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9 years 46 weeks ago

September 18, 2007

13:28

Conservative Evangelicals, angry that women still have control over their own bodies, angry that their prayers aren't foisted on every school child, angry that we don't live in a theocracy, and angry that gays, well, still exist, are claiming they'll be tougher on Republicans this time around.

With the GOP having controlled the White House and the House for the previous six years — and the Senate for the previous four — social conservatives expected much more progress on their agenda in Washington. Although they are happy that Bush has used his veto power to stop an expansion of federal stem cell research, signed a law banning the procedure opponents call “partial birth” abortion and won confirmation of two solid conservatives to the Supreme Court, the Christian right’s rank and file say they’re frustrated that Washington has not pushed for more-sweeping restrictions on abortion and gay rights.

Meanwhile, the president’s support for granting a path to citizenship for those who entered the country illegally has further strained the GOP’s relations with the evangelical base — a voting bloc Perkins estimates as one-third of voters in the GOP primaries, enough to make or break any candidate. And the past year’s trio of Republican A-congressional sexual scandals — centered on Rep. Mark Foley of Florida, Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana and Sen. Larry E. Craig of Idaho — has only fed the climate of disillusion. “Certainly,” Perkins said, “there is reason to be concerned about the future of the relationship” between social conservatives and the Republican Party.

And that has led Perkins and other religious leaders to push for the closer-than-usual examination of the GOP aspirants. “What I hear and see is that if you were a Republican candidate in the past, you got a pass on close scrutiny on key issues,” Perkins said. “I don’t think that’s going to be the case anymore. They are going to have to verify their credentials in order to gain the support of social conservatives.”

The problem for these right-wing religious zealots is that they are far outside the American mainstream on pretty much all the issues, none more so personified than the Schiavo disaster -- which I suspect was a major catalyst (among many) driving independents away from a scary, increasingly theocratic Republican Party.

And while these Evangelicals claim they'll be paying extra close attention to their potential nominees, many of the top Republicans are working to distance themselves from this crowd.

The biggest GOP names — Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, John McCain and Fred Thompson — sat out the Values Voter Presidential Debate, citing scheduling conflicts. That didn't stop questioners from addressing the front-runners who didn't attend.

Giuliani, Romney and McCain were all asked questions about abortion and gay rights. All, of course, went unanswered.

"They will regret the decision," said Jan Folger, president of Faith2Action and a member of the debate host committee. "Because they snubbed us, they will not win, because we will not follow their lead." [...]

Though all four front-runners cited scheduling conflicts with the debate, Giuliani was in Fort Lauderdale just hours before the debate and Thompson was in Florida over the weekend and is due back Tuesday.

Meanwhile, conservative Evangelicals are freaking out over the splintering of their movement, with many Evangelicals deciding it's best to follow the Bible's teachings rather than marching orders from RNC headquarters.

[O]ther religious voters are embracing causes not traditionally identified with American conservatism, such as global warming, human rights and poverty relief [...]

“I’m sensing the emergence of an old guard and a new guard,” said Amy E. Black, a political scientist at Wheaton College, an evangelical school in Illinois.

While the break is not exclusively along generational lines, Black says, many of her students — the school is among the most culturally conservative in the country — are more likely than their elders to question the GOP line on issues such as climate change and human rights. Many have also begun to pull away from their elders’ support for the Iraq War — and to distance themselves from President Bush as a result.

At the same time, a number of prominent evangelical leaders have successfully wedded a more liberal outlook to their religious message. Jim Wallis, the self-styled evangelical progressive who founded and edits Sojourners magazine, is a familiar leader in this leftward faction. Richard Cizik, the Washington director of the National Association of Evangelicals, has launched a high-profile initiative to publicize the importance of global warming and other environmental causes for Christian believers — provoking Perkins and other evangelical leaders to press unsuccessfully for his ouster earlier this year. More-centrist figures, such as the popular baby boomer minister Rick Warren, author of “The Purpose Driven Life,” have staked out high-profile “social justice” mission projects. Warren has embarked on an aid initiative to transform the war-ravaged African nation of Rwanda into a “purpose-driven nation” and drew harsh criticism from religious conservatives for inviting Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, a leading candidate for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, to speak at an AIDS conference at his Saddleback Church in Orange County, Calif.

