Last night on the Colbert Report, host Stephen Colbert covered this past weekend’s YearlyKos convention, explaining “what a blogger is.” “It is someone who has a laptop, an axe to grind and their virginity,” said Colbert. Watch it:
Yesterday, Sen. Ted Stevens (R) went home to Alaska for the first time since FBI officials raided his home on July 30.
The investigation centers around a remodeling of Stevens’s home in 2000, “thanks to the help of a top executive at local oil company Veco Corp.” Two former Veco Corp. executives recently pleaded guilty to federal bribery and conspiracy charges, which includes paying $242,000 in illegitimate consulting fees to Stevens’s son, Ben, formerly president of Alaska’s state senate.
Yet yesterday in a speech to the Anchorage Rotary Club, Stevens refused to address the ongoing federal investigations:
I know you’re interested in the items that have been in the media recently. I wish I could discuss those in detail. But to avoid any suggestion that I as a senator am attempting to influence an investigation by the Department of Justice, I simply cannot talk about it.
Stevens also defended his extensive earmarking for Alaska, stating, “I believe I was sent there [to Congress] to do the best I can to get the money to meet the needs of this state.”
But much of Stevens’s earmarking hasn’t benefited the state, as much as it has his personal cronies. Federal authorities are also investigating “a series of earmarks pushed through Congress over the past several years by Stevens for an Alaska nonprofit tied to Trevor McCabe, a former Stevens aide and a business partner of his son.”
Stevens’s popularity is now near its all-time low. Fewer than 45 percent of Anchorage voters have a “positive view” of Stevens, down from a “positive rating between September 2005 and April 2007″ of “between 58 percent and 63 percent.”
The Anchorage Daily News reports just “a few dozen” supporters showed up before Stevens’s speech yesterday to show support. The standing ovation for Stevens’s speech “went on for half a minute.”
Today, The Daily Politics, the blog of the New York Daily News, wrote about New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s (D) blog post on ThinkProgress yesterday, in which he stressed “the need for both passion and humility” in politics. The Daily Politics also highlighted comments by TP readers bilbobaggins, Frank J, and Philly Boy.
In an interview with ThinkProgress yesterday, Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) expressed his disappointment with the recent revisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Over the weekend, Congress capitulated to White House demands, and passed a FISA bill that unnecessarily expands the power of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Sestak, who was one of 183 representatives to vote against the bill, told us:
How could we have not have stood up for rights of civil liberties while ensuring the proper ability to go and listen, and just stayed during the recess if necessary. And I understand that our leadership in the caucus has to worry about how the public will perceive it, but I also know this, that ultimately, we have to, as Benjamin Franklin said, be concerned that those who give up…liberty in the name security, deserve neither liberty or security. This is a time that I strongly believe, we should have stood up and said no. Attorney General Gonzales, we’re not going to let you decide the guidelines upon which you’ll listen in on Americans.
Sestak noted that the administration had rejected a compromise bill worked out between Congressional leaders and Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell. “We made the three major changes that [McConnell] wanted,” said Sestak. “The issue here is they just don’t want to come to the FISA court. That’s enough to tell me we need them to.”
“We had voted for a bill the evening before that had actually brought together a proper balance of the civil liberties of our citizens,” said Sestak. “We should have brought that bill up Saturday, instead of the Senate bill…we could have gotten it the next morning under majority votes. And that would have meant probably that we had to stay in session this week, and that would have forced the Senate to come back and deal with it.” Watch it:var flvSestek32024015306 = new SWFObject('/wp-content/plugins/flvplayer.swf?file=http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/08/Sestek.320.240.flv&autoStart=false', 'em-flvSestek32024015306', '320', '260', '6', '#ffffff'); flvSestek32024015306.addParam('quality', 'high'); flvSestek32024015306.addParam('wmode', 'transparent'); flvSestek32024015306.write('flvSestek32024015306');
Referencing his 31-year career in the military, Sestak said he witnessed the need for surveillance when he headed the Navy’s anti-terrorism unit after 9/11. “But you know,” he said, “I also learned that [intelligence officers will] press a little extra to get that information they need. And at times, constitutionally, they’ll go over the edge. That’s what Congress is to make sure, they don’t go over the edge.”
UPDATE: FireDogLake has more.
Opposition from the Democratic left to this intelligence program isn’t merely part of the partisan blood feud against a weak President near the end of his term. It is part of a far larger ideological campaign to erode Presidential war powers. Goaded by the ACLU and much of the press corps, many Democrats want to use the courts and lawsuits to restrict Mr. Bush and future Presidents in their ability to gather intelligence in the war on terror.
In the last few days, in contrast, at least nine major newspapers have come out against the new law, calling it “unnecessary” and “dangerous.”
TMZ.com obtained this photo of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) posing with a sign that reads, “Obama, Osama, and Chelsea’s Moma Say Cut and Run.” In a statement released Tuesday evening, Graham said, “I was handed the sign by a rally attendee as I was leaving. I should have been more careful and I apologize.”
