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Bush inartfully suggests Saddam killed Mandela.

Thu, 2007-09-20 09:02

In a press conference this morning, President Bush tried to assert that Saddam’s brutal rule over Iraq wiped the country clean of potential democratic reformers — individuals who may have possessed leadership skills like former South African President Nelson Mandela. In doing so, Bush inartfully suggested Saddam killed Mandela:

I thought an interesting comment was made — somebody said to me, I heard somebody say, “Now, where’s Mandela?” Well, Mandela’s dead because Saddam Hussein killed all the Mandelas.

For the record, Nelson Mandela is still alive while Saddam Hussein is dead. Watch it:

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Nelson Mandela was a strong opponent of the war in Iraq. Prior to the war, he condemned Bush as “a president who can’t think properly and wants to plunge the world into holocaust.” “Why does the United States behave so arrogantly?” he asked, adding, “They just want the oil. We must expose this as much as possible.”

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Bush: Don’t Ask Me About The Economy, I Got A ‘B In Econ 101′

Thu, 2007-09-20 08:29

Today in his press conference, a reporter asked President Bush whether there was a “risk of a recession.” Bush declined to answer, pointing out that he’s never been very good at “Econ 101″:

QUESTION: Do you think there’s a risk of a recession? How do you rate that?

BUSH: You know, you need to talk to economists. I think I got a B in Econ 101. I got an A, however, in keeping taxes low and being fiscally responsible with the people’s money.

Watch it:

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Bush is the one who needs to spend a little more time talking to economists. Many of them have been predicting that the administration’s loose regulatory policies may soon lead to a recession:

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said the odds of a recession remain ’somewhat more’ than one in three even after this week’s cut in interest rates, with home prices likely to drop further and hurt consumer spending. [9/20/07]

Yale University economist Robert Shiller, an “economist who has long predicted this decade’s housing market bubble would deflate said the residential real estate downturn could spiral into ‘the most severe since the Great Depression’ and could lead to a recession.” [9/19/07]

CBO Director Peter Orszag notes that “the housing issues and problems in the subprime mortgage markets have created a yellow level of concern. ‘The risk of a recession is clearly elevated,’ he says.” [9/18/07]

As for fiscal responsibility, Bush’s tax cuts have “been the single largest contributor to the reemergence of substantial budget deficits.” “Between 2001 and 2006, the passage of the Bush tax cuts without the offsetting savings have cost $1.2 trillion in lost revenues, or more than 80 percent of the cumulative deficit during this period.”

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UPDATE: Michael Roston takes a look back at Bush’s college transcripts. Bush received grades of 71 and 72 in Economics — a grade that “would correspond with a C-.”

The Decider: ‘People Listen To Petraeus, Not To Me’

Thu, 2007-09-20 07:28

President Bush has repeatedly proclaimed that he calls the shots and has the final word on decisions regarding the war in Iraq.

On April 18, 2006, Bush rejected calls for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to step down, saying, “I’m the decider, and I decide what is best.” Watch it:

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But even “the decider” apparently recognizes the American public is not interested in what he has to say.

On Wednesday, Bush hosted a group of columnists at the White House for a 90-minute interview session. Roll Call editor Mort Kondracke, who attended the meeting, said that Bush now “may be a lame duck” and appears to know that “his credibility is low.” At the meeting, Bush acknowledged:

People listen to Petraeus, not to me.

But Petraeus’ close ties to Bush have damaged his own credibility. A recent CBS poll found that, after Petraeus’ testimony, the percentage of Americans who believe escalation is working fell from 35 to 31.

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Long-term presence in Iraq = trillions in taxpayer dollars.

Thu, 2007-09-20 07:27

“A new Congressional study finds that President Bush’s plans for the U.S. in Iraq over the next several decades will reach the trillions of dollars, on top of the approximately $567 billion the war has already cost.” The cost of maintaining a ‘Korea-like’ presence in Iraq over the next 50 years could exceed $2 trillion. Danger Room’s Noah Shachtman has more.

Fox’s goddamn hypocrisy.

Thu, 2007-09-20 06:45

During the Fox network broadcast of the Emmy Awards this week, Actress Sally Field’s acceptance speech was censored because she used the word “goddamn.” “If mothers ruled the world,” Field said, “there would be no god-damned wars in the first place.” Robert Greenwald’s Brave New Films catches Fox News cable pundits using the word “goddamn” repeatedly on air. Watch it:

ThinkFast: September 20, 2007

Thu, 2007-09-20 06:02

Thousands of “people dressed in black, from college students to veterans of the civil rights movements,” will be in Louisiana today in support of six black teenagers known as the “Jena 6,” who were initially charged with attempted murder in the beating of a white classmate. More about the Jena 6 HERE.

