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Be Careful What You Wish For May 20, 2009

Posted by Kate Ryan in CIA, Iraq War, National Politics, Politics, Torture.
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As a story that just will not die, the CIA-Nancy Pelosi torture memo debate fascinates me.  This latest Republican “look over here” tactic regarding the Bush Administration war crimes is breathtaking in its ballsy-ness.  What nobody is talking about is that the GOP seems to be saying, “OK, our guys tortured people.  But Nancy Pelosi – a DEMOCRAT – knew about it.”  It also amazes me that most of the media – who should be digging a little deeper here – are so in the tank for the Republican talking points (God, we need a Woodward and Bernstein!).

The latest to step into the fray is the ethically-challenged ex-Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich.  Gingrich told ABC’s “Good Morning America” today that Pelosi should resign.  

“She really disqualified herself to be the speaker,” Gingrich said. “She has a unique responsibility for national security. … She made this allegation that smears everyone whose trying to defend her.”

Leaving her in her place would be “very dangerous for the country,” Gingrich added.

This faux indignation on the part of Republicans that somebody would actually accuse the CIA of lying is laughable.  Of course they lie – they’re spies.  Doesn’t anyone remember Iran-Contra, Iraq had WMDs, or that Iraq was seeking yellowcake from Niger?  The Republicans themselves initiated an investigation (that is ongoing) into the CIA lying to Congress over providing intelligence that got a civilian jet carrying an American woman and her child killed.  The CIA’s own Inspector General reported that the agency obstructed justice and repeatedly lied to Congress and the White House.  The leader of this investigation is GOP congressman Pete Hoekstra, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee and one of the loudest voices calling for Pelosi’s head.

What’s more, facts in the briefing records are being repeatedly questioned.  Rep. Hoekstra has asked CIA Director Leon Panetta – who released the briefing records with the caveat that they may be incorrect or incomplete – to review the facts presented in the records.  Wisconsin Democrat David Obey has joined Senators Rockefeller and Graham in pointing out that while the briefing records say an Appropriations committee aide attended briefings, he was actually turned away because his clearance level was not high enough.  There is no record who gave seven of the briefings nor is there any indication when Senator John McCain was briefed except for “October 2005”.  The record also shows that Congressman Porter Goss was briefed on March 8, 2005 when he was no longer a Congressman but was, in fact, Director of the CIA.  In a final bit of obfuscation, the briefing record references the term “EIT” as far back as 2002 when it was not coined until 2006.

Jack Rice, former CIA agent and current radio host, told Keith Olbermann on “Countdown” last night that controversy will “drive the agency to react” and to say things that may or may not be true.  Isn’t that lying?

What is true is that whether Nancy Pelosi was briefed on waterboarding or not, the United States of America tortured individuals in our custody.  What is becoming clearer is that those individuals were not tortured because they presented a clear and present danger to the United States, but because the psychotic ex-Vice President was desperately looking for a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq.  What is true is that we need to know what was done in our names and by whom.  And if that also means Nancy Pelosi did something illegal, she should be prosecuted and tried with the rest of them.

 One has to wonder what the Republican’s goals are in the current controversy.  There have been several theories, from keeping terrorism in the public’s mind (and – ergo – their “better” ability to handle it) to the simple embarrassment of a major Democratic political figure.  Whatever the motivation, it seems to me that the Republicans better be careful about kicking these political rocks over.  After all, the slugs that would be exposed by such an action are probably mostly Republicans.

Be careful what you wish for, GOP!

Deja Vu All Over Again February 4, 2009

Posted by Kate Ryan in Barack Obama, Democrats, Economic Stimulus, Economy, National Politics, Republicans.
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groundhog_dayI just watched the movie “Groundhog Day” again last night.  In case you don’t remember, Bill Murray plays an obnoxious weather man that is fated to live the same day over and over until he changes his fundamental self.   Some of the funniest bits in the  movie are Murray’s numerous attempts to kill himself as he realizes nothing has changed and there will be no tomorrow.  

Now, I don’t really think there’s anything funny about suicide, but lately, I’ve been thinking about taking  a toaster into the bathtub.  Watching what has been going on in Washington over President Obama’s economic stimulus plan has had me feeling like I was living in Groundhog Day – like deja vu all over again. 

President Obama as candidate Obama recognized a real desire of the American people.  They are tired of all the gridlock and partisanship in Washington and want both sides to work together and accomplish something.  Unfortunately for us, however, we have to choose people to represent us in Washington who ARE partisans.  That is the nature of American politics.  So, when President Obama reaches across party lines to work with Republicans – the Republicans naturally retreat into their partisan positions.  And that, my friends, is just the same old song.

The Republicans are branding the stimulus package a “spending bill” – ignoring that fact that the government MUST spend money to stimulate the economy.  They are calling the tax cuts for the poorest Americans “welfare”, because the working poor pay little or no income taxes.  Mind you, they do pay payroll taxes – social security and medicare – that take a bigger bite out of smaller incomes than larger ones (The income cap on social security was $102,000 in 2008.  A person making the median U.S. salary of $48,000 paid about $3000 in social security or 6.2% of salary.  A U.S. Senator paid about $6,300 – but only 3.6% of salary).  They say that “the government never created a single job” forgetting about the Roosevelt alphabet soup programs (WPA, CCC, TVA) or that most firefighters, police officers, teachers, and they and their staffs are government employees.  They say that the bill is “loaded with pork-barrel spending” because it wants to buy condoms, extend food stamp eligibility, and re-sod the mall and that those things are not stimulative.  They have also forgotten that STDs and AIDS infections are on the rise (bad for the economy), hunger is widespread (bad for the people who have to make the economy work), and the mall is a disgusting disgrace due to eight years of Republican neglect (bad for the national psyche).  Most of all, they seem to have forgotten that the Democrats won – and the American people have said that they want the priorities changed. 

The Republicans in the House and Senate are using the same rhetoric going back to Reagan to convince the American people to turn away from their own self interests.  Instead of bringing something new to the table, they want tax cuts, as if eight years of tax cuts didn’t get us where we are today.  They pledged to work with the President and congressional Democrats – then voted against the House bill en masse.  Now today, I hear that there just aren’t enough votes in the Senate to prevent a filibuster.

So what are the Democrats doing?  Apparently, some in the Senate are joining the Republicans – just as 11 in the House did.  They are turning against the President and their party and dooming the bill’s spending priorities.  Apparently, the President has scolded House Democrats for including the spending priorities when the bill was written.  The whole thing is a mess.  What’s worse, it makes Democrats look silly, weak, and rudderless – just what the Republicans have always said about them.

If there was one thing the Bush administration did well – especially in the first six years – it was wielding a mighty hammer.  Those House and Senate members fell in line – no defections – and if the President wanted it done – it got done.  Denny Hastert and Bill Frist made certain of that – they had iron in their spines.  Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi just don’t seem to have it in them.

Let me tell you, if I were Nancy Pelosi, I’d be telling the President that I liked him and everything – but she’s one-third of government and doesn’t work for him – and I’ll put anything I damn well please into my bill.  If I were Harry Reid, I’d be telling those Senate Democrats that they’d better fall in line if they wanted their states to get money from the bill when it eventually passes.  And if I were Barack Obama, I’d tell the Senate Republicans to go ahead and filibuster my bill – and see who the American people blame for obstruction and failure.  I’d also call Arlen Spector, Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, and any other blue-state Republican into my office and promise lots and lots of stimulus if they swung over to my side.  I’d get my bill passed with or without them.

Only then could I leave the toaster in the kitchen.