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Bush's Approval Drops More Despite Speech

Thursday, June 30, 2005
Zogby Polling on the Effect of Bush's Speech:

"President Bush’s televised address to the nation produced no noticeable bounce in his approval numbers, with his job approval rating slipping a point from a week ago, to 43%, in the latest Zogby International poll. And, in a sign of continuing polarization, more than two-in-five voters (42%) say they would favor impeachment proceedings if it is found the President misled the nation about his reasons for going to war with Iraq.

The Zogby America survey of 905 likely voters, conducted from June 27 through 29, 2005, has a margin of error of +/-3.3 percentage points.

Just one week ago, President Bush’s job approval stood at a previous low of 44%—but it has now slipped another point to 43%, despite a speech to the nation intended to build support for the Administration and the ongoing Iraq War effort. The Zogby America survey includes calls made both before and after the President’s address, and the results show no discernible “bump” in his job approval, with voter approval of his job performance at 45% in the final day of polling."

Reid's Reaction to President's Speech

Tuesday, June 28, 2005
From Harry Reid:

"Tonight's address offered the President an excellent opportunity to level with the American people about the current situation in Iraq, put forth a path for success, and provide the means to assess our progress. Unfortunately he fell short on all counts.

"There is a growing feeling among the American people that the President's Iraq policy is adrift, disconnected from the reality on the ground and in need of major mid-course corrections. "Staying the course," as the President advocates, is neither sustainable nor likely to lead to the success we all seek.

"The President's numerous references to September 11th did not provide a way forward in Iraq, they only served to remind the American people that our most dangerous enemy, namely Osama bin Laden, is still on the loose and Al Qaeda remains capable of doing this nation great harm nearly four years after it attacked America.

"Democrats stand united and committed to seeing that we achieve success in Iraq and provide our troops, their families, and our veterans everything they need and deserve for their sacrifices for our nation. The stakes are too high, and failure in Iraq cannot be an option. Success is only possible if the President significantly alters his current course. That requires the President to work with Congress and finally begin to speak openly and honestly with our troops and the American people about the difficult road ahead.

"Our troops and their families deserve no less."

Latest Bush Polling

Latest ABC News Washington Post poll:

"A record 57 percent also now say the administration intentionally exaggerated its evidence that pre-war Iraq possessed nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. Views such as these cut to the administration's basic credibility and competence, vital commodities as Bush tries to turn public opinion in a more favorable direction. He speaks tomorrow night, the first anniversary of the handover to an interim Iraqi government.

Bush's overall position isn't enviable. Not only do 51 percent of Americans disapprove of his job performance, a record 40 percent disapprove "strongly" (compared with 27 percent who strongly approve). That exceeds career-high strong disapproval for his two immediate predecessors, President Clinton (33 percent strongly disapproved in fall 1994, shortly before his party lost control of Congress) and Bush's father (34 percent in summer 1992, shortly before he lost re-election).

On Iraq specifically, 56 percent disapprove of Bush's work, and 44 percent disapprove strongly. (Strong disapprovers outnumber strong approvers by 19 points.) A majority hasn't approved of his handling of the situation there since January 2004, shortly after the capture of Saddam Hussein. On a more emotional level, nearly a quarter of Americans say they're "angry" about the war."

New DNC site, including Religous Community Blog

Monday, June 27, 2005
Check out the new Democrats.org site... On a first glance, I'd say nicely redone, and I like the blog/comments features interwoven throughout...

Also note the new concept of "Democracy Bonds" a feature encouraging repeated but also individual giving to the parter versus just larger special interest donations...

And lastly was glad to see that they did give "religious communities" a seat at the big kids table: http://www.democrats.org/a/states/religious_communities/

Quote of the Day

From C.S. Lewis's "Meditation on the Third Commandment" from "God in the Dock." This excrpt is on the error of trying to claim one political party as "The Christian Party."

I really like the image Lewis paints as an alternative, Christians as noisy factions inside each party working to reform and pull their own party closer to the Christian ideals. He starts describing an attempt at creating a "Christian Party":

"The new party, being a minority of Christians, who themselves are a minority of the citizens will be too small to be effective...in practice, it will have to attach itself to the un-Christian party nearest to it's belief...But there will be a real and most disasterous novelty. It will not simply be a part of Christendom, but a part claiming to be the whole.

By the mere act of calling itself the Christian Party, it implicited accuses all Christans who do not join it of apostacy and betayal. It will be exposed, to an aggrevated degree, to that tempatation to which the Devil spares none of us at any time -- the temptation of claiming our favourite opinions the kind and degree of certainty and authority which really belong only to our Faith.

The demon inherent in every party at all times is ready enough to disguise himself as the Holy Ghost. The formation of a Christian Party means handing over to him the most efficient make up we can find. And once the disguise has succeeded, his commands will presently be taken to abrogate all moral laws, and to justify whatever the unbelieving allies of the "Christian Party" wish to do...

M. Martain has hinted at the only way in which Christianity (as opposed to the scismatics blasphemously claiming to represent it) can influence politics... An interdenominational Christian Voter's Society might draw up a list of assurances about ends and means which every member was expected to exact from any political party as the price of his support... I think it means a world where parties have to take care not to alienate Christians, instead of a world where Christians have to be loyal to infidel parties."

8 Things to Watch For In Iraq

From Democracy Arsenal:

"What to listen for on Tuesday:

1. Willingness to Face Reality about Conditions on the Ground. Will Bush admit how tough things are right now in Iraq, or does he continue to pretend he knows something that the global media, our commanders on the ground, and the cold hard stats on casualties don't?

2. Honest Appraisal of the Iraqi Security Forces. If Bush argues that this is a short-term push before we turn things over to a rebuilt Iraqi security apparatus that will itself defeat the insurgency and let us go home, he is not being realistic. The numbers so far make this a Pollyanna scenario, at least for the next few years. Bush needs to talk frankly about the challenges of building up Iraqi forces.

3. A Characterization of the Insurgency. One difficulty in sustaining support for the war is the opacity of the insurgents. Are these hardened terrorists who loathe America? Nationalists who want political power? Ordinary citizens frustrated by the occupation? Foreign provocateurs? All of the above? Is the insurgency in its last throes or likely to last for years (Rumsfeld has said both in recent weeks). Particularly now that we're apparently in talks with the insurgent leadership, Bush needs to say something about who these people are.

4. A Rejection of Partisanship. Karl Rove's craven attempt to divert attention from dwindling support for the botched Iraqi operation revealed just how panicked conservatives have become. That kind of desperation will not make for sound leadership on Iraq or anything else (as Kos points out, the attempt at diversion through random finger-pointing is no longer even confined to Democrats).

5. A Commitment to Stronger Support for U.S. Troops. Bush needs to address how he is going to ensure that members of the armed services do not get shortchanged on the length and frequency of their deployments or the benefits they receive.

6. A Plan to Buttress Flagging Military Recruitment Efforts. Staying, much less strengthening, the course in Iraq depends on being able to continue to recruit enough troops. This has become a huge problem. It also affects the military's long-term effectiveness, and its real and perceived ability to handle another crisis (never mind problems like forest fires). Americans are worried about recruitment and a possible draft. Bush needs to confront this real concern.

7. A Plan for Victory. Bush has to explain how we get from here (mounting attacks, a vigorous insurgency, too few boots on the ground and no prospect for more) to an Iraq that's stable (never mind democratic) enough to allow the Americans go home. Will we attract foreign troops? Put more Americans on the ground (and if so who and how)? Expedite the training effort somehow? He needs to outline this vision step by step, explaining why his plans are realistic.