Senate conservatives’ successful effort to obstruct the Webb amendment yesterday mark the “the eighth time this year” that “Senate Republicans…blocked a Democratic move to challenge U.S. policy in Iraq.”

71.1 percent: The increase last month in the numbers of Iraqis forced to abandon their homes, “the sharpest rise so far.

Mary Matalin, a former Cheney aide, is working pay the legal bills of her old co-worker, “Scooter” Libby, who the President granted clemency to earlier this year. “Make no mistake, Scooter’s battle is not yet over,” Matalin wrote in a recent fundraising letter. He “still has hundreds of thousands of dollars in outstanding legal bills from his trial” that “need to be paid immediately.”

White House officials say that, after the attorney general confirmation, the nomination of Steven G. Bradbury to head the Office of Legal Counsel “is their next priority this fall, though they have nine major slots at a depleted Justice Department to fill.” As acting OLC chief, Bradbury has been “advising President Bush on the extent of his terrorism-fighting powers,” but several Democratic senators have placed secret holds on his official nomination. (more…)

Dialogue with candidates via MySpace/MTV.

Wed, 2007-09-19 19:37

Tomorrow begins the MySpace/MTV Presidential Candidate Dialogues, which “mark the first time in history that viewers at home and online will be able to interact in real time with the candidates.” More details:

On Thursday, September 27, at 12 p.m. ET, Democratic candidate John Edwards will sit down with MTV News correspondents Gideon Yago and SuChin Pak and political reporter Chris Cillizza on the University of New Hampshire campus to answer questions submitted via MySpaceIM and Questions will also be asked by a live audience comprised of UNH students.

Participants will also be able to rate Edwards’ responses in real time — everything from a simple “I agree/disagree” to the decidedly less traditional “Full of bull” — thanks to the Flektor instant-polling tool. A “popular vote” function will allow viewers to compare their opinions against those of the entire viewing community. Poll results will be available online live during each event and archived for future viewing.

Ten other candidates, both Republican and Democratic, will be participating in the dialogues at later dates.

State Dept. ‘Discounts’ Iraqi Report, Clings To Blackwater Line Of ‘Defensive Fire’

Wed, 2007-09-19 17:00

On Sunday, employees of an American private security company were involved in a shoot out in central Baghdad that left at least 11 civilians dead, including a mother and her child. A spokeswoman for the firm, Blackwater USA, told reporters that the “independent contractors acted lawfully and appropriately in response to a hostile attack.”

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack supported Blackwater’s version of events, saying yesterday that “the basic fact is that there was an attack on the convoy.” This version of the events, however, was contradicted today by “a preliminary Iraqi report” obtained by the New York Times:

There was not shooting against the convoy,” said Ali al-Dabbagh, the Iraqi government’s spokesman. “There was no fire from anyone in the square.” […]

American Embassy officials had said Monday that the Blackwater guards had been responding to a car bomb, but Mr. Dabbagh said the bomb was so far away that it could not possibly have been a reason for the convoy to begin shooting.

Instead, he said, the convoy had initiated the shooting when a car did not heed a police officer and moved into an intersection.

“The traffic policeman was trying to open the road for them,” he said. “It was a crowded square. But one small car did not stop. It was moving very slowly. They shot against the couple and their child. They started shooting randomly.”

Witnesses of the incident who spoke to McClatchy on Monday support the Iraqi report. “Three people who claimed to have witnessed the shooting said that only the Blackwater guards were firing.” But in a press briefing today, State Department spokesman Tom Casey dismissed the preliminary report while sticking to the Blackwater line:

QUESTION: But you still maintain that this was a defense action in response to an attack. This is — that’s not, apparently, what the Iraqis are saying.

CASEY: You know, what I know and what Sean said yesterday is the convoy came under attack and there was defensive fire as a result of that.

There are various — there are eyewitness accounts that say a whole variety of different things as to what the sequence was and where fire came from and all that. That’s what the investigation has to figure out.

And I don’t — I don’t want to try and assert for you that things happened in a specific order of events, because I just don’t know that’s true.

QUESTION: OK. This is different from an eyewitness account. This is the Iraqi investigation. So you’re discounting their investigation

As Spencer Ackerman of TPMmuckraker reports, the State Department has a vested interest in whether Blackwater acted offensively or defensively during the shootout, since their rules of engagement “are set by State” and are more aggressive than “other security contractors who use the Military Rules of Engagement and Rules of Force.”

