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Ex-Gitmo Prosecutor Lays Politicization Bare

| Tue Apr. 29, 2008 5:29 PM EDT

morris-davis.jpg Air Force Col. Morris Davis, who used to be the chief prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay and a defender of the Bush Administration's military tribunal system, took the stand Monday on behalf of a man alleged to be Osama bin Laden's former driver in order to disseminate the truth about Guantanamo.

Davis was cross-examined by the Army officer who replaced him after his resignation last October, Col. Lawrence Morris, in one of the most dramatic challenges to the first American war-crimes tribunals since World War II...
Davis said he resigned hours after he was put in a chain of command beneath Defense Department General Counsel William Haynes, one of several officials who had encouraged the use of evidence even if it was gathered through waterboarding... "The guy who said waterboarding is A-OK I was not going to take orders from. I quit," Davis said.

More after the jump...

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Obama: Wright is "Wrong" and His Statements Contradict "My Public Life"

| Tue Apr. 29, 2008 4:05 PM EDT

It had to have been a tough moment for Barack Obama—the lowest moment of his campaign. At a press conference in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, on Tuesday afternoon, he denounced and rejected his one-time pastor.

After Reverend Jeremiah Wright's four-day media-fest—during which he spoke positively about Louis Farrakhan, equated attacks on himself as attacks on the black church, claimed that the brains of blacks and whites operate differently, mocked white people, and defiantly, if not arrogantly, defended the over-the-top comments that sparked the Wright controversy—Obama had to do something. With an expression of pain and sadness on his face, Obama said he had been "shocked" and "surprised" by Wright's performance Monday at the National Press Club. "I don't think anyone could attribute" Wright's ideas "to me," he remarked, noting that Wright was "wrong" and his recent statements "appalling." He insisted that Wright's remarks contradict "how I was raised," "my public life," "what I said in my book," "my 2004 convention speech," and "everything I've said on the campaign trail."

Referring to his speech last month on race—which was prompted by the first Wright eruption—Obama said that he had tried to "provide a context... and make something positive out of" the Wright affair. Regarding Wright's National Press Club appearance, Obama said it was "a bunch of rants that aren't grounded in truth. I can't construct something positive out of that." Wright, he observed, had "caricatured himself."

Clinton Stuns With $2.3B in 2009 Earmark Requests

| Tue Apr. 29, 2008 2:43 PM EDT

Playing the game...

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) has requested nearly $2.3 billion in federal earmarks for 2009, almost three times the largest amount received by a single senator this year.
The Democratic presidential candidate's staggering request comes at a time when Congress remains engaged in a heated debate over spending federal dollars on parochial projects.
It also has gained traction on the campaign trail. Presumptive GOP nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), a longtime foe of earmarks, has called for eliminating what he dubs "wasteful Washington spending." Democratic front-runner Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) has spurned earmarks, seeking no funds for pet projects in the upcoming fiscal year.

Particularly odd because in March, when anti-earmark sentiment was gaining traction, Clinton co-sponsored an amendment that would have banned earmarks for one year.

I've said all I'm going to say on this topic already. Find that here.

Another Prominent Republican Screwing With the Democrats

| Tue Apr. 29, 2008 1:28 PM EDT

bill_kristol.jpg Yesterday, Karl Rove was shamelessly contradicting himself in order to create confusion in the Democratic presidential race. Today, it's Bill Kristol.

Kristol in today's Times:

Furthermore, if you add up the votes in all the primaries and caucuses — excluding Michigan (where only Hillary was on the ballot), and imputing the likely actual totals in the four caucus states, where only percentages were reported — Clinton now trails in overall votes by only about 300,000, or about 1 percent of the total. By the end of the nominating contest, she may well be ahead on this benchmark — one not entirely to be scorned in a democracy.

Kristol during the 2000 presidential recount saga:

As a matter of constitutional law, the nationwide popular vote is an entirely irrelevant consideration here. No man has ever campaigned for the nationwide popular vote, and no man has ever been elected president because he's won it. Like it or not, the Electoral College is everything. Intimating otherwise, and in the same breath circulating fictions about polling-place irregularities, the Gore camp has done its best to ensure that should George W. Bush eventually be elected president, some faint whiff of illegitimacy will hang over his administration. It will be unfair and corrosive.

When the Times hired Kristol I called him intellectually dishonest (among other things) and that's certainly evidenced here. The man will say anything that suits his purposes, and I think that is grounds for ignoring him completely. And don't say, "Well, the first way to ignore him would be to not blog about his self-serving contradictions." The real first way to ignore him would be to not give him a column in the most prominent newspaper in America.

Freedom's Watch Attacks Nancy Pelosi -- for High Gas Prices?

| Tue Apr. 29, 2008 12:31 PM EDT

Granted, what is politically effective may be intellectually insulting, as a conservative think tank hand put it to me. But this new ad by conservative advocacy group Freedom's Watch charging that House speaker Nancy Pelosi has done nothing to reduce high gas prices prompted a few blinking beats of cognitive dissonance. (President Bush also blamed Congressional Democrats for high gas prices and the faltering economy at a press conference today).

This is the hawkish group whose associates seek it to serve as the political infrastructure not only for getting Republicans elected, but also to rally public support for the sacrifice required for the "long war" that Republican presidential candidate John McCain and Freedom's Watch's board members advocate? Long war and cheap gas just don't seem to go together. The former says: this is hard but necessary. The latter says: it's easy and don't think too hard about it.

This is politics and one is hardly surprised by disingenuousness from any quarter. But of all the ways disingenuous or sincere Freedom's Watch could try to motivate the conservative base, one is struck that it picked this one. Because presumably, if Freedom's Watch gets its way and McCain is elected, there will be another US president inclined to apply military solutions to the Middle East -- a goal reportedly sought by chief Freedom's Watch backer Sheldon Adelson in the case of Iran. And gas prices are only going to go up.

