2009 - %3, June

Adventures in Diplomacy

| Tue Jun. 2, 2009 3:09 PM EDT

From Marc Lynch:

While it hasn't received much attention, Iraq's relations with two key Arab Gulf states have jumped the tracks over the last week.  Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has publicly declared that he has given up on trying to reconcile with the Saudis. Meanwhile, Iraq and the Kuwaitis are in an increasingly nasty spat over the question of compensation claims dating back to the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. It's gotten to the point that a majority of the members of the Iraqi Parliament are demanding that Kuwait pay compensation to Iraq for allowing U.S. troops to invade Iraq in 1991!

In other news, I'm planning to sue that dude whose nose injured my fist a few days ago.  He should have been more careful.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Cheney and Limbaugh: On the Same Stage?

| Tue Jun. 2, 2009 2:30 PM EDT
It's no secret that Dick Cheney fancies Rush Limbaugh over Colin Powell. During a May 10 appearance on Face the Nation, the ex-veep called Limbaugh a better Republican than Powell. That was before Limbaugh went on his crusade to brand Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor a "racist" and bigot" who is comparable to former KKK leader David Duke. But the radio host's anti-Sotomayor rants have apparently not made him radioactive for Cheney. Cheney will join Limbaugh and other conservative movement poohbahs for Troopathon, a web telethon that will raise money for care packages for US troops and that will be broadcast from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on June 25. Other rightwingers signed up for the event include Laura Ingraham, Lars Larson, and Monica Crowley. The event will be hosted by conservative journalist Melanie Morgan and conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart. Certainly, Cheney can say that his involvement in this good cause has nothing to do with Limbaugh, who has become more of a hot potato for the GOP since Cheney chose him over Powell. But the event's organizers are trying to link the two men. A press release the group sent out announces, "Vice President Cheney in Fundraiser for Troops--Appearing with Rush Limbaugh, Jon Voight and Others." Appearing with? Really? Side by side? At the same time--during this eight-hour-long parade of guests? Maybe not, and maybe the group is just trying to draw press attention. Well....bingo! But imagine Cheney and Limbaugh coming on stage together and singing a duet. A lot of people would pay money to see that.

Will Saletan is Missing the Point on Abortion

| Tue Jun. 2, 2009 2:09 PM EDT

Slate columnist Will Saletan wrote in the New York Times in February that he believes that we can end the culture wars by encouraging birth control and discouraging abortion. This week, in the wake of the murder of late-term abortion provider George Tiller in Kansas, Saletan returned to that argument, writing that while abortion is not "murder," it's "something less, a tragedy that would be better avoided," and we should look for ways to prevent it. On the way to that conclusion, Saletan stumbled on an interesting point:

Them Boiling Frogs

| Tue Jun. 2, 2009 12:26 PM EDT

Hoo boy.  I sure hope James Fallows doesn't watch this video snippet.  He's already annoyed at Anne Applebaum's China fearmongering, and seeing all his good work on the boiling frog myth blown up on prime time TV in a matter of seconds — well, that might just drive him over the edge.  Don't watch, Jim!

Summer Passport Woes

| Tue Jun. 2, 2009 12:02 PM EDT

Matt Welch writes:

Do you feel safer today? Let's hope so, since you're certainly less free to travel about the Northern Hemisphere. Beginning just after midnight, every American returning from Canada, Mexico, and various island paradises now have to flash a U.S. passport to get back in the country. For the 70 percent of citizens who don't have passports, that means a minimum four to six weeks waiting time (and probably more, given the new filing rush) to legally escape the national boundaries.

Great.  My passport is expiring in a couple of months and I downloaded the forms just yesterday to get it renewed.  I didn't realize I was going to get caught up in Phase 2 of the great Canada/Mexico passport debacle. Thanks for warning me just in time, Matt.