Additionally, the State Department “rarely” conducts thorough investigations of such incidents in Iraq. “We get almost weekly reports of such shootings,” a State Department official told The Blotter. “But it is close to impossible to go the crime scene and interview witnesses.”

UPDATE: Here’s the video of Casey’s press briefing:

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Giuliani Spins Reasons For Quitting The Iraq Study Group, Says ‘It Was A Mistake To Join’

Wed, 2007-09-19 15:18

On Monday, launched a new TV ad slamming former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani for quitting the Iraq Study Group last year, saying that even though he’s “a big fan of George Bush’s war in Iraq,” he went “AWOL” when he “had the chance to actually do something about the war.”

In an interview with CNN’s John King today, Giuliani responded to the ad, claiming that he quit because he didn’t want to “politicize” the report with his presidential ambitions:

I knew, that ultimately, I could very well be running for President of the United States. I wasn’t sure at the time. And had I stayed on that group, their report was put out just around the time I announced for President, and I would have totally politicized it. It was a mistake to join in the first place.

Watch it:

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Giuliani already tried this line out in June after Newsday reported the details of his departure from the panel. But it was quickly debunked.

As TPM’s Greg Sargent noted at the time, Giuliani’s role on the Iraq Study Group was anounced in March 2006, but as early as October 2005, he was touting himself as a potential presidential candidate. “I will be considering it next year,” Giuliani told the AP.

Additionally, “several” members of the bipartisan commission told NBC’s Tim Russert in June “that presidential politics never entered the discussion, it was all about Giuliani’s schedule and commitments versus showing up for the Iraq Study Group”:

RUSSERT: The Giuliani campaign said part of the equation is he was considering to run for president at that time and his presence on the group may pose a potential conflict. Several commission members said to me that presidential politics never entered the discussion, it was all about Giuliani’s schedule and commitments versus showing up for the Iraq Study Group.

Breaking: Webb amendment fails.

Wed, 2007-09-19 14:59

The Senate just voted 56 to 44 on Sen. Jim Webb’s (D-VA) amendment “requiring that active-duty troops and units have at least equal time at home as the length of their previous tour overseas.” The bill failed to garner the 60 votes needed to move forward.

When the legislation was considered in July, the vote was 56 to 41. Sens. Sam Brownback (R-KS) and David Vitter (R-LA), who didn’t vote in July, today voted against the legislation. Sen. John Warner (R-VA) switched his July vote, also voting against the bill today. Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD) voted “yea.”

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War means windfall for defense contractors.

Wed, 2007-09-19 14:23

Michael Brush writes, “CEOs at top defense contractors have reaped annual pay gains of 200% to 688% in the years since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.” Additionally, “The CEOs made an average of $12.4 million a year, easily more than the average corporate chief. Since the start of the war, CEOs at defense contractors such General Dynamics, Halliburton and Oshkosh Truck have made, on average, more in four days than what a top general makes in a whole year, or $187,390.”

Australian PM Howard’s Party Bans Members From Gore’s Global Warming Speeches

Wed, 2007-09-19 13:32

Al Gore is currently in Australia speaking on climate change, where he has launched a “passionate attack on the climate policies of Prime Minister John Howard and US President George Bush.” Yesterday, he spoke to a sold-out crowd of more than 700 people, and tomorrow’s event is anticipated to have similar attendance. From his speech yesterday:

I said it in Australia before and I will say it again, if Australia ratifies Kyoto, it is like Australia and the United States are Bonnie and Clyde in the world of environment.

And if Clyde is isolated and Bonnie has gone straight, Clyde won’t really be able to resist any more.

But according to the event organizer, Max Markson, Prime Minister John Howard’s Liberal Party has prohibited its members from attending the events:

Event organiser Markson says while he sent invitations to Liberals from the Prime Minister down, only one accepted and then promptly cancelled.

“There is absolutely an official boycott in place. We had one NSW Liberal MP [agree to come] and he had to ring back and apologise and say he wasn’t allowed to come,” says Markson.

Howard has repeatedly refused to acknowledge the truth of global warming. When Gore visited Australia in 2006 to promote his documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, Howard refused to meet with him. Though he did eventually view the film, he dismissed it as “alright” and said, “I don’t take policy advice from films.”

