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Updated: 1 hour 33 min ago

Spitzer, Schwarzenegger write Bush to expand SCHIP.

Wed, 2007-08-29 14:04

Today, Govs. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) and Eliot Spitzer (D-NY) wrote a letter to President Bush, calling on him to reverse new rules instituted by his administration that deny thousands of children health care coverage:

California and New York cover more than 1.4 million children and pregnant women using State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) funds — nearly one out of every four SCHIP recipients in the country. We have a long and productive relationship with CMS in leveraging SCHIP to innovatively provide maximum benefit with minimum resources.

We agree with your push for states to be a force for change in the delivery of health care to tens of millions of our fellow Americans who remain without meaningful coverage. But as you rally governors to do more to help fix our broken health care system, your administration has repeatedly modified existing Medicaid and SCHIP rules, harming states’ capacity to help you achieve our shared objectives.

The recently proposed SCHIP rules will reverse longstanding agreements with the states and reduce the number of children who receive health care. We strongly urge you to reconsider these recent policy changes, which simply diminish state flexibility.

Read the letter HERE.

BREAKING: Sens. Coleman And McCain Call For Craig To Resign

Wed, 2007-08-29 12:46

Sens. Norm Coleman (R-MN) and John McCain (R-AZ) have become the first members of the Senate to call for Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) to resign over his arrest for alleged “lewd conduct” in an airport bathroom. Craig, who was arrested in June, pled guilty to “disorderly conduct” charges on August 8, though the plea was kept secret until Roll Call newspaper broke the story on Monday.

The AP reports, “Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota, where Craig was arrested, became the first Senate Republican to say Craig should leave office. ‘Senator Craig pled guilty to a crime involving conduct unbecoming a senator,’ he said in a statement. ‘He should resign.’”

In an interview with CNN’s John King this afternoon, McCain said he thinks Craig “should resign”:

JOHN MCCAIN: I believe that he — that he pled guilty and he had the opportunity to plead innocent. So I think he should resign.

JOHN KING: And suppose he comes back to Washington and says, “I want to serve.”

MCCAIN: That’s — that will be a decision that he will make and most importantly, the people of the state of Idaho. But my opinion is that when you plead guilty to a crime, then you shouldn’t serve. And that’s not a moral stand. That’s not a holier than thou. It’s just a factual situation. I don’t try to judge people. but in this case, it’s clear that it was disgraceful.

Watch it:

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Earlier, Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) became the first lawmaker to call for Craig’s resignation.

UPDATE: At the Senate GOP leadership’s behest, Craig also stepped down today from his senior position on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, as well as his ranking position on two subcommittees.

INTERVIEW: Tauscher Returns From Iraq, Warns Of ‘Green Zone Fog’

Wed, 2007-08-29 11:52

Shortly after returning from Iraq, Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) conducted an interview with ThinkProgress. She said she conveyed three things to Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker: 1) “the American people don’t want to see some kind of Saigon-like helicopter liftoff trying to remove people out of Iraq,” 2) they don’t want to see “ethnic cleansing and devastation of Iraqis” after we leave, and 3) they “don’t want the status quo.”

Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA), who recently returned from Iraq as well, said his experience led him to believe the escalation should be sustained until next year. Asked to address Baird’s comments, Tauscher suggested he had become a victim of the “green zone fog”:

I will tell you that when you get in the Green Zone, there is a physiological phenomenon I think called Green Zone fog. … It’s death by powerpoint. … It’s always that their argument is winning.

She added later, “It’s very, very easy to be influenced, from their point of view, that things are better.” She said they will “shape” facts to show gains being made. Meanwhile, the reality in Iraq is that there is a lot of sectarianism in the government, particularly at the Ministry of Interior. “The MOI is basically this sleeper cell organization of Shiite death squads,” she said.

Tauscher met with “war czar” Gen. Doug Lute at the White House on Tuesday and impressed upon him the need for a strategic redeployment out of Iraq. “It can’t be 5 or 10 or 15,000 troops,” she said of the need to redeploy. She reported that Lute “didn’t push back on anything I said,” but was rather “somewhat in agreement with what I said.” Watch it:

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This was Tauscher’s fourth trip to Iraq. She said, “It certainly hasn’t gotten better” since the last time she visited Iraq in 2005. “Because it hasn’t gotten better, it’s gotten dramatically worse.”

UPDATE: The Crypt’s Patrick O’Connor has more.

GOP lawmaker calls for Craig’s resignation.

Wed, 2007-08-29 11:40

Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) today became the first lawmaker to call for Sen. Larry Craig’s (R-ID) resignation. Hoekstra called for him to step down “as his conduct throughout this matter has been inappropriate for a U.S. senator.”

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Tucker: I assaulted a man who ‘bothered’ me in a bathroom.

