Wednesday, January 31, 2007

"A Case for Impeachment"

Robert Scheer:
How then is it possible that a Republican-controlled Congress impeached President Bill Clinton over his attempt to conceal marital infidelity but that a Democratic-led Congress will not even consider impeaching this president for far more serious transgressions against the public trust? That is the question that arises from early revelations in the trial of Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff.
This case’s importance lies not in the narrow charge that Libby committed perjury in testifying about his role in the outing of CIA operative Valerie Wilson; that was merely one facet of a far-ranging plot to deceive Congress and the public about perhaps the most important issue of our time: the prospect of terrorists obtaining a weapon of mass destruction.

The infamous 16-word State of the Union claim by President Bush that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had sought to obtain enriched uranium from the African country of Niger was known to be based on fraudulent documents at the time Bush used this and other false evidence to make his case for war.

The Libby case testimony, centered on the chicanery of the vice president, certainly suggests that impeachable offenses occurred at the highest level of the White House. Just how conscious the president was of the deceits conducted under his authority, what he knew and when he knew it, is precisely what an impeachment trial would determine.

Consider the testimony concerning White House use of former CIA Director George Tenet in the cover-up of the president’s distortions. The record is unmistakably clear that the CIA and other intelligence sources warned the White House before the president’s speech not to make the bogus Niger claim, and that the reference had been voided out in a previous speech. Yet, after Ambassador Joseph Wilson exposed this fact more than a year after the invasion, Cheney orchestrated a new deception to shift the blame to Tenet.

That is the smoking-gun revelation in the testimony of Cheney’s former spokeswoman, Cathie Martin, a Harvard-educated lawyer who still works in the White House. Her word is that of a sophisticated and top-level White House insider and, as described by the Washington Post, one that offers a devastating glimpse into the moral depravity of this administration:

“At length, Martin explained how she, Libby and Deputy National Security Adviser Steve Hadley worked late into the night writing a statement to be issued by George Tenet in 2004 in which the CIA boss would take blame for the bogus claim in Bush’s State of the Union address that Iraq was seeking nuclear material in Africa. After ‘delicate’ talks, Tenet agreed to say the CIA ‘approved’ the claim and ‘I am responsible’—but even that disappointed Martin, who had wanted Tenet to say that ‘we did not express any doubts about Niger.’ ” Tenet later was awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Certainly this deliberate corruption of the integrity of the CIA, the nation’s premier source of national security information, rises to the level of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” which the Constitution holds out as the standard for impeachment. And can there be any more egregious example of betraying the oath of office of the president to uphold the Constitution than his deceiving Congress from the very well of the House on the reasons for going to war? The Constitution clearly delegates to Congress, and not to the president, the exclusive power to declare war, and deceiving our representatives in making the case for war is a far more important crime than the perjury charge against Libby.

Testimony already has established that Libby was nothing more than a pawn used by Cheney in the vice president’s constant and ferocious campaign to trick the nation into war—not a totally surprising quest for a man who had served as CEO for a corporation that has profited so obscenely from the Iraq agony.

Cheney, like some Daddy Warbucks cartoon character of old, has been so blatant in his corruption of the nation’s second highest office that we seem to have become inured to further revelations of his evil influence. Instead of being shocked, we are more likely jaded by even more examples of the man’s use of his office to persistently undermine our democratic heritage.
John Nichols remembers Molly, too.

"In Loving Memory of Molly Ivins, 1944-2007"

The Texas Observer:
Syndicated political columnist Molly Ivins died of breast cancer Wednesday evening at her home in Austin. She was 62 years old, and had much, much more to give this world.
She remained cheerful despite Texas politics. She emphasized the more hilarious aspects of both state and national government, and consequently never had to write fiction. She said, “Good thing we’ve still got politics—finest form of free entertainment ever invented.”

Molly had a large family, many namesakes, hundreds of close friends, thousands of colleagues and hundreds of thousands of readers.

She and her two siblings, Sara (Ivins) Maley of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Andy Ivins of London, Texas, grew up in Houston. Her father, James Ivins, was a corporate lawyer and a Republican, which meant she always had someone to disagree with over the dinner table. Her mother, Margot, was a homemaker with a B.A. in psychology from Smith College.

In addition to her brother and sister, Molly is survived by sister-in-law Carla Ivins, nephew Drew and niece Darby; niece Margot Hutchison and her husband, Neil, and their children Sam, Andy and Charlie of San Diego, Calif. and nephew Paul Maley and his wife, Karianna, and their children Marty, Anneli and Finnbar of Eltham, Victoria, Australia.

Molly followed her mother to Smith and received a B.A. in 1966, followed by an M.A. from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and an honorary doctorate from Haverford College.

Her full list of books and awards will be abbreviated here. In addition to compilations of her brilliant, hilarious liberal columns, she wrote with Lou Dubose Shrub: The Short But Happy Political Life of George W. Bush (Random House 2000) and Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush’s America (Random House 2003). She was working on a Random House book documenting the Bush administration’s assault on the Bill of Rights when she died.

Molly, being practical, used many of her most prestigious awards as trivets while serving exquisite French dishes at her dinner parties. Her awards include the William Allen White Award from the University of Kansas, the Eugene V. Debs award in the field of journalism, many awards for advocacy of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the David Nyhan Prize from the Shorenstein Center at the Kennedy School at Harvard.

Although short, Molly’s life was writ large. She was as eloquent a speaker and teacher as she was a writer, and her quips will last at least as long as Will Rogers’. She dubbed George W. Bush “Shrub” and Texas Governor Rick Perry “Good Hair.”

Molly always said in her official résumé that the two honors she valued the most were (1) when the Minneapolis Police Department named their mascot pig after her (She was covering the police beat at the time.) and (2) when she was banned from speaking on the Texas A&M University campus at least once during her years as co-editor of The Texas Observer (1970-76). However, she said with great sincerity that she would be proudest of all to die sober, and she did.

She worked as a reporter for The New York Times (1976-82) in New York and Albany and later as Rocky Mountain Bureau Chief covering nine mountain states by herself. After working for the staid Times where she was heavily edited, Molly cut loose and became a columnist for the Dallas Times Herald. When the Herald folded, she signed on as a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. In 2001, she became syndicated, eventually appearing in 400 newspapers.

She never lost her love for The Texas Observer or her conviction that a free society relies on public-interest journalism. She found that brand of journalism the most fun.

In recent years she shamelessly used her national and international contacts to raise funds for the Observer, which has always survived on a shoestring. More than $400,000 was contributed to the feisty little journal at a roast honoring Molly in Austin October 8.

Molly’s enduring message is, “Raise more hell.”

To read more about Molly Ivins or to make a comment about her, go to Tax-deductible contributions in her honor may be made to The Texas Observer, 307 West Seventh Street, Austin, TX 78701 or the American Civil Liberties Union, 127 Broad Street, 18th floor, New York, NY 10004,

Memorial services will be announced in the coming days.
To Our Readers and Friends

Molly Ivins left her editor's chair at The Texas Observer more than 30 years ago and went on to play a larger stage. But she never left us behind. She remained convinced that Texas needed a progressive, independent voice to call the powerful to account and to stand up for the common folk. She kept our voice alive. More than once, when the paper was on the brink of insolvency, she delivered speeches and gave us the honorariums. She donated royalties from her best-selling book Shrub to keep the doors open. Her determination and efforts sustained the Observer as a magazine, as a family, and as a community.

Molly was a hero. She was a mentor. She was a liberal. She was a patriot. She was a friend. And she always will be. With Molly's death we have lost someone we hold dear. What she has left behind we will hold dearer still.

Despite her failing health, and an impending ice storm, Molly insisted on being driven to the Observer’s most recent public event in early January so she could thank our supporters.

Observer writers are useful, she explained to the crowd, in much the same way as good hunting dogs. Turn them loose, let them hunt. When they return with their prey, pat them on the head, say a few words of praise, and set them loose to hunt again.

For the time being, our site will be dedicated to remembering Molly, her work, her wit, her contributions to the political discourse of a nation. We invite readers to submit their own thoughts and recollections, to say a few words of praise.

Then, we will return to the hunt.

"Getting Out of Iraq" (with video)

mcjoan on Kos:
Senator Feingold's approach recognizes the reality that this administration will not listen to the American people, to the Iraq Study Group, to Congress, to our allies in the region or the world. Non-binding resolutions stating the political opposition to escalation, to the continuation of this catastrophic occupation, are politically important, but won't end the war. The only way that this president can be forced to end this war is if the Congress refuses to fund, (7:19)

More Protest Videos

From AfterDowning, via YouTube:

San Diego

Los Angeles

Santa Barbara Dennis Loo, who is the speaker, has a website.


From the AP story that I couldn't find in any US newspaper:
``What I think many of us are concerned about is that we stumble into active hostilities with Iran without having aggressively pursued diplomatic approaches, without the American people understanding exactly what's taking place,'' Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., told John Negroponte, who is in line to become the nation's No. 2 diplomat as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's deputy.

Obama, a candidate for president in 2008, warned during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that senators of both parties will demand ``clarity and transparency in terms of U.S. policy so that we don't repeat some of the mistakes that have been made in the past,'' a reference to the faulty intelligence underlying the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

"Edwards '08: Talking Tough"

Roger Simon on The Politico:
In 2004, John Edwards rarely had an unkind word to say about his rivals for the presidency. But it isn't 2004 any more.