It definitely is a moment of crisis for the Evangelical Right. When you style yourself the GOP's ground army (and they are), yet your presidential forum attracts only Huckabee, Brownback, John Cox (who?), Alan Keyes Ron Paul, Tancredo and Duncan Hunter, you know you're getting the dredges of the GOP field.

They're not just losing the ideological and "culture" war (yes, people love Queer Eye and Gay-Straight alliances are popular in high schools these days) in broader America, they are losing it from within as they bleed activists to progressive causes. Some of their highest profile leaders have been brought down by scandal -- Ralph Reed and Ted Haggard (former head of the National Association of Evangelicals), as well as political allies like Sen. Larry Craig -- while also losing one of their biggest champions, Jerry Falwell, this year.

It's a movement in disarray and their increasing disenchantment with politics may prove yet another headache for an already-reeling Republican Party.

Categories: Politics
13:01

It ultimately comes down to "who will pay for the new voting machines"?

Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s leadership team is being put to the test over a major election bill that has significant opposition within the Democratic Party.

The bill (HR 811), due on the House floor this week, would require a paper record of every vote cast nationwide beginning in 2008.

Passing it would allow the leadership to tick a big item off the party’s to-do list: Correcting ballot-counting issues that may have contributed to their presidential losses in 2000 and 2004.

“The perception of our elections is at stake,” said Tanya Clay House of People for the American Way, which has been pressing for a law that makes sure every vote cast leaves a paper trail for recounts.

The bill’s backers say a new federal law should be expedited so that the 2008 elections do not produce results like the disputed 2006 congressional race in Florida’s 13th District, where Democrat Christine Jennings says malfunctioning electronic voting machines might have contributed to her loss.

But local and state governments are not eager to be forced to make expensive purchases, with little money expected from Washington. Currently, 27 states have paper-trail requirements.

The CBO has been unable to calculate just how much this would cost local governments -- a legitimate concern, but it's likely to be less than a few days of the Iraq War. Funny how we can't afford to secure our democracy at home because we're trying to impose it by the barrel of a gun elsewhere.

Categories: Politics
12:35

Rasmussen. 9/16. Likely voters. MoE 4.5% (No trend lines)

Sununu (R) 43
Shaheen (D) 48


American Research Group. 9/14-17. Likely voters. MoE 4.2% (June 2007)

Sununu (R) 41 (29)
Shaheen (D) 46 (57)

Categories: Politics
12:27

How much more evidence do Democrats need that people are looking to them for a way out?

Network  Time   Program        Viewers
FNC      9:00   Bush Address   745,000  
FNC      9:19   Dem. Response  813,000  
FNC      9:24   Analysis       512,000  

Network  Time   Program        Viewers
MSNBC    9:00   Spec.Prog.     470,000  
MSNBC    9:01   Bush Address   455,000  
MSNBC    9:20   Dem. Response  446,000  

Network  Time   Program        Viewers
CNN      9:00   Bush Address   454,000  
CNN      9:20   Dem. Response  507,000  
CNN      9:24   Larry King     400,000  

They already know Bush's broken record schtick. They're looking for someone to end this thing.

Categories: Politics
11:56

Or maybe it didn't...

Here is a review of what we learned last week from the right-wing noise machine and their enabling media puppets: Americans trust Gen. Petraeus and do not want his credibility questioned. The week was a big win for President Bush and his Iraq policy. The MoveOn newspaper ad, like 9/11, was Going to Change Everything -- it was a devastating event for Democrats, a transformative moment that would embolden Republicans and revitalize support for the war.

A new CBS poll, comparing the views of Americans Before Petraues (B.P.) and After Petraeus (A.P.), demonstrates that all of that was completely wrong:

Most Americans continue to want troops to start coming home from Iraq, and most say the plan President Bush announced last week for troop reductions doesn't go far enough, according to a CBS News poll released Monday. . . .

