be back in session on January 6, 2009, when the 111th Congress will convene.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Saturday Cartoons

Before we get to the 'toons, I'm pleased to share the news that our friend Jeff Danziger of the New York Times and the Rutland Herald (Vermont) has received the 2008 Thomas Nast Award, for editorial cartoons. Jeff calls Nast “the grandfather of all American cartoonists” and I'm sure he was thrilled to receive the honor, which was awarded in Landau, Germany, Nast’s birthplace.

Congratulations, Jeff!

And now, on with the cartoons.

* * * * *
Nick Anderson of the Houston Chronicle has a great animated short that shows the rut walked by the Republican party …

Click on the screenshot above or go here to see it.

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Ann Telnaes at the Washington Post has an animation nailing Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and using his own voice to do it.

Click on the screenshot above or go here to see it.

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Finally, The Onion shows us the most detailed presidential press briefing I've ever seen on a day that a "giant monster" enters Manhattan.

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Thanks to all who have come to visit from other sites -- I'm glad you're here. But please know that this blog is about far more than the Saturday cartoons. They're merely a diversion and provide a humorous take on what's really on our minds. I primarily cover the U.S. Senate but also write about presidential politics and White House activities as well. So please take a look around beyond the 'toons -- and come back soon.

All cartoons are posted with the artists' express permission to Please visit the following sites to see more work from these fine cartoonists:

Nick Anderson, Houston Chronicle
Tony Auth, The Philadelphia Inquirer
Jeff Danziger, Syndicated Political Cartoonist
Matt Davies, NY Journal News
Walt Handelsman, Newsday
Paul Jamiol, Jamiol's World
Steve Kelley, New Orleans Times Picayune
Mike Luckovich, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Jim Morin, Miami Herald
Jack Ohman, Portland Oregonian
Dwane Powell, Raleigh News & Observer
Steve Sack, Minneapolis Star Tribune
Bill Sanders, Retired Syndicated Cartoonist
Ben Sargent, Austin American-Statesman
Ann Telnaes, Syndicated Political Cartoonist

Friday, December 12, 2008

BuzzFlash's GOP Hypocrite Of The Week

Hey, it's Friday, which means it's time to check out BuzzFlash's "GOP Hypocrite Of The Week." As always, it's a grueling process to narrow the selection to just one Republican hypocrite, and this week BuzzFlash went with one of the most prolific hypocrites in the GOP universe, Rudy Giuliani.

This one was a no-brainer, with Giuliani having the nerve to come out recently and say that it was a good thing for America that Barack Obama got elected -- after doing everything he could to help the Republicans smear Obama during the presidential campaign.

A BuzzFlash excerpt:
So, let's get this straight. Now that a man that you disparaged at every opportunity is our incoming president, we can stop being hypocritical? Clearly Giuliani isn't including himself in that "we," because that statement alone drips with hypocrisy. While he lauds Obama's election these days, it wasn't always so. At the Republican National Convention in September, Giuliani laughed at Obama's work as a community organizer.

"He's never had to lead people in crisis. He is the least experienced candidate for president of the United States in at least the last 100 years," Giuliani said in making the case for a President McCain. "The choice in this election comes down to substance over style."

But that's not the only part about the interview that's two-faced. One of his main points about the positives of having Obama in the White House is that it will improve the United States' image abroad. Yet on July 10, 2008, Giuliani said on "Morning Joe" that the reason Obama is so well-liked in Europe is that he captures anti-American sentiment.
You can read the rest at and see a historical list of BuzzFlash's other worthy selections.

Feingold Calls On Obama To "Restore Rule of Law" In America

Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI), as a key member of both the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence committees, has been battling the Bush administration for many years over the litany of Constitutional abuses that will be George W. Bush's legacy. And this week, the Wisconsin Senator called on Barack Obama to use his opportunity as president to "… take concrete steps to restore the rule of law in this country."

Feingold sent a letter to Obama on Wednesday making this plea and outlining steps he believes are necessary to make that happen.

“In light of this recent history, I believe that one of the most important things that you can do as President is to take concrete steps to restore the rule of law in this country – that is, to return to the White House respect for an appropriate separation and balance of powers among the branches, for the President’s important but not paramount place in our constitutional system of government, for the laws that Congress writes and the importance of its oversight functions, and for the judiciary’s crucial role in interpreting the law,” Feingold wrote.