Should Hillary Clinton apologize for backing the Iraq war? "That is a moral decision she has to make," Edwards told me.

Is George Bush a "good man in difficult circumstances trying to do the right thing?" No, Edwards said. He is not.

That nonbinding resolution against the Iraq troop surge favored by Barack Obama? "Useless," said Edwards. "Exactly like a child standing in the corner and stomping his feet."


Jeffrey Feldman:
The Washington Post might be surprised to learn that that the phrase "Democrat Party" appears on the White House web site dozens of times as used by President Bush. But they might be even more surprised to learn that the phrase "Democrat Party" is a focus-group tested strategy deployed by the Republican Party's top PR consultant--Frank Luntz--who has also admitted to intentionally using it in his recent book--a book that is currently on the best seller list.

Honestly, though, how can we possibly expect the Washington Post to conduct all of this difficult research into the Republican use of "Democrat Party," which took me all of ten arduous minutes.

At the very least, though, they could go over to the New Yorker online and read a recent article by Hendrik Hertzberg on the topic, which lays out the whole story.

"The history of "Democrat Party" [slur] is hard to pin down with any precision," wrote Hendrik Hertzberg in a great piece called "The "Ic" Factor"that appeared last summer in New Yorker (8 Aug 2007). It may be hard to pin down, but Hertzberg does a fantastic job.
Josh links to Matt on "what the big deal is when Republicans call the Democratic party the 'Democrat party'."

Kos on Obama's Plan (with video)

This is no longer a battle over whether Bush will run with McCain's escalation plan and prolong the war. This is now a battle over ending the war.

The bar is higher, and Obama is the first of the top-tier presidential contenders to clear it, and he did so with room to spare.
This isn't a wussy "stop the escalation" measure, nor some half-measure like "withdraw some troops but not all" (which appears to be the Edwards position). And forget Clinton. Who the heck knows what her position is? She's too busy trying to look "responsible" to give us an unambiguous position on Iraq. Of course, it helps that Obama is the only top-tier candidate to have opposed the war from the beginning...

But Obama's move will force the rest of the candidates to take a harder line on Iraq or risk being left behind. It seems like such an obvious move, but it's an indictment of DC that Obama's obvious stance is actually a sign of "leadership". With the Joe Kleins of the city castigating Democrats who don't fall in line behind Bush's latest lame-brained gambit, taking a position shared by over 60 percent of the American people and probably the entire Democratic primary electorate is tougher than you'd think.

tpm media posted the video of "Obama Calls for Withdrawal by 2008," his speech on the Senate floor on YouTube (4:23). Lynn Sweet, writing in the Chicago Sun-Times:
Barack Obama has apparently reconsidered his position against setting a "date certain" for U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq. (snip) Obama started moving toward setting a timetable in the weeks leading up to his announcement of his 2008 Democratic presidential exploratory campaign. (snip) Asked if the Obama legislation represented a change in position, Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor replied, "This is entirely consistent with the Nov. 20 speech." Added Robert Gibbs, another Obama spokesman, "Obama's legislation embraces the goals set out by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group in saying that the goal is to have all combat forces out of Iraq by the end of March 2008."

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

"Obama Offers Plan to Stop Escalation of Iraq War, Begin Phased Redeployment of Troops"

U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) today introduced binding and comprehensive legislation that not only reverses the President's dangerous and ill-conceived escalation of the Iraq war, but also sets a new course for U.S. policy that can bring a responsible end to the war and bring our troops home.
"Our troops have preformed brilliantly in Iraq, but no amount of American soldiers can solve the political differences at the heart of somebody else's civil war," Obama said. "That's why I have introduced a plan to not only stop the escalation of this war, but begin a phased redeployment that can pressure the Iraqis to finally reach a political settlement and reduce the violence."

The Obama plan offers a responsible yet effective alternative to the President's failed policy of escalation. Realizing there can be no military solution in Iraq, it focuses instead on reaching a political solution in Iraq, protecting our interests in the region, and bringing this war to a responsible end. The legislation commences redeployment of U.S. forces no later than May 1, 2007 with the goal of removing all combat brigades from Iraq by March 31, 2008, a date that is consistent with the expectation of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group.

The plan allows for a limited number of U.S. troops to remain as basic force protection, to engage in counter-terrorism, and to continue the training of Iraqi security forces. If the Iraqis are successful in meeting the thirteen benchmarks for progress laid out by the Bush Administration, this plan also allows for the temporary suspension of the redeployment, provided Congress agrees that the benchmarks have been met and that the suspension is in the national security interest of the United States.

"The American people have been asked to be patient too many times, too many lives have been lost and too many billions have been spent," Obama said. "It's time for a policy that can bring a responsible end to this war and bring our troops home."

Fact Sheet: The Iraq War De-escalation Act of 2007

Today, Senator Obama introduced the Iraq War De-escalation Act of 2007. The Iraq War De-escalation Act of 2007 is binding and comprehensive legislation that not only reverses the President's dangerous and ill-conceived escalation, but also sets a new course for U.S. policy in Iraq that can bring a responsible end to the war and bring our troops home. It implements - with the force of law - a phased redeployment of U.S. forces that remains our best leverage to pressure the Iraqi government to achieve the political solution necessary to promote stability. It also places conditions on future economic aid to the government of Iraq and calls for the United States to lead a broad and sustained diplomatic initiative within the region. This plan is based on Senator Obama's November 20th, 2006 speech before the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, and it implements key recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group.

The Obama plan offers a responsible yet effective alternative to the President's failed policy of escalation. Realizing there can be no military solution in Iraq, it focuses instead on reaching a political solution in Iraq, protecting our interests in the region, and bringing this war to a responsible end. The legislation commences redeployment of U.S. forces no later than May 1, 2007 with the goal of removing all combat brigades from Iraq by March 31, 2008, a date that is consistent with the expectation of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group. The plan allows for a limited number of U.S. troops to remain as basic force protection, to engage in counter-terrorism, and to continue the training of Iraqi security forces. If the Iraqis are successful in meeting the thirteen benchmarks for progress laid out by the Bush Administration, this plan also allows for the temporary suspension of the redeployment, provided Congress agrees that the benchmarks have been met and that the suspension is in the national security interest of the United States.

In short, the Obama plan halts the escalation and requires a responsible, phased redeployment of American forces from Iraq in a manner that protects U.S. troops and exerts leverage to achieve the political settlement among the Iraqis.

Key Elements of Obama Plan

* Stops the Escalation: Caps the number of U.S. troops in Iraq at the number in Iraq on January 10, 2007. This does not affect the funding for our troops in Iraq. This cap has the force of law and could not be lifted without explicit Congressional authorization.

* De-escalates the War with Phased Redeployment: Commences a phased redeployment of U.S. troops out of Iraq not later than May 1, 2007, with the goal that all combat brigades redeploy from Iraq by March 31, 2008, a date consistent with the expectation of the Iraq Study Group. This redeployment will be both substantial and gradual, and will be planned and implemented by military commanders. Makes clear that Congress believes troops should be redeployed to the United States; to Afghanistan; and to other points in the region. A residual U.S. presence may remain in Iraq for force protection, training of Iraqi security forces, and pursuit of international terrorists.

* Enforces Tough Benchmarks for Progress: These 13 benchmarks are based on President Bush's own statements and Administration documents and include:
o Security: Significant progress toward fulfilling security commitments, including eliminating restrictions on U.S. forces, reducing sectarian violence, reducing the size and influence of the militias, and strengthening the Iraqi Army and Police.

o Political Accommodation: Significant progress toward reaching a political solution, including equitable sharing of oil revenues, revision of de-Baathification, provincial elections, even-handed provision of government services, and a fair process for a constitutional amendment to achieve national reconciliation.

o Economic Progress: Requires Iraq to fulfill its commitment to spend not less than $10 billion for reconstruction, job creation, and economic development without regard for the ethnic or sectarian make-up of Iraqi regions.

*Should these benchmarks be met, the plan allows for the temporary suspension of this redeployment, subject to the agreement of Congress.

* Congressional oversight: Requires the President to submit reports to Congress every 90 days describing and assessing the Iraqi government's progress in meeting benchmarks and the redeployment goals.

* Intensified Training: Intensifies training of Iraqi security forces to enable the country to take over security responsibility of the country.

* Conditions on Economic Assistance: Conditions future economic assistance to the Government of Iraq on significant progress toward achievement of benchmarks. Allows exceptions for humanitarian, security, and job-creation assistance.

* Regional Diplomacy: Launches a comprehensive regional and international diplomatic initiative - that includes key nations in the region - to help achieve a political settlement among the Iraqi people, end the civil war in Iraq, and prevent a humanitarian catastrophe and regional conflict. Recommends the President should appoint a Special Envoy for Iraq to carry out this diplomacy within 60 days. Mandates that the President submit a plan to prevent the war in Iraq from becoming a wider regional conflict.