Sixty-eight percent of Americans say that U.S. troop levels in Iraq should either be reduced or that all troops should be removed - similar numbers to those before Mr. Bush's speech.

In fact, it is even worse than that, since the percentage of Americans who believe we should either maintain or increase our current troops levels in Iraq was higher B.P. (30%) than it is A.P. (27%). Conversely, the percentage of Americans who want a troop reduction or complete withdrawal increased after the Petraeus Week (from 65% to 68%).

More revealingly still, only a small minority of Americans -- the depressingly familiar Bush dead-enders -- actually believe Gen. Petraeus' claims that "the surge has made things in Iraq better." A substantial majority of Americans disbelieves the assertions of The General Who Must Not be Challenged:

But, but, but ... the ad! There was an ad! In a newspaper!

As I've said before and was obvious from day one -- no one outside of the Beltway Media, congressional Republicans, and the 25 percent dead-enders gave a damn about some stupid ad. Not when there are thousands of people dying and coming home maimed from that godforsaken war.

But the Beltway media, like Dana Milbank, remain clueless.

[DANA] MILBANK [THE WASHINGTON POST]: Bush had a terrible August down on the ranch and then has explosive Septembers. And I think he's won this battle already.

MATTHEWS: How so?

MILBANK: Petraeus --it's no accident he had a Latin name. It looked like he was the Roman general returning to the republic in his gold and purple toga, and they were celebrating him and slaying white bulls. They could not get enough of this man. And anybody's who's even critical of the war wouldn't dare criticize...

MATTHEWS: Right.

MILBANK: ... except in the most polite way, General Petraeus because then you appear to be criticizing the troops. I think it's game, set and match here.

Or how about ol' Joe Klein?

It seems clear the President has won this round. An optimistic general will trump a skeptical politician anytime.

Or the Washington Post?

MoveOn.org provided Republicans a life raft when it ran a full-page newspaper advertisement Monday taunting Petraeus as 'General Betray Us.'

Or Fred Barnes?

or Democrats, Petraeus Week was a wrenching ordeal. . . . The New York Times ad by MoveOn.org trashing Petraeus as a liar backfired badly. . . . The prospect of a return engagement by Petraeus can only fill Democrats with a feeling of dread.

Or the New Republic's Jason Zengerle?

I think this is a pretty politically tone-deaf ad . . . . When U.S. military commanders are the only people a majority of Americans trust to end the war -- as this new NYT/CBS poll makes clear -- attacking America's most prominent military commander doesn't seem like a very smart move. . .

Funny way to declare a winner -- when the big loser of public opinion somehow comes out ahead.

Yet as Gleen Greenwald points out (the source for all the stuff I've blogged above), one person seemed to understand how stupid the obsession over the ad was, and how it wouldn't impact public opinion in any way:

MATTHEWS: Let me go to Markos Moulitsas.

Sir, what did you make of the testimony today and the ad that ran in "The Times" this morning by your colleague here, Mr. Pariser?

MARKOS MOULITSAS, DAILY KOS: Well, to me, you know, way out in California, it's -- it's almost amusing to see how, in Washington, D.C., everyone is all up in arms over an ad.

You know, we are in the middle of this bloody war, almost 4,000 dead, half-a-trillion dollars spent. And people are going to talk about how inappropriate an ad is? I think it‘s patently ridiculous.

And most people outside of the sort of beltway environment really don't care about an ad. They want to see our men and women coming home safe and sound to their families.

One didn't need to be a rocket science to understand this from the beginning. Apparently, all it took was to live outside of Washington D.C.

Update: You know what this episode proves once again? That that Beltway Media is irrelevant. No one pays them attention anymore. People are more than happy to ignore them and make their own conclusions.

Categories: Politics
11:45

Now:

"It's bad enough when politicians turn their backs on a war they voted for and supported when it was popular," Cheney said Monday. "But no one in politics, regardless of party, should hesitate to object when an American soldier at war is mocked and insulted."