8. An Honest Assessment of Why Iraq Matters. The notion that we are fighting terrorists in Iraq to avoid fighting them at home was spurious when Bush first said it. Now, given the value of the American invasion and occupation as a recruitment tool for terrorists, that claim has lost all credibility. If Bush repeats this meaningless mantra, his message will fall flat. Even worse would be to revert, as Bush has in recent days, to the assertion of a link between Saddam and 9/11 -- claim so thoroughly discredited that even Bush himself disavowed it. Bush needs to explain why Iraq now matters on its own terms."

A Bridge Not a Wedge

Friday, June 24, 2005
Jim Wallis in the DallasNews.com interview:

"I believe God cares about our public life. I don't think God is in the pocket of one party, nor the pocket of one nation. I want to bring my faith to politics, but I'm not a theocrat, I'm a democrat, small d.

A few weeks ago, Pat Robertson said the federal judiciary is a greater threat to America than al-Qaeda, only Christians and maybe a few Jews should be judges, and all Muslims want to kill all of us. Incredible. So I'm just embarrassed by that. The next day, The New York Times and the secular cultural elites rise up and say: "There you have it, that's religion. Those evangelicals are all jihadists and theocrats." Lewis Lapham in his Harper's column – the worst editorial column I've seen on religion in years – said religion is all bloody, all bad, all Inquisitions, all the time.

Most Christians say: "Wait a minute, I don't see myself in this debate. I don't see myself in Pat Robertson's words, but neither in the words of a Maureen Dowd or a Lewis Lapham. I don't see myself with the religious fundamentalists, nor with the secular fundamentalists that hate all things religious."

Religion is supposed to be a bridge, not a wedge, to bring us together across dividing lines – cultural, political, even red and blue dividing lines. Left and right are not religious categories. We ought to be able to critique both left and right from a consistent moral ground. I like what one professor at Calvin [College] said: We're not right wing, we're not left wing. Our faith trumps ideology."

"Thank You Karl!"

From Bull Moose Blog:

"Perhaps you thought that your polarizing rhetoric that you would divert attention from the Senate Rumsfeld hearing on Thursday. But, just look what is on the front page of the New York Times this morning,"The top American commander for the Middle East said Thursday that the insurgency in Iraq had not diminished, seeming to contradict statements by Vice President Dick Cheney in recent days that the insurgents were in their "last throes."

"Though he declined during his Congressional testimony to comment directly on Mr. Cheney's statements, the commander, Gen. John P. Abizaid, said that more foreign fighters were coming into Iraq and that the insurgency's "overall strength is about the same" as it was six months ago. "There's a lot of work to be done against the insurgency," he added."

I'm sorry, Karl, it just doesn't seem that the story of the Administration's mendacity and mishaps will go away. But the Moose is truly amazed by the Administration's powers to unite diverse Americans. You have brought together Ted Kennedy and Bill Kristol - they both think that Rummy should go!

But Karl, you have performed a great service for the nation and for the party - the Democratic Party, that is. With you comments, you have brought together old Democrats, new Democrats, liberal Democrats, moderate Democrats, conservative Democrats, fat Democrats, thin Democrats, Christian Democrats, Jewish Democrats, Muslim Democrats, Pagan Democrats, Dennis Kucinich Democrats, Joe Lieberman Democrats, meat eating Democrats, vegetarian Democrats, Daily Kos Democrats, Bull Moose Democrats, New Donkey Democrats, Atrios Democrats, MoveOn Democrats and DLC Democrats.
You are truly a uniter and not a divider.

The Moose has even spoken with some of his old right wing buddies who are appalled and puzzled by you remarks. Karl, the Moose is concerned - have you lost your touch? Do you need to get away?

There will probably be a lot of pressure on you to apologize today. Please, please, please stand your ground. Progressives would prefer that this story would stick around for a few days. Heck, it could be the rallying cry for '06.

How can the Moose express his sincere gratitude to you? Keep it up, good buddy!Sincerely,The Moose..."

"Less and less Obvious"

As pointed to by JesusPolitics, here are excerpts from the latest Christianity Today editorial:

"George W. Bush is not Lord. The Declaration of Independence is not an infallible guide to Christian faith and practice. Nor is the U.S. Constitution, nor the U.N. Universal Declaration on Human Rights. "Original intent" of America's founders is not the hermeneutical key that will guarantee national righteousness. The American flag is not the Cross. The Pledge of Allegiance is not the Creed. "God Bless America" is not the Doxology.

Sometimes one needs to state the obvious—especially at times when it's less and less obvious.

And for some time now, we've been hearing from David Barton, Peter Marshall, and James Kennedy, among others, about "renewing the vision of our founding fathers, as expressed in America's founding documents," and the need "to defend and implement the biblical principles on which our country was founded."

The not-so-subtle equation of America's founding with biblical Christianity has been shown time and again to be historically inaccurate. The founding was a unique combination of biblical teaching and Enlightenment rationalism, and most of the founding fathers, as historian Edwin Gaustad, among many others, has noted, were not orthodox Christians, but instead were primarily products of the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment, we should recall, has never been much of a friend of biblical Christianity.

In the heat of partisan politics (out of which many of these overstatements and misunderstandings arise), we are tempted to forget that the most potent political act—the one act that deeply manifests and really empowers a "kind and noble society"—is the worship of Jesus Christ.

In worship we signal who is the Sovereign, not of just this nation, but of heaven and Earth. In worship we gather to be formed into an alternate polis, the people of God. It is here that we proclaim that a new political order—the kingdom of heaven—has been preached and incarnated by the King of Kings, and will someday come in fullness, a fullness to which all kingdoms and republics will submit..."

Dems and the Governor's Races in 2006

Thursday, June 23, 2005
Chirs Bowers at MyDD points to recent polls showing key opportunity for Democrats in 06 to win in seven key governors races -- Ohio, California, New York, Massachusetts, Texas, Florida and Georgia --and explains why this is such a strategic opportunity. Excerpts below:

"All seven of these states are ripe. Here is how sweet a sweep of these seven would be:

* Right now, these are the seven largest states with Republican Governors, and combine for over 40% of the national population. Victory across the board would push Democrats in control of states worth around 400 electoral votes, rendering Republicans a small minority party when it comes to Governors.

* It would severely dent Republican Presidential aspirations for multiple cycles. Not only would this severely thin out the Republican bench, but longshot candidates for 2008 like Bush, Romney and Pataki would be immediately finished. At the same time, it would significantly increase the size of our future bench.

* Republican gerrymanders in Georgia, Ohio, Florida and Texas would be threatened, if not entirely done away with, come 2010.

* Control of elections in uber-swing states Florida and Ohio would no longer be in Republican hands.

The weakness of Republican Governors in large states presents Democrats with an opportunity to thoroughly reshape the American political landscape. We have waited some time for the Emerging Democratic majority to emerge, and these seven states represent our best chance to make it happen. This is our prize. This is our chance. We have to make it happen."

Obama on "The Ownership Society"

Senator Obama on the "Ownership Society" via the NDN blog:

"In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society. But in our past there has been another term for it—Social Darwinism—every man or woman for him or herself. It’s a tempting idea, because it doesn’t require much thought or ingenuity. It allows us to say that those whose health care or tuition may rise faster than they can afford—tough luck. It allows us to say to the Maytag workers who have lost their job—life isn’t fair. It let’s us say to the child who was born into poverty—pull yourself up by your bootstraps. And it is especially tempting because each of us believes we will always be the winner in life’s lottery, that we’re the one who will be the next Donald Trump, or at least we won’t be the chump who Donald Trump says: “You’re fired!”

But there is a problem. It won’t work. It ignores our history. It ignores the fact that it’s been government research and investment that made the railways possible and the internet possible. It’s been the creation of a massive middle class, through decent wages and benefits and public schools that allowed us all to prosper. Our economic dependence depended on individual initiative. It depended on a belief in the free market; but it has also depended on our sense of mutual regard for each other, the idea that everybody has a stake in the country, that we’re all in it together and everybody’s got a shot at opportunity. That’s what’s produced our unrivaled political stability."