"Anti-War Marches Draw Hundreds of Thousands" (with video)

From Inter Press Service with video from
Peace activists from across the United States gathered in Washington Saturday for what they said was the largest demonstration to date against the Iraq war.
"It's time for a new day," the Reverend Jesse Jackson told what organisers estimated as a crowd of 500,000 demonstrators gathered outside the halls of Congress on the National Mall.

"We do not need more troops in Iraq, we need more money at home," Jackson said. "We need a vision of hope over fear, of preparing smart children not smart bombs. A vision realising that right makes might; might does not make right."

The demonstration, which was pulled together by an umbrella group called United for Peace and Justice, also featured speeches by a half dozen antiwar Congresspeople.

Among them was a founder of Congress' "Out of Iraq Caucus," Maxine Waters, a California Democrat, who pledged not to vote "one dime for this war."

Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson also spoke, as did actors Jane Fonda and Sean Penn, members of the National Organisation for Women and other feminist groups, members of the United States military and veterans groups opposed to the war, and representatives of organised labour.

"The American people spoke loudly in the November election, removing from office many of those who shared President Bush's wrong-headed thinking," Fred Mason, head of the Maryland chapter of the AFL-CIO, a major umbrella trade union, told the crowd. "The new Congress has a responsibility to the American people to end military involvement in Iraq and bring our troops home now."

Like many speakers at the rally, Mason expressed disappointment that so far the Democratic Congress' opposition to George W. Bush's Iraq policy has shown itself mainly in the drafting of non-binding resolutions against his troop surge. For his part, Bush has rebuffed those efforts.

"I'm the decision maker," Bush said Friday. "I've picked the plan that I think is most likely to succeed ... I know there is scepticism and pessimism and that some are condemning a plan before it's even had a chance to work."

Like other speakers at Saturday's rally, trade unionist Fred Mason said Bush's intransigence means Congress should immediately cut funding for the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

"The American people don't want a surge in the violence and the deadly risk to their loved ones associated with this president's wrong-headed approach," he said. "Our democracy provides ourselves with the opportunity to express ourselves in these electoral processes. However, when there is reason to doubt whether the people we elected are heeding the people's will, we have a responsibility to speak with an even louder voice."

Still, the mood amongst demonstrators was optimistic.

"I really feel the American people are with us," said Al Johnson, a retired teacher from Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

"It's such an important topic," he told IPS. "I haven't been to a demonstration in more than 30 years."

Saturday's demonstration in Washington was just one of more than 50 held around the country this weekend. In San Francisco, a protest against President Bush's plan to send 21,500 additional troops to Iraq turned out 5,000 demonstrators. In Los Angeles, thousands took to the streets, with many carrying signs that said "Impeach Bush."

In Seattle, more than 1,000 people turned out to protest. Among the speakers at that rally was first Lt. Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer to face prosecution for refusing to serve in Iraq.

Long-time social activist Tom Hayden told IPS President Bush's ability to wage war is increasingly tenuous.

"Wars are based on pillars," Hayden said. "You need available soldiers, you need bipartisan support. You need recruitment of more soldiers, you need money, you need your moral reputation to be preserved and you need allies. By any of those measures the pillars are being undermined."

Hayden noted that more than 1,000 active duty U.S. soldiers have signed a petition calling for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Unhappiness with the war is also growing among veterans, with the group Iraq Veterans Against the War estimating their organisation has quadrupled in size over the last year.

"Supporting the troops that have signed these petitions and supporting efforts to stop military recruitment at our high schools and at community colleges are absolutely vital," Hayden added. "But people every day can do something. You want to convince your undecided neighbor to go against, you want to convince your kid not to go, you want to take a picket sign to the military recruiting office. You want to link up with the poor people's and labour organisations and say this war costs 287 million dollars an hour."

"If you put your energies toward a pillar they will eventually tip," he said, "and they cannot fight a war without these resources."

"Seattle's Jan 27 March Passing Army Recruitment Center" (video, 00:16)

From CoolAqua.

Monday, January 29, 2007

"A triangulator for non-triangulating times"

Geov Parrish:
As huge crowds gathered in Washington over the weekend to protest the war –- organizers on Saturday estimated half a million, while AP, the New York Times, and the Washington Post all opted for the ludicrously low-balled "tens of thousands" –- one leading politician was notable for fleeing the city ahead of the angry hordes. No, it wasn't President Bush, who stayed put in the White House. It was Hillary Clinton.
Clinton not only avoided the demonstration, but chose to compete with it in the Saturday news cycle, holding a high-profile "town hall" meeting in her first campaign visit to the all-important state of Iowa. All-important to everyone, that is, except Clinton, who had previously ignored the state and trails John Edwards, Barack Obama, and Tom Vilsack in the latest polling there.

Why doesn't Hillary care much about Iowa? Because she is running a slick, well-orchestrated, pitch-perfect campaign for President -– if this were 2000. Clinton's game is exactly what George Bush and Al Gore both did in securing their parties' nominations in that season, running to replacing a tarnished two-term president. Both went hard after their parties' major donors early, sucking all the money, media, and oxygen in 1999 out of what could have been competitive races, sewing up their nominations long before the first primary ballot had been cast. Gore had only to beat back a mild, quixotic challenge from Bill Bradley; Bush forced a host of lesser candidates out before beating back a similarly doomed dissident campaign by John McCain.

Textbook stuff, then. Except that Hillary and her many handlers haven't noticed this is not 1999; a lot has happened since the end of the'90s. George Bush's disastrous reign, for one. The Internet, for another. And, most critically for Hillary Clinton, a desperate yearning on the part of Americans of all political stripes not for a triangulating "centrist" in the Clinton mold, but for someone who can show themselves as both attuned and responsive to the national mood and capable of authenticity and bold leadership. Hillary Clinton could not be a less appropriate candidate for 2008.

She is hoping, ala 1999, that this won't matter; that she has and will have enough major donor money lined up, with little enough left for competitors, that by the time voters and caucus-goers get to actually choose, there will be no choice, just as there were no real party nomination choices in 2000. We've already seen this principle in action; at this preposterously early date Russ Feingold, Evan Bayh, and now John Kerry have all dropped their Democratic bids. But their departures owe more to the unexpected fundraising presence of Barack Obama. Obama, and to a lesser extent John Edwards, are both likely to survive to primary season, and both are presenting messages far more likely to resonate with the party faithful than Hillary Clinton's overcautious, made-for-1999 persona.

Nowhere was this more obvious than in this month's respective campaign launches of Obama and Clinton. Both used the Internet, but to very different effect. Obama webcast his campaign announcement in casual attire, and spoke directly with a message of hope and leadership, critiquing "politics as usual." On her webcast "conversations," in which she allegedly was giving viewers a look at an authentic, unscripted Hillary, Clinton fairly oozed "politics as usual." In response to vetted, often softball questions, she ran through a litany of standard Democratic talking points, liberally peppered with cliché. (I stopped counting the number of times we were to roll up our sleeves, something I doubt she ever, ever literally does.) She came across as a politician so slick, practiced, and out-of-touch that she has forgotten even what an authentic, unscripted moment looks and sounds like, let alone how to produce one, let alone how to actually have any.

Clinton's campaign is banking, literally, that it won't matter. At this point, with two long years to go, the Democratic nominee will have a huge advantage in 2008; 49 percent of Americans polled on generic party preference want to see a Democratic president, versus a staggeringly low 21 percent preference for a Republican. Her campaign knows that winning the nomination would mean that the presidency, far-right Hillary-hatred notwithstanding, would be hers to lose.

That's why the war chest approach. It's the only way she can win. Hillary has already lost control of Democratic voters. Her signature issue is the one issue she has tried hardest to avoid for four years: Iraq. The political sands here on Iraq, let alone those in Iraq itself, are changing faster than she can triangulate to accommodate them. In the runup to the nomination, Clinton will be a force anyway, because she has a huge financial machine behind her. She is offering a perfectly safe, unthreatening message for those wealthy and well-connected elites for whom the last six years have worked just fine. The rest of us, Iowans and war protestors included, don't matter so much, and are better avoided.

But Obama will be well-financed, too. And what Barack Obama understands intuitively, John Edwards is trying to offer, and Jim Webb demonstrated amply in his short, blunt State of the Union reply last week, is that we Americans now desperately want an honest leader who says what's on their, and our, mind.

This is politics in 2007 -– not 1999. Should the nomination actually be decided by voters next year –- which Obama's entry virtually ensured -– Clinton suddenly becomes a far less compelling candidate. Triangulation is so last millennium. In a warped way, Clinton is being authentic in her inauthenticity; she's being true to who she is. But that's not enough. Money notwithstanding, Hillary Clinton is an awful candidate for our times. She would make a worse President.

"Feingold Calls War Bluff"

Roger Simon on
Senate Democrats oppose the war in Iraq, they just don't plan on stopping it.

They have discovered that standing up to the president is not quite as easy as vilifying him.dditional Resources

Fact sheet on Feingold’s proposed legislation

Use the power of the purse: An opinion piece by Senator Russ Fein

Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., has decided, however, to challenge what he calls the "timidity" of Democratic leaders. He is going to introduce legislation cutting off funding for the Iraq war and he may do it, he told me, as early as this week.

I reached him by telephone Monday in Fond du Lac, Wis., where he was conducting one of his "Listening Sessions" with voters during a snowstorm.

