Mojo - September 2009

Clinton Compared Gore to Mussolini?

| Wed Sep. 23, 2009 8:55 AM EDT

As I noted yesterday, the new book on Bill Clinton, based on taped conversations he had throughout his presidency with Taylor Branch, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and FOB, is loaded with intriguing and juicy passages about the Clinton years (like Hillary Clinton dumping on Sally Quinn because Quinn was spreading the rumor the First Lady had been caught trysting with a female veterinarian in a White House bedroom). But perhaps the most fascinating subplot of the 707-page tome is the relationship between Clinton and Al Gore. The book details the now-famous conversation the two had after the 2000 election, an encounter that was both heated and weird, with each man caught in a different view of reality about that election and other matters.

Now that I've had more time to peruse the book, I've come across other passages that illuminate the tensions and affections these pols shared.

* Describing one interview in which Clinton was evaluating Gore's campaigning during the 2000 election, Branch writes, "Gore lacked confidence in a light touch. Whenever he tried to be aggressive, said Clinton, Gore could come off ponderous and harsh, like Mussolini." Mussolini? That's harsh.

* During a "stressful consultation" between the two men when Gore was running for president, Gore, as Clinton recalled to Branch, told Clinton that "he, Gore, was a good politician, elaborating that he meant good on the policy, and also good on the politics, but admitted that he did not instinctively blend the two. Gore said he had to think about it, and Clinton thought this was pretty close to the bone. As a policy person, and a government person, Gore would make wise choices. He had the stuff to be a great president."

So Clinton compared his veep to a fascist Italian dictator, but believed he could be a great president, and Gore realized that his major deficit was integrating the policy wonk and the politician within him. What I'd like now is to see Gore's side of the tale. Or perhaps a book just on what went on between these two guys. Mr. Vice President, where are your memoirs of the Clinton years?

You can follow David Corn's postings and media appearances via Twitter.

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We're Still at War: Photo of the Day for September 23, 2009

Wed Sep. 23, 2009 6:02 AM EDT

An Afghan National Army soldier stands ready with his patrol vehicle’s crew-served weapon outside of Camp Shimshod, Helmand province, Afghanistan. Many ANA soldiers are provide forward or rear security while on patrol with International Security Assistance Forces personnel. (US Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Michael Curvin.)

Need To Read: September 23, 2009

Wed Sep. 23, 2009 6:00 AM EDT

Today's must-reads are still glad we #hiredkatesheppard:

  • Obama Considering Strategy Shift in Afghanistan (NYT)
  • ACORN Worker in "Pimp" Video Told Police (AP)
  • Health Care Progress May Not Be Possible for Two Weeks (TPM)
  • PG&E Quits Chamber of Commerce Over Climate Change (MoJo)
  • Pentagon office overseeing contracts has 14 people working in it. That must make Blackwater very happy (MoJo)
  • Clinton on Gore: "I Thought He Was In Neverland" (MoJo)
  • Arpaio Targeting ACORN (MoJo)
  • Congress Defunding Blackwater? (MoJo)
  • Q&A With Historian Rick Perlstein on the ACORN Flap (Columbia Journalism Review)
  • Kennedy Seat To Be Filled By Appointment (MoJo)
  • What Obama Told the UN (MoJo)
  • "I'm pretty sure I have never—before today—yelled at NPR's Robert Siegel in my car." (Obsidian Wings)

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Will Ahmadinejad Free the Hikers?

| Wed Sep. 23, 2009 3:01 AM EDT

Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad always goes on a bit of a PR offensive during his trip to New York for the UN General Assembly, doing interviews and meeting with prominent Americans. This year's visit, which comes after the brutal suppression of election protests in Iran as well as on the heels of a fresh round of Holocaust denial, should be a bit more challenging than usual, with massive protests planned outside the UN. On one front, though, the Iranian president seems to be offering an olive branch: In an interview with the AP, he signals that he'll ask Iranian courts to treat three US hikers detained in Iran, including MoJo contributor Shane Bauer, with "maximum leniency." (The hikers' mothers last week issued an open letter (pdf) asking Ahmadinejad to bring their children with him to New York.) 

For another American held in Iraq, Ahmadinejad offered less hope, reports the AP: 

"[He] also was asked about the case of an Iranian-Canadian journalist, Maziar Bahari, who was working for Newsweek magazine and imprisoned while covering the social unrest in Iran after the disputed June presidential election. Ahmadinejad did not reply about Bahari, limiting his remarks to the case of the hikers."

 Stay tuned for more signals during Ahmadinejad's speech today.

