At Monday night's prime-time press conference (transcript) at the White House, President Obama was asked by NPR's Mara Liasson what he'd learned from his "experience with the stimulus" package, in regard to "future challenges" he will face, legislatively.
The key part of his answer: "I suppose what I could have done is started off with no tax cuts, knowing that I was going to want some, and then let them take credit for all of them. And maybe that's the lesson I learned."
Uh, ya think? Yeah, giving away the store, by negotiating with oneself --- by handing billions of dollars in tax cuts to Republicans, before they'd even asked for it --- is something we long ago learned in Negotiations 101. Apparently Obama skipped class that day.
While we do hope he's learned from it, we coulda seen the disaster coming for miles. In fact, we did --- way back in the early part of 2007 when he did something similar, causing us to post serious reservations about his negotiation and decision making skills at the time.
We were even quoted on it, at the time, by Brit Hume on Fox "News"...
In a breathless piece of reporting in the Sunday Los Angeles Times, we are told that Barack Obama “left intact” a “controversial counter-terrorism tool” called renditions. Moreover, the Times states, quoting unnamed “current and former U.S. intelligence figures,” Obama may actually be planning to expand the program. The report notes the existence of a European Parliament report condemning the practice, but states “the Obama Administration appears to have determined that the rendition program was one component of the Bush Administration’s war on terrorism that it could not afford to discard.”
The Los Angeles Times just got punked.
Horton --- who testified as an expert witness for the European Parliament report mentioned --- says the paper conflated the controversial Bush program, which often included torture and long-term abduction into secret CIA-run prisons in foreign countries, and a significantly less nefarious type of rendition, in use since the early 90's, and perhaps even during the Reagan era.
He explains the difference between the pre-Dubya "renditions program", which an Executive Order from Obama has not ended, versus Dubya's "extraordinary renditions program" which Obama has outlawed (despite media reports over the last several days to the contrary), thusly...
President Obama announced the nomination on Thursday of a former government lawyer, who had been critical of the legal rationale for the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program, to lead the Justice Department’s national security division.
The lawyer, David Kris, served as a senior Justice Department official in both the Clinton and Bush administrations from 2000 to 2003, and is widely respected in Washington for his knowledge of intelligence law.
In late 2005, following the public disclosure of the N.S.A. wiretapping program approved by President Bush, Mr. Kris wrote a 23-page legal analysis that described as “weak’’ and likely unsupportable some of the Bush administration’s key legal arguments in justifying the program.
And when he was still at the Justice Department, he advised his boss, who was at the time Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, not to sign a mysterious batch of wiretapping warrants — which grew out of the program — because intelligence officials would not reveal how the information in the wiretaps was obtained.
Promises on the campaign trail are one thing, as are position statements posted on one's campaign website. But positions posted at Whitehouse.gov by a President are quite another and raise the bar, as far as I'm concerned, in regard to holding feet to the fire for any particular promise, statement, or posted position.
Thus, while perusing President Barack Obama's new White House website last night, there was much I found of interest. There was a bit, here and there, on issues of Election Reform --- particularly of note to this site, of course --- which I'm sure I'll get to in a bit. But, for the moment, this comment from the "Technology" page caught my eye, as posted in the section titled "Ensure the Full and Free Exchange of Ideas through an Open Internet and Diverse Media Outlets" [italics mine]...
Encourage Diversity in Media Ownership: Encourage diversity in the ownership of broadcast media, promote the development of new media outlets for expression of diverse viewpoints, and clarify the public interest obligations of broadcasters who occupy the nation's spectrum.
You know, I almost always feel cynical about this country. I have for as long as I can remember, even back when I was a thirteen-year-old stuffing envelopes for a Congressional candidate who ended up losing. I don't think you can grow up when I did without being a cynic.
I've been watching the "We Are One" concert at the Lincoln Memorial, with its smiling gospel choirs and its Geezers of Lefty Rock and Queen Latifah looking like, well, a queen. I've been watching the hoopla and the imagery and smiling faces standing in the cold to share a moment that's like nothing we've seen in my lifetime. And for at least one moment, it feels like we --- the people with whom I've identified my entire life --- are finally, FINALLY taking back our country from the people who have done everything in their power to ruin everything these symbols have stood for...
For the next few days --- at least through Tuesday, if possible --- we intend to do our best to try and take in this extraordinary moment in history, as we hadn't previously been able to enjoy it during the Primaries, on Election Night, or even thereafter while our duties required focus elsewhere.
As scenes of Obama's train ride towards the Inaugural inspire us to try and suspend our cynicism, a bit, for a few short days (no easy feat), it's worth taking the opportunity for a quick look back at the videos which made a difference in last year's election. We weren't really able to enjoy or celebrate these at the time they were first released, due to our responsibilities in the midst of the long and grueling Battle for American Democracy, but now, it seems, is a good time to review these with some of the historical perspective we momentarily have the luxury to enjoy.
The extraordinary "Big Brother" spot that kicked it all off by daring to express the possible, at a moment in time in which it seemed impossible (1:14)...
The video that ingeniously sampled the poesy of Barack Obama, elevated him from mere Presidential candidate to the stuff of legend, and somehow managed to capture the dreams and hopes of a new generation. "Yes We Can" (4:30)...
Last week, President-elect Barack Obama said he was open to "good ideas" from anyone, even from the New York Times' Paul Krugman. (Video here.)