I asked him whether Democratic voters were further to the left than their elected leaders, especially their presidential candidates, when it came to the war.

"That is not only true of Democrats," Feingold said, "it is true of the public as a whole. The mainstream view of the American people is to get out of Iraq."

Cutting off funds only for the planned 21,500 troop surge in Iraq and passing resolutions condemning the war has become the fallback position of Senate Democrats who are fearful of being portrayed as unpatriotic, cowardly, "Mommy Party" haters of the military.

And they have reason to be afraid. The White House plays hardball. The White House is never reluctant to accuse those who oppose its policies in Iraq of being bashers of our troops and abettors of our enemies.

The Bush administration released a statement last weekend saying that even those who just want to prohibit the surge are sending "the wrong message to our troops, our enemies, and the Iraqi people."

In Iowa Sunday, Hillary Clinton said: "At this point, I am not ready to cut off funding for American troops. I am not going to do that." She said that even if Congress passed such a bill, it would be pointless because we have "a president who will veto anything that impinges on his authority."

Feingold is not impressed with that argument. "It is not true this is a futile exercise," he said. "We can say no."

If, for instance, the Democrats attached an Iraq funding cutoff to an appropriations bill, the president would risk shutting down the government by vetoing it.

But some Democrats are worried. As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told my colleague John Bresnahan Thursday, Republicans "would like this debate to be as (to) whether or not we are going to be cutting off money for troops."

And others, including Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., D-Del., who is running for president, says a funding cutoff probably is unconstitutional.

Which is why Feingold is chairing a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday to "help inform my colleagues and the public about Congress's power to end a war."

Feingold has gathered various legal and other experts to testify, but the result is a foregone conclusion. "I am going to lay out the reality that Congress does have this power," Feingold said. "The president does not have the unilateral power to (continue the war) without our consent."

Feingold said a cutoff of funding six months after the law is enacted "makes sense, it is constitutional, and our troops will not be left in the lurch."

Under Feingold's plan, the administration would have to safely redeploy troops from Iraq except for those needed to target counter-terrorism operations and provide security for U.S "infrastructure and civilian personnel" there, and a "limited number" to train Iraqi security services.

Feingold is going to put his fellow Democrats to the test: If you are really against this war, he is going to tell them, now is the time to show it.

"Those (Democrats) who are timid on this, who are they listening to?" he said. "The people don't want us to talk just about ending the escalation. They think this whole war is wrong."

"Great March Photos from J27 in DC"


"In Law School, Obama Found Political Voice"

NY Times:
The peers who elected Barack Obama as the first black president of the Harvard Law Review say he was a natural leader, an impressive student, a nice guy. But in the 1990 Revue — the graduating editors’ gleeful parody of their elite publication — they said quite a bit more.

“I was born in Oslo, Norway, the son of a Volvo factory worker and part-time ice fisherman,” a mock self-tribute begins. “My mother was a backup singer for Abba. They were good folks.” In Chicago, “I discovered I was black, and I have remained so ever since.”

After his election, the Faux-bama says, he united warring students into “a happy, cohesive folk,” while “empowering all the folks out there in America who didn’t know about me by giving a series of articulate and startlingly mature interviews to all the folks in the media.”

In his two memoirs and the biographical video on his Web site, Senator Obama’s legal education is barely a blip, one of the least known chapters of his life. But for the Illinois Democrat who is all but certainly running for the presidency, Harvard was the place where he first became a political sensation.

He arrived there as an unknown, Afro-wearing community organizer who had spent years searching for his identity; by the time he left, he had his first national news media exposure, a book contract and a shot of confidence from running the most powerful legal journal in the country.

As the ribbing in the Revue suggests, Mr. Obama was realizing the power of his own biography. He proved deft at navigating an institution scorched with ideological battles, many of which revolved around race. He developed a leadership style based more on furthering consensus than on imposing his own ideas. Surrounded by students who enjoyed the sound of their own voices, Mr. Obama cast himself as an eager listener, sometimes giving warring classmates the impression that he agreed with all of them at once.

Friends say he did not want anyone to assume they knew his mind — and because of that, even those close to him did not always know exactly where he stood. It is a tendency that could prove perilous on the campaign trail, as voters, rivals and the news media try to fix the positions of a senator with only two years in office.

“He then and now is very hard to pin down,” said Kenneth Mack, a classmate and now a professor at the law school, referring to the senator’s on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand style.

Charles J. Ogletree Jr., another Harvard law professor and a mentor of Mr. Obama, said, “He can enter your space and organize your thoughts without necessarily revealing his own concerns and conflicts.”

Many of his former professors and classmates say they are cheering on Mr. Obama, 45, in his candidacy. But the skills he displayed in law school may not serve him as well in American presidential politics, which sometimes rewards other qualities — like delivering sound bites instead of deliberateness or fidelity to a base of supporters instead of compromise.

The law review is “fairly disconnected from the breadth and the rough and tumble of real politics,” said Bruce Spiva, a former review editor who now practices civil rights law in Washington. “It’s an election among a closed group. It’s more like electing a pope.”

Mr. Obama declined to comment about his time at Harvard. He arrived at the law school in 1988 with a well-inked passport — he had grown up in Hawaii and Indonesia, son of a black Kenyan father and a white American mother — and years of community organizing experience in Chicago, making him, at 27, an elder statesman among the students who had tested and term-papered their way straight there.

Mr. Obama spent much of his time alone, curtailing his dating life after his first summer, when he met his future wife, a Harvard Law graduate named Michelle Robinson who was working in Chicago. He often played pickup basketball, replacing his deliberative off-court style with sharp elbows and aggressive grabs for the ball.

Along with 40-odd classmates, he won a precious spot on the law review at the end of his first year through grades and a writing competition. But the next year, when other students implored him to run for the presidency, he demurred; he wanted to return to community work in Chicago, he said, and the credential would be no help. Late in the process, he finally agreed, saying he might be uniquely able to heal the review’s partisan divisions.

The election was an all-day affair with the ego-crushing drama of a reality TV show. Inside Pound Hall, the editors picked apart the intellectual and social skills of the 19 contenders, eliminating them in batches. At the last moment, the conservative faction, its initial candidates defeated, threw its support to Mr. Obama. “Whatever his politics, we felt he would give us a fair shake,” said Bradford Berenson, a former associate White House counsel in the Bush administration.

The two finalists were invited back into the room. But before the winner could be announced, Mr. Mack, a black student who had rejoined the editors after being eliminated, lunged toward Mr. Obama, so moved by the barrier that had just fallen that he embraced him tightly, tears streaming down both men’s cheeks.

Newspapers and magazines swarmed around the first black student to win the most coveted spot at the most vaunted club at one of America’s most prestigious institutions. In interviews, Mr. Obama was modest and careful. (In a rare slip, he told The Associated Press: “I’m not interested in the suburbs. The suburbs bore me.”) He signed a contract to write a memoir. A prankster posted a cast list for a movie version of his life, starring Blair Underwood. When Mr. Underwood visited the school, he questioned Mr. Obama for material for “L.A. Law.”

“People were always asking me, do young black attorneys really exist like that?” Mr. Underwood said in a recent interview. “I would refer to Barack.”

Winning the job was simpler than doing it. The president had to reject articles by some of the school’s famous professors and persuade a divided group of editors to stop arguing and start editing.

“I have worked in the Supreme Court and the White House and I never saw politics as bitter as at Harvard Law Review in the early ’90s,” Mr. Berenson said. “The law school was populated by a bunch of would-be Daniel Websters harnessed to extreme political ideologies.” They were so ardent that they would boo and hiss one another in class.

Even trickier, Mr. Obama was the most prominent minority student on a campus shaken by racial politics. A group agitating for greater faculty diversity occupied the dean’s office and sued the school for discrimination; Derrick Bell, a black law professor, resigned over the issue.

The law review struggled to decide whether affirmative action should factor into the selection of editors, and how much voice to give to critical race theorists, who argued that the legal system was inherently biased against minorities. That drew the ridicule of conservative students.

And it left the new president with a difficult choice. If he failed to use his office to criticize Harvard, Mr. Obama would anger black and liberal students; by speaking out, he would risk dragging himself and the review into the center of shrill debates.

People had a way of hearing what they wanted in Mr. Obama’s words. Earlier, after a long, tortured discussion about whether it was better to be called “black” or “African-American,” Mr. Obama dismissed the question, saying semantics did not matter as much as real-life issues, recalled Cassandra Butts, still a close friend. According to Mr. Ogletree, students on each side of the debate thought he was endorsing their side. “Everyone was nodding, Oh, he agrees with me,” he said.

As the president of the review, Mr. Obama once again walked a delicate line. He served on the board of the Black Law Students Association, often speaking passionately about the tempest of the week, but in a way that white classmates say made them feel reassured rather than defensive. He distanced himself from bombast; he did a mischievous impersonation of the Rev. Jesse Jackson when he came to speak on campus, recalled Franklin Amanat, now a federal prosecutor in Brooklyn. Mr. Obama’s boldest moment came at a rally for faculty diversity, where he compared Professor Bell to Rosa Parks.