The sign is “nearly identical” to one that Romney posed next to two weeks ago — right down to the misspelling of “momma.” The sign Romney was photographed with said, “No to Obama, Osama, and Chelsea’s Moma.”
During the debate over FISA last week, DNI Mike McConnell told congressional leaders he was getting intense pressure from “the other side.” His changes of position left some members suggesting that he “had become a puppet for the White House.” Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) called McConnell’s role in the debate an “unsatisfactory, even embarrassing performance.”
“The Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, a coalition that includes MoveOn, is mounting a multimillion-dollar campaign aimed at 23 senators and 70 representatives to chip away at support for Bush’s war strategy. The 10-week-long campaign includes nearly 100 organizers in 15 states.”
“Four U.S. military personnel and a British soldier have been killed in attacks [in Iraq], military officials said yesterday, raising the number of U.S. deaths in August to 19 in a possible sign that extremists are regrouping after a decline in U.S. casualties last month.”
The AP writes that President Bush “need only look in the mirror” to see the type of American who still supports him: “a conservative, white, Republican man, an evangelical Christian who goes to church regularly.” Bush’s approval rating is now at just 29 percent.
Democratic presidential candidates fielded questions from audience members with powerful stories during Tuesday’s AFL-CIO forum. The questioners included the wife of a Sago mine victim and an Iraq war veteran. But the most compelling moment of the debate may have come when a gentleman from Indiana rose with tears in his eyes to ask this question:
QUESTION: After 34 years with LTV Steel I was forced to retire because of a disability. Two years later, LTV filed bankruptcy. I lost a third of my pension and my family lost their health care.
Every day of my life I sit at the kitchen table across from the woman who devoted 36 years of her life to my family and I can’t afford to pay for her health care. What’s wrong with America and what will you do to change it?
Chris Matthews remarked, “I wonder if that wasn’t a moment that’s gonna change American political history.”
Following the conclusion of tonight’s presidential forum, host Chris Matthews immediately began to focus on the pressing issues. He offered an array of trifling analysis that included musings about Sen. John Edwards’ height, Sen. Hillary Clinton’s use of the word “girl,” and Clinton’s Chicago accent. Watch it:
Anthony Cordesman, a military expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, traveled to Iraq recently with Michael O’Hanlon and Ken Pollack. In a write-up of his impressions from the visit, Cordesman says he takes issue with the Brookings analysts:
It is scarcely surprising that my perceptions of a recent trip to Iraq are different from that of two of my traveling companions and those of several other recent think tank travelers to the country.
From my perspective, the US now has only uncertain, high risk options in Iraq. It cannot dictate Iraq’s future, only influence it, and this presents serious problems at a time when the Iraqi political process has failed to move forward in reaching either a new consensus or some form of peaceful coexistence. It is Iraqis that will shape Iraq’s ability or inability to rise above its current sectarian and ethnic conflicts, to redefine Iraq’s politics and methods of governance, establish some level of stability and security, and move towards a path of economic recovery and development.
Read Cordesman’s full report here.
Our guest blogger is New York State Gov. Eliot Spitzer.
This morning, I delivered a speech at the Chautauqua Institution in which I reflected on my first seven months as Governor of New York and outlined a type of politics that I believe we need in order to change the status quo in New York and in our country.
– First, it is my core belief that without passion and conviction in politics we are doomed to fail.
– And second, there are serious risks that occur when those same qualities - passion and conviction - are not tempered by humility. Whether it is foreign policy abroad or domestic affairs here in New York, I believe that how we as political leaders manage these risks will ultimately determine our success.
Hubris has been a major fundamental flaw behind the Bush Administration’s failed foreign policy.
During a debate in the 2000 election, President Bush was asked how he would project America’s power in the twenty-first century. He replied:
If we’re a humble nation, but strong, they’ll welcome us. Our nation stands alone right now in the world in terms of power, and that’s why we have to be humble.
That is precisely the right idea. But President Bush hasn’t understood that humility has to be more than just a talking point.
In the wake of 9/11, he ramped up exactly the wrong way. His approach, and the rhetoric that would define it, perverted our foreign policy with arrogance and moral complacency - laying the groundwork for the invasion and occupation of Iraq. We had no exit strategy because the Administration didn’t think we needed one. The President and his neoconservative cohort were so sure history had ended and that the triumph of liberal democracy was inevitable. Mission accomplished.
This tension — the need for both passion and humility — has also played a major role in my first seven months as Governor.
On one hand, the passion and conviction we have shown has enabled us to achieve dramatic change — including universal health care for kids, a major investment in stem cell research funding, campaign finance reform, and the largest property tax cut in state history.
Yet, over the past few weeks, it has become evident that the second principle — the need for humility — was forgotten. We were fighting so hard for what we believed was right that we let down our guard and allowed our passion to get the best of us.
Passion and conviction are necessary, but they must be tempered by soul-searching and the recognition of our human capacity for error. That is the maxim that should inform our approach to every challenge, from reforming state government to engaging in foreign affairs.
After all: hubris is terminal.
Read the full text of my speech HERE.