Feingold then offered recommendations for action in four key areas – the separation of powers, excessive government secrecy, detention and interrogation policy, and domestic surveillance and privacy. He also provided additional points made during a Judiciary Committee hearing he chaired in September called “Restoring the Rule of Law.”

Those recommendations include:
  • Closing the facility at Guantanamo Bay, which the President-elect already supports.
  • Banning torture and establishing a single, government-wide standard of humane detainee treatment
  • Conducting a comprehensive review of Office of Legal Counsel opinions and repudiating or revising those that overstate executive authority
  • Supporting significant legislative changes to the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act
  • Cooperating with congressional oversight, including providing full information to intelligence committees
  • Establishing presumptions of openness and disclosure in making decisions on the classification of information and responding to requests under the Freedom of Information Act.
Feingold said that Obama should make this such a priority that he even mentions it prominently in his inaugural address on January 20th, saying that the days of the Executive Branch running with no oversight must end and that "all three branches of government must be engaged in the process of restoring the rule of law, but the role of the President is particularly important because turning back the excesses of the Bush Administration may be seen in some respects as contrary to the institutional interests of the presidency."

"That is why it is all the more important that you clearly and unequivocally renounce, early in your tenure, President Bush’s extreme claims of executive authority," wrote Feingold in his letter. "Indeed, stating this position in your inaugural address would affirm to the nation, and the world, that respect for the rule of law has returned to the Oval Office. I urge you to take the opportunity in your first speech as President to make a strong and clear statement of your intention to restore the rule of law in our country."

And Feingold wrapped it up by stating something that he has been saying for years and that Obama said repeatedly on the campaign trail -- that we can have freedom and security at the same time.

Said Feingold: "As I know you recognize, we can protect our national security – in fact, we can do it more effectively – without trampling on the rights of Americans or the rule of law."

Democrats React To Daschle Nomination

Senate Democrats were understandably pleased when President-elect Barack Obama announced that former Senator Tom Daschle of South Dakota will be his nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services. In making the announcement, Obama reinforced that overhauling how health care is delivered is a central tenet of his administration and praised Daschle, while calling him the “lead architect” of the new administration's plan to expand coverage and control health-care costs.

"Tom brings more than just great expertise to this task. He brings the respect he earned during his years of leadership in Congress," Obama said in a press conference announcing the nomination. "He knows how to build consensus across the aisle. And he has the trust of folks from every angle of this issue: doctors, nurses and patients; workers and businesses; hospitals and consumer groups -- all of whom will have a seat at the table as we work on this vital issue."

Here's reaction from Daschle's former Senate colleagues:

Ted Kennedy (D-MA)

"Exceptional challenges call for exceptional leaders, and Tom is an ideal choice to meet the urgent challenge of health reform. His integrity, intelligence, experience and commitment to the American people have won him friends and admirers on both sides of the aisle. All of us in Congress who share the goal of this long overdue reform welcome today's announcement."

Ken Salazar (D-CO)

“I applaud the selection of Senator Daschle to lead the effort to put President-elect Obama’s vision of affordable, quality health care for all into action. He brings to the position a wealth of health policy expertise and legislative experience, as well as a proven ability to build consensus around policies that work for all Americans. I cannot think of a better person for the job, and look forward to working with him and President-elect Obama to fix our Nation’s broken health care system.”

Tim Johnson (D-SD)

"Tom has been a leader in our state and country throughout his time in Congress. I am proud that he has been nominated this morning to lead our nation’s health care efforts and I know he will make an outstanding Secretary of Health and Human Services. As a South Dakotan, he truly understands the unique challenges of providing quality health care throughout rural America. He is a dear friend, and I look forward to working with him and the new Administration in the months ahead. The President-Elect faces many challenges, but I know with Tom working at his side, we have a real chance to finally provide affordable care to all Americans."

Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)

"Every American deserves health care he or she can afford. But Senator Daschle knows we need to do more than that - we need basic, systemic reform that will revolutionize the way health care is delivered in this country. He has already brought forward ideas, like the creation of a Federal Health Board, that have contributed substantively to the health care reform debate, and that I will hope he will pursue further at HHS. His nomination, and President-Elect Obama's creation of a new White House Office of Health Reform, emphasizes his serious commitment to solving this problem."

Ron Wyden (D-OR)

“President-Elect Obama quite simply could not have made a better choice for the job. Tom Daschle is not just an expert on health policy, he is a skilled legislator and an inspiring leader. He is also a close friend. Eighteen years ago, I was honored to have then Senator Daschle join me in leading the effort to reform Medigap and protect seniors from health insurance scams. Today, I am honored at the prospect of joining Secretary-designate Daschle in the effort that will ultimately reform the nation’s health care system.”

Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)

“Tom Daschle is a distinguished and uniquely qualified choice to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. He will bring a proven record and Midwestern sensibility to help us tackle one of the largest challenges facing our nation – health care. I believe Tom Daschle can lead the kind of bold reform that our health care system so desperately needs. Tom and I have discussed how we can replicate some of Minnesota’s successes in high-quality, high-efficiency care on a national level. I look forward to our continued work together in the months and years to come.”

Patrick Leahy (D-VT)

"President-elect Obama has made another superb choice in selecting Tom Daschle to head the Department of Health and Human Services as well as a new White House Office of Health Reform… Health care reform is sorely needed and long overdue. It will be one of the core projects of the Obama presidency and certainly one of the most complex and difficult issues on the nation's agenda. No one is better prepared for this monumental job than Tom Daschle is. His talents, his experience, his vision and his decency are admired on both sides of the aisle."

Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)

“Tom Daschle is an incredible public servant and someone who shares my passion and commitment to improving and expanding health care coverage and making it more affordable for all Americans – especially the 46 million Americans without any coverage at all. There is no one better qualified to shepherd through President-elect Obama’s ambitious plans for health care reform."

Senate Republicans Kill Auto Bailout Bill

With 31 of them and a small handful of Democrats ready to throw millions of workers under the bus because of the mistakes of the Big Three automakers' executives, Senate Republicans last night successfully filibustered a bill that would have provided $14 billion in bridge loans to the car companies and allowed them to restructure and keep running during the current economic crisis.

Putting the blame on autoworkers, the Republicans were not even willing to let the bill come up for the famed "up or down vote" they crowed so much about when they were the majority party and continued down the same obstructionist path they have traveled for the entire 110th Congress.

"Given the unhappy choice between a bridge loan and bankruptcy, Democrats have always believed that we must give the Big Three and the millions of Americans they employ every possible chance to succeed," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) after the vote. "Because Republicans failed to act, three million Americans are more likely than ever to lose their jobs and our economy is at risk of suffering even greater damage. Our hearts go out to those families who will now have to deal with this burden as the holidays near."

"Republicans may think that rejecting this legislation sent a message to the auto industry. Instead, they sent a message to every single American that they are more interested in settling scores than solving problems."

If anyone needed any clearer explanation of exactly what the Republican party's values are and where they stand, consider this: This is the same crew that's been willing to pump almost $600 billion into an Iraq debacle that's ruined our nation's global reputation and made us less safe and didn’t hesitate to give hundred of billions to bail out their friends on Wall Street -- but when it comes to something that could keep millions of working Americans employed, forget it.

I am no fan of how the auto makers have continued for years to crank out and pimp gas-guzzling SUVs and trucks despite all evidence showing that they need to change gears, but when you look at the priorities behind how taxpayer money is being spent, this latest piece of Republican obstruction is both sad and outrageous.

Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) put it best last night: "I am greatly disappointed that some Senators didn’t hesitate to bail out Wall Street, but decided not to help millions of working class Americans.”

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Specter's Curious Hindsight On Alberto Gonzales

I'll be the first to admit that out of all Senate Republicans, Arlen Specter (R-PA) was arguably the hardest on then Attorney General Alberto Gonzales during Gonzo's lengthy period of ignoring the Constitution, lying to Congress and serving as George W. Bush's personal water boy.

Even so, it's still a bit jarring to hear Specter on the Senate floor yesterday discussing his concerns about Barack Obama's nomination of Eric Holder to be the next head of the Justice Department, while spilling his honest assessment of Gonzales's time as Attorney General -- for which Specter was chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee most of the time.

Here's Specter on Wednesday:
The position of Attorney General is an extraordinarily important position. We have seen that during the administration of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, stated candidly, the Department was not well handled. That is a candid statement and also a very mild statement.

During the course of Attorney General Gonzales' tenure, there were so many situations where the Attorney General molded his views to accommodate his appointer, the President of the United States. A great deal that went on in the Department of Justice was partisan and not in the interests of the work of the Department or in the interests of the American people.