But mainly, Mr. Obama stayed away from the extremes of campus debate, often choosing safe topics for his speeches. At the black law students’ annual conference, he exhorted students to remember the obligations that came with their privileged education. His speeches, delivered in the oratorical manner of a Baptist minister, were more memorable for style than substance, Mr. Mack said.

“It’s the inspiration of the speech rather than the specific content,” he said.

Just as he does now that he is a senator, Mr. Obama spoke then about his own biography — initially, Mr. Ogletree said, to correct anyone who assumed he had acquired his position with ease. His message, Mr. Ogletree said, was, “Don’t look at my success and assume that I have had a silver spoon in my mouth and gold coins in my hand.”

During the constant arguments about race and merit, everyone could point to Mr. Obama and find justification for their views. He had acknowledged benefiting from affirmative action in the past, so those who supported it saw him as the happy product of their beliefs.

But those who opposed it saw his presidency as the triumph of meritocracy. He was a black man who had helped one of Harvard’s most celebrated professors, Laurence H. Tribe, with an article on law and physics, and would graduate magna cum laude.

Another of Mr. Obama’s techniques relied on his seemingly limitless appetite for hearing the opinions of others, no matter how redundant or extreme. That could lead to endless debates — a mouse infestation at the review office provoked a long exchange about rodent rights — as well as some uncertainty about what Mr. Obama himself thought about the issue at hand.

In dozens of interviews, his friends said they could not remember his specific views from that era, beyond a general emphasis on diversity and social and economic justice.

Instead, they wonder how the style of leadership they observed on campus could translate to another kind of historic presidency.

“The things that make law school politics fractious are different from the things that make American politics fractious,” said Ron Klain, who preceded Mr. Obama at the law review and later served as Vice President Al Gore’s chief of staff. Mr. Klain has watched the senator’s rise.

“The interesting caveat,” he said, “is that is a style of leadership more effective running a law review than running a country.”

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Politics and Media in Seattle

From Atrios comes this photographic morsel of nostalgia from an evening of chat at Town Hall. Name those celebrities!

"Anti-War Groups Push Impeachment"

The Politico:
On Monday, a small army of anti-war activists will fan out across Capitol Hill to lobby for congressional support to impeach President Bush, who's facing a storm of opposition for his handling of the Iraq war.

The activists may get a sympathetic ear on their anti-Bush message from Democrats, many of whom favor formal investigations into the administration's handling of the war and terrorism. But they'll likely get only get polite smiles - and little, if any, support - when they bring up the "I" word.
It's a tricky issue for Democrats in Congress, who share many of the same frustrations about Bush and the war, but are hesitant to even discuss impeachment. "Hell no," said Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., the House majority whip, when asked whether impeachment is a possibility.

Other members aren’t quite as emphatic as Clyburn, Yet, they make it clear that Bush will not get a free ride on his handling of Iraq and national security.

"The only "I" word I worry about right now is Iraq," said Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which is planning hearings on the Iraq reconstruction next week.

Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, D-N.J. said that calls for impeachment were "premature" although he added: "If (Bush's) failures (in Iraq) continue, there is no telling what the outcome can be in terms of congressional attitude."

Others had a more practical concern. "If we impeach President Bush, then Vice President Cheney is next in line (to be president), so I don't think we'd go there," said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.

Many members interviewed by The Politico said they were worried that impeachment proceedings would distract from congressional investigations into Bush's handling of the war. And Democratic Party leaders had indicated before they took control of Congress that impeachment proceedings would be off the table.

Nonetheless, a small but determined group of liberal activists is keeping up the impeachment drumbeat. And on Monday, it'll kick off an aggressive lobbying push.

Embolden by the large anti-war rally Saturday and the president's historic lows in the public opinion polls, impeachment activists sense the time has come for their cause.

"George W. Bush has repeatedly insisted that he has the unilateral right to initiate and escalate wars," said Bob Fertik, president of ImpeachPAC, which raised more than $80,000 last year to support candidates favoring Bush's impeachment. The president's "view of the unitary executive is nothing less than dictatorship. There has to be accountability, there has to be impeachment."

Only one candidate endorsed by ImpeachPAC actually won last fall, however: Rep Keith Ellison, D-Minn., who received $1,000 from the group. And he has backed off.

After calling for impeachment hearings at a campaign rally last October, Ellison recently told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune he's now "a step before impeachment" as he adjusts to realities in Congress.

Tim Carpenter, national director of the Progressive Democrats of America, a left-wing organization that favors impeachment, said there are more than 1,400 members in the group who are specifically working on oversight and impeachment. And he expects "hundreds of them" to lobby on Monday.

Carpenter doesn't expect much traction on impeachment now, but has high expectations about congressional oversight. "So come a month from now, when the subpoenas start rolling, we will be confident that impeachment will be back on the table," he said.

The "impeachment and anti-war people overlap," said Fertik. "We feel passionately about both, so we are going to be pushing both issues as we walk the halls of Congress."

But not everyone who attended this weekend's march feels the same. Some fear that impeachment proceedings will in fact distract from the primary issue of ending the war. Sue Udry, legislative coordinator the United for Peace and Justice, the umbrella organization which sponsored Saturday's march and Monday's lobbying events, said he organization was not endorsing calls for Bush's impeachment.

Although impeachment supporters know that they face long odds with little support either in Congress or from other groups on the left, many like David Swanson, Washington director of ImpeachPAC vow to fight on.

"If election didn't do it then, the march doesn't do it, then lobbying doesn't do it then, well, we will have to try something else," he said.

Frank Rich: Senator Clinton's 'mission unaccomplished' on Iraq

In his latest column in the Sunday New York Times, Frank Rich takes aim at Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) for trying to "rewrite her own history on Iraq to match" the positions held a long time before by other prominent Democrats, including at least one of her main rivals for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination: Senator Barack Obama (D-IL).

"The Democrats' pre-eminent presidential candidate can't escape the war any more than the president can," Rich writes. "And so she was blindsided Tuesday night, just as Bush was, by an unexpected gate-crasher, the rookie senator from Virginia, Jim Webb."

Rich adds, "Though he's not a candidate for national office, Webb's nine-minute Democratic response not only upstaged the president but also, in an unintended political drive-by shooting, gave Clinton a more pointed State of the Union 'contrast' than she had bargained for."

"Clinton cannot rewrite her own history on Iraq to match Obama's early opposition to the war, or Webb's," Rich continues. "She was not prescient enough to see, as Webb wrote in The Washington Post back in September 2002, that 'unilateral wars designed to bring about regime change and a long-term occupation should be undertaken only when a nation's existence is clearly at stake.'"

"Pictures from Seattle Peace Rally"

From dinazina (tireless Deaniac). Pete McGowan also has some photos and coverage of the Seattle rally.

"In Iowa, Clinton targets female voters. White House home too long to "white men.'

Lynn Sweet (Chicago Sun-Times):
DES MOINES -- At the first public event of her week-old presidential campaign, Hillary Rodham Clinton made gender a factor in the 2008 contest, noting the White House has too long been home to "white men."
Clinton is spending the weekend barnstorming in this first caucus state. She has not set foot in Iowa since 2003 and is trailing John Edwards and Barack Obama in polls here. Her campaign strategy is to replicate her 2000 first Senate race where she introduced and sold herself to her then newly adopted state of New York.

Her day started in Des Moines, meeting with Democratic activists, and wrapped up at a house party in Cedar Rapids.

In the afternoon, she drew more than 1,000 to a high school gym here for a well-staged, telegenic town hall-style meeting that gave the public the first taste of how the former first lady, now two-term senator, will pursue her historic bid.

"Now I know there are people who either say or wonder, 'Would we ever elect a woman as president?' ... I'm going to try," she said.

The crowd was friendly. No hostile questions. No one confronted her on her Iraq war vote, thought to be her Achilles' heel in Iowa.

"You go, girl," a woman called out.

"Go with me," Clinton shot back.

'Lifetime of experiences'
She talked and took questions on a set framed with red, white and blue banners with her motto, "Let the Conversation Begin," the 2008 incarnation of the "listening tour" she conducted in the run-up to her initial New York Senate race.
Clinton was very relaxed, perhaps because she finally declared for president and was freed from pretending otherwise. Though the papers she filed said "exploratory committee," she is not bothering with any political fiction.

"I'm running for president, and I'm in it to win it," she said, using what in seven days has become a stump speech line. Each person at the gym got an "I'm in to Win" button.

Clinton said she was running for president "because I want to renew the promise of America," and she said she has a "lifetime of experiences as well as the qualifications to run," which makes her "particularly well-prepared to take office in January 2009."

Female voters are a major target of the Clinton campaign, and she worked that theme hard.

"It is a fact that our political system has been dominated until recently by men and by white men," she said.

Referring to the recently cracked marble ceiling in the Capitol, Clinton said, "Think of what it felt like when you saw Nancy Pelosi become speaker of the House.

"I don't think I am the only woman here who feels sometimes you have to work harder, and I am prepared to do that."

She also said "she accepted" there were probably going to be stories about her clothes and hair.

And she mentioned other "funny stories" that could be out there "about differences between us" -- which could mean any number of things. She talked about a double standard, but she could have been referring to several items at that point.