Not surprisingly, Howard is a steadfast Bush ally. Earlier this month, he stated, “We have no closer alliance with any country in the world than we have with the United States.” Howard, whom Bush has called his “mate of steel,” joined Bush in refusing to sign the Kyoto protocol on climate change. They remain the only major industrialized nations to stay out of the international agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Howard is facing strong disapproval from the Australian public, the majority of whom view climate change as the number one external threat to the country. They are also increasingly frustrated with Howard’s unwavering support for Bush’s war in Iraq, with 57 percent wanting the war to end.

One poll previewing the upcoming parliamentary elections showed Howard losing his own seat by seven points, and overall, his Liberal Party is losing 43-57 to the opposition Labor party.

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Gates: ‘I don’t know’ whether Iraq war was a ‘good idea.’

Wed, 2007-09-19 13:14

In an interview with New York Times columnist David Brooks published today, Defense Secretary Robert Gates was hesitant to endorse several cornerstones of President Bush’s foreign policy:

I don’t think you invade Iraq to bring liberty. You do it to eliminate an unstable regime and because sanctions are breaking down and you get liberty as a byproduct,” he continued.

I asked him whether invading Iraq was a good idea, knowing what we know now. He looked at me for a bit and said, “I don’t know.” […]

I asked if the military could perform this sort of nation-building, as it is in Iraq. “That’s very short-term stuff. Hooking up water mains. That’s not job creation or institution-building.”

I asked if it was a mistake to put the Pentagon in charge of postwar reconstruction in Iraq instead of the State Department. He thought for a long time but didn’t say anything.

Rep. King: There Are ‘Too Many Mosques In This Country,’ We Should ‘Infiltrate’ Islam

Wed, 2007-09-19 12:22

In 2006, President Bush appeared alongside then-House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-NY) and heaped praise on the Congressman, calling him a “strong, strong chairman” who was “doing a fine job to help us protect this country.”

The Politico reports today that King, now ranking member on the Committee, is continuing his “strong, strong” measures to “protect” the United States by directly attacking Muslims. In a recent interview, King said:

Unfortunately, we have too many mosques in this country. There are too many people who are sympathetic to radical Islam. We should be looking at them more carefully. We should be finding out how we can infiltrate. […]

I think there’s been a lack of full cooperation from too many people in the Muslim community. And it’s a real threat here in this country.

Watch it:

Throughout his tenure in Congress, King has stereotyped and launched racist attacks at Muslim-Americans:

“[Y]ou could say that 80-85 percent of mosques in this country are controlled by Islamic fundamentalists.” [LINK]

“I know of any number of mosques in New York…where there are radicals in there.” [LINK]

Muslims are “an enemy living amongst us.” [LINK]

Muslims’ “ideology of extremism has been spread to the youth and the new generation.” [LINK]

“They won’t turn in their own. They won’t tell what’s going on in the mosques. They won’t come forward and cooperate with the police.” [LINK]

Gen. John Abizaid recently stated, “the battle of words is meaningful, especially in the Middle East to people.” With members of Congress like Peter King, we continue to lose that battle.

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UPDATE: King responds: “The quote was taken entirely out of context by Politico. My position in this interview, as it has been for many years, is that too many mosques in this country do not cooperate with law enforcement. Unfortunately, Politico was incapable of making this distinction.”

Paul Krugman blogs.

Wed, 2007-09-19 12:13

Earlier this morning, the New York Times released their op-ed columnists from behind the TimesSelect pay wall. Now, one of those columnists, Paul Krugman, has also started his own blog, “The Conscience of a Liberal.” Krugman says he not only expects “politics and economics of inequality” to be “central to many of the blog posts,” but that he also intends on “using this space to present the kind of information I can’t provide on the printed page — especially charts and tables, which are crucial to the way I think about most of the issues I write about.”

Harman On Need To Amend FISA: ‘Congress Is On Trial Here,’ We Have To Correct Our Mistake

Wed, 2007-09-19 11:52

This morning, ThinkProgress interviewed Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), the chairwoman of the subcommittee on intelligence within the Homeland Security committee, regarding the Bush administration’s aggressive push for permanent expansive spying powers.

Harman, who has been critical of Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, said he is “devaluing [his] office by being so close to the White House and by carrying messages that in fact — like the German message — don’t comport with the facts.”

Harman said she is working hard to implement changes to the recently-passed FISA legislation, which she said provided a “blank check for the White House…without any effective review.” Harman said her goal is to “instill changes in the FISA law that would ensure a “legal framework applies and nothing can be done outside the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act which provides for checks and balances.”