Wed, 2007-08-29 11:26

Yesterday on MSNBC, Tucker Carlson said “it’s really common” that men accost one another in mens’ rooms, much like Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) is alleged to have done to a plainclothed cop. Carlson said, “I’ve been bothered in Georgetown Park,” in Washington, D.C., “when I was in high school.” When asked how he responded to being “bothered,” Carlson asserted, “I went back with someone I knew and grabbed the guy by the — you know, and grabbed him, and … hit him against the stall with his head, actually.” Watch it:

UPDATE: Tucker responds:

Let me be clear about an incident I referred to on MSNBC last night: In the mid-1980s, while I was a high school student, a man physically grabbed me in a men’s room in Washington, DC. I yelled, pulled away from him and ran out of the room. Twenty-five minutes later, a friend of mine and I returned to the men’s room. The man was still there, presumably waiting to do to someone else what he had done to me. My friend and I seized the man and held him until a security guard arrived.

Several bloggers have characterized this is a sort of gay bashing. That’s absurd, and an insult to anybody who has fought back against an unsolicited sexual attack. I wasn’t angry with the man because he was gay. I was angry because he assaulted me.

Beck’s solution for New Orleans: More guns.

Wed, 2007-08-29 11:18

As the pace of reconstruction in New Orleans slows, the crime rate in New Orleans has increased. Rather than focus on addressing the horrible conditions facing the region’s residents, right-wing pundit Glenn Beck offers an alternative solution: give them guns. “There’s not enough guns in New Orleans,” Beck claims. He said he envisions “an exchange program” where willing donors pay for guns for poor people in New Orleans. “You come on my program, say I’m poor, I am a law-abiding citizen, I don’t have a record, blah, blah, blah, I’ll match you with a donor that will buy a gun,” he said.

Iraqis seeking U.S. refugee status forced to apply in Syria.

Wed, 2007-08-29 10:56

The Bush administration recently announced a stepped-up commitment to giving refuge to Iraqis who have worked for the United States and are now in danger. Yet very few have signed up for the program because “they are not allowed to apply in Iraq, requiring them to make a costly and uncertain journey to countries like Syria or Jordan, where they may be turned away by border officials already overwhelmed by fleeing Iraqis.”

Bush’s ‘Soft Bigotry Of Low Expectations’ On Katrina Reconstruction

Wed, 2007-08-29 09:43

To mark the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, President Bush spoke today at the Dr. Martin Luther King Charter School for Math and Science, “armed with facts and figures” to show how much he has done. This appearance marked the fourth time in a row that Bush has chosen a charter school as a backdrop for his Gulf Coast appearance.

Today, Bush proclaimed, “I come telling the folks in this part of the world we still understand the problems.” He bragged that the federal government has provided Louisiana with $700 million in emergency education funds to rebuild the school system. “I believe in freedom to manage and accountability to make sure everybody learns,” said Bush. “It’s what I call challenging the soft bigotry of low expectations.” Watch it:

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But a new report by the Atlanta-based Southern Education Foundation finds that the Bush administration has largely shortchanged the Gulf Coast’s schools. Some highlights:

– “The estimated cost of hurricane-related destruction in K-12 and higher education in Mississippi and Louisiana is $6.2 billion, but “the federal government has provided only $1.2 billion.”

Just 2 percent of the federal government’s reconstruction funding went toward education recovery.

– Foreign governments contributed $131.5 million to recovery funding for Louisiana colleges, slightly more less than the $135 million contributed by the U.S. government.

Bush stated today that “education needs to be the number one priority” of the state of Louisiana. But it’s clear that it wasn’t nearly a top priority for his administration, which instead handed out billions of dollars in no-bid contracts to political allies.

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Transcript: (more…)

Armstrong tells Matthews to ‘be a little nicer.’

Wed, 2007-08-29 09:06

During the second day of his Livestrong Presidential Cancer Forum, cycling champion Lance Armstrong had to implore his co-host, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, to “just be a little nicer“:

It took the likes of international cycling star Lance Armstrong to tame the aggressiveness of MSNBC’s “Hardball” host Chris Matthews during the second day of Armstrong’s presidential forum on cancer.

“Just be a little nicer,” Armstrong advised Matthews during a break between the questioning of the two Republican presidential candidates who participated, Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas and former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas.

And Matthews was, at least in the questioning of Huckabee. But in the earlier questioning of Brownback, Matthews had been especially aggressive in response to the senator’s suggestions about how to find money in the federal government to wage a war on cancer.

(HT: FishbowlDC)

Russert: Conservatives ‘Just Want Senator Craig To Exit, To Leave’

Wed, 2007-08-29 08:13

Yesterday, in his first public statement since his June arrest for “lewd conduct” was revealed, Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) took a defiant tone, claiming that he “can still be an effective leader for Idaho,” despite the controversy over his arrest and guilty plea. He also said he would announce a decision this fall about whether he would seek reelection.