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) today released “a first-of-its-kind report that maps the quantity, quality and diversity of images of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people on network television. ABC, with shows like Brothers & Sisters and Ugly Betty, received the highest ranking of the five networks. NBC, once home to Will & Grace, ranked fourth, and FOX scored lowest.”
For Oklahomans “looking to show their terror-fighting pride while tearing up the asphalt,” the Oklahoma Tax Commission has extended the deadline to order the global war on terrorism license plate. Officials had set a May 31 deadline for the $37 vanity plate that features a bald eagle transposed in front of the Twin Towers. See the plate design below:
A day after Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai declared the Taliban “defeated” and “hiding,” “a group of 75 Taliban militants tried to overrun a U.S.-led coalition base in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday, a rare frontal attack that left more than 20 militants dead, the coalition said in a statement.”
The White House has engaged in an all-out spin operation to downplay its new warrantless wiretapping powers. Yesterday, White House spokesperson Dana Perino falsely alleged that the new law returns the FISA law to “its original intent.”
After the New York Times explained that “by changing the legal definition of what is considered ‘electronic surveillance,’ the new law allows the government to eavesdrop on conversations without warrants,” spokesperson Tony Fratto issued a statement attacking the Times, arguing that it is “highly misleading” to say Congress has broadly expanded Bush’s authority:
[U]nder FISA, court approval is required for the government to target an individual located in the United States, and nothing in the new law changes that.
Fratto’s claims are baseless. Today on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, former constitutional lawyer Glenn Greenwald, who blogs at Salon.com, debunked the White House’s claim that the new FISA law requires “court approval” prior to spying on an “individual located in the United States.” In fact, as Greenwald explained, the law now allows the government to “listen to our conversations, read our e-mails, with no connection to terrorism, with no proof that anyone has ever done anything wrong” — without judicial oversight.
Watch it:var flvglenn1232024015291 = new SWFObject('/wp-content/plugins/flvplayer.swf?file=http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/08/glenn12.320.240.flv&autoStart=false', 'em-flvglenn1232024015291', '320', '260', '6', '#ffffff'); flvglenn1232024015291.addParam('quality', 'high'); flvglenn1232024015291.addParam('wmode', 'transparent'); flvglenn1232024015291.write('flvglenn1232024015291');
Specifically, the new FISA law permits warrantless domestic surveillance in the U.S. as long as the target of the call or e-mail is “reasonably believed” to be overseas. The implication of this loose clause, Greenwald notes, is far-reaching:
The government can monitor every single phone call that London is making to you in Washington, D.C., to any of the viewers at home. … They can listen to every single international call that you make or receive, every e-mail that you write, and e-mail that you receive, in complete and total secrecy.
Under the new FISA law, the “sole authority” to authorize the warrantless surveillance of people is now granted to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, guest host Willie Geist asked Time’s Joe Klein why presidential candidates were “pandering to the blogosphere” this past weekend at YearlyKos. “There’s an awful lot of anger, vitriol and disdain that spews out of some of these blogs,” responded Klein. “And you don’t want to have Kos or one of those other guys ripping you apart everyday.” Watch it:var flvKleinBlogs32024015293 = new SWFObject('/wp-content/plugins/flvplayer.swf?file=http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/08/KleinBlogs.320.240.flv&autoStart=false', 'em-flvKleinBlogs32024015293', '320', '260', '6', '#ffffff'); flvKleinBlogs32024015293.addParam('quality', 'high'); flvKleinBlogs32024015293.addParam('wmode', 'transparent'); flvKleinBlogs32024015293.write('flvKleinBlogs32024015293');
Right-wing preacher Fred Phelps’ “anti-gay hate group Westboro Baptist Church” has traveled the country disrupting military funerals. His cult has picketed dozens of burial services with messages such as “Thank God For AIDS” and “God Hates Fags.” Phelps is once again exploiting calamity and catastrophe to promote his right-wing cause. Minnesota Monitor reports:
The Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kan., plans to stage protests at funerals of victims of the 35W bridge collapse to state that God made the bridge fall because he hates America, and especially Minnesota, because of its tolerance of homosexuality.
Shortly after the bridge’s collapse, the Westboro group put out this release:
In response to the July 2005 London attacks, Phelps posted this release:
Thank God for the bombing of London’s subway today - July 7, 2005 - wherein dozens were killed and hundreds seriously injured. Wish it was many more.
There are only 70 members of the Westboro church, “60 of whom are related to Phelps through blood or marriage or both.”
Phelps’ protests at military funerals forced Congress to pass the Respect for America’s Fallen Heroes Act in 2006, which “bars protests within 500 feet of a military cemetery from 60 minutes before to 60 minutes after a funeral if those protests involve disruptive noises or other disturbances.” Banned from military funerals, Phelps is excited to be taking his hate agenda to the victims in Minneapolis.
Well over four years since the Iraq war began, “the number of US troops in Iraq has hit its highest level since the beginning of the war,” with approximately 162,00 forces currently on the ground. Shortly after the invasion, then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said, “It’s hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would to take to conduct the war itself and secure the surrender of Saddam’s security forces and his army. Hard to imagine.”