CNN and YouTube billed tonight’s Republican debate as one in which “YOU ask the questions of the candidates through videos you submit on YouTube.” After the Democratic debate in July with the same format, Steve Grove, YouTube’s news and politics editor, said the debate was “more democratic than ever.”
Out of almost 5,000 video submissions, CNN chose to pose 34 to the candidates tonight. Instead of alloting all slots to ordinary citizens — who don’t normally have access to politicians — CNN gave airtime to a question from Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist. Watch it:
Norquist is a powerful right-wing Washington insider, with no shortage of access to the candidates. He was deeply involved in the unethical and secretive K Street Project, which helped foster the culture of corruption in Washington, and was close friends with fallen lobbyist Jack Abramoff. In July, he received an exclusive meeting with Karl Rove to discuss the administration’s Iraq policies.
Ironically, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R) also submitted a YouTube question. Yet CNN rejected it, arguing that he “has regular access to politicians.”
After Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-MS) announced his resignation this week, it was widely speculated that Lott was quitting in order to dodge Senate ethics standards that take effect next year. The new rules require senators to wait two years before entering “the lucrative world” of lobbying Congress. Lott denied the rumor at a press conference, saying the new law “didn’t have a big role” in his decision.
At the same press conference, Lott was also asked about Senate ethics rules regarding “negotiating with a future employer,” to which he replied that he’s “not really involved in negotiation,” but that “there are some opportunities out there” that he wants “to be able to consider”:
QUESTION: Senator, I understand there’s a rule in the Senate that if you’re negotiating with a future employer, that you must register with the Ethics Committee. Have you been down to that committee yet?
LOTT: Well, I have not yet, but I’m not really involved in negotiation. I’ve tried to stay away from that. There are some opportunities out there that I want to be able to consider, but I have nothing that we’ve agreed to or lined up.
One of the “opportunities” that Lott is considering, according to his son, Chester Lott — who is also a lobbyist — is “a partnership” with former Sen. John Breaux (D-LA), who until today, was the senior counsel at a powerhouse lobbying firm. But just this afternoon, Breaux announced that he was leaving Patton Boggs in order “to form his own firm with his son, John Jr.”:
Former United States Senator John Breaux, Senior Counsel to Patton Boggs Law Firm, announced that he would be forming a new public policy consulting firm in January 2008.
Breaux stated that while he has the greatest personal and professional respect for Tom Boggs and the members of the company, the new firm will offer him an opportunity to be in business with his son, John Jr., a goal that he has always wanted to achieve.
Though the younger Lott told Legal Times that there have “been no formal talks at all” between the two senators, he also added that “Breaux and his father have long joked about the prospect of working together.”
If Lott is indeed considering “a partnership” with Breaux — speculation of which Breaux’s move fuels — then their plans may have been another factor in the timing of his resignation. The new ethics rules that take effect at the end of the current session have much more stringent regulations about negotiating future employment with lobbyists:
If Senators want to engage in negotiations or make any arrangements for jobs involving lobbying, they must wait to do so until their successors have been elected. There are no exceptions to this rule.
If Lott had resigned next year, he would have had to wait until after his successor is elected to even begin negotiating his future lobbying job, which means he may have needed to wait almost a year to start cashing in with his old buddy Breaux.
In January, pursuant to current law, all “federal civilian workers will get a 2.5 percent across-the-board raise.” Additionally, “workers living in more expensive regions of the country” are supposed to “receive an additional raise of 12.5 percent.” But President Bush ordered today that the raises for those workers will be slashed significantly:
On average, workers who live in such metro areas were due to receive an additional raise of 12.5 percent. Bush is cutting that added bump to 0.5 percent.
That means that workers scheduled to receive pay differentials will now receive a total pay raise of 3 percent, not 15 percent, on average.
Bush said he was taking action because the scheduled pay raises would exceed his budget by $12.7 billion next year, and only compound in later years.
This isn’t the first time Bush has cut the pay of low-level federal staffers. In July, he issued a pay cut for “those at the bottom of the White House staff pay scale,” while awarding a $2,800 raise to Karl Rove.
Earlier today, Al Hubbard, chairman of President Bush’s National Economic Council, announced that he was resigning from the White House after serving three years. But in an interview on the Fox Business Channel two weeks ago, Hubbard gave no indication of his desire to leave. In fact, he said that he was “very happy where I am“:
Just two weeks ago, Hubbard appeared with Glick on FBN. She asked him if he would remain in his position for the rest of President Bush’s time in office. Glick asked if he would consider taking a job in the private sector, such as CEO positions at Citigroup or Merrill Lynch. Hubbard responded, “That’s nice of you to even suggest I would be considered…I’m very happy where I am.”