"If Paul Krugman has a good idea...then we're gonna do it," said Obama. He was speaking about "good ideas" for his economic stimulus package at the time, but we'd written that we hoped the sentiments might extend to good ideas on any important issue that his administration might face, including some good ideas of our own that we'd offered to his transition team, who had consulted with us, as they are working on review of the dreadfully-failed U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC).
Well, as it turns out, the New York Times' Paul Krugman does have some very good ideas, as noted in an op-ed yesterday, this time on why the Obama administration must bring accountability for the crimes of the Bush Era. The must-read column, headlined "Forgive and Forget?" begins this way...
I've had this picture in my mind lately, an editorial cartoon-like drawing, of a dam about to break and someone (Obama?) leaning hard up against it in futile hopes of keeping it from bursting forth. The dam and its contents, in my mind's eye, are labeled "Bush Administration Crimes and Failures." I've been pondering, over the last several days, how we're soon likely to learn that everything we think we already know about the historically-unparalleled failures, crimes and cover-ups of the Bush administration, will likely prove to be barely the tip of the iceberg as the Bushies lose their power, and "the files" are finally opened for all to see.
It's likely to take years, after President Obama is sworn in next week, to unearth the entire breadth of the degradation, filth, corruption and dismantling of federal law and U.S. Constitution under the current administration, and to piece together all of the unshredded and likely-shredded evidence both, and to take in the information likely to pour forth from officials and former officials who finally find the courage to tell the world just how bad it all really was and is (even if many of them would now be doing so only to salvage their own hide.)
One hint of what will be found beyond the tip of that iceberg, or inside that near-to-bursting dam (take your metaphorical pick) comes in today's remarkable report [PDF] from the DoJ Inspector General on the illegal politicization of the hiring practices at the DoJ's Civil Rights Division and "other improper personnel actions" in the division.
It's remarkable on several fronts. Not only because it describes the politicization of the department under the Bushies, their strictly illegal hiring practices; their determined dismantling of a core of career attorneys devoted to years of legal-processes in the fight for civil rights; as well as perjury and out-and-out lying to Congress, but also because the report itself --- in one last classic stroke of corrupt Bush Administration gaming of the system --- was completed last July, prior to the election, but held for release until today, just 7 days before the criminals (or at least those who won't be still-embedded like cancer cells within the federal buearocracy for years to come) take their leave.
And, as if all of that isn't bad enough, with the out-and-out finding of criminal wrongdoing in the report (such as illegal hiring practices and lying about them to Congress), the Bush Administration's own DoJ has decided that no prosecutions should be brought against the Bush Administration's own DoJ for the Bush Administration's own DoJ's now-well-documented actions in breaking federal law.
The bastardization of the DoJ Civil Rights division is a topic which we've covered closely over the years here at The BRAD BLOG, and even played a part in helping to expose, for example, when the head of the Voting Section in that division, John Tanner, was forced to resign from his post, not long after we'd video-taped and published controversial (and inaccurate) comments he made at a 2007 conference in Los Angeles declaring that disenfranchising Photo ID restrictions at the polling place were more of a concern for the elderly than for African-Americans because "minorities don't become elderly the way white people do. They die first."
(See our now-infamous video, shot by our own Alan Breslauer, at right.)
As today's (actually July's) report reveals, that wouldn't be the only unfortunate --- and one might say, "ironic", given his position --- derogatory remark made about African-Americans by Tanner. But the bulk of the report, it seems, is devoted to one Bradley Schlozman, who insidiously twisted the mission of the Civil Rights division, brought political prosecutions in order to try and affect the outcome of elections, in violation of written DoJ policy, and attempted (and arguably succeeded) in helping to engineer an outright illegal, and ideological purge --- an ethical cleansing, if you will --- at the department, in an attempt to stack it with far rightwing brethren from the Federalist Society, or "right thinking Americans" (RTAs), as he referred to them among friends...
President-elect Barack Obama said today that there is "no pride of authorship" on his economic stimulus package. For good or bad, in regard to that particular initiative, this seems to me what a President should sound like. Let's hope he means it, and that this m.o. extends to all aspects of his Presidency. (appx 3 mins)...
As I've recently been consulted by Obama's team overseeing transition review of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), and have offered what I believe to be some good ideas about serious reform for the so-far dreadfully-failed commission, I'll hope he means what he says in the above about accepting such ideas and putting them into practice. We shall see, but the words said above sound very good to my ears.
On Sunday, BeliefNet reported that the website for Rick Warren's Saddleback Church in Orange County, Cal., contained a warning that unrepentant gays were forbidden from joining the church:
Because membership in a church is an outgrowth of accepting the Lordship and leadership of Jesus in one's life, someone unwilling to repent of their homosexual lifestyle would not be accepted as a member at Saddleback Church.
Yesterday, that section, which was part of a longer diatribe about the sin of homosexuality (see below), is gone. According to BeliefNet, this link led to the page banning gays. Now it connects to a page titled "What We Believe." BeliefNet is known for down-the-line reporting on religion. It was recently purchased by Rupert Murdoch's Newscorp.
When Bill Clinton became president in 1992, there were many on the right who felt his presidency wasn't "legitimate" because he didn't receive a popular vote majority. When he DID receive his popular vote majority in 1996, the witch hunt began in earnest. Not one of these people uttered a peep when the Supreme Court awarded the presidency to George W. Bush in 2000. But right on cue, the nutballs are out again now that a Democrat has once again been elected to the presidency.
The "issue" of Barack Obama's citizenship status has been kicking around the lunatic right throughout the entire campaign season, and it's become clear that there is not one piece of identification Barack Obama can offer that will prove his "natural born citizenship" to the satisfaction of these people...