Good Advice From the Right

Scott Shane writes in the New York Times:

The Central Intelligence Agency withheld information about a secret counterterrorism program from Congress for eight years on direct orders from former Vice President Dick Cheney, the agency’s director, Leon E. Panetta, has told the Senate and House intelligence committees, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said Saturday.

Righties are leaping on the word of several people quoted in the article that the program was never “fully operational.” As far as they’re concerned, that means the whole thing is a non-issue. But of course, they lack the moral courage to face the issue.

The issue is that in the days after 9/11, the unidentified program was devised, and Cheney made the decision to conceal it from Congress, in violation of the law. Planning and training for the program began in 2001 and continued until this year, presumably when Panetta found out about it and shut it down. All we know about the program is that it did not involve domestic surveillance or interrogations. Even if the program was never fully operational, it was an ongoing activity that should have been reported at least to the “Gang of Eight” per the National Security Act of 1947, says Jonathan Turley.

Scott Shane continues,

In the eight years of his vice presidency, Mr. Cheney was the Bush administration’s most vehement defender of the secrecy of government activities, particularly in the intelligence arena. He went to the Supreme Court to keep secret the advisers to his task force on energy, and won.

A report released on Friday by the inspectors general of five agencies about the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance program makes clear that Mr. Cheney’s legal adviser, David S. Addington, had to approve personally every government official who was told about the program. The report said “the exceptionally compartmented nature of the program” frustrated F.B.I. agents who were assigned to follow up on tips it had turned up.


Then, of course, there was the role played by that other guy in the Cheney Administration:

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Reports are that President Obama doesn’t want to “look back” at the crimes of the Bush Administration, because this would distract from the enormous domestic agenda he is trying to push through. There are reports that Attorney General Eric Holder may appoint a prosecutor to investigate torture ordered by the Bush Administration. I hope so, but I’m not going to hold my breath until he does.

So what is the “good advice from the Right,” per the title? I give you Reliapundit from THE ASTUTE BLOGGERS, a “global group blog” for people with damaged keyboards stuck in caps lock. Anyway, Mr. R says,



What we’re really dealing with is a steady drip of disinformation from the far-right “think tanks,” astroturf organizations and the various wingnut mouthpieces, scattering scare stories and lies about “socialized medicine” to frighten Congress and the American people from doing what needs to be done. I want the American people to know the truth about President Obama’s health care and energy proposals, but since it’s just about impossible to get the truth out over the screams and lies of the Right, maybe we should go the other way — pull a Karl Rove, as it were — and use investigations of the crimes of the Bush Administration to keep the Right busy so that actual work can get done. Kill two birds with one stone, as it were.

Related: In an absoluely stunning display of cognitive dissonance, one rightie proclaims “Dems Leak Secrets To Cover Pelosi’s Lies.” You can’t make this up.

More Manufactured Outrage

I don’t know what’s more amazing: that the powers that be on the Right would even think up a stunt like this, or that so many righties are such sheep — nasty blood-sucking sheep, but sheep nonetheless — that they unthinkingly go along with it.

Here’s the basic story — Wednesday next week ABC News will devote much of its program to the Obama Administration’s proposed health care policy. On that day, “Good Morning America” will originate from the South Lawn of the White House and will include an interview by Diane Sawyer with President Obama. That evening, President Obama will take part in a moderated discussion in front of a live audience on ABC. The moderators will be Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer, and questions will come from the audience, according to ABC News.

One might say, Good for ABC! Unless, of course, you are a Republican.

The GOP officially complained that “opposing voices” will be left out, namely that they won’t be able to plant one of its usual trained goons next to the President to interrupt incessantly with absurd talking points so that no one can have a sensible discussion. ABC promises that people with diverse opinions will ask questions from the audience. One also hopes that Sawyer and Gibson will ask substantive and challenging questions.

Righties are screaming about an “ethical firestorm” because news will be “anchored” from inside the White House. A sampler of reactions:

This is the stuff of apparatchiks and Politburos, not a healthy, ethical free press. ABC will become the Obama network to sell his health care plan for an entire day. … [link]

Dr. Goebbels would be so proud… [link]

As far as I am aware this has never happened before in any administration – Democrat or Republican.

A free and independent press is one of the legs on which all representative governments rest. If we have lost it, The American Experiment’s remaining time is short indeed. [link]

One must ask, in what universe would news reporting from inside the White House, or a President taking questions from a live audience whose members he did not personally choose, be considered subversive of democracy? Beside Bizarro World, of course?

And the answer is, a world of people who think of the place from within the White House as enemy territory that must not be allowed legitimacy.

Update: See Bob Cesca at Crooks and Liars.

So-So and the Oxy-boy

This story has been public for several days, but somehow it got by me until Michael Tomasky pointed it out

Some years ago a New York City cop named Thomas Pappas was circulating racist literature from his home. The NYPD found out about it and fired him. The case worked its way up to the federal appeals court, which upheld the NYPD’s right to fire Pappas.