Climate Summit: China Commits, Obama Not So Much

| Tue Sep. 22, 2009 11:35 PM EDT

Minutes after the close of the United Nations summit on climate change on Tuesday, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon declared the event a success. "The momentum has shifted," he told reporters.

"For the last few months I have been very concerned by the slow pace of the global negotiations," said Ban. "But I listened carefully to the discussions today and I sensed that something that has been missing for the past few months has returned. It is a sense of optimism, urgency, and hope that governments are determined to seal a deal in Copenhagen."

But, if anything, the public-facing side of the summit didn't offer much hope. Barack Obama's speech offered nothing in the way of specific policy directives and did little to put pressure on Congress to deliver him a bill that he can take to Copenhagen. And there were no major breakthroughs on agreements between leaders.

For those determined to find signs of progress, one might have been the speech by Chinese President Hu Jintao. His promise that the country would reduce greenhouse emissions by a "notable margin" below 2005 levels within a decade was hailed as a breakthrough – though he didn't clarify whether that would be a binding goal. Chinese leaders said they are still discussing what the actual target will be.

Hu also pledged that China would work to raise the amount of energy drawn from nuclear and other non-fossil fuels to 15 percent by 2020, and employ other strategies to protect and expand forests and develop a more sustainable economy. Yet he maintained his desire that developing countries – even rapidly modernizing ones like China – not be held to the standards of developed countries. "Developing countries need to strike a balance between economic growth, social development and environmental protection," said Hu.

There were other significant pledges on Tuesday: the European Union reaffirmed its commitment to cuts of 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, and 30 percent if other developed nations follow suit. And Japan's new prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, touted his promise to cut Japan's emissions to 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, so long as others consent.

Now, whether these signs of progress are as major as Ban makes them out to be remains to be seen. Other world and UN leaders have recently been downplaying hopes that a final deal will be sealed in Copenhagen, especially in light of delays in the US Senate.

But Ban insisted on a sunnier assessment. "Finally we are seeing a thaw in some of the frozen conditions that have prevented governments from progressing toward a deal in Copenhagen," he said.

Beck Watch: Mindless, Incoherent, Pathetic

| Tue Sep. 22, 2009 6:28 PM EDT

I thought Glenn Beck was finally starting to make sense when he told Katie Couric today that John McCain "would have been worse for the country than Barack Obama." Needless to say, some on the right weren't as pleased as I was. Conservative radio host Mark Levin said the claim was "mindless" and "incoherent." He added, "It may be entertaining, but from my perspective, it's not. It's pathetic."

MSNBC morning host Joe Scarborough joined the right-wing anger. “You cannot preach hatred. You cannot say the president is racist," he said. Are conservatives finally getting sick of Glenn Beck?

Here's a list of who's still advertising on the Glenn Beck Program:

Rosland Capital

Jos. A. Bank Clothiers

News Corp. (The Wall Street Journal)

Superior Gold Group

Loan Modification help line 800-917-8549

Lear Capital

Liberty Medical

Citrix (GoToMeeting)

Goldline International, Inc.

ExtenZe

IRSTaxAgreements.com

Clarity Media Group (The Weekly Standard)

American Coalition Against Nuclear Iran, Inc.

Carbonite

Roche Diagnostics (Accu-Chek Aviva)

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PG&E Quits Chamber of Commerce Over Its "Extreme Position on Climate Change"

| Tue Sep. 22, 2009 6:13 PM EDT

Pacific Gas and Electric, the Northern California utility, has pulled out of the US Chamber of Commerce, citing what its chairman, Peter Darbee, called its "disingenuous attempts to diminish or distort reality" in the debate over climate change.

Darbee's often harshly worded letter to the Chamber, excerpted on the company's blog, expressed dismay that the Chamber "neglects the indisputable fact" that climate change is "a threat that cannot be ignored." 

With 3 million member businesses of all sizes, the nation's biggest business lobby has come under increasing fire for taking a hard line against this year's climate legislation. In May, a letter from Johnson & Johnson and Nike asked the Chamber to stop speaking about the issue as if it represented the entire business community. PG&E is the first business to move beyond those objections to publicly break with Chamber over its position. "[N]ot every issue is created equal," the company, a major investor in green power, said on its blog, "and sometimes companies decide they have to take a more decisive stand on really big ones."