Of course, this is only a partial change.  I learned to my chagrin some years ago that at least some Canadian border officials have wanted to see a passport all along.  Flying into Toronto in the mid-90s, I got hassled by a security guy at the airport for having only a driver's license to prove my bona fides ("that doesn't prove citizenship," he said, "it just means you're licensed to drive in California," which, admittedly, is perfectly correct).  He still let me in, but I've made sure to take my passport on trips to Canada ever since.

CAP Gets it All Wrong on White House New Media

| Tue Jun. 2, 2009 11:53 AM EDT

Given Barack Obama's game-changing use of new media during the campaign, there's been a lot of excitement about how his team might use technology now that he's President. Unfortunately, there seems to be some disagreement about what exactly the White House should be doing. The Center for American Progress, for example, has a new memo out on the White House new media strategy that could hardly be more off base.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Pressuring Israel

| Tue Jun. 2, 2009 11:08 AM EDT

President Obama has taken a surprisingly hard line on expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, but what's even more surprising is how little pushback he's gotten so far from Israel's supporters in the U.S.  Ben Smith reports that this might be changing:

“My concern is that we are applying pressure to the wrong party in this dispute,” said Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.). “I think it would serve America’s interest better if we were pressuring the Iranians to eliminate the potential of a nuclear threat from Iran, and less time pressuring our allies and the only democracy in the Middle East to stop the natural growth of their settlements.”

....“I don’t think anybody wants to dictate to an ally what they have to do in their own national security interests,” said Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), who said he thinks there’s “room for compromise.”

....And Republicans have been more sharply critical of the pressure on Israel. “It’s misguided. Behind that pressure is the assumption that somehow resolving the so-called settlements will somehow lead to the ultimate goal” of disarming Iran, said Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the House minority whip.

....The pro-Israel lobby AIPAC last week got the signatures of 329 members of Congress, including key figures in both parties, on a letter calling on the administration to work “closely and privately” with Israel — in contrast to the current public pressure.

For what it's worth, the story here still seems to me to be less about the pushback and more about the fact that pushback to Obama's policy pronouncements remains surprisingly muted.  "It's misguided" is not the kind of temperate rhetoric you'd expect to hear about this from Republican leaders, after all.  Either this means that things have changed, or merely that the AIPAC-centric crowd has decided they're better off working behind the scenes and keeping a quieter profile.  Hard to say which right now.

Hanging with an Abortion Foe Who Targeted Tiller

| Tue Jun. 2, 2009 10:56 AM EDT

With the murder of Dr. George Tiller, Randall Terry is back in the news. For years, he has been one of the leading antiabortion extremists, and he has at times directed his fury at Tiller. On Monday, while essentially justifying the slaying of Tiller, Terry compared himself to Martin Luther King Jr.

In 1998, I wrote a profile of Terry for The Nation. At the time, he was running for Congress in upstate New York. He didn't win the seat, but while campaigning he was--as he often is--quite candid about his fundamentalist views. Terry revealed a world view shared by a number of radical fundamentalists--perhaps including Scott Roeder, the antigovernment, anti-abortion fundamentalist who is the key suspect in the Tiller murder. Here are some excerpts from that article.

Would Mike Dukakis Have Won in 2008?

| Tue Jun. 2, 2009 10:47 AM EDT

No.

This has been another edition of simple answers to simple questions.(TM Atrios)

Also, and this should go without saying: Mike Dukakis is no Barack Obama. The available evidence suggests Obama would not look like a fool around military equipment. And there's no way Mike Dukakis could pull off those shades.

Obama's Calculated GOP Outreach

| Tue Jun. 2, 2009 9:49 AM EDT

President Barack Obama will appoint yet another moderate Republican to a top post in his administration on Tuesday. Obama's expected nomination of John M. McHugh, a GOP congressman from New York, to be Secretary of the Army comes less than three weeks after the president picked Jon Huntsman, the popular Republican governor of Utah, as his ambassador to China.

The nomination follows a pattern. While the Republicans Obama has asked to join his team have been unquestionably qualified for the jobs he selected them for (Huntsman speaks Mandarin; McHugh is the top Republican on the Armed Services committee), the picks have also provided Obama with clear political advantages.