The ad seems another sign that Freedom's Watch under its new executive vice president Carl Forti, a former top National Republican Congressional Committee operative, is increasingly focusing on the calculus of trying to get GOP candidates elected in local House races - no surprise given his NRCC experience. But it raises the question of whether the group intends to focus less on rallying support for the national security arguments fundamental to the presidential race. Likely only for now, until a single Democratic presidential candidate emerges on whom to focus its future attacks.

Update: Here's one Republican Congressional candidate presumably unlikely to get Freedom's Watch's support.

McCain's 100 Years Comment: Not a One-Time Gaffe

| Tue Apr. 29, 2008 12:01 PM EDT

Part of the Republican pushback on McCain's 100 years comment are claims that McCain simply misspoke or is being taken out of context. That's ludicrous. Here's video of the moment — he takes the time to elaborate on why he thinks a 100-year long occupation is acceptable. He was given an opportunity to walk his comment back by our David Corn immediately after this event; instead, he said he is okay with troops in Iraq for "a thousand years" or "a million years."

And he has said some version of this over and over; the instance above is just the most famous example. Here are some others:

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McCain Was Against 100-Year Occupation Before He Was For It

| Tue Apr. 29, 2008 11:41 AM EDT

mccain_closeup_250x200.jpg I don't know what to make of this exactly, but John McCain had a sane position on the Iraq War before he got all Alexander the Great on us and came out in favor of a 100 year occupation of the Middle East.

Here's McCain on MSNBC in January 2005:

"I would hope that we could bring them all home," he said on MSNBC. "I would hope that we would probably leave some military advisers, as we have in other countries, to help them with their training and equipment and that kind of stuff."
Host Chris Matthews pressed McCain on the issue. "You've heard the ideological argument to keep U.S. forces in the Middle East. I've heard it from the hawks. They say, keep United States military presence in the Middle East, like we have with the 7th Fleet in Asia. We have the German...the South Korean component. Do you think we could get along without it?"
McCain held fast, rejecting the very policy he urges today. "I not only think we could get along without it, but I think one of our big problems has been the fact that many Iraqis resent American military presence," he responded. "And I don't pretend to know exactly Iraqi public opinion. But as soon as we can reduce our visibility as much as possible, the better I think it is going to be."

And here he is repeating his opposition to a long-term occupation in November 2007 (video):

White House Emails and The Case of the Missing BlackBerrys

| Mon Apr. 28, 2008 10:46 PM EDT

During a summit in New Orleans last week, a press aide for the Mexican government took two unattended BlackBerrys belonging to U.S. officials. The aide, Quintero Curiel, has since been fired, but questions remain. Curiel told Mexican newspapers that he thought the PDAs had been abandoned and insists he planned to return them. So his intentions may have been noble. The devices have been recovered, and disaster may have been averted.

Of course, he could be lying. Fox News reported that while Curiel "initially denied taking the devices, but after agents showed him [security camera footage of him taking them], [he] said it was purely accidental, gave them back, claimed diplomatic immunity and left New Orleans with the Mexican delegation." The two BlackBerrys that were taken can each hold around 28,000 printed pages worth of information, and all that data can be easily copied to other devices. And Curiel—an employee of the Mexican government—likely had the PDAs in his possession for more than enough time to copy and either hide or transmit all of the data they contained. No one is saying whether there was sensitive information on the devices. And no one is saying whether Curiel was working for Mexico's intelligence agency, CISEN, or spying for any other country. But if he was, it is very likely that nearly 60,000 pages worth of potentially sensitive material is now in foreign hands.

Torture Subpoenas?

| Mon Apr. 28, 2008 6:38 PM EDT

John Yoo, former Attorney General John Ashcroft, and the Vice President's Chief of Staff David Addington have now all declined to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on the White House's interrogation policies. Committee Chairman John Conyers first responded to their objections, and now has threatened to issue subpoenas.

"I will have no choice," Conyers says, "but to consider the use of compulsory process." Stay tuned.

Rev. Wright: A Neverending Cross for Obama To Bear

| Mon Apr. 28, 2008 6:16 PM EDT

UPDATE: On Tuesday afternoon, Barack Obama denounced Wright's recent remarks and criticized him harshly. Read about it here.

One has to wonder about the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. No doubt, he is angry, with some justification, about his treatment in the media, as decades of work and devotion have been compressed to seconds-long clips that emphasize a few extreme-sounding remarks. But he seems dedicated to firing back--or, speaking out--in a manner that it is politically harmful to the most famous member of his church: Barack Obama.

On Friday night, Wright appeared on Bill Moyers Journal and came across as thoughtful and provocative. Moyers played long excerpts of his controversial sermons, and Wright was able to explain some of his more inflammatory quotes ("God damn America" and 9/11 was the chickens "coming home to roost.") His explanations won't do much for voters who don't like angry black men. But when the context of the remarks are provided, they lose some of their edge. Wright's appearance on this PBS show was a net gain for Wright, and it did not seem to generate any political fallout for Obama. Then came Sunday night.

Speaking at an NAACP dinner in Detroit, Wright gave a fiery speech, noting that being different is not the same as being deficient, meaning that because blacks are different from whites they are not inferior. (As an example, Wright claimed that when it comes to music, blacks clap on different beats than whites.) In the speech, Wright mocked white attitudes toward blacks. He made fun of John Kennedy's Boston accent--particularly how Kennedy pronounced his most famous and inspiring line: "Ask not what your country...." He did so to make the point that black children who do not speak Middle-America English are no different from a president. Often breaking into a pretend "white" voice, he displayed a fair amount of disdain for white folks who fail to understand black folks.