But the right wing is already anxious for him to leave office. On NBC’s Nightly News last night, Washington bureau chief Tim Russert said his establishment Republican sources are saying they “just want Senator Craig to exit, to leave”:

Well Brian, I talked to Republicans today, and they have a simple answer. They just want Senator Craig to exit, to leave. […]

Republicans understand, Brian, the issue of hypocrisy. The notion of a conservative Republican who constantly votes against gay rights, doing something contrary to that. They just don’t want the 2008 election to have those kinds of overtones, the way they did in 2006.

Watch it:

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As ThinkProgress noted yesterday, the conservative blogosphere has begun vociferously calling for Craig’s resignation as well.

Grassroots conservatives are “exasperated” by the scandals hitting Washington. “The impact this is having on the grass-roots around the country is devastating,” Republican strategist Scott Reed told the New York Times. “Republicans think the governing class in Washington are a bunch of buffoons who have total disregard for the principles of the party, the law of the land and the future of the country.”

UPDATE: TPMmuckraker’s Paul Kiel notes that including Craig, there are currently 11 conservatives in Congress caught up in corruption and/or sex scandals.

Transcript: (more…)

55 percent:

Wed, 2007-08-29 07:48

Number of Idaho voters who want Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) to resign, according to a new poll taken yesterday. Just 34 percent approve of the job Craig is doing as senator.

The Way Out Of Iraq: How To Safely And Orderly Redeploy In A Year

Wed, 2007-08-29 07:02

Opponents of a sensible Iraq withdrawal strategy have tried to argue that a redeployment is unfeasible either because it will be occur too quickly or because it will take too long.

President Bush argued that “precipitous withdrawal from Iraq is not a plan to bring peace to the region or to make our people safer at home.” Defense Secretary Robert Gates argued that an Iraq withdrawal “will be a long process.”

A new report by the Center for American Progress, entitled “How To Redeploy,” states that “deciding between a swift or extended redeployment is a false dilemma.” An orderly and safe withdrawal is best achieved over a 10- to 12-month period:

A phased military redeployment from Iraq over the next 10 to 12 months would begin extracting U.S. troops from Iraq’s internal conflicts immediately and would be completed by the end of 2008. During this timeframe, the military will not replace outgoing troops as they rotate home at the end of their tours and will draw down force and equipment levels gradually, at a pace similar to previous rotations conducted by our military over the past four years.

Most analysts claim that a withdrawal will be a drawn-out procedure because they assume, that given the amount of military equipment in Iraq, the U.S. is capable of moving out only one brigade per month to Kuwait.

The CAP report accelerates the timetable by placing an emphasis on the troops over the equipment. “It matters more to get soldiers and Marines to safety in Kuwait than it does to ensure one unit’s equipment is shipped out before another’s is able to.” The report explains that, rather than risking the lives of troops or wasting financial resources to stay longer, certain “non-sensitive equipment — such as freezers, sinks, fuel, excess equipment, and x-ray machines” can be left behind.

The report, authored by analysts Lawrence Korb, Max Bergmann, Sean Duggan, and Peter Juul, offers a detailed tactical perspective on withdrawal. Among a host of strategic maneuvers, the plan involves “closing forward operating bases” in Iraq, not replacing units that are rotated out, and securing the routes out of Iraq to Kuwait.

When Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) recently asked the Pentagon about contingency plans for withdrawal from Iraq, Undersecretary of Defense Eric Edelman responded that she was reinforcing enemy propaganda. If the administration fails to take the initiative in planning for a drawdown, the report warns troops could end up “waiting for the helicopters on the embassy roof.”

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Condi dresses down minimum wage worker.

Wed, 2007-08-29 06:44

In his upcoming biography of Condoleezza Rice, Washington Post correspondent Glenn Kessler shows how the Secretary of State “has lost none of her bluntness” while working “hard to soften her edges.” In one anecdote revealed by Kessler, Rice dressed down a jewelry store clerk who gave her less than satisfactory service:

Coit Blacker, a Stanford professor who is one of the secretary of state’s closest friends, recalls going into a shop where Rice asked to see earrings. The clerk showed her costume jewelry. Rice asked to see something nicer, prompting the clerk to whisper some sass under her breath.

Blacker remembers Rice tearing the woman to shreds.

Let’s get one thing straight,” he recalls her saying. “You are behind the counter because you have to work for minimum wage. I’m on this side asking to see the good jewelry because I make considerably more.”

A manager quickly brought Rice better baubles.