But guess who dissented? Yep. Judge Sotomayor held that the firing violated Pappas’ free speech rights.

Tomasky cited SCOTUSblog.

Tomasky also referred to Rush Limbaugh as “Fatface Oxy-boy.” Sounds like a winner.

The “So-So” is from the genuinely depraved Debbie Shlussel, via DougJ at Balloon Juice and Wonkette. Don’t worry; I’m not linking directly to Schlussel. Wonkette quotes Shlussel —

“I can’t help but notice that the sole reason So-So (my very appropriate name for Sonia Sotomayor) was chosen as Barack Obama’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court is that she shares the life story of J-Lo, Jennifer Lopez.”

J-Lo graduated summa cum laude from Princeton and then from Yale Law? Who knew? Seriously, I think the nickname “So-So” is kinda cute. I’d hate to think what nickname we’d have to give Shlussel, however. I don’t think it would be G-rated. Perhaps it would be better not to go there.

There are several reports today that conservatives are demanding a Senate filibuster of the Sotomayor nomination. One of these is Mark Levin, a radio talk-show host who once said that a filibuster against a judicial nomination was unconstitutional. Of course, in that case the nominee was Sam Alito.

The leader of the “get tough” movement is Manuel Miranda, and if that name sounds familiar, Greg Sargent explains why.

There’s a decent editorial in the Washington Post today about how absurd the Right’s arguments against Sotomayor actually are. Sotomayor’s resume is remarkably similar to that of Sam Alito — Princeton, Yale Law, years on the bench, etc. But weirdly, some on the Right are calling Sotomayor “the Left’s Harriet Miers.” About the only things Miers and Sotomayor have in common is that they’re both women with law degrees.

Obama Derangement Syndrome

The President and Mrs. Obama went to New York City for a “date night,” dinner and a Broadway show. And the wingnuts are having a fit about it.

The Republican National Committee slammed the outing in an “RNC Research Piece”: “As President Obama prepares to wing into Manhattan’s theater district on Air Force One to take in a Broadway show, GM is preparing to file bankruptcy and families across America continue to struggle to pay their bills. … Have a great Saturday evening – even if you’re not jetting off somewhere at taxpayer expense. … PUTTING ON A SHOW: Obamas Wing Into The City For An Evening Out While Another Iconic American Company Prepares For Bankruptcy.”

Tbogg has a survey of Right Blogosphere reaction. My favorite is this one:

Obama also promised a middle class tax cut and healthcare reform, but obviously those can wait.

It wasn’t even an overnight trip, mind you. They flew back to Washington (which is a half hour trip, by air) after the show. They didn’t take Air Force One but instead flew in a smaller jet.

Let’s review:

George W. Bush took more vacations than any other President in U.S. history.

That’s 487 days at Camp David and 77 trips to Crawford, Texas, where he spent all or part of 490 days. I calculate that to be about two years and eight months.

I don’t know what the travel time is from the White House to Camp David — I assume just a few minutes — but I figure Crawford must be at least three hours one way by air, and I assume there’s no Crawford International Airport, so there’s motorcade time to figure in, also. Assuming a 6 hour two-way trip, times 77 trips, equals 462 hours, or more than 19 days days spent just flying back and forth to Crawford.

Bush was in Crawford when he blew off the memo “Bin Laden determined to attack inside the U.S.” as being too trivial for his attention. As I remember it, he was in Crawford during the great electricity blackout of 2003, and it was several hours before he addressed it. He was in Crawford while two wars were going on in the Mideast.

And need I say … Hurricane Katrina?

For a collection of outraged snark at the Endless Vacation that was the Bush Administration, see Source Watch. I think the only reason there wasn’t more outrage is that Bush was such a bad POTUS, most of the time it didn’t matter whether he was on vacation or not.

Even when he wasn’t officially on vacation, Bush wasn’t famous for staying put in the White House. Especially in his first term, when the War on Terror was still new and sparkly, as I remember he spent about half of his not-vacation time traveling to Republican Party fundraisers. The pattern was to schedule some “official” event like a ribbon-cutting or a speech in a particular city, where by some coincidence there happened to be a GOP fund-raider going on that very evening, so he could take Air Force One on Republican Party business without reimbursing taxpayers. (See, for example, “Taxpayer Mugging for Political Fundraising.”)

But that was not a problem, because, you know, IOKIYAR — It’s OK If You’re A Republican.

Update: A blogger who claims not to be a “sheeple” — I beg to differ — writes (emphasis original),

With the problems we’re facing with the recession and North Korea testing nuclear missiles you would think he would keep it a little on the down low and I don’t want to hear a peep from the loony left that Ron and Nancy Reagan were extravagant. Not a peep!