We have seen, since 9/11/2001, a vast extension of Executive authority. We found the terrorist surveillance program was initiated by the President without consultation under the tradition of notifying the chairman, which I was during the 109th Congress, or the ranking member. We found there was an engagement with the telephone companies to engage in electronic surveillance, again without notifying the chairman or ranking member of the Judiciary Committee and without notifying the intelligence committees of both Houses, as mandated by law. Further was the expansion of signing statements all during the tenure of the Attorney General.
OK, so while he did give Gonzales some high-profile spankings during a few hearings in 2007, Specter was chairman of Judiciary -- the primary Senate oversight arm for the Justice Department -- for the vast majority of the 2 1/2 years that Gonzales served, until Bush's Boy resigned under fire in September of 2007.

During that time and through all of the Constitutional abuses and outright lying to Congress that occurred, Specter did seem to stand up and be counted occasionally but still, if he knew at the time just how bad Gonzales's tenure really was, why wasn't he storming the Republican Majority Leader's office to get greater action in the name of our national interest?

Indeed, when the Senate tried to hold a no-confidence vote on Gonzales (S.J.Res.14) on June 11, 2007, the Republicans filibustered it and 38 of them -- including some guy named Lieberman -- kept the resolution from even coming to a vote.

Sure, Specter voted to allow the no-confidence resolution to move forward, but where was his voice and impact on his own party (as the Senator best able to speak on Gonzales) if he couldn’t keep almost every Republican Senator from blocking the vote entirely?

While Albert Gonzales ran roughshod over our national creed, Specter said a lot of words about the horrible -- if not criminal -- job Gonzales was doing, but had very little action to back it up.

So with Specter now ranking member on a Judiciary Committee chaired by the able Patrick Leahy (D-VT), we'll see just how strident the gentleman from Pennsylvania is with Eric Holder and if he suddenly develops more passion, influence and righteous indignation than he did for one of the most rogue Attorney Generals in U.S. history.

Today In The Senate

The Senate will convene at 10:30 a.m. and proceed to a period of morning business for up to one hour, with Senators permitted to speak for up to ten minutes each.

Following morning business, the Senate will resume consideration of the motion to proceed to H.R.7005, the Alternative Minimum Tax Relief Act of 2008.

Senate Democrats Call On Blagojevich To Resign

In a letter signed by Democratic leaders Harry Reid (D-NV), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Patty Murray (D-WA) and co-signed by 43 other members of the caucus, Senate Democrats asked Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to resign his office and to absolutely not appoint a successor to the Senate seat formerly held by President-elect Barack Obama.

Blagojevich has been charged with trying to make money and gain power by essentially selling Illinois' open Senate seat to the highest bidder.

"We write to insist that you step down as Governor of Illinois and under no circumstance make an appointment to fill the vacant Illinois Senate seat," said the letter from Senate Democrats. "In light of your arrest yesterday on alleged federal corruption charges related to that Senate seat, any appointment by you would raise serious questions."

The letter goes on to say that if Blagojevich defies their wishes and still appoints a successor to Obama, the Senate “would be forced to exercise our Constitutional authority … to determine whether such a person should be seated.”

(It is unclear whether the Senate has such absolute Constitutional authority and Nate Silver has a good discussion on that at

Here's the text of the letter from Senate Democrats to Blagojevich:
December 10, 2008

Dear Governor Blagojevich:

We write to insist that you step down as Governor of Illinois and under no circumstance make an appointment to fill the vacant Illinois Senate seat. In light of your arrest yesterday on alleged federal corruption charges related to that Senate seat, any appointment by you would raise serious questions.

It is within the authority of the Illinois legislature to remove your power to make this appointment by providing for a special election. But a decision by you to resign or to step aside under Article V of the Illinois Constitution would be the most expeditious way for a new Senator to be chosen and seated in a manner that would earn the confidence of the people of Illinois and all Americans. We consider it imperative that a new senator be seated as soon as possible so that Illinois is fully represented in the Senate as the important work of the 111th Congress moves forward.

Please understand that should you decide to ignore the request of the Senate Democratic Caucus and make an appointment we would be forced to exercise our Constitutional authority under Article I, Section 5, to determine whether such a person should be seated.

We do not prejudge the outcome of the criminal charges against you or question your constitutional right to contest those charges. But for the good of the Senate and our nation, we implore you to refrain from making an appointment to the Senate.
Meanwhile, Obama has also called for Blagojevich to step down.

“The President-elect agrees with Lt. Governor Quinn and many others that under the current circumstances it is difficult for the Governor to effectively do his job and serve the people of Illinois,” spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a statement.

Gibbs simply said "yes" when asked if the President-elect believes the governor should resign.

Stay tuned…