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ThinkFast: August 29, 2007

Wed, 2007-08-29 06:02

Two years after Hurricane Katrina ravaged New Orleans, “none of the 115 ‘critical priority projects’ identified by city officials” for publicly funded rebuilding efforts “has been completed.” Of the $34 billion “earmarked for long-term rebuilding,” less than half “has made its way through federal checks and balances to reach municipal projects.”

45 percent: Number of Americans who believe “at least some progress has been made” in rebuilding the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina. Just nine percent say there has been “a lot of progress.” Among blacks, just two percent believe there has been a lot of progress.

President Bush plans to ask Congress “for up to $50 billion in additional funding for the war in Iraq.” “The request is being prepared now in the belief that Congress will be unlikely to balk so soon after hearing” optimistic testimony from Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker.

In his first public appearance since undergoing emergency brain surgery in December, Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD) announced, “I am back.” Johnson expects to return to work on Sept. 5.

“A new poll taken today by SurveyUSA shows that Sen. Larry Craig’s (R-ID) political standing has apparently taken a massive hit. A majority of Idaho adults, 55%, say the Senator should resign, compared to only 34% who say he should remain in office.” (more…)

Fox News gives slim coverage to Craig scandal.

Tue, 2007-08-28 18:28

Media Matters reports, “From 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET on August 27, Fox News devoted only 3 minutes and 47 seconds to segments discussing Sen. Larry Craig’s lewd-conduct arrest. By contrast, MSNBC aired 8 minutes and 26 seconds of coverage on the story, while CNN aired 20 minutes and 38 seconds.”

Jean Schmidt takes heat for Iraq stance.

Tue, 2007-08-28 16:34

A “Take A Stand Day” event this evening in Ohio got particularly heated. A group of anti-war demonstrators gathered outside the office of Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH), the congresswoman who infamously attacked John Murtha in a House floor speech in late 2005. While Schmidt supports Bush’s escalation, a poll of constituents in her district indicate “70 percent want a responsible and speedy withdrawal from Iraq.” According to a press report of tonight’s event:

Witnesses said the exchange became heated between the peace activists and Schmidt, who was joined by a group of war-supporting counter-protesters. The pro-war demonstrators said they would not leave until the peace activists did, and witnesses said the groups shouted at one another as passersby honked their horns and yelled.

Take A Stand.

Tue, 2007-08-28 15:19

Americans Against Escalation in Iraq is wrapping up its Iraq summer campaign today with Take A Stand Day. From coast to coast, thousands of concerned citizens will turn out to attend “Take a Stand” events and vigils organized by, including one in Connecticut that will send a message to Sen. Joe Lieberman and Rep. Chris Shays. Iraq war vet John Bruhns writes, “Since the kick-off, ‘Iraq Summer’ organizers have held 362 press events, planted 30,452 lawn signs (often in the member’s immediate neighborhood), created 265 YouTube videos, and directly confronted members of Congress on their war votes 125 times.” Join tens of thousands of your fellow Americans who are taking part in over 680 events nationwide to Take A Stand against Bush’s disastrous course in Iraq.

Fear-mongering Bush warns of Iranian ‘nuclear holocaust.’

Tue, 2007-08-28 14:36

In his speech about Iraq to the American Legion today, President Bush warned that allowing Iran to pursue “technology that could lead to nuclear weapons threatens to put a region already known for instability and violence under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust.” Watch it:

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As Steve Benen points out, Bush’s hyperbolic rhetoric about a “nuclear holocaust” in the Middle East is reminiscent of his pre-war claims that “we couldn’t wait for actual proof to justify an invasion, because the ’smoking gun could be a mushroom cloud.’”

Craig: It’s the Idaho paper’s fault that I pleaded guilty.

Tue, 2007-08-28 13:56

Repeatedly claiming “I am not gay,” Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) blamed the media for his guilty plea of disorderly conduct. I have been “relentlessly and viciously harassed by the Idaho Statesman,” Craig complained. “The Statesman has engaged in this witchhunt. In pleading guilty, I overreacted in Minneapolis because of the stress the Idaho Statesman investigation and the rumors it has fueled all around Idaho.” Watch it:

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Senate GOP leaders call for ethics review of Craig.

Tue, 2007-08-28 13:30

AP reports:

Senate Republican leaders called for an ethics committee review Tuesday into Idaho Sen. Larry Craig’s guilty plea in a police sting operation this summer in an airport men’s room.

Republican leaders also are ”examining other aspects of the case to see if additional action is required,” Sen. Mitch McConnell and other top GOP lawmakers said in a written statement.

They released the statement shortly before Craig’s scheduled appearance before television cameras in Boise, his first public comments since confirming his guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct.

Craig is set to make a statement in Idaho at 4:30 pm EST.

UPDATE: Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a complaint with the Senate ethics committee earlier today.