This blogger was pissed because yesterday the White House couldn’t yet provide expense account of the trip to New York. I don’t believe the Bush Administration ever presented an accounting of all the political trips George and Dick took at taxpayers’ expense. I could be wrong about that, but I googled for it and couldn’t find it. In the first Bush term they were not providing that information, and the Veep’s travel itinerary was something of a state secret at times. We don’t even know how much Dick traveled, never mind the cost.

You’ll like this one — the Broadway show the first couple saw was “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone.” It’s a play about African-American life. So this blogger writes,

By the way, note that the Obamas went to a ‘black’ show.

When does he ever pay homage to his white side?

I swear, it’s something like a moth-and-flame thing; they can’t help themselves.

Update: Steve Benen

Rumor has it, Obama occasionally eats and sleeps, too. The nerve. Doesn’t the president realize he has things to do?

Answers and Questions

Tom Goldstein of SCOTUSblog has analyzed Judge Sonia Sotomayor’s court cases that involve race, and his analysis shows no racial bias whatsoever. Go to SCOTUSblog for the numbers.

What interests me more is what Hilzoy wrote:

I honestly don’t know why so many people focus so much attention on their somewhat overwrought interpretations of one line in a speech and so little attention on ascertaining what kind of judge Sonia Sotomayor has been. Her decisions are not classified documents. They are public, and anyone can read them. Moreover, they plainly provide the best evidence of the kind of judge she will be.

Oh, c’mon, Hilzoy, you know good and well why so many people focus on a few words of a speech and not her record. They’ve latched on to whatever they can use to demonize her. They don’t give a bleep about her record, or what kind of judge she might be. They want to hate her. It’s what the live for.

Next question:

I cannot imagine why more journalists have not done the kind of analysis that Tom Goldstein has.

Yep, that’s a good question.

White Whales and Wingnuts

A lot about wingnut behavior begins to make sense if you understand that in their reality, they are Captain Ahab and we liberals and progressives are Moby Dick. They don’t all want to kill us (a disturbing number do, of course), but mostly they are driven to settle the score with us.

What score? you may ask. The score for whatever they imagine we did to them. It’s not clear to me what that is, but clearly it’s the fire burning in their bellies; their raison d’être. For the Right, life is one long, monomaniacal quest to get even with the Left.

Thus, you can count on them not quitting even when they’re ahead, because in their own minds they are never ahead, or at least never ahead enough.

Along those lines — one of the weirder aspects of the ongoing torture scandal is the way the Right has tried to make it a referendum on Nancy Pelosi. I don’t entirely agree with Matt Yglesias that the Pelosi argument is backfiring. Not yet, anyway. But neither do I think anyone who hasn’t signed up to sail on the Pequod, so to speak, cares about whether Nancy Pelosi was briefed about torture or not.

However, I also think Matt has a point that they could have just accepted President Obama’s wish to move on from the torture question and keep their mouths shut. But they couldn’t do that. They couldn’t pass it up any more than a dog can pass up a tree without saluting.

Steve Benen

Republicans were getting exactly the result they wanted, right up until they thought to go after Pelosi. Now, the liberal Democratic House Speaker and the conservative Republican RNC chairman are saying the same thing: let’s investigate and get the whole story.

Indeed, Pelosi has been using this to great effect. When the right argues that she’s lying or was somehow complicit in Bush’s alleged crimes, she always responds with the same compelling answer: “Let’s have an investigation and see who’s right.”

As far as the strategy goes, Republicans should have taken “yes” for an answer.

Think Gollum diving into the lake of fire to grab the ring.

Now, I also agree with Steve M that the Right can still control news cycles and still finesse the terrorism question. But the Right does tend to come unglued where Nancy Pelosi is concerned.

See, for example, John Feehery’s “Conditions for a coup in Congress” at The Politico. Feehery’s evidence that House Democrats are on the edge of replacing Pelosi are, um, old. Steny Hoyer ran against Pelosi for Majority Whip in 2001, so he’s a potential rival. The base must be pissed at Pelosi, because Cindy Sheehan ran against Pelosi in 2004.

Yes, a lot of lefties are disenchanted with Pelosi, but a lot of lefties are disenchanted with a lot of people. I think if the base were given the authority to replace somebody in Democratic leadership, the first on the list would be Harry Reid, not Nancy Pelosi.

David Weigel at the Washington Independent calls the Feehery piece a “curious case of media narrative-setting.” Whatever. Feehery is reason itself compared to Mike Huckabee:

Here’s a story about a lady named Nancy
A ruthless politician, but dressed very fancy
Very ambitious, she got herself elected Speaker
But as for keeping secrets, she proved quite a “leaker.”

Which, I submit, says a lot more about Mike Huckabee than it says about Nancy Pelosi. And what it says is damn pathetic. Notice the dig about a woman being “ruthless” and “ambitious.” That’s another tree the Right can’t pass up.