Clinton, raised in Park Ridge, wanted a conversation, and she got one. Teacher Terri Hoffman, who lives in Des Moines and was raised in Rolling Meadows, told Clinton:

"A friend of mine went to high school with you and slept over when you had sleepovers," she said, referring to a Clinton Maine South chum named Diane Korda.

Without missing a beat Clinton said, "I hope she did not talk too much."

At another stop, Hillary had a different message. "Clinton: Iraq war Bush's responsibility:"
DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) -- Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday that President Bush has made a mess of Iraq and it is his responsibility to "extricate" the United States from the situation before he leaves office.

It would be "the height of irresponsibility" to pass the war along to the next commander in chief, she said.

"This was his decision to go to war with an ill-conceived plan and an incompetently executed strategy," the Democratic senator from New York said her in initial presidential campaign swing through Iowa.

"We expect him to extricate our country from this before he leaves office" in January 2009, the former first lady said.
Howie P.S.: She made some other comments that you can read in the full story. The New York Times has "Tale of Two Clinton Campaigns (video, 2:15) and " "Hillary Clinton Goes to Iowa (video, 2:12).

"The Anti War March Meets The Media"

News Dissector Blog:
MEDIA DOWNPLAYS ANTI-WAR MARCH SIZE---This past weekend’s anti-war march was big, say the organizers and I have no reason to doubt them. They made this claim:

“Washington, D.C. -- In a massive showing of public opposition to the Iraq war, 500,000 people filled the streets around the Capitol today, completely surrounding the building. Participants converged on the National Mall from all over the country to voice their support for an end to the conflict in Iraq.

Three hundred buses rolled in early this morning, coming from more than 40 states and including at least 20 buses filled by New York City trade unions. United For Peace & Justice, the march coordinator, called this one of the the largest and most diverse demonstrations since the war began. According to UFPJ National Coordinator and veteran peace and justice leader Leslie Cagan, “This is a decisive moment in the history of this country and of our peace movement. In November, the people of this=nation voted for peace. We are here today, all ages, from all walks of life, to hold our elected officials to the mandate of the people.”

Add in protests in the rest of the country and it was even bigger.

But is that the picture most of America received? I didn’t see any report Saturday night on the front page of the Sunday NY Times online but, by the morning , the print edition of the Times wrote:
"Tens of thousands of protesters converged on the National Mall on Saturday to oppose President Bush’s plan for a troop increase in Iraq in what organizers hoped would be one of the largest shows of antiwar sentiment in the nation’s capital since the war began."

The story was carried as headline at the bottom of the page, not exactly prominent positioning. No Photo. A story about tennis got bigger play. The story was actually placed on p 21 (although it said p 22 on page l.) The story itself by Ian Urbina was well done. And the Times had two other reporters on the scene. The picture caption said thousands, not tens of thouands and certainly not a half-million. Low down in the story, it said 400,000. Bloomberg News reported 500,000, one of the few.

This was not the coverage "organizers hoped" for. Actually the organizers said it WAS the largest show of force since the war began with 500,000. The Time only acknowledged "tens of thousands." Does this matter? It doesn't if the numbers game doesn't matter. Years, ago the National Park Service which initially always underreported crowd sizes and then began having aerial photos taken that were analyzed by experts using grids, decided not to provide police estimates which were routinely reported. Perhaps that’s why the march did its own count.

Yesterday, the March claimed a half million—which IS "one of the largest shows of anti-war sentiment" (although I seem to remember the number of 750,000 used to quantify how many showed up in the big pre-war march of 2003). But the papers, seem to have followed the AP's earlier in the day estimate of "tens of thousands." True to form, the Washington Post online edition only reported "THOUSANDS." The Huffington Post headline: "Why The Anti-War March Won't Change Anything..."

Was this right on Or right off? I wasn’t there this time. My first anti-war march was in l965 so I have burned up my share of shoe or sneaker leather over the years as well as energy cheering some of the same speakers who turned up Saturday. I wasn’t feeling well enough to make the trip this time, but reported on it anyway.

I support marches as PART of a bigger strategy, not as THE strategy. And at least this time, many activists were planning to lobby Congress.

As readers know by now, I think its kind of important to get this message out to the people through the media, and not just the message that there’s opposition to the war but that there’s a movement opposing it. We need to show activism in action as a way for citizens to try to hold politicians accountable and participate in the process. Did that double message get through?

This approach requires a media strategy--and a challenge to the media— beyond sending out press releases and getting on Pacifica radio outlets.

It also requires a commitment to forging a stronger movement by ON GOING organizing and efforts to democratize and INVOLVE member groups and individuals in independent action outside of the Democratic Party. There needs to be some discipline too and a better presentation. Personally I think Dennis Kucinich has a strong message--but he shouldn't be given time on the program just to hype his campaign. That shows no respect for the movement. We need some independent journalists to really analyze this movement's strengths and weknesses, a former peace movement organizer told me. In that sense the numbers issue is not necessarily the only issue even if it does deserve comment. Another criticism I heard was that indy media was not represented with no blogger speaking.

On Saturday morning, the United For Peace and Justice website announced “(Watch live on C-SPAN!) Wow, I thought, you could see the March and Rally LIVE on CSPAN. At l:30, I tuned in just before the march was slated to start, and sure enough several cameras were in the crowed. The only commentary I heard then was that there were “thousands” there. Sounded small. All we saw was a rapper on the stage and people milling around, No interviews. No explanation. I guess I missed it.

Soon, a notice appeared on screen that CSPAN would switch away from the March to cover Hillary Clinton’s first speech in Iowa. And so they did, off to East High School for a stump speech. I expected them to come back while the march was happening. They didn’t. Instead they rebroadcast last Friday’s coverage of a National Review Institute conference on conservatism. Was CSPAN that nervous, that they had to preemptively “balance” the anti-war march?

Instead of the ongoing march, we heard righter than right columnist Michelle Malkin complaining that the media didn’t show the “throngs” at a right to life march, but only a few counter demonstrators. (CNN showed the 15 counter demonstrators and, for balance, had an interview with a conservative critic—but also a song by the raging grannies and a sound bite or two from well-known speakers like Jane Fonda.) It was superficial at best.

CSPAN promised to show it later, but when I tuned in, CSPAN l was running a session from the Memphis Media Conference earlier this month at 9:30 PM. (Later, I received an email saying I was in it so I can't criticize that, can I?)

I am sure the anti-war rally will be rebroadcast but the format with its endless parade of speakers and torrent of rhetoric is not exactly a media or audience turn on.

My point is that there was no real ‘live” coverage on the main CSPAN channel that I saw in a culture with news channels that can’t wait to go live. (When I worked at ABC, there was a term called SLR for Silly Live Remote referring to someone on freeway overpass “reporting live” on an ordinary rush hour where nothing was happening.) We have a media that will go "live" to the opening of an envelope. Just not to an anti-war march!

Coverage is more than just showing it; it is reporting on it, commenting on it, interviewing people there etc.

I flipped to Fox. If there was coverage I missed it. They were spinning a statement by John Kerry to the effect that world public opinion does not support the US war. This was being presented as “anti-American.” What do you expect from Faux News?

CNN did have a report with a journalist who had been at the march discussing it, saying there were “tens of thousands,” not a half million. He was in the studio, not on the Mall, with an anchor who patronizingly referred to protesters as “the kind of people we’ve seen before.” The march was treated as ho-hummer with the only interest expressed about whether active duty soldiers were marching. The CNN man said he heard about there were but didn’t see them.

It was then time for a standup from the White House lawn with a reporter discussing how the White House would respond to Congressional criticism of the war, as if the marchers didn’t exist. And then there was a replay of a soundbyte from President Bush under a graphic banner that said, can you believe, “THE SOUNDS OF DISSENT.”

AP reported “tens of thousands” not half a million.

Convinced this is their moment, tens of thousands marched Saturday in an anti-war demonstration linking military families, ordinary people and an icon of the Vietnam protest movement in a spirited call to get out of Iraq.

Andrea Hsu of NPR turned tens of thousands into: “Thousands of protesters gathered Saturday on the Mall in Washington, D.C.” Thousands!

NPR reported January 27: “While some citizens have protested against the Iraq war ever since the invasion of March 2003, the movement has failed to mobilize large numbers of people in public spaces. Has that changed now that a majority of Americans oppose the war?”

For some reason, there seemed to be more movie stars speaking than usual. What signal does that send? Of course CNN ran image of Jane Fonda now and in North Vietnam in l973. There was a photo of Sean Penn marching.

Headline in a newspaper in Komo Washington: "Middle America meets celebrity glitter in anti-war march."

Some outlets, but mostly on the West coast noted that there were protests there too: “WASHINGTON — Anti-war protesters from around the country converged on Washington, Los Angeles, San Francisco and other cities today, …”

Don’t the anti-war organizers see this as a problem? Don’t they think they should try to do something about it and take it as a challenge, and protest this ritualistic treatment? Shouldn’t they make the media coverage a issue? Are they only listening to themselves?

I was on Air America in LA on Saturday afternoon and host Bree Walker, a feisty former TV anchor agreed. But the anti-war movement continues to pay lipservice to this problem, perhaps for fear of “alienating” the press. Give me a break! Back in 2003, the Washington Posts own omsbudsman Michael Getler indicted his own newspaper for “downplaying protests.” He now works for Public Television.