The CNN/YouTube Republican presidential debate tonight will allow people nationwide to upload a 30-second video to YouTube and ask questions directly to the candidates. After a similar Democratic debate in July, members of the media hailed the format as “historic.”
Yet CNN staff still selected which YouTube questions were presented to the candidates — as they will tonight — often resulting in “bland, softball” questions being posed. Several technology experts have called on debate organizers to go a step further and involve the public “in deciding which video questions were worth airing.”
But in an interview with Wired, CNN senior vice president David Bohrman defended CNN’s methods, arguing that the public can’t be trusted to choose intelligent questions:
For all the talk about online voter empowerment, the web is still too immature a medium to set an agenda for a national debate, says CNN senior vice president David Bohrman.
“If you would have taken the most-viewed questions last time, the top question would have been whether Arnold Schwarzenegger was a cyborg sent to save the planet Earth,” says Bohrman, the debate’s executive producer. “The second-most-viewed video question was: Will you a convene a national meeting on UFOs?”
Are the public’s questions really all that different from the ones chosen by journalists? After all, at the Oct. 31 Democratic debate, moderator Tim Russert also asked a “serious question” to Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) about whether he ever saw a UFO. Watch it:
And of course, at its recent Democratic debate, CNN prevented UNLV student Maria Luisa from asking a serious question about Yucca Mountain, telling her to instead ask Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), “Do you prefer diamonds or pearls?”
In August, The New York Times surveyed seven people with “experience in both new media and old” to describe what a “a real new-media debate” would look like. Read the piece here.
As New York City mayor, Rudy Giuliani “billed obscure city agencies for tens of thousands of dollars in security expenses amassed during the time when he was beginning an extramarital relationship with future wife Judith Nathan in the Hamptons.” Politico reports:
The documents, obtained by Politico under New York’s Freedom of Information Law, show that the mayoral costs had nothing to do with the functions of the little-known city offices that defrayed his tabs, including agencies responsible for regulating loft apartments, aiding the disabled and providing lawyers for indigent defendants. […]
When the city’s fiscal monitor asked for an explanation, Giuliani’s aides refused, citing “security,” said Jeff Simmons, a spokesman for the city comptroller.
But American Express bills and travel documents obtained by Politico suggest another reason City Hall may have considered the documents sensitive: They detail three summers of visits to Southampton, the Long Island town where Nathan had an apartment.
Rep. Jon Porter (R-NV) said he’s not particularly interested in having Bush come to his district to campaign for him. “I think it depends on the time of the year, when it is,” Porter said tepidly, before briefly pausing to remind everyone, “The president is the president of the United States. I don’t always agree with him, but I’m also in a campaign.” The Las Vegas Sun’s Jon Ralson writes, “Stirring endorsement, that is, eh? It depends on the time of year? Yes, wouldn’t want the president to wilt in the summer heat, so that’s out. And in the fall, well, you never know where I might be then, right in the heat of the campaign, so I probably wouldn’t invite him.”
McCain Abandons ‘South Korea Model,’ Says ‘Nature Of Society In Iraq’ Will Force ‘Eventual Withdrawal’
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has long supported a 50-year troop presence in Iraq — or the “South Korea model” — set forth by President Bush and Gen. Petraeus. “We have had troops in South Korea for 60 years and nobody minds,” he said in June. On the Charlie Rose Show in August, McCain said the Korea model was “exactly” the right idea.
Yesterday on Charlie Rose, McCain changed his position, arguing that the Korea-like presence is not an “analogy” he would use for Iraq. Recognizing the “nature of the society in Iraq,” McCain suggested that Iraqi opposition to a permanent U.S. occupation may make the South Korea model implausible:
ROSE: Do you think that this — Korea, South Korea is an analogy of where Iraq might be, not in terms of their economic success but in terms of an American presence over the next, say, 20, 25 years, that we will have a significant amount of troops there?
MCCAIN: I don’t think so.
ROSE: Even if there are no casualties?
MCCAIN: No. But I can see an American presence for a while. But eventually I think because of the nature of the society in Iraq and the religious aspects of it that America eventually withdraws.
Watch it:var flvmccainrose3332024017915 = new SWFObject('/wp-content/plugins/flvplayer.swf?file=http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/11/mccainrose33.320.240.flv&autoStart=false', 'em-flvmccainrose3332024017915', '320', '260', '6', '#ffffff'); flvmccainrose3332024017915.addParam('quality', 'high'); flvmccainrose3332024017915.addParam('wmode', 'transparent'); flvmccainrose3332024017915.write('flvmccainrose3332024017915');
In the heat of his presidential run, McCain seems to be tacitly acknowledging that “the nature of society in Iraq” is unlikely to support a Korea-like presence, and the U.S. will therefore have to “eventually withdraw.” But in the meantime, McCain couldn’t care less what the Iraqis want.