Regarding what needs to be investigated — see Marcy Wheeler’s “The 13 people who made torture possible.” Sorta kinda related — Gary Farber, JAVAID IQBAL.

On Request

Patterico wants all bloggers to embed this video. So I watched it, and said yeah, sure.

You’ll recognize reporter Susan Roesgen of CNN from an earlier post. Roesgen’s work as shown on the earlier video was clumsy. She was over her head, I think, and obviously got rattled. I felt a lot more sympathy for her in the video above.

The thing is, righties are linking to this video as if it vindicates them somehow. I think it makes them look worse. Don’t stop the vid until you see the guy delivering the speech about how Hitler was a socialist. Classic.

Roesgen is getting the Dan Rather treatment now, btw. The righties are digging for everything they can find on her so they can smear her.

Update: Glenn Reynolds is bragging about how genteel, polite, and multi-racial the “tea parties” were. Yes, and I’m Prince Charles.

Update: See also No More Mr. Nice Blog.

Almost Christmas, and Other Reflections

So I stayed up late last night to finish and efile my taxes. Filing the taxes always fills me with the same warm glow I feel after Christmas. In both cases, I cheer myself thinking it will be a whole year before I have to deal with it again.

So today’s the day the True Believers will take to the streets to protest the marginal tax rate rising 3 percent for millionaires. Joan Walsh points out that most of the people who will show up for the tea parties have just had their taxes reduced. Walsh writes,

Of course, the real irony, maybe even tragedy, of the Tea Party movement is the fact that it’s Obama who kept a campaign promise and lowered taxes on roughly 95 percent of American taxpayers. How many folks attending the protests do you expect will know that? There may even be a significant percentage of Tea Partiers who could be penalized by high-balance fees by the credit card companies or who might ultimately need help with their mortgages. Sucks to be those guys! Expect the president to spend much of April 15 talking about his tax cuts and other assistance for struggling, middle-income Americans. Let’s hope his message gets through, even to some of the Tea Party attendees. There’s still so much class-unconsciousness going on.

I am reminded of the mass insanity that struck New Jersey in the 1990s. When Democrat James Florio became governor in January 1990, he faced (to his surprise, I understand) a nasty $600 million budget deficit left him by outgoing Republican Thomas Kean. The state Supreme Court also had issued an order to equalize spending between suburban and city schools, and obeying the order required finding a whole lot o’ money to send to city schools.

So to raise revenues, Florio proposed a 1 percent sales tax hike plus a rise in income tax. The income tax increase was progressive, beginning with a small rate increase for individuals making $55,000 (it’s 1990, remember) and rising to a very big tax increase for those in the very top income bracket.

As a result, the whole state went ballistic. “Dump Florio” bumper stickers bloomed on vehicles all across New Jersey, including old clunkers being driven by people whose income almost certainly was below $55,000. I remember the woman who was my manager at the time actually circulated a petition among employees calling for Florio’s ouster, which no doubt was against company policy, but no one she supervised would have been affected by the income tax hike; just her.

At one point I realized this woman’s clerical assistant was in terrible distress worrying how she was going to pay the awful income taxes. I told her that her taxes weren’t going up (the salary scale at that company was fairly standard; people in her position made $18,000-20,000). She didn’t believe me. I found a newspaper article that explained the tax rates. She was stunned and relieved, but then asked why everyone was making such a fuss. You tell me, I said.

The answer was, of course, that people in the top income brackets (who really did get a big increase) have a really big microphone. No doubt some smart Republican political operatives were “helping” generate hysteria to bring down the new Democratic governor. People who got most of their news from radio, television and other people just heard there was a big tax increase and went marching against it. One fellow who was “promoted” (again, one saw many manipulative hands behind this) as the head of the anti-tax movement not only lacked the income to be affected, but reporters noticed that his kids’ school system was among those that would benefit from increased state aid. To this day the guy probably doesn’t realize he was being used.

Later that year, the Republicans came very close to ousting U.S. Senator Bill Bradley (D-NJ). Bradley stayed out of the New Jersey state tax issue, neither defending nor criticizing, and Christine Todd Whitman ran against him almost entirely on the question of why Bradley was not speaking out against Jim Florio’s taxes. And she damn near beat him. This put Whitman on the map politically, and she became governor of New Jersey in 1994. I say again, there were some smart political operatives in the shadows, whipping up tax hysteria as a wedge issue.

Anyway, regarding today’s planned “tea parties” — I hope no one is stupid enough to show up to counter-protest. Yes, righties crashed plenty of anti-war and anti-Bush marches and rallies. But the Rightbots already see themselves as victims and martyrs being oppressed by the evil forces of Libruhlism, and taunting them just reinforces their cherished sense of victimhood. You can taunt them here all you like, of course.