White House Stands By Rove Comments

Good thing we have "a uniter, not a divider" in the White House. From the AP News:

"Democrats said Thursday that White House adviser Karl Rove should either apologize or resign for accusing liberals of wanting "therapy and understanding" for the Sept. 11 attackers, escalating partisan rancor that threatens to consume Washington.

Rove's comments — and the response from the political opposition — mirrored earlier flaps over Democratic chairman Howard Dean's criticism of Republicans, a House Republican's statement that Democrats demonize Christians and Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin's comparison of the Guantanamo prison to Nazi camps and Soviet gulags.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan came to Rove's defense, saying the president's chief political adviser was "simply pointing out the different philosophies and different approaches when it comes to winning the war on terrorism."

"Of course not," McClellan said when asked by reporters whether President Bush will ask Rove to apologize."

Democrats and Matthew Chapter 25

Charles Madigan from the Chicago Tribune, on the Democratic Party:

"The party needs a broader appeal, which is where St. Matthew comes in. Also, the show business-Hollywood connection is all about money, which makes the Democrats look like harlots in addition to being foolish and obsequious, so they should move away from that too.

Bruce Springsteen and Alec Baldwincan dependably deliver exactly two votes. I'm not much of a guy for pushing religion at people, given my own confusion about it. But I do have a good ear for what makes ideological sense...

Call me hopelessly dated, but I still think doing the right thing for troubled people is important, maybe defining, maybe the biggest challenge we face in our lives, even though we would much rather embrace "ownership" values that let us shift the blame over to the victims, making their problems convenient, comfortable and distant for us.

That is where St. Matthew comes in. He was very direct.

When it's all over, the Gospel man says, the "Son of Man" will sit on his throne and all the nations will stand before him. He will do some separating. One group will be welcomed into the kingdom and the other won't.

What defines these groups is what should define the Democrats.

Whatever you did to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, visit those who are ill or imprisoned, was the same as doing that for God."Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me," was Matthew's message.

And if you turned your back on those people, well, you know what that meant. You're thinking, "What about non-believers, Jews, Muslims?"I don't think that matters. What is important about this St. Matthew story is not the fact that it's in the Bible or part of Christian religion.

It's about values.
Get it? V-a-l-u-e-s.

What the Democrats need the most these days is a very good story that will tie them to the people, not just the rich, not just the liberals, but all of the people. Whether they are bold enough to make this kind of commitment, which goes beyond money and advantage and involves actually standing for something that is very difficult, is another question."

quote of the day: "objectivity"

Wednesday, June 22, 2005
Cool definition of objectivity. As we think of the issue of media bias to the left or right, this could be a helpful definition to guide the discussion:

"Objectivity cannot be equated with mental blankness; rather, objectivity resides in recognizing your preferences and then subjecting them to especially harsh scrutiny — and also in a willingness to revise or abandon your theories when the tests fail (as they usually do)." — Harvard Paleantologist, Stephen Jay Gould

CIA: Iraq War Created A "More Effective Training Ground" Than Afghanistan

George Bush once said: "Some may disagree with my decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, but all of us can agree that the world's terrorists have now made Iraq a central front in the war on terror."

Well,half right. There is general agreement that Iraq is now a key areana for Jihadists, but as a new CIA Report, this only has occured since we invaded. The war of choice in Iraq, gave the terrorists the opportunity that wasn't there before. And the CIA also point out, the Iraq invasion has created a "more effective" training ground for terrorists than they had before in Afghanistan.
From the International Herald Tribune:

"A new, classified assessment by the CIA says that Iraq may prove to be an even more effective training ground for Islamic extremists than Afghanistan was in Al Qaeda's early days, because it provides a new laboratory for militants to hone their skills in urban combat.

The intelligence assessment was completed last month and has been circulated through U.S. government agencies, and it was described by several congressional and intelligence officials. They said it expresses a view that the war in Iraq is likely to leave a dangerous legacy by enabling Iraqi and foreign combatants who are likely to disperse to other countries to become much more adept, capable and mobilized than they were before the conflict.

The assessment, they said, argued that Iraq, since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, had in many ways assumed the role played by Afghanistan during the 1980s, as a magnet and a proving ground for extremists from Saudi Arabia and other Islamic countries.

The officials said the report stressed that the urban nature of the war in Iraq meant that combatants were learning how to carry out assassinations, kidnappings, car bombings and other kinds of attacks that were never a staple of the fighting in Afghanistan, which was primarily rural and conventional in nature during the anti-Soviet fighting that was backed by the United States."

Black Pastors Criticize Bush on Aid to Africa

I hadn't seen this earlier, but it is worth posting. From the LA Times:

"Several influential black pastors who were recently courted by Bush administration officials as potential partners in crafting African relief policies are now questioning the White House commitment to the continent.

The criticism came in a letter delivered Tuesday to the White House from five of the nation's most high-profile African American pastors. They called on the president to give his "ardent" support to a proposal by British Prime Minister Tony Blair under which industrialized nations would double their aid to Africa by 2010. Bush rejected the proposal last week and announced that the United States would release a smaller sum, already appropriated by Congress, for aid to Africa.

Bush's rejection of the Blair proposal sent a different message on African aid from what some pastors felt they had received during an hourlong session last month with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. In that meeting, Rice and about two dozen pastors discussed giving U.S.-based black churches a broader role in combating AIDS in Africa.

"Some were confused by the fact that Prime Minister Tony Blair, who stood with the president on Iraq at enormous political cost to himself, did not appear to be receiving the same level of concrete support from the president when it came to Africa," said the Rev. Eugene Rivers, a Boston pastor who backed Bush's reelection last year and was one of the religious leaders who conferred last month with Rice.

The letter was initiated by Bishop Charles E. Blake of the 24,000-member West Angeles Church of God in Christ in Los Angeles. It was also signed by Rivers, Bishop T.D. Jakes of Potter's House ministry in Dallas, Bishop Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church near Atlanta and the Rev. Frank Madison Reid III of Bethel AME Church in Baltimore.

Former Atlanta mayor and United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young, a longtime Democrat who stunned some pastors last month when he attended the State Department meeting and offered an emotional tribute to Rice, also signed the letter.

The pastors hope to draw at least 1,000 of their peers to sign the letter, but so far the signatories represent only a fraction of the black pastors who met with Rice and have been heavily courted by Bush and his advisors since the 2000 election.

The pastors' letter noted that the Bush administration had tripled U.S. aid to Africa but said the effort "pales in contrast" with the billions of dollars devoted to tax cuts and to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan under Bush's leadership.

Rivers said, "If we can give a $140-billion tax cut to the richest of the rich who are not infrequently white, we can give $25 billion to the poorest of the poor who are too frequently black."

The letter couched African relief as a national security issue, saying that U.S. aid was an important defense against the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. Some pastors made that point to Rice last month, contending that a greater role for black churches in Africa would help block efforts by terrorist groups to recruit the millions of orphans resulting from the AIDS epidemic.

"Our failure as a nation to adequately support Africa is fundamentally a failure to adequately support our own national security," the letter said.

Jakes, Blake, Long and Rivers all represent large churches, and each has developed a high profile through television, radio or books. White House officials view the pastors and their large churches as a key entry point to a voting bloc that has long sided overwhelmingly with Democrats."