UPDATE: Last night, McCain also alleged he was “the only one that spoke strongly against” Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s strategy.
Earlier this month, ThinkProgress noted that Fox News host Bill O’Reilly had reignited his annual conniption fit over a perceived “War on Christmas,” taking aim at the Fort Collins, CO City Council’s consideration of a plan to eschew publicly-funded displays of traditional Christmas decorations. Last week, the council voted to continue using traditional decorations. Now O’Reilly is gloating, calling it “a great victory” in his War:
BILL O’REILLY: Also in Fort Collins, Colorado, the anti-Christmas task force, which recommended banning traditional decorations on public property has been rebuffed. The folks said no. …It’s a great victory.
Watch it:var flvOReillyChristmasVictory32024017918 = new SWFObject('/wp-content/plugins/flvplayer.swf?file=http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/11/OReillyChristmasVictory.320.240.flv&autoStart=false', 'em-flvOReillyChristmasVictory32024017918', '320', '260', '6', '#ffffff'); flvOReillyChristmasVictory32024017918.addParam('quality', 'high'); flvOReillyChristmasVictory32024017918.addParam('wmode', 'transparent'); flvOReillyChristmasVictory32024017918.write('flvOReillyChristmasVictory32024017918');
This month, as violence has dropped a bit in Iraq, military commanders and other Iraq experts have been hesitant to begin declaring victory, saying instead that the “positive” momentum is “not yet irreversible” and Iraq is “going nowhere” in “political terms.”
But Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT), who traveled to Iraq for the Thanksgiving holiday, have been much less cautious in their public statements and have all but declared victory.
On Sunday, McCain told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that “we’ve succeeded militarily” in Iraq. A day later, Lieberman appeared on Fox News, confidently bellowing that “we are winning” because “we have made progress” in “one of the most remarkable turnarounds in modern military history.” Watch it:var flvMcCainLiebermanIraqSuccess32024017894 = new SWFObject('/wp-content/plugins/flvplayer.swf?file=http://video.thinkprogress.org/2007/11/McCainLiebermanIraqSuccess.320.240.flv&autoStart=false', 'em-flvMcCainLiebermanIraqSuccess32024017894', '320', '260', '6', '#ffffff'); flvMcCainLiebermanIraqSuccess32024017894.addParam('quality', 'high'); flvMcCainLiebermanIraqSuccess32024017894.addParam('wmode', 'transparent'); flvMcCainLiebermanIraqSuccess32024017894.write('flvMcCainLiebermanIraqSuccess32024017894');
There is no denying that in recent months violence has declined in Iraq — weekly attacks have dropped “to the lowest level since January 2006” and “the death toll for American troops” in October fell to “the lowest level since March 2006.” But the situation is still grim. With more than a month left, 2007 is already “the deadliest year of the war for United States troops” yet.
“Unlike US estimates, Iraqi statistics do not show a drop in the level of violence in the Baghdad area.” In the past two days alone, at least 35 “people were killed or found dead” across the country, underlining Iraq’s fragile state and the still ever-present propensity for it to relapse into violence.
But it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the potentially tenuous nature of Iraq’s lull in violence hasn’t stopped perma-hawks like McCain and Lieberman from declaring success. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time the two senators have done such a thing in four and a half years of war:
- “Let there be no doubt: victory can be our only exit strategy. We are winning in Iraq.” — Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) [11/5/2003]
- “This is a mission accomplished. They know how much influence Saddam Hussein had on the Iraqi people, how much more difficult it made to get their cooperation.” — Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) [This Week, ABC, 12/14/03]
- I “can report real progress there… Progress is visible and practical… Does America have a good plan for doing this, a strategy for victory in Iraq? Yes we do.” — Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) [11/29/2005]
“The last two weeks have been critically important and I believe may be seen as a turning point in the war in Iraq and the war on terrorism.” — Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) [12/17/2005]
Though McCain likes to tout how sober and serious he is about the war, he’s had difficulty following his own advice. In 2006, he disparaged hasty proclamations like “stuff happens, mission accomplished, last throes, a few dead-enders” as amongst “the biggest mistakes” in prosecuting the war.
As they’ve done time and time again, McCain and Lieberman are rushing to declare “we are winning” in order to blindly support Bush’s policies in Iraq.