“I think [Congress] made a mistake,” Harman said of Congress’s passage of FISA changes shortly before the August recess. Highlighting the need to rein in the recent unchecked expansion of power, Harman issued a challenge to her colleagues in Congress:

Congress must act. Congress is on trial here. I think we did the wrong thing in August. We have to correct it this fall.

Watch it:

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Harman urged the need to restore “the 4th Amendment to the Constitution, which prevents searches and seizures of Americans without probable cause.”

UPDATE: Glenn Greenwald warns there may be more capitulations by Congress on the horizon.

House ethics committee to investigate Filner.

Wed, 2007-09-19 10:47

AP reports:

The House Ethics Committee announced an investigation Wednesday of Rep. Bob Filner’s run-in with a baggage worker at Dulles International Airport last month. The incident resulted in misdemeanor assault and battery charges against the congressman.

The committee released a short statement saying that it voted Tuesday to form a bipartisan, four-member investigative subcommittee to look into the incident. Action by the subcommittee will be deferred until the resolution of criminal proceedings against Filner, D-Calif., the panel said in a statement. […]

The announcement by the House Ethics Committee Wednesday came on its deadline under new House rules that require the panel to investigate any lawmaker charged with a crime, or report to the House on why it’s decided not to. The determination must be made within 30 days _ which fell on Wednesday in Filner’s case.

The investigative subcommittee will be chaired by Rep. Gene Green, D-Texas, and the top Republican will be J. Gresham Barrett, R-S.C. The two other members will be Reps. Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y., and Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Fla.

Muslims’ approval of U.S. ‘going through the floor.’

Wed, 2007-09-19 10:29

“Polls overseas show Muslims’ views of the United States going through the floor. Even in NATO ally Turkey, the United States’ favorable rating is down to 9 percent, according to a recent Pew Research Center poll, down from 30 percent five years ago and 52 percent in 2000.”

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Bush’s Agriculture Secretary quitting to run for Senate.

Wed, 2007-09-19 09:58

Following the news last week that Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) will not seek another term in office, Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns “has decided to resign from President Bush’s cabinet to return to Nebraska and enter the 2008 Senate race.” Johanns, a former two-term Republican governor, is expected to make a formal announcement in Nebraska next week after he “has submitted his resignation to the White House.”

BREAKING: Warner, McCain To Propose Toothless, Watered-Down Version Of Webb Amendment

Wed, 2007-09-19 09:05

Speaking on the Senate floor this morning, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), an ardent opponent of a pro-troop measure to relieve the stress on the overstretched armed forces, announced he will propose a toothless, watered-down substitute to the Webb amendment.

McCain said he and Sen. John Warner (R-VA) have teamed up to put together a “sense of the Senate” amendment to express “very clearly that we all want all our troops home and we understand the stress and strain that’s been inflicted on the men and women in the military and the guard and reserves.”

McCain’s rhetoric belies his intentions — to kill the Webb amendment. Webb’s bill would force the Bush administration to provide active duty troops at least the same time at home as the length of their previous tour of duty overseas. After learning of the McCain-Warner proposal, Webb immediately rejected it, stating that the troops don’t need the “sense of the Congress” but rather “the will of the Congress”:

I have just learned from Sen. McCain’s comments that Sen. Warner will be offering a side-by-side amendment that goes to the sense of the Congress rather than the will of the Congress. And I would like to state emphatically at the outset that this is a situation that calls for the will of the Congress.

Watch it:

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Webb noted at a press conference this morning that Warner is being pressured “very hard” by the Bush administration to back away from his earlier support of the Webb amendment:

QUESTION: Is Senator Warner bailing on you here, or have you reached some accommodation?

WEBB: I’m still hopeful that Senator Warner will support this — will vote for it. [..] As you might imagine, as someone who has been the Republican chairman of the Armed Services Committee, he has been pressed very hard by this administration to, sort of, back away from this.

Sen. John Warner introduced a similar “sense of the Senate” resolution to oppose Bush’s escalation in January, but it failed to pose any obstacles to the administration’s failing course in Iraq.

Warner often flinches from head-on confrontation with the Bush administration, and now he is providing an escape outlet for conservatives to claim they support giving the troops rest while doing nothing about it.

UPDATE: Georgia10 points to a Hill article that notes the “Sense of the Senate” strategy was first discussed by Senate Republicans at “a closed-door luncheon meeting” yesterday. They hoped the proposal “would prevent defections by allowing their conference to go on record recognizing the challenges facing troops in Iraq.” Taylor Marsh has more.

UPDATE II: TPM Election Central reports that Warner did not bother to tell Webb about his amendment.