This coverage is deplorable but worse: the anti-war movement had not made it an issue. With more than half the country opposing the war, the movement is still being under reported and marginalized! And, naively, not doing anything about it.

We still need a march on the media. Anyone with me?

"DC Marchers Challenge Congress to End War"

John Nichols:
Actor Sean Penn summed up the new energy -- and the new focus -- of the anti-war movement Saturday, when he turned George Bush's own words against the president.

Just hours after the president had again reasserted his false claim to authority to pursue a war that is not wanted by the American people or the Congress, Penn told anti-war demonstrators gathered in Washington that Bush would be wise to review the Constitution.

"In a democracy," the actor told the cheering crowd, which organizers said numbered in the hundreds of thousands, "we are the deciders."
Saturday's anti-war demostrations, which filled the streets of cities from San Francisco to Washington, marked a return to form for an anti-war movement that had trouble building momentum during the three years that followed Bush's decision to launch a preemptive war against a country that posed no serious threat to the United States or its allies. During the period from 2OO3 to 2OO6, Bush's Republican Party had complete control of the machinery of government, and his allies were successful in assuring that Congress would not serve as any kind of check or balance on the presidency.

Though polls showed that most Americans thought Bush had been wrong to take the country to war, and that they disapproved of his handling of the conflict, demonstrations seemed fruitless because the president held all the cards. Many opponents of the war poured their energies into electoral politics, hoping to restore at least a measure of balance to the federal government by putting opposition Democrats in charge of at least one house of Congress. On November 7, the work paid off, with the election of Democratic majorities in the House and Senate.

So it was that one of the most popular signs at Saturday's rally in Washington read: "I Voted for Peace."

An equally popular sign, distributed by United for Peace and Justice, the group that played a central role in organizing the demonstrations, read: "Congress: Stand Up to Bush!"

Both signs were necessary messages on Saturday because, while there is no question that Americans voted November 7 for peace, there is still a great deal of uncertainty about whether the Congress that was elected will, in fact, tell the president that it is time to bring the troops home.

Some members of Congress do get it. Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Lynn Woolsey, D-California, addressed the Washington rally, urging activists to lobby the House on behalf of comprehensive legislation she has sponsored to withdraw Congressional approval for the war and implement a rapid yet orderly withdrawal of U.S. soldiers and civilian contractors from Iraq. The second most senior member of the House, Michigan Democrat John Conyers, was there as well, telling the crowd that: "George Bush has a habit of firing military leaders who tell him the Iraq war is failing," said Conyers, who then looked out at the crowd and shouted: "He can't fire you."

"He can't fire us," added the House Judiciary Committee chair, referencing the Congress that he said should block funding for Bush's plans to maintain his war. "The founders of our country gave our Congress the power of the purse because they envisioned a scenario exactly like we find ourselves in today. Not only is it in our power, it is our obligation to stop Bush."

While Bush and Vice President Cheney continue to peddle the fantasy they have the power to wage war as they choose, Congressman Dennis Kucinich corrected the latest lie from the White House. "It is time for George Bush to understand that Congress is a coequal branch of government," the Ohio Democrat said. "Congress has the power to end this war."

Kucinich is right on both counts. But he might have added a footnote: There are still a lot of representatives and senators who do not fully accept the responsibility that goes with being members of a coequal branch of government. Until they are reminded of that fact by their constituents, a cautious approach to Constitutionally-mandated duties will prevent Congress from ending the war -- or even seriously curtailing it.

Sean Penn's message was, indeed, the appropriate one: Those who marched on Saturday can and should be the deciders in a democracy.

But in order to claim that title from a dubiously-selected president, the people will have to do more than march.

Only by delivering the message that was on their signs -- "Congress: Stand Up to Bush!" -- directly to their elected representatives will the people convince House and Senate majorities to act to end a war that should never have begun.

The lobbying starts Monday. It should not stop until the troops are home -- and until those who sent them into the quagmire are held fully to account.

While ending the war was the first priority for those who marched in Washington, San Francisco and dozens of other cities across the country Saturday, the demand for accountability was high on the agenda.

"This past November the American people sent a resounding signal to Washington, D.C., and the world. We want change. We want this war to end. And how did Bush respond? Twenty-one thousand, five hundred more will risk their lives for his misguided war," declared actor Tim Robbins, as he addressed the tens of thousands who had gathered on the National Mall. "Is impeachment still off the table? Let's get him out of office."

The crowd roared, "Impeach Bush! Impeach Bush. Impeach Bush!"

"Iowans Do Not Give Their Hearts or Votes Easily"

Roger Simon on The Politico:
It was cold and dark when Pat Baxter-Rebal got up to dress for Hillary Clinton’s 8:30 a.m. town hall meeting on Sunday.

Sunday morning in Iowa usually means church, but life is a series of choices and Baxter-Rebal chose Hillary over heaven.

Pat put on her bright red blazer, the better to be recognized when question and answer time came.

On her right lapel she put a big Hillary Clinton button and on the left she put her special button with Dick Cheney holding a ventriloquist’s dummy with the head of George W. Bush on it.

“I am a Democratic activist,” Pat said.
Yep, we got that.

“I have a cat, a lilac point Siamese and she walked into my life in 1992 and she reminded me of Hillary Clinton,” Pat said. “She has big round blue eyes and she acts like a First Lady.”

So Pat named her cat Hillary and when she heard that Hillary, the presidential candidate, was coming to town, she got a friend to help her and they managed to get Hillary (the cat) to make a paw print on a picture of Hillary (the cat) to give Hillary (the candidate.)

Pat drove over to the Scott County fairgrounds in sub-zero weather on Sunday, where in a heated pavilion Hillary (the candidate) was holding a standing-room-only town meeting with about 300 people.

When Hillary finished her talk, she called on Pat for a question, the red blazer having really done its trick.

And with 12 TV cameras grinding and an international press corps taking notes, Pat told everybody about Hillary (the cat) and the paw print and all the rest.

But Pat did not leave it there. She also said, “I have never heard a national candidate with such a fine-tuned knowledge of children. Thank you for your service to children.”

Hillary (the candidate) beamed.

Pat was a social worker for 24 years, working with abused children, and she told me, “I knew the name Hillary Clinton long before I knew who Bill Clinton was. Hillary has a real name in that field.”

You might think, perhaps, that Pat Baxter-Rebal might actually be planning to vote for Hillary Clinton, but you would be wrong.

This is Iowa and people do not give their hearts or votes away easily. Not even to candidates they respect and admire.

“I am also considering Barack Obama - - he was here last fall - - and Tom Vilsack,” Pat said.

What about John Edwards, who has been to Iowa 17 times since 2004?

“I like him a lot,” Pat said. “But I have a sense that he is a lightweight. He doesn’t have the ballast. It’s hard to get past his charm, but his charm doesn’t count for much with me.”

She considers Barack Obama more experienced than Edwards, even though Barack Obama is in his first term as a U.S. Senator and Edwards served a full term, because Obama served eight years in the Illinois senate.

“That counts for a lot here,” Pat said.

But why not just go with Hillary?

“I am not satisfied with her explanation about the Iraq war,” Pat said.

But come on. After the cat, the blue eyes, the paw print, the red blazer, the knowledge of children, the 12 TV cameras and international press corps taking down every word, after all this, you are really not going to commit to Hillary?

“Well, she is one of my top three,” Pat said.

"Thousands join bicoastal war protest" (UPDATED)

UPDATE: Geov Parrish reminds me that the technology to accurately count attendance at large gatherings does exist. I guess the media doesn't have access to it or just doesn't use it.

LA Times:
About 100,000 antiwar protesters from around the country converged Saturday on the National Mall, galvanized by opposition to President Bush's plan to increase the number of troops in Iraq.
Although longshot presidential contender Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio) made an appearance, the demonstration failed to lure the big guns of Democratic politics, such as presidential hopefuls Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.)

"If I was Barack Obama, I would be up there," said Will Ehrenfeld, 18, a freshman at Tufts University.

Martin Freed, 60, of Alaska, said Democratic leaders were "cowards" for skipping the protest. "They ought to be out here addressing us," he said.
They staged the first of two rallies outside the Democratic Party headquarters at 9th and Figueroa streets, intending to send a message to those now in control of Congress.

"The Democrats, like the Republicans, voted for this war because they, like the Republicans, believe that the oil in Iraq belongs to us," said Jim Lafferty, executive director of the Los Angeles National Lawyers Guild.

One man, dressed as Jesus, carried a sign saying, "Even I can only forgive so much, George." Dozens of signs declared "Impeach Bush."

Bothell Times:
Drumbeat in Seattle: "Stop the war now"---
Disc jockey Romey Rom has seen a lot of protests and parades pass the radio station at 26th Avenue and South Jackson Street where he's worked for seven years.

He's seen Ethiopians, Somalis, gays and lesbians march for rights and protection.

He and his friend Henry Bolar stood outside station KYIZ Saturday and watched about 2,000 war protesters march, chant and sing their way through the streets to two military recruiting centers in a nearby strip mall.

"It's good," said Bolar, who said he was a local rap artist. "This one is organized."