Amount it has cost the RNC to recover missing e-mails sent by Karl Rove and other White House aides on political e-mail accounts. House investigators have charged the RNC with overseeing the “extensive destruction” of these e-mails, which may have violated the Presidential Records Act. The $250,000 has gone to former FBI agents hired to retrieve the lost e-mails and to lawyers hired to defend the RNC.
Tonight at 8 pm EST, CNN will air a Republican presidential debate, live from St. Petersburg, FL. A full-page advertisement in today’s Washington Post states that the debate is being sponsored by the “clean coal” industry:
View the full page ad HERE.
Sponsorship of tonight’s debate appears aimed at influencing Florida Gov. Charlie Crist (R), who is leading a “crusade against coal.” Crist has unveiled a plan to reduce his state’s carbon dioxide emissions by replacing coal plants with solar thermal power plants. He has also canceled plans to build new coal plants that were pushed by his predecessor, Jeb Bush.
In early October, when Tampa Electric shelved plans to build a $2-billion power plant, Crist applauded the move:
“I am not a fan of coal,” he reiterated. He pointed to the expansion of nuclear power, as well as recently announced solar and biomass projects, as examples of clean, reliable, affordable energy.
“There’s a lot of different ways to skin the cat and still provide the energy that Floridians need and deserve without harming Florida in the process,” Crist said.
This CNN debate isn’t the first sponsored by the coal industry. On Nov. 15, it also sponsored the Democratic debate in Las Vegas, NV, which featured a similar full-page ad in The New York Times. The move appeared to be an attempt to pressure Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who has stood firmly against the construction of three proposed major coal-fired power plants in his home state.
UPDATE: ThinkProgress spoke to a Google representative who confirmed that having the coal industry sponsor the debate was a “CNN decision.” Google played no role in acquiring or approving the sponsorship.
In a letter sent to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) last week, 10 leading scientists in the field of adolescent sexual and reproductive health “strongly” urged Congress to “reconsider federal support for abstinence-only education programs and policies.” From their letter:
By design, abstinence programs restrict information about condoms and contraception - information that may be critical to protecting the health of young people and to preventing unplanned pregnancy, HIV infection, and infection with other sexually transmitted organisms. They ignore the health needs of sexually active youth and youth who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and questioning for counseling, health care services, and risk reduction education. Withholding lifesaving information from young people is contrary to the standards of medical ethics and to many international human rights conventions.
Read the whole letter here.
The Wall Street Journal reports today that Office of Special Counsel chief Scott Bloch, who is “investigating Karl Rove’s White House political operation,” is facing allegations from the White House “that he improperly deleted computer files during another probe, using a private computer-help company, Geeks on Call.” Currently, the White House is also “looking into claims that Mr. Bloch improperly retaliated against employees and dismissed whistleblower cases without adequate examination.”
Last night, former Attorney General John Ashcroft delivered an address on national security at the University of Colorado. The event was marked by heated protests. About 20 student protesters wearing “shirts with ’shame’ written on the backs and wearing American flags over their faces, welcomed Ashcroft to the stage by standing up and turning their backs to him.”
Ashcroft also responded to questions from the audience. The first question came from a woman who asked if Ashcroft would be willing to be subjected to waterboarding.
“The things that I can survive, if it were necessary to do them to me, I would do,” he said.
Ashcroft apparently believes that torture should be allowed as long as it doesn’t kill him.
Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and William Delahunt (D-MA) have introduced the “American Anti-Torture Act of 2007” to make clear no U.S. government agency feels it can apply the Ashcroft standard while interrogating detainees. They write:
Waterboarding is not “simulated drowning.” It is drowning. It involves restraining a detainee — usually by strapping him or her to a board — with the head placed lower than the feet. The face or mouth is often covered or stuffed with rags and water is poured over the face to force inhalation. The victim’s lungs fill with water until the procedure is stopped or the victim dies. Waterboarding has been considered torture — even by our own government — until recently. Indeed, we prosecuted Japanese officers for subjecting prisoners to waterboarding in World War II.
Jessica Evans, a student who protested during Ashcroft’s speech, “said the angry outbursts from the audience was evidence that the Bush administration did not give enough voice to the concerns of the public.” Indeed, as John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales go around the country defending torture, they are being forced to confront the public disapproval that they did not heed while in office.
UPDATE: FDL’s Blue Texan recalls that Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds also recently said he’d be “happy” to be waterboarded and suggested Michael Mukasey do the same.