Then:

Delegates to the Republican National Convention found a new way to take a jab at Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's Vietnam service record: by sporting adhesive bandages with small purple hearts on them.

Do they even believe the shit they say?

Categories: Politics
11:19

George Bush held a pep-rally at the White House today and made what was perhaps the most idiotic remark in a long line of idiocies from his misbegotten presidency:

Gold Star Mothers, got you, okay, thank you -- Blue Star Mothers, Gold Star Mothers, all the mothers, yes. (Applause.) Every day is Mother's Day as far as your concerned, isn't it?

Yes, George, every day is a holiday when you have a child who is either fighting in a war or was killed in it.  

Categories: Politics
09:55

Less than a week after Gen. David Petraeus spun fairy tales for Congress about a successful "surge," the Pentagon has released their quarterly report on Iraq and they seem to have a different story to tell.  Security taking a turn for the worse here, increasing violence there, and militias growing influence everywhere.  In other words, the same things we've been hearing for the past four years.  And now George Bush wants Congress to wait until March for another, "fresh assessment."  

So in the coming weeks, while Congress decides if we will stay the course for another six months of "breathing space" for the Maliki government, perhaps they should consider this conclusion from the Pentagon:  

The growing violence in the south is one factor making it unlikely that Iraq's leaders -- hampered by a "zero sum" mentality -- will make headway in the fall on key political resolutions, the report concluded. "In the short term, Iraqi political leaders will likely be less concerned about reconciliation than with consolidating power and posturing for a future power struggle," it said.

And perhaps Congress can take a moment to remember the 767 U.S. soldiers and the more than 15,000 Iraqis who have been killed since the latest plan for success began.  

Categories: Politics
08:11

From the GREAT STATE OF MAINE...

Oh! More Things I Know:

The "anti-war crowd" that beltway pundits dismiss with a wave of their cocktail weenies is actually comprised of approximately 240 million Americans.

The #1 reason I'm looking forward to Democrats snagging half a dozen more seats in the Senate?  Making Joe Lieberman irrelevant.

Contrary to the impression we got during last week's dog and pony show, George W. Bush is still in charge of, and entirely responsible for, the situation in Iraq.

Mitt Romney moves via an intricate series of gyroscopes.  The reason he disappears for two hours every Thursday is "routine maintenance."

Republican charges of voter fraud committed by Democrats are almost always bogus.  Democratic charges of voter fraud committed by Republicans are almost always valid.

Polar bears have a new nickname for humans. I can't print the word because this is a family-oriented site.

If all the dead U.S. presidents suddenly came back to life, Franklin Pierce would instantly be the most annoying.  Can't he do anything but criticize???

Dangling the "Nuclear Option" over the heads of Democratic senators who threaten to filibuster is fine if you're a Republican.  Dangling the "Nuclear Option" over the heads of Republicans who threaten to filibuster is tawdry and unthinkable if you're a Democrat.

Dick Cheney's dreams are always in black and white. Strangely, Marlena Dietrich is in every one of them.

If a You Tube video of a presidential candidate clubbing a baby seal is ever posted, I bet it'll be a Republican.

The 33 percent of Americans who "say" that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11 are just yankin' the pollsters' chains. Dear god, they must be.

Cheers and Jeers starts in There's Moreville... [Swoosh!!]  RIGHTNOW!  [Gong!!]

Categories: Politics
02:09

This came in last Friday.

Today was a dark day for the antiamerican left  . The communist  organization Moveon.org and the left wing fascist movement have been demoralized and defeated . The Petraeus report has made it clear that the surge is working and it is clear that the US will have permanent bases in Iraq . The Democrats , the left wing antiamerican groups like yours , the socialist MSM and the Islamofascists  have lost , America  won . Give up , communist cowards  !  We will be in Iraq for generations , like in Germany , Japan or Korea ..
Iran is next and you ( or the Iranians ) can't to a damn thing about it . The next President will be anther Republican . There will be new laws in the WOT ,   preventive detention camps for Terrorists and their helpers and many new pleasant surprises for the antiamerican left . It is unavoidable .