The protesters -- among tens of thousands nationwide to participate in such rallies -- surrounded the Army and Navy recruiting storefronts at 2301 S. Jackson St.

They pressed against police, who blocked the closed storefronts with bicycles, and chanted "Stop the war now" to a drum accompaniment.

When police retreated around the corner, protesters continued to chant and then shouted "Shut down by people power."

One protester was arrested on investigation of a misdemeanor assault for hitting an officer on the arm, said Lt. Scott Bachler of the East Precinct. The person was released, and the protest was otherwise peaceful, police said.

Many in the crowd continued on to the Langston Hughes Center to hear anti-war speakers, including Lt. Ehren Watada, who is facing a court-martial Feb. 5 for his refusal to deploy to what he calls the illegal war in Iraq.

Protesters carried signs against the Iraq war, President Bush, oil, greed and tyranny, and in support of GI resistance, bringing the troops home, Watada, social services, justice and jobs.

Buddhist monk Gilberto Perez of Bainbridge Island and 5-year-old home-schooler Julian King both said they were there to support "peace." Seventeen-year-old Rachel Shelton of Monroe and Newcastle resident Frank Irigon were there to protest the war and the escalation.

"The war is just messed up, and we need to get the troops back now," Shelton said.

Compared with other marches and demonstrations, Romey Rom and Bolar said, Saturday's was well-organized and policed.

The biggest rally they ever saw from their perch on Jackson was the march for immigration rights that drew more than 25,000 people in April, they said. The most fun is the Soul Fest parade every summer, they said.

"That's the most joyful," Bolar said. "But I can't say I've seen a bad parade."
Howie P.S.: We can go to Mars but still can't agree on a techonology to count the number of people who show up at anti-war rallies.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

"More than 1,000 in Seattle protest war"

Seattle P-I:
Shouting "U.S. off of Iraqi soil," more than 1,000 anti-war demonstrators marched Saturday afternoon from the Center for Social Justice on Capitol Hill to the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center off Yesler Way. The march was timed to coincide with a demonstration of tens of thousands of protestors in Washington, D.C.
One woman was arrested, but Seattle police said that the local demonstrtion was largely peaceful.

Marchers wound their way through Seattle's Central District and stopped for a few tense minutes at the 23rd Avenue and Jackson Street Navy recruitment center, where protest leaders planned to present the recruiters with a list of names of the Americans and Iraqis that have died in Iraq.

As demonstrators neared the building, Seattle police officers moved their bicycles to barricade Navy recruitment office, which had locked its door, put up a closed sign.

A woman wearing an orange jumpsuit and black facemask rushed a line of police and curled up next to the door. Officers quickly restrained her hands behind her back and raised her to her feet.

Police took the woman into custody as the crowd chanted, "You should be ashamed," and "Let her go."

The demonstrators took a minute to regroup, then continued east on South Jackson Street toward the arts center, where Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada, who is facing a military tribunal for disobeying orders, read a prepared speech to a filled auditorium.

Soldiers have a right to choose which wars to fight in, said Watada, who rose to public view after refusing to deploy to Iraq in June 2006. "It is not only our right but our constitutional and moral duty," he said.

Watada's speech also called for people to continue to protest the Iraq War, which he said was unconstitutional. Watada compared his dissent in the current war to the lack of dissent in Nazi Germany during World War II.

"In a system of democracy such as ours, the crimes of the government are the crimes of the people," he said.

Watada ended his speech by suggesting that the American military presence in Iraq was as if Great Britain or the French had come to the United States during the American Civil War.

"What if they killed President Abraham Lincoln, put the South in charge of the country and changed the Constitution to benefit French and British companies?" he said. "If we truly believe in democracy we must listen to what the Iraqis want."

"Howard Dean: McCain is the New Nixon"

CNN: Howard Dean is interviewed by Wolf Blitzer--Video (1:10).

"IRAQ WAR PROTEST - JAN. 27, 2007"

PoliticsTV: Video from the rally in Washington, DC(4:03) via YouTube.

"Clinton in DM: 'No do-overs' on Iraq"

Des Moines Register:
U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton confronted doubts today about her ability to win the 2008 presidential election and defended her position on the Iraq war during her first day in Iowa as a candidate for president.
The New York Democrat, who leads her party’s presidential hopefuls in national polls, also insisted that her celebrity status will not inhibit her from waging a hands-on campaign for Iowa’s lead-off caucuses.

“Many of the doubts that are being expressed now were certainly present when I made my initial listening tour in New York. There were so many doubts,” Clinton said in a Des Moines Register interview.

Clinton insisted that the crush of national and international news media that greeted her at a blockbuster forum at East High School in Des Moines and shadowed her 10-car motorcade around the city would subside as her campaign progressed.
Should that occur, voters will get to know her better, Clinton said.

“People want to assess me for themselves. They don’t want to take what other people say about me at face value,” she added.

To that end, Clinton’s campaign granted broad public access to her events, although she met early Saturday with labor leaders in private.

National media were allowed limited access to Clinton, with all of them congregating at East High.

A half-dozen satellite news trucks purred outside East High’s new community center while dozens of news media from Iowa, New York, Washington, D.C., and around the world waited inside.

An especially noticeable contingent of Japanese press was on hand. Producers from some of the international networks said interest in Clinton’s candidacy is huge in Japan.

Clinton also acknowledged doubts about her chances in a general election, should she win the nomination, that stem from national polls that consistently show her unfavorable rating to be around 40 percent.

“I do seem to inspire strong feelings,” the 59-year-old former first lady told two dozen of Iowa’s most influential Democrats at the state party’s central committee meeting in Des Moines.

In small groups, during interviews with Iowa media and in front of about 1,500 people at East High, Clinton repeatedly said voters will find her the most qualified Democrat, if they can get past the national hype.

She never mentioned her husband Bill’s time in office as the most recent Democrat president. Instead, she touted her six years in the Senate, career as a lawyer in Arkansas and policy efforts while first lady.

“Let’s start with what’s the most important concern: Who can be the best president?” she said in the Register interview. “I think I’m that person. And if that’s the question we get to, then I believe people will feel comfortable supporting me.”

Clinton’s heralded arrival in Iowa this weekend came a week after she declared she would form a committee to explore the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.

The East High forum had the flavor of a fall campaign’s closing days, with many in the jammed gymnasium waving “Hillary” signs. Another 1,000 people gathered in the old gym to watch on TV.

Clinton took questions about health care, being a woman presidential candidate and the war in Iraq.

“I’m less skeptical than I was two hours ago,” Des Moines Democrat Elizabeth Sedrel said, as supporters and photographers flocked around Clinton at the end of the forum. “But I’m still not sure. There’s a long way to go.”

Clinton pivoted away from her position about the politically touchy war in Iraq during the forum, and talked more about veterans health benefits.

But during the meeting with state party leaders, she was asked directly about the potential problem her vote for the 2002 resolution authorizing President Bush’s use of force in Iraq.

Clinton said, as she has since last month, that she would not have voted for the resolution had she known that the Bush administration’s justifications for the war would be proven to be unfounded.

She also shot back at her rivals, who have become more openly critical of Clinton for not saying the vote was a mistake.

“I’ve taken responsibility for my vote. But there are no do-overs in life. I wish there were,” she told the group.

“I’ve also been a member of the Senate and looked for ways to help try to manage this very dangerous situation,” she said earlier, during the interview.

Former Sen. John Edwards, who leads in early caucus polls, and former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack have said Clinton has not done enough to stop Bush from sending more troops to Iraq.

“It’s easy to be on the sidelines and say this and that,” she said.

Clinton has called for capping troops at existing levels in Iraq, gradually redeploying them and cutting funding for Iraqi security forces.

She opposes Bush’s plan to send the additional 21,500 troops to secure Baghdad and other areas in Iraq. But she also opposes blocking funding for those troops.

Instead, she said, getting Republican support for a non-binding resolution expressing opposition to the troop surge can spark a political movement to end the war.

Ames Democrat Jim Hutter, a former member of the state central committee, said Clinton’s answer satisfied him.

“My concern is Iowa caucus-goers have not heard her make the statement she made today,” said Hutter, who supported former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean in the 2004 caucuses but is undecided about 2008.

Clinton has trailed Edwards in Iowa and has support similar to Vilsack and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, according to recent polls.

Clinton said Iowans have not seen her up close yet. She promised to wage an all-out campaign for the caucuses, less than a year away.

She planned to campaign tonight in Cedar Rapids and Sunday in Davenport. Her first event in Davenport, originally planned as a small-group gathering at a restaurant, is now scheduled as another town hall-style forum at the Mississippi Valley Fairgrounds.

Clinton stopped short of saying she expected to win the Iowa caucuses.
“I have no expectations,” she said. “I’m starting off (with) the idea I have to earn every vote. That’s what I did in New York. That’s what I’m going to try to do in Iowa.”
Howie P.S.: It doesn't inspire much confidence in the candidate when she tells us she accepted "the Bush administration’s justifications for the war" that later "would be proven to be unfounded." There were plenty of people who figured that out before the vote and many people made the effort to communicate that to her, but she chose instead to believe George W. Bush. I don't see how her explanation strengthens her qualifications for the job.