In a new poll, journalists in Iraq describe conditions there “as the most perilous they have ever encountered.” Fifty-eight percent say that “at least one of their Iraqi staff had been killed or kidnapped in the last year alone,” and “eight out of ten, feel that, over time, conditions for telling the story of Iraq have gotten worse, not better.” Additionally, journalists dispute right-wing attacks that their coverage is too negative, with 15 percent believing it actually paints too rosy a picture:
Despite increased public optimism due to the recent downturn in violence in Iraq, a new Pew Research poll finds that President Bush “remains as unpopular as ever” and “the public remains just as committed to bringing U.S. troops home.”
Al Hubbard, the chairman of President Bush’s National Economic Council, is submitting his resignation today. He departs at a time when the White House is struggling “with a mortgage crisis that has sparked foreclosures, declining home prices and concern about prospects for recession.”
Congressional Democrats will focus on the economy next week in an effort to address public fears about an approaching recession. “House leaders have discussed holding an economic summit and are poised to bring a long-awaited energy bill to the House floor next week.”
Following “a lobbying blitzkrieg,” the Federal Communications Commission handed “a significant, though not total, victory” to the cable industry yesterday with a compromise that will postpone for months the question of expanding “the agency’s regulatory authority over” the industry.
In a new report, the United Nations warns that “progress toward prosperity” will be reversed in the world’s poorest regions unless rich countries begin “curbing emissions linked to global warming” while also helping poorer ones transition to renewable energy sources. (more…)
The AP reports that a lawsuit filed Monday on behalf of five Iraqis who were killed and two who were injured in the September Blackwater shootout accuses Blackwater bodyguards “of ignoring a direct order and abandoning their post shortly before taking part” in the shootings:
Blackwater and State Department personnel staffing a tactical operations center “expressly directed the Blackwater shooters to stay with the official and refrain from leaving the secure area,” the complaint says. “Reasonable discovery will establish that the Blackwater shooters ignored those directives.”
Additionally, the lawsuit notes: “One of Blackwater’s own shooters tried to stop his colleagues from indiscriminately firing upon the crowd of innocent civilians but he was unsuccessful in his efforts.”
The complaint also accuses Blackwater of “failing to give drug tests to its guards in Baghdad — even though an estimated one in four of them was using steroids or other ‘judgment altering substances.’”
A new study by the University of California’s School of Public Health finds that illegal immigrants do not pose as significant a burden on U.S. Health Care resources as is often claimed. Undocumented immigrants are less likely to have insurance, but seek out health care in much lower numbers:
“Low rates of use of health-care services by Mexican immigrants and similar trends among other Latinos do not support public concern about immigrants’ overuse of the health care system,” the researchers wrote.
“Undocumented individuals demonstrate less use of health care than U.S.-born citizens and have more negative experiences with the health care that they have received,” they said.
The study is based on a 2003 survey of 42,044 people. Researchers compared the health care habits of U.S.-based Mexicans and Latinos and grouped the results according to citizenship or other status.
Among the other findings:
– Undocumented Mexican and Latin American immigrants “are 50% less likely than U.S.-born Latinos to use hospital emergency rooms in California.”
– Mexican Immigrants paid “1.6 fewer visits to doctors” per year than by those born in the U.S. to Mexican immigrants.
– Other “undocumented Latinos had 2.1 fewer physician visits than their U.S.-born counterparts.”
Not only are undocumented immigrants not a burden on the U.S. health care system, but as Alexander N. Ortega, an associate professor at UCLA’s School of Public Health and the study’s lead author points out, they “seem to be underutilizing the system, given their health needs.”
– Dave de Give
This post was submitted through our Blog Fellows program. Make your own contribution — and get paid for it — by clicking here.
FCC chair Kevin Martin is currently pushing to allowing a media company to own both a television and a radio station in the same city. The plan is endorsed by billionaires such as Rupert Murdoch, but opposed by the majority of the American public. One of the most troubling consequences of lifting the ban is that it would likely crowd out local and minority voices in the media. A new report by Free Press highlights the disparity:
– “Women comprise 51 percent of the entire U.S. population, but own a total of only 80 stations, or 5.87 percent of all full power commercial television stations.”
– “Minorities comprise 34 percent of the entire U.S. population, but own a total of 43 stations, or 3.15 percent of all full-power commercial television stations.” That percentage decreased between Oct. 2006 and Oct. 2007.
– “Blacks or African Americans comprise 13 percent of the entire U.S. population but only own a total of 8 stations, or 0.6 percent of all stations. … From October 2006 to October 2007 the number of African American-owned full power commercial TV stations decreased by nearly 60 percent.”
– “Hispanics or Latinos comprise 15 percent of the entire U.S. population, but only own a total of 17 stations, or 1.25 percent of all stations.”
American Progress Senior Fellow Mark Lloyd has more.