"On Demonizing"

Tuesday, June 21, 2005
So, the naive part of me wonders if any of those from the Right will vocally comdemn this act as "extreme, damaging, desperate" as they did some of Dean's out of context but ill advised comments. Here is this in context bit of statesmanship:

"Rep. John Hostettler, on the floor of the House yesterday, asserted that "the long war on Christianity in America continues today on the floor of the House of Representatives" and "continues unabated with aid and comfort to those who would eradicate any vestige of our Christian heritage being supplied by the usual suspects, the Democrats" ("GOP Congressman Calls Democrats Anti-Christian"). 'Like a moth to a flame, Democrats can't help themselves when it comes to denigrating and demonizing Christians,' he said."

I heard he retracted the statment, so I googled that to see if perhaps there was a heart felt apology for overstatements said in passion. Well not quite:

"The Hostettler apology was just four seconds long. “Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent to withdraw the last sentence I spoke,” he said."

Iraq, Bush and Mission Creep

Bush at a press conference in 2003 when asked how he could assure the American people from a mission creep in Iraq...His answer: "But it's very clear what we intend to do. And our mission won't change."

Really? As listed on Think Progress:

Bush: “Our mission is clear in Iraq. Should we have to go in, our mission is very clear: disarmament.” [3/6/03]

Bush: “Our cause is just, the security of the nations we serve and the peace of the world. And our mission is clear, to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people.” [3/22/03]
Bush: “Our forces have been given a clear mission: to end a regime that threatened its neighbors and the world with weapons of mass destruction and to free a people that had suffered far too long.” [4/14/03]

Bush: “On Thursday, I visited the USS Abraham Lincoln, now headed home after the longest carrier deployment in recent history. I delivered good news to the men and women who fought in the cause of freedom: Their mission is complete, and major combat operations in Iraq have ended..” [5/3/03]

Bush: “The United States and our allies will complete our mission in Iraq.” [7/30/03]

Bush: “That has been our mission all along, to develop the conditions such that a free Iraq will emerge, run by the Iraqi citizens.” [11/4/03]
Bush: “We will see that Iraq is free and self-governing and democratic. We will accomplish our mission.”[5/4/04]

Bush: “And our mission is clear there, as well, and that is to train the Iraqis so they can do the fighting; make sure they can stand up to defend their freedoms, which they want to do.” [6/2/05]

Bush: “We’re making progress toward the goal, which is, on the one hand, a political process moving forward in Iraq, and on the other hand, the Iraqis capable of defending themselves… And we will — we will complete this mission for the sake of world peace.”

Bolton: What's Next?

Monday, June 20, 2005
Fred Kaplan at Slate.com on what's next for Bolton:

"Rumblings from the White House suggest that President George W. Bush may push Bolton in anyway, through a procedure known as "recess appointment." He'll wait until the Senate leaves town on its July 4 vacation break and simply declare Bolton to be the new ambassador, congressional confirmation be damned.

This would be legal. Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution provides: "The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session."

The idea was to ensure that vital posts of government aren't left vacant just because Congress happens to be out of session at the time. Over the years, the clause has been stretched to a stratagem. Bush's father made, on average, 20 recess appointments per year when he was president. Ronald Reagan made 30. Bill Clinton, faced with a more hostile Congress, issued nine per year. Dwight Eisenhower used the clause to appoint three Supreme Court justices—Earl Warren, William Brennan, and Potter Stewart—all before elections. John F. Kennedy ushered Thurgood Marshall into a circuit court bench, to evade racist resistance from Southern senators.

The clause explicitly lets the Senate resume its powers of advice and consent "at the end of their next session." In most cases, any controversy surrounding the nominees has fizzled by that time. In Bolton's case, the Senate's next session ends in January 2007. If he has been U.N. ambassador for a year and a half by that time, he will have either redeemed or shamed himself and the Senate might vote accordingly.

Still, there is something extremely peculiar—beyond precedent, in fact—about the idea of Bush invoking his constitutional privilege on Bolton's behalf. In all other cases, presidents evaded Senate scrutiny from the outset. Bolton, on the other hand, has been through confirmation hearings at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which passed the nomination to the floor without endorsement; and he has twice failed to gain the three-fifths majority of a cloture vote. In other words, other stealth appointees have dodged anticipated bullets. If Bolton slips through, he will have been strafed, hit, and mortally wounded—then resurrected by a magic wand waving on the president's outstretched middle finger...

The Senate Democrats had made a case against cloture on two grounds—not just on Bolton's dreadful qualifications for the job, but also on Bush's refusal to turn over documents relevant to the Senate's investigation. It was clear that, since last month's motion, the White House had lost—not gained—ground. Most likely, the president and his spokesmen will now repeat, with renewed intensity, what they've been saying for a while now—that the Democrats are obstructionists, that a majority of the Senate favors Bolton, and so he should simply be placed in the job if need be.

Still, President Bush might want to reassess the situation, and not just because Bolton is a lousy pick—a judgment that Bush does not share, in any case. He might want to consider the following question: At a time when he is touting the glories of democracy, does he want his ambassador at the United Nations—America's global spokesman—to have come by the job through such undemocratic maneuvers?"

Bolton Vote Blocked Again

Dems hold strong and Bolton vote is blocked again Excerpts from NY Times:

"Senate Democrats once again blocked the nomination of John R. Bolton to be ambassador to the United Nations this evening, rejecting pressure from President Bush to give Mr. Bolton a vote on his confirmation.

The Republican leadership's attempt to shut off debate and move to actual confirmation fell six votes short of the 60 required. Today's vote of 54 to 38 was reminiscent of a vote last month, when Mr. Bolton's backers failed by four votes to shut off debate.

The next phase of the long-running fight over Mr. Bolton is not immediately clear. There was some conjecture today that President Bush might choose to install him as ambassador through a temporary appointment while Congress is in recess.

Three Democrats - Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana - voted to end debate. A Republican, George Voinovich of Ohio, crossed party lines and voted to keep the filibuster going.

But Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the ranking Democrat on the committee and an opponent of the nomination, said President Bush was continuing to hold back pertinent information about Mr. Bolton's tenure as under secretary of state for arms control.
Mr. Biden said the White House was not treating the Senate as "the co-equal branch of government" that it is. Regardless of his feeling for the nominee, Mr. Biden said, "I don't hold John Bolton accountable for this administration's arrogance."

(conservative) quote of the day

I've thought that Durbin's comments comparing the abuses at Gitmo to a Russian Gulag or other extreme facist states did serve to give his opponents an easy counter-attack, ignoring his main points. So in that sense, I thought they were politically a mis-step, but as to what they actually said, I agree with conservative writer Andrew Sullivan:

"I've now read and re-read Senator Dick Durbin's comments on interrogation techniques at Guantanamo Bay. They are completely, perfectly respectable. The rank hysteria being perpetrated by some on the right is what is shameful. Hugh Hewitt should answer one single question: does he doubt the FBI interrogator who witnessed the appalling treatment of some detainees at Guantanamo? Here's the report:

'On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food, or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold... On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor.'

Is Hewitt arguing that the interrogator was lying? Does he believe that the kind of tactics used against this prisoner are worthy of the United States? Does he believe that this happened without authorization? If he were told this story and informed that it occurred in, say, Serbia under Milosevic, would he be surprised?

Hewitt should then answer the same question about the 5 detainees which the U.S. government itself has acknowledged were tortured to death by U.S. interrogators, and the scores of others who died in detention during or after "interrogation". Does he deny that this happened? Does he honestly believe that removing the legal restrictions on cruel and inhumane treatment of detainees by our current president had nothing to do with this? Maybe he needs a little refresher on the extraordinary range and scale of the record of abuse that is still accumulating.

I'm just amazed that some can view what has happened and their first instinct is to attack those who have criticized it, rather than those who have perpetrated it. It is this administration that has brought indelible shame on America, and it's people like Dick Durbin who prove that some can actually stand up against this stain on American honor and call it what it is. Good for him. Thank God for him."