I'll give this guy credit -- it's one of the very few of these crazy emails without homophobic language.

Categories: Politics
00:13

Head of government Dick Cheney and head of state George W. Bush seem to be uniting ex-generals on subjects beyond their horrendous plans for endless war in Iraq.  Now, a prominent ex-General has come out on the offensive against the Cheney administration's fixation on Iran:

Every effort should be made to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, but failing that, the world could live with a nuclear-armed regime in Tehran, a recently retired commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East said Monday.

John Abizaid, the retired Army general who headed Central Command for nearly four years, said he was confident that if Iran gained nuclear arms, the United States could deter it from using them.

"Iran is not a suicide nation," he said. "I mean, they may have some people in charge that don't appear to be rational, but I doubt that the Iranians intend to attack us with a nuclear weapon."

The Iranians are aware, he said, that the United States has a far superior military capability.

"I believe that we have the power to deter Iran, should it become nuclear," he said, referring to the theory that Iran would not risk a catastrophic retaliatory strike by using a nuclear weapon against the United States.

"There are ways to live with a nuclear Iran," Abizaid said in remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank. "Let's face it, we lived with a nuclear Soviet Union, we've lived with a nuclear China, and we're living with (other) nuclear powers as well."

[...]

Abizaid suggested military action to pre-empt Iran's nuclear ambitions might not be the wisest course...

He suggested that many in Iran — perhaps even some in the Tehran government — are open to cooperating with the West. The thrust of his remarks was a call for patience in dealing with Iran, which President Bush early in his first term labeled one of the "axis of evil" nations, along with North Korea and Iraq...

Abizaid's comments appeared to represent a more accommodating and hopeful stance toward Iran than prevails in the White House, which speaks frequently of the threat posed by Iran's nuclear ambitions. The administration says it seeks a diplomatic solution to complaints about Iran's alleged support for terrorism and its nuclear program, amid persistent rumors of preparations for a U.S. military strike...

Abazaid's comments weren't part of his prepared speech, but rather a response to a question, so it may be writing too much in to these comments to think they were an intentional shot across the bow of the Cheney administration.  Nevertheless, it's still significant that as the dead enders in the neocon cabal try to blame Iran for the problems in Iraq, and switch the discussion from the failures in Iraq to the supposed threats posed by Iran, that the general who spent four years dealing with the entire Middle East rebuts the neocons' scare-mongering on Iran.

As Abazaid indicted, it's not in our national interest for Iran to become a nuclear power.  But even if Iran does become a nuclear power, it will not pose a plausible threat of attack on the US.  It's extremely difficult to create intercontinental missiles to deliver a warhead to the US; the North Koreans have been working diligently on their missile program, and all indications are that they are nowhere near being able to deliver a nuclear warhead on a long-range missile.  So an Iranian nuke would be a regional concern, but not a threat to the mainland United States, and using a nuke against US forces would simply invite a terrible retaliation that would wipe out Iran, and against which it would be defenseless.  

Yes, Iran is a threat regionally, and it's a serious problem when even a country's titular head of state threatens the incineration of another country, as President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has toward Israel.  But Abazaid is correct to try to ratchet down the hyperbole, discuss our real options, and the real threats concerning Iran's nuclear efforts.  Iran's revolutionary ideology may call for aggressive expansion of Islamic Revolution, but the reality is that the Sunni world will never accept the religious leadership of the Shia state in Iran.  Ahmadinejad is a lunatic, and it appears that he does have more power than  predecessors such as Ayatollah Rafsanjani, but Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is ultimately in charge, and the ulama in Iran--the clerics who exercise control over the state, especially in matters of religion, the judicial system and foreign and defense policy--are ultimately most concerned with maintaining their power over a restive, disproportionately young, underemployed and potentially revolutionary population.  Being bellicose and fostering defensive nationalist fervor just plays in to the hands of Iran's religious dictatorship.  

Abazaid is right to emphasize a firm but flexible approach to Iran that's based on our own national interests and a realist approach to diplomacy instead of jingoistic fear-mongering intended to distract people from the administration's failure in Iraq.  Hopefully, Abazaid's views are shared by enough people at the Pentagon, at State, among our allies and in the White House so that lunatics at the top levels of our administration don't play in to the hands of the lunatics in charge of Iran.  

Categories: Politics

September 17, 2007

23:15

(Tonight's selections are brought to you courtesy of the Rescue Rangers. SusanG)

This evening's Rescue Rangers are nyc in exile, twilight falling (graciously covering a double shift), fatbyjhnsn, Cordelia Lear, grog, and srkp23.  joyful and Shayera are squashed together in the Editor's chair!

Tonight's diaries cover a variety of interesting issues with perspective and analysis not offered by the Traditional Media:

sardonyx has tonight's Top Comments: Brevity Edition.

Enjoy, and please promote your own favorite diaries in this open thread.

Categories: Politics
23:02

Once upon a time, everything was going great in our country -- its finances, its wars, its economy, everything! -- then some organization placed an ad in a newspaper and it was the most horrible thing ever.

It was real bad -- there was an ad. In a newspaper.

And then everything went to shit and that ad was the only thing the pundits could talk about.

The end.

Categories: Politics
19:53

Another Richardson gaffe.

It seems Bill Richardson has no shortage of gaffes. Addressing SEIU today, Richardson thanked them for their applause: "Thank you, AFSCME!"

That's right, Richardson named the wrong union. And it gets worse. SEIU, unfortunately, is an organizational rival to AFSCME in many states, and SEIU's audience responded to Richardson's opening line by shouting, "S-E-I-U!"

These aren't Howard Dean-style "gaffes", in which the pundits pound someone for telling the truth (like "capturing Saddam won't make us safer"). These are the sorts of mistakes that are made from poor preparation and lack of concentration. Or something.

All I know is that high-level politics requires a bit more care. I mean, look at the stage (here with Chris Dodd speaking):


(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

There were only TWO SEIU posters pointed at the speaker, just in case the speaker forgot whose conference he or she was attending. And in the background, you can see the big purple SEIU banners hanging from the ceiling. And I am willing to bet that the stage is completely decked in SEIU purple with those initials all over the darn place.

Yet Richardson still somehow managed to screw it up. Wow.

Categories: Politics
19:18

A number of critical amendments are going to be offered to the Defense Authorization bill, and one of the most important was introduced today by Senators Leahy, Dodd, and Specter.

Here's what today's Time's says about the effort:

In 2006, acting in reckless haste before an election, 65 senators and 250 members of the House defied the Constitution, endangered the safety of American soldiers and hurt the nation’s global reputation by passing the Military Commissions Act. The law created a separate, substandard and clearly unconstitutional system of trial and punishment for foreigners. This week Congress has a chance to begin fixing that grievous mistake....

The protection from arbitrary arrest, embedded in the Magna Carta and in the Constitution of the United States, is one of the most powerful weapons against tyranny in democracy’s arsenal. Before President Bush, only one American president suspended habeas corpus — Abraham Lincoln, during the Civil War — and the Supreme Court duly struck down that arrogation of power....

It is good to see the effort led by Mr. Specter, who as chairman of the committee before the 2006 election shepherded the military tribunal law through Congress at the behest of the White House. We hope similar principle will be on display by the other Republican and Democratic senators and representatives who betrayed the Constitution and the democracy they were sworn to defend by voting for that law.

You can sign on as a citizen co-sponsor to the legislation. But it's far more important that you call your Senators (the switchboard is 202-224-3121, toll free is 888-355-3588) to urge them to support this amendment. And while you're at it, tell them no funding without a deadline.

Here's Chris Dodd, announcing the amendment and explaining the criticality of restoring habeas corpus.

Categories: Politics