It remains an enigma why the Chamber, which has called for a "Scopes Monkey Trial" on climate science, is working so hard to undermine climate legislation. The NRDC recently pointed out that Chamber president Tom Donohue has deep financial ties to the coal industry. The Chamber stresses that it position on global warming was hammered out by the its Environment and Energy Committee, which is chaired by Donald J. Sterhan, the owner of an affordable housing company. But a web search reveals that the Montana native is also a board member of the Billings Petroleum Club. The club's members often include people outside the oil industry, yet the club's September 2009 newsletter, the Gusher, lists numerous oil companies as sponsors, among them Devon Energy, Montana Wyoming Oil Company, and Petro-Hunt.

 

MA Leg. Allows Gov. Patrick to Name Interim Senator

| Tue Sep. 22, 2009 5:52 PM EDT

The Massachusetts State Legislature has cleared the way for Governor Deval Patrick to appoint an interim replacement to fill the US Senate seat held by the late Edward Kennedy, according to a report in the New York Times.

The MA House had previously passed a bill to allow the Democratic Governor to pick someone to serve until a special election is held on January 19th. The state Senate also approved the measure this afternoon.

What seems like a short term, however, could have long lasting consequences, as the US Senate is working on critical pieces of legislation, including health care and a climate bill. With a Democrat in Kennedy's seat, the party would conceivably have the votes to block a Republican filibuster on both of these contentious issues. It's possible, that is, if the Democrats can act more like their rivals and maintain party unity for a few weeks.

There's no official word yet on who the Governor would appoint, but former presidential candidate Michael Dukakis' name has been mentioned frequently.

According to the story in the Times, when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) read a note containing the news from Massachusetts, he reacted with a fist pump, celebrating the momentary victory that brings what Senator Ted Kennedy called "the cause of my life" -- affordable health-care coverage for all Americans -- a step closer to reality.

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Osha Gray Davidson is a contributing blogger at Mother Jones and publisher of The Phoenix Sun, an online news service reporting on solar energy. He tweets @thephoenixsun.

"Pink Panties" Sheriff Joe Arpaio Targets ACORN

| Tue Sep. 22, 2009 5:31 PM EDT

Joe Arpaio, America's most notorious sheriff, announced last week that he will subpoena financial records of the community activist group ACORN. Arpaio believes that ACORN used federal funds intended for social services to launch a public relations campaign against him and his controversial immigration practices.

Arpaio is a hero amongst anti-immigration zealots thanks to his Arizona police department's ruthless policies related to cracking down on illegal immigrants. In March, the House Judiciary Committee asked Arpaio to testify (he declined) about accusations that he promoted crime sweeps in Hispanic neighborhoods and routinely used racial profiling to target undocumented workers. That same month, a group of ten Republican lawmakers declared the allegations baseless and criticized the DOJ investigation for "politicizing or chilling immigration efforts." To date, the DOJ has not reprimanded Arpaio.

Now, Arpaio is claiming that ACORN helped to fund a Mexican national's racial discrimination suit against him. In a statement, Arpaio said that he will prove that "ACORN is in bed with the anti-immigration enforcement organizations, which continue to demonstrate in front of my office trying to thwart my officers from enforcing state and federal law." (Arpaio has a track record of blaming others for his problems: Earlier this month, he claimed that Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon was behind the DOJ probe and asked the FBI to investigate.)

ACORN spokesman Scott Levenson says that there is no basis for these claims and welcomes Arpaio's opposition. "Sheriff Arpaio has long been the poster child of racist and prejudiced behavior around law enforcement," he told me. "I'm confident that Sheriff Arpaio attacking Acorn is proof that we're heading in the right direction."

ACORN Defunding Bill Could Also Defund Blackwater

| Tue Sep. 22, 2009 4:13 PM EDT

Ryan Grim has a blockbuster story over at Huffington Post explaining that the bill "defunding" ACORN is written so broadly that it actually forbids the government from giving money to a whole bunch of other groups, too—including most of the military-industrial complex:

[I]t applies to "any organization" that has been charged with breaking federal or state election laws, lobbying disclosure laws, campaign finance laws or filing fraudulent paperwork with any federal or state agency. It also applies to any of the employees, contractors or other folks affiliated with a group charged with any of those things.

That means almost any company in the Project on Government Oversight's contractor misconduct database could conceivably be barred from receiving federal funds under the new law. Grim focused on the huge defense companies that top POGO's list, but also prominent in that database are private military contractors like Blackwater/Xe, DynCorp International, and G4S, whose ArmorGroup subsidiary employeed the contractors gone wild at the Kabul embassy. How do so many military contractors run into trouble with the law? Maybe because there are just 14 people monitoring the Pentagon's entire contracting operation.