Anne Lamont: Take Action

"I heard Bush's radio address out of the corner of my ear today, and he said once again that we are in Iraq because we were attacked: this always has the effect of causing me to grip my stomach, rock back and forth, and moan, like the Rainman.

But both Jesus and my Buddhist friend Jack Kornfield would say that these are such dreadful times, how can we not respond with ever greater acts of compassion?... Kindness and sacrifice have always been the most revolutionary acts of all, and they are always medicine. What if, for instance, YOU gave up your SUV for a mini-van? Maybe others would follow suit. What if we became the party who gave up its SUV's? It helps immeasurably to show for vigils: trust me on this....

Take the action, and the insight which follow, which for me is usually that even during dark ages, the mustard seeds and yeast that have been present become more visible, and then obvious, in renewal, and even greatness. "

Leveling With Us Part II

From Richard Clarke:

"Perhaps sensing the freedom of speech that comes with retirement, Gen. Richard B. Myers has let slip two interesting observations. First, he noted that the insurgency is about as strong now as it was a year ago. At a second appearance, he noted that insurgencies like the one in Iraq have lasted 7 to 12 years. It's not hard to see the message that we may well be fighting in Iraq in 2012, at the end of the next president's first term.

Although official administration spokesmen have for some time been saying things like ''We have turned a corner in Iraq'' or ''We have broken the back of the insurgency'' or ''The insurgents are in a last-gasp campaign,'' the truth seems to be otherwise. A brief quiet followed the Iraqi election, but it has been broken by a sustained round of insurgent attacks. Iraqi civilian casualties in May were up by 33 percent over April, while Iraqi police deaths were up 75 percent over the same period. American military dead in Iraq more than doubled last month over the lull in March.

In addition to the thousands of American and Iraqi casualties, one victim of this slow bleeding in Iraq is the American military as an institution...

The Army is already the smallest it has been since the Second World War. If the current trend in volunteering for the Army continues for long, the Pentagon may have to consider disbanding units or requesting the reinstatement of the draft. Most military experts consider either option to be a disaster for the Army as an institution, reducing its currently limited capabilities.

By the end of President Bush's term, the war in Iraq could end up costing $600 billion, more than six times what some administration officials had projected. Now the many other costs are also beginning to become clearer."

quote of the day

"The matter is quite simple. The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly. My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined. Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the Church’s prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close. Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament."

Soren Keirkegaard

Leveling with Us...

From Think Progress:

"This morning on Fox News Sunday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was asked if “the Bush administration fairly [can] be criticized for failing to level with the American people about how long and difficult this commitment will be?” Rice responded:

'[T]he administration, I think, has said to the American people that it is a generational commitment to Iraq.'

That’s not true. To build support for the war the administration told the American people that the conflict in Iraq will be short and affordable.

Vice President Dick Cheney, 3/16/03:
'[M]y belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators. . . . I think it will go relatively quickly. . . (in) weeks rather than months...'

Donald Rumsfeld, 2/7/03:
'It is unknowable how long that conflict will last. It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months.'

Former Budget Director Mitch Daniels, 3/28/03:
'The United States is committed to helping Iraq recover from the conflict, but Iraq will not require sustained aid…'

quote of the day

Sunday, June 19, 2005
In a time of such religous absolute certainty, this quote speaks so clearly of humility and our finitude:

“So when God decides to reveal revelation, to give us knowledge of God, God has to accommodate to our weakness, to our finitude, so God lisps to us.”

- John Calvin

"Last Throes"

Saturday, June 18, 2005
Exchange of the day, from Terry Moran and the White House press secretary over the definition of "last throes" comment by Cheney:

"Q Scott, is the insurgency in Iraq in its 'last throes'?

McCLELLAN: Terry, you have a desperate group of terrorists in Iraq that are doing everything they can to try to derail the transition to democracy. The Iraqi people have made it clear that they want a free and democratic and peaceful future. And that's why we're doing everything we can, along with other countries, to support the Iraqi people as they move forward….

Q But the insurgency is in its last throes?

McCLELLAN: The Vice President talked about that the other day -- you have a desperate group of terrorists who recognize how high the stakes are in Iraq. A free Iraq will be a significant blow to their ambitions.

Q But they're killing more Americans, they're killing more Iraqis. That's the last throes?

McCLELLAN: Innocent -- I say innocent civilians. And it doesn't take a lot of people to cause mass damage when you're willing to strap a bomb onto yourself, get in a car and go and attack innocent civilians. That's the kind of people that we're dealing with. That's what I say when we're talking about a determined enemy.

Q Right. What is the evidence that the insurgency is in its last throes?

McCLELLAN: I think I just explained to you the desperation of terrorists and their tactics.

Q What's the evidence on the ground that it's being extinguished?

McCLELLAN: Terry, we're making great progress to defeat the terrorist and regime elements. You're seeing Iraqis now playing more of a role in addressing the security threats that they face. They're working side by side with our coalition forces. They're working on their own. There are a lot of special forces in Iraq that are taking the battle to the enemy in Iraq. And so this is a period when they are in a desperate mode.

Q Well, I'm just wondering what the metric is for measuring the defeat of the insurgency.

McCLELLAN: Well, you can go back and look at the Vice President's remarks. I think he talked about it.

Q Yes. Is there any idea how long a 'last throe' lasts for?

McCLELLAN: Go ahead, Steve...."

Right Wing Cultural Artifacts

This speaks for itself.


As does this...

Repub Sen. Danforth on Faith, Christian Convictions and Politics

Friday, June 17, 2005
From former Republican Senator John Danforth. Really good stuff:

"Onward, Moderate Christian Soldiers
St. Louis

IT would be an oversimplification to say that America's culture wars are now between people of faith and nonbelievers. People of faith are not of one mind, whether on specific issues like stem cell research and government intervention in the case of Terri Schiavo, or the more general issue of how religion relates to politics. In recent years, conservative Christians have presented themselves as representing the one authentic Christian perspective on politics. With due respect for our conservative friends, equally devout Christians come to very different conclusions.

It is important for those of us who are sometimes called moderates to make the case that we, too, have strongly held Christian convictions, that we speak from the depths of our beliefs, and that our approach to politics is at least as faithful as that of those who are more conservative. Our difference concerns the extent to which government should, or even can, translate religious beliefs into the laws of the state.

People of faith have the right, and perhaps the obligation, to bring their values to bear in politics. Many conservative Christians approach politics with a certainty that they know God's truth, and that they can advance the kingdom of God through governmental action. So they have developed a political agenda that they believe advances God's kingdom, one that includes efforts to "put God back" into the public square and to pass a constitutional amendment intended to protect marriage from the perceived threat of homosexuality.

Moderate Christians are less certain about when and how our beliefs can be translated into statutory form, not because of a lack of faith in God but because of a healthy acknowledgement of the limitations of human beings. Like conservative Christians, we attend church, read the Bible and say our prayers.

But for us, the only absolute standard of behavior is the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. Repeatedly in the Gospels, we find that the Love Commandment takes precedence when it conflicts with laws. We struggle to follow that commandment as we face the realities of everyday living, and we do not agree that our responsibility to live as Christians can be codified by legislators.

When, on television, we see a person in a persistent vegetative state, one who will never recover, we believe that allowing the natural and merciful end to her ordeal is more loving than imposing government power to keep her hooked up to a feeding tube.

When we see an opportunity to save our neighbors' lives through stem cell research, we believe that it is our duty to pursue that research, and to oppose legislation that would impede us from doing so.

We think that efforts to haul references of God into the public square, into schools and courthouses, are far more apt to divide Americans than to advance faith.
Following a Lord who reached out in compassion to all human beings, we oppose amending the Constitution in a way that would humiliate homosexuals.

For us, living the Love Commandment may be at odds with efforts to encapsulate Christianity in a political agenda. We strongly support the separation of church and state, both because that principle is essential to holding together a diverse country, and because the policies of the state always fall short of the demands of faith. Aware that even our most passionate ventures into politics are efforts to carry the treasure of religion in the earthen vessel of government, we proceed in a spirit of humility lacking in our conservative colleagues.

In the decade since I left the Senate, American politics has been characterized by two phenomena: the increased activism of the Christian right, especially in the Republican Party, and the collapse of bipartisan collegiality. I do not think it is a stretch to suggest a relationship between the two. To assert that I am on God's side and you are not, that I know God's will and you do not, and that I will use the power of government to advance my understanding of God's kingdom is certain to produce hostility.

By contrast, moderate Christians see ourselves, literally, as moderators. Far from claiming to possess God's truth, we claim only to be imperfect seekers of the truth. We reject the notion that religion should present a series of wedge issues useful at election time for energizing a political base. We believe it is God's work to practice humility, to wear tolerance on our sleeves, to reach out to those with whom we disagree, and to overcome the meanness we see in today's politics.

For us, religion should be inclusive, and it should seek to bridge the differences that separate people. We do not exclude from worship those whose opinions differ from ours. Following a Lord who sat at the table with tax collectors and sinners, we welcome to the Lord's table all who would come. Following a Lord who cited love of God and love of neighbor as encompassing all the commandments, we reject a political agenda that displaces that love. Christians who hold these convictions ought to add their clear voice of moderation to the debate on religion in politics.

John C. Danforth is an Episcopal minister and former Republican senator from Missouri.

quote of the day

"People are entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts."

-- The late 4-term Catholic Senator Patrick Moynihan

Bush Working to Weaken G8 Efforts to Curb Global Warming

In the second presidential debate, President Bush talked up his environmental decisions using vague Biblical language when he said: "I'm a good steward of the land."

Yet today we see this from the Washington Post:

"Bush administration officials working behind the scenes have succeeded in weakening key sections of a proposal for joint action by the eight major industrialized nations to curb climate change.

Under U.S. pressure, negotiators in the past month have agreed to delete language that would detail how rising temperatures are affecting the globe, set ambitious targets to cut carbon dioxide emissions and set stricter environmental standards for World Bank-funded power projects, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post. Negotiators met this week in London to work out details of the document, which is slated to be adopted next month at the Group of Eight's annual meeting in Scotland.

The administration's push to alter the G-8's plan on global warming marks its latest effort to edit scientific or policy documents to accord with its position that mandatory carbon dioxide cuts are unnecessary. Under mounting international pressure to adopt stricter controls on heat-trapping gas emissions, Bush officials have consistently sought to modify U.S. government and international reports that would endorse a more aggressive approach to mitigating global warming."

"To Put it Mildly..."

Thursday, June 16, 2005

"Quite frankly, evidence that appears to be building up points to whether or not the president has deliberately misled Congress to make the most important decision a president has to make, going to war," said Rangel, senior Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee.

Rep. John Conyers and other Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee organized the forum to investigate implications in a British document known as the "Downing Street memo." The memo says the Bush administration believed that war was inevitable and was determined to use intelligence about weapons of mass destruction to justify the ouster of Saddam.

Conyers pointed to statements by Bush in the run-up to invasion that war would be a last resort. "The veracity of those statements has — to put it mildly — come into question," he said.

Bush Approval Drops to 42%

Excerpts rom the latest CBS News poll:

"President George W. Bush's job approval rating is now just 42 percent, and most Americans think he does not share their priorities.

Iraq and the economy -- not the President's signature issue of Social Security -- are most important to Americans, and Americans' assessments of both remain mixed, with support for the decision to send troops to Iraq matching its lowest percent ever.

Regarding Social Security, months of campaigning have not brought public acceptance of the personal accounts the President desires, nor resulted in increased confidence in his ability to make the right decisions about that program. In fact, many Americans claim they like Bush's plan less the more they hear about it.

President Bush's job approval rating has dropped this month to just 42 percent, while 51 percent disapprove. His current approval rating is near the low reached in May 2004, after news and photos from the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal were made public.

The American public does see President George W. Bush as having a plan for change -- many more than say his fellow Republicans in Congress or the Democrats do. Although Americans see real trouble for Social Security, they don't show much affinity for Bush's remedies.

In fact, 42 percent say the more they've heard about Bush's proposals, the less they like them. Only 12 percent say that the more they've learned, the more they like Bush's plan."

(Historically Ironic) Quote of the Day

As posted on Andrew Sullivan's blog:

"[We] have been led in Mesopotamia into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honour. [We] have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information. The Baghdad communiqués are belated, insincere, incomplete. Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows... Our unfortunate troops,... under hard conditions of climate and supply, are policing an immense area, paying dearly every day in lives for the willfully wrong policy of the civil administration in Baghdad." - T.E. Lawrence, Sunday Times of London, August 22, 1920."

Keep Stopping Bolton

From Air America Radio:

"Part of the reason why John "no such thing as the United Nations" Bolton's nomination isn't a cakewalk for the Bush administration (besides Bolton himself) is pressure from people like you. Senators are accountable to their constituents, not the White House. Call your Senators and tell them to vote against cloture, and John Bolton's nomination.
The number is 1-877-SOB-U-SOB. That’s 1-877-762-8762, or find it online. Here are the most important targets:

Nebraska: Ben Nelson and Chuck Hagel
Rhode Island: Chafee (can keep up pressure at least)
Maine: Snowe and CollinsAlaska: Murkowski
Ohio: DeWine
Arkansas: Mark Pryor
Hawaii: Inouye
Pennsylvania: Specter
Virginia: John Warner
California: Feinstein
Louisiana: Landrieu
Colorado: Salazar
Connecticut: Leiberman

More ways to Stop Bolton: StopBolton.org and The Washington Note."

Encouraging Signs fo the House Dems in 2006

Via Political Wire:

"House Democratic leaders presented caucus members with "some of their most encouraging internal polling data yet, arguing that the numbers show growing weakness among Republican incumbents and new hope for attracting viable Democratic challengers to take them on," Roll Call reports. "The polling, conducted in seven of the nearly 40 Republican House districts that the DCCC is targeting, showed that no GOP Member registered re-election numbers higher than 43 percent heading into 2006."

According to The Hill, the poll found that "seven Republican members would be easily defeated if their reelection took place today." So far, the DCCC "has recruited 19 candidates to challenge incumbents or run for open seats, well ahead of the three candidates the committee had at this time last cycle."

A Patriotic Act

From AP News:

"Advocates of rewriting the USA Patriot Act are claiming momentum after the House, despite a White House veto threat, voted to restrict investigators from using the anti-terrorism law to peek at library records and bookstore sales slips.

Wednesday's 238-187 vote came as lawmakers ramped up efforts to extend the Patriot Act, which was passed quickly in the emotional aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. When Congress passed the law, it included a sunset provision under which 15 of the its provisions are to expire at the end of this year.

"No question, this is a real shot in the arm for those of us who want to make changes to the USA Patriot Act," said Rep. Bernard Sanders (news, bio, voting record), I-Vt., sponsor of the provision that would curtail the government's ability to investigate the reading habits of terror suspects. He said the vote would help "rein in an administration intent on chipping away at the very civil liberties that define us as a nation."

Defining Common Ground II

Wednesday, June 15, 2005
From today's Washington Post:

"The Rev. Rob Schenck is an evangelical Christian and a leader of the religious right. Rabbi David Saperstein is a Reform Jew and a leader of the religious left. Both head political advocacy groups in Washington, and they have battled for years over abortion, gay rights, stem cell research and school prayer.

This summer, each intends to preach a bit of the other's usual message.

Schenck said he plans to tell young evangelicals at a Christian music festival on July 1 that homosexuality is not a choice but a "predisposition," something "deeply rooted" in many people. "That may not sound shocking to you, but it will be shocking to my audience," he said.

Saperstein said he is circulating a paper urging political moderates and liberals to "demonstrate their commitment to reduce abortions" by starting a campaign to reduce the number by half within two years.

Schenck and Saperstein disclosed their plans in separate interviews. They are not working together. The minister remains a die-hard opponent of same-sex marriage; the rabbi staunchly supports a woman's constitutional right to choose an abortion. But both are trying to find common ground between liberals and conservatives on moral issues -- and they are not alone.

After a year in which religion played a polarizing role in U.S. politics, many religious leaders are eager to demonstrate that faith can be a uniter, not just a divider. The buzzwords today in pulpits and seminaries are crossover, convergence, common cause and shared values.

Last week in Washington, representatives of more than 40 U.S. denominations took part in the Convocation on Hunger at the National Cathedral, where they sang a Tanzanian hymn while the choir director shook a gourd full of seeds and children laid breads from around the world on the altar.

It may have been mistaken for a hippie ceremony were it not for the sight of clergy from the Southern Baptist Convention, Assemblies of God and other evangelical churches praying alongside Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs, Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox, mainline Protestants and Jews.

The show of solidarity was partly a reaction against "the recent manipulation of religion in ways that are divisive and partisan," said David Beckmann, a Lutheran minister and president of Bread for the World, a nonprofit group that helped organize the service.

"Because religion has been dragged into political life in some ways, this is the religious leadership of the nation saying, 'No, let us show you what religion in the public square should really be about,' " he said.

The Rev. Don Argue, a past president of the NAE, is an informal adviser to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), who has introduced legislation aimed at reducing the demand for abortions without restricting their availability. Jim Wallis, a left-leaning evangelical whose bestselling book "God's Politics" is a plea for liberals and conservatives to identify common causes, has worked with the staff of Sen. Rick Santorum (news, bio, voting record) (R-Pa.), as well as with Democrats on antipoverty proposals.

Saperstein, who heads the Religious Action Center, the Washington advocacy arm of the Reform movement in Judaism, said he believes the search for common ground is "both strategic and substantive."

"I think it's genuine and real, this engagement of liberals in trying to cut the number of abortions in this country," he said. "And I think conservatives are sincere when they say, 'I may be against gay marriage, but the demonization of gays and lesbians is deeply troubling to me,' or when they say, 'You can't look at the Bible without seeing the call to care for the poor.'"

Defining Common Ground

An older essay from Frederica Mathewes-Green. Just great:

"For most of the 90's I was involved in an organization with a highly improbable name: The Common Ground Network for Life and Choice. Yes, in the days when "pro-life" (pardon, I mean hateful anti-choice fanatics) and "pro-choice (that is, hateful baby-killing fanatics) were about as opposite as they could be, in some dozen cities across the country they were sitting down, knee to knee, and trying to understand each other.

It was terrific. Now I have to admit that this was a self-selected group, and anyone who participated was the kind of pro-lifer or pro-choicer who would *want* to talk to someone on the other side. But we saw some surprising positive results. For example, we produced a paper on our agreement that adoption is a good alternative to abortion. A pro-life rescue activist and an abortion clinic administrator jointly wrote a paper on the acceptable limits of demonstrations outside clinics. But most important, we w
ere able to put a face on a faceless "enemy," and find that we could talk. For those expecting insults, fury, and rejection, just being heard out was enough to bring tears to the eyes.

A new group would begin with a dialogue session in which there were an equal number of pro-choice and pro-life participants. These would sit in groups of four, and take turns answering the question, "What experience in your life led you to hold your opinion on abortion?" That question was carefully chosen.
Nobody can tell you that you have not had an experience.

If a pro-life person told their story, then one of the pro-choicers would respond. He would summarize and repeat what the pro-lifer had said, showing that it had been accurately understood. If it wasn't accurate, the pro-lifer could correct and fine-tune. When the "listenee" was satisfied that she had been thoroughly heard, it was the turn of someone on the other side to tell his story.

"Common ground" did not mean compromise. It meant "safe ground," a safe space where we could talk about our deepest beliefs and not be ridiculed or insulted. The ground was kept safe by some basic rules:

1. No attempts at persuasion. The goal was just to be accurately understood. Too often, all we knew about each other was what we picked up in the media, and stereotypes, confusion, and misrepresentation abounded. We were trying to get past misunderstanding, and arrive at genuine disagreement.

2. Call a person by the label they prefer, rather than a politically loaded epithet.

3. Only "sincere questions" are allowed. A sincere question was defined as "a question you don't know the answer to." Rhetorical questions, designed to trip up the other guy, were off the table.

After the initial day of dialogue we would continue to meet and talk, and friendships grew between the most unlikely people. In one city, a very young girl showed up at an abortion clinic, too far along to have an abortion. She would have to finish the pregnancy on complete bed rest, and needed volunteers to sit with her. The clinic administrator knew a pro-lifer from the local Common Ground group, and phoned to ask for help. The pro-life community gathered volunteers to sit with her, and the girl finished her pregnancy safely. But if the two communities had been locked in the kind of armed warfare that usually exists, the side that had resources would not have even known that the other side had a need.

In the late 90's the movement started hitting financial roadbumps; the foundations that had been so generous were turning to other interests and issues. The abortion debate seemed to be receding from the headlines. And, frankly, it's never news when people are being nice to each other. The national office lost its funding, and could no longer support the local groups.

But what I learned from those meetings will always stay with me. As a Christian, it became a significant learning experience. My Lord Jesus had told me togo love my enemies, and in order to do that, I had to at least go and look at them from time to time. I looked at them and talked to them and listened to them. In the end, I found they weren't that hard to love.

Frederica Mathewes-Green

"Progressive Politics are a Natural Consequence of my Conservative Theology"

Excerpts from Texas blogger Res Publica. Really like this snarky, honest and heartfelt confession of faith in Jesus:

"It may surprise regular readers of my shrill, resentful rants to learn this, but I am a Christian. A very ordinary one, in fact. In spite of my various progressive-left social and political positions, I am not a theological liberal – none of the vague “Jesus was a wonderful moral teacher” stuff for me. Though I am an Episcopalian, Bishop Spong can keep all of his shiny “new Christianity for a new world” (which bears a striking resemblance to Unitarianism, except that our clergy have better compensation and retirement benefits; go figure). No, I’m the sort of crusty, unreconstructed Christian who can say phrases like “God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God, begotten, not made,” etc., without the slightest trace of PoMo ironic distance. I hold what used to be called a “high Christology”; I am a plain ol’ orthodox true believer in what I understand to be the faith once delivered to the Apostles by the Risen Christ.

Although my faith is no secret, it’s not something I make a brazen display of. There are a number of reasons for that. One of the biggest is that it prevents people from making a lot of stupid assumptions about me. The relationship between Christianity (let’s stop talking about “faith issues”, we all know exactly what we’re talking about) and the cultural-political realm is complex and heavily contested in this society.

If you stake out a position on any given issue, you’re expected to join camp on a variety of other issues. And there are configurations of positions out there that make no damned sense at all...

To my mind, my progressive politics are a natural consequence of my fairly conservative theology, not in spite of it. I have never understood the relationship between religious conservatives and the American Right, which holds a number of positions that are blatantly anti-Christian...

While it is a fact that a large majority of Americans are Christians, it is also true that the hardcore so-called “evangelical” kulturkamph types make up a minority. It may be a sizeable minority, but it’s a minority nonetheless, and the fact remains that most Americans are religious moderates who value the separation of church and state as much for the protection of the churches as for the protection of the state. Most Americans want their kids to spend their time in high school science classes preparing for college science classes.

Most importantly, most Americans understand on a visceral level that the liberal democracies of the western world lean toward secular governments for a reason; we value the lessons encapsulated in liberal polity, lessons learned in centuries of bloody wars of religion in Europe. We need not repeat those mistakes.

Although it would appear that some among us would like nothing better...Their politics are as unreasonable as their theology is unfounded...

Nothing could be further from my vision of America. Perhaps more to the point, nothing could be further from my experience of the Christian life. Jesus wasn’t looking to build a Christian nation; most American Christians aren’t either."

Bolton Vote Likely Thursday

Tuesday, June 14, 2005
Activist update here...and below is an update from the Washington Note Blog:

"Senator Frist may call for another cloture vote on John Bolton on Thursday this week. Both sides are going to accuse the other of obstruction.

There are three evidence requests:

1. NSA intercepts and identities of U.S. officials redacted from the intercepts (there has been effort by Senators Biden and Dodd to avoid seeing intercepts if 36 "names of interest" are not listed in the material)

2. material related to planned 2003 Syria WMD testimony by John Bolton

3. information related to Matthew C. Freedman, a free-lance "management consultant" and lobbyist who worked part time and received a tax-payer funded, six-figure salary in Bolton's office

Frist wants to make those seeking information from the White House seem like obstructionists -- when it is the White House blocking everything.

Vote down cloture again. Again. And Again -- until the White House concedes on Documents.

White House incalcitrance is keeping America from having an Ambassador to the United Nations."

"The Christian Flag of the United States"

As usual, I hope this is a joke, but don't think it is.

Buy your Christian Flag of the United States Here:

And then you can join in with the Christian pledge:

"The Pledge of Allegiance
I pledge allegiance, to the Christian Flag,
of the United States of America,
and to the Lord, who made us great and free.
I purpose, to band together, with all believers,
to protect the truth and liberty of God."

Actual Numbers

So, now the actual 'white Christian' numbers are in:

"In the most recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, 74 percent of people who said they leaned Republican said they were white Christians. Of Democrats, 51 percent were white Christians..."

Good Thinking on "Faith and Politics"

Monday, June 13, 2005
Excerpts from "Faith and Politics" by David Price, nine-term representative from the 4th district of North Carolina.

"Religious faith is a critical source of political motivation, and religious convictions shape our advocacy. But as people of faith enter the political arena, we will necessarily seek understanding and agreement across communal lines. We will invoke commonly held values and the shared aspirations of the wider community. Rather than viewing our religious convictions as a debate-stopper, we must follow Isaiah's injunction: "Come now, let us reason together."

There may be situations where religiously-based disapproval of certain behaviors (for example, same-gender sexual relations) comes into conflict with shared democratic values such as civil liberty and nondiscrimination, which themselves have a strong religious pedigree. Sometimes, religiously grounded precepts may not find broader agreement. In such instances, the best course may be to stop short of codifying specific religious and moral precepts into civil law, leaving the individual and communal expression of conscience free.

Religious conservatives often bridle at counsels of restraint, complaining of being asked, as my colleague Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) puts it, "to check my Christian beliefs at the public door." There is also a tendency to belittle the search for common ground as leading to a mere "common denominator" that lacks specificity or force. That, I believe, greatly underestimates the power of the fundamental principles of our constitutional democracy, which have deep religious roots but also find broader resonance. Certainly it would have come as news to Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King as they invoked the Declaration of Independence to combat slavery and segregation, that making a universalistic appeal diluted their passion or the force of their argument.

We also need to understand two critical facts about the U.S. Constitution's prohibition of the "establishment" of religion. As noted, it does not require the "privatization" of faith. And secondly, its defense is not only that religious coercion must be avoided but that religious liberty must be protected. The First Amendment, in other words, protects not only civil liberty but also religious faithfulness. The most powerful argument against the tendency of some conservatives to transgress constitutional boundaries is in fact a religious one, as became clear when the "Religious Freedom Amendment" to the Constitution, heir to the earlier school-prayer amendments, was defeated in the House in 1998.

Finally, our religious traditions teach us humility, and that, too, should influence our politics."

Progressive Vs. Conservative Blogosphere

Excerpts from Chris Bowers latest posting at MyDD:

"In my latest irregular installment that compares the national liberal blogosphere to the national conservative blogosphere, I would like to discuss a new phenomenon I see emerging. The left-wing blogosphere is beginning to decidedly pull away from the right wing blogosphere in terms of traffic. This is largely a result of the open embrace of community blogging on the left and the stagnant, anti-meritorious nature of the right-wing blogosphere that pushes new, emerging voices to the margins...

As I have always been prone to do, I spent much of the morning looking at the Blogads traffic rankings. Adding up the 200 blogs that are concerned with politics and either identify or have been identified with Democrats / liberals or Republicans / conservatives, I found 87 blogs that general fit into the "liberal" category and 113 blogs that fit into the conservative category. However, despite the greater number of conservative blogs, the liberal blogs totaled nearly ten million page views per week, while the conservative blogs managed just over six million.

Of the twenty-four liberal blogs in the top quintile, Dailykos, TPM Café, Smirking Chimp, Metafilter, BooMan Tribune, MyDD, and Dembloggers are full-fledged community sites where members cannot only comment, but they can also post diaries / articles / polls. By comparison, there are no community sites among the top twenty-four conservative blogs. None, zip, zero, nada...

In fact, of the five most trafficked conservative blogs (over 200,000 page views per week), only one, Little Green Footballs, even allows comments, much less the ability to actually write a diary or a new article.

n the summer of 2003, Dailykos was roughly equal in traffic to Atrios, and had less than half the traffic of Instapundit. However, starting with a large growth spurt following the introduction of Scoop in October of 2003, now Dailykos has grown to three times the size of Instapundit and four times the size of Atrios. Over the past year, Scoop sites Dembloggers, MyDD, and BooMan Tribune have risen from miniscule traffic numbers to top forty, even top twenty, blogs. Over the past two weeks, the traffic at Talking Points Memo and TPM Café has risen to a combined 1.3 million, making it easily the second most trafficked political blog (comfortably passing Instapundit). In fact, the introduction of the community oriented TPM Café has more than doubled the traffic at TPM of late. Overall, while both the right-wing and left-wing blogosphere have seen growth in traffic, the truly exceptional growth of many community sites on the liberal end of the blogosphere has made the difference that catapulted the liberal blogosphere from half the size of the right-wing blogosphere in July 2003 to more than 60% its size in June 2005.

Conservative bloggers continue to act as though they are simply a supplement to the existing pundit class, without any need to converse with those operating outside of a small social bubble or any need to engage people within the new structure of the public sphere. In the formulation of Stirling Newberry, they view themselves existing on top of a pyramid rather than in the middle of a sphere. At least when it comes to the national blogosphere, liberals are leaving conservatives in the dust. By comparison, conservatives seem all too happy to continue to cogitate from atop their lofty and increasingly irrelevant perch. That's fine by me. I hope some things never change."

Salon Interview with Mark Warner

Salon interview with potential 2008 Presidential candidate Gov. Mark Warner:

"People in rural America may speak a little slower, but they can spot a phony a mile away," Warner says. "You see other candidates who say, 'Let's just do the optics.' But unless you feel as comfortable hanging out at a country fair or having a beer and eatin' some barbecue as you do at your high-end, high-tech reception, people are going to see through that."

Winning elections is about more than beer and barbecue, of course: Warner says that Democrats have to engage voters in a conversation about the future, particularly the future of rural areas, small towns and midsize cities where the global economy hasn't delivered on its promise. Most of all, he says, Democrats have to give voters hope.

Can Warner give Democrats hope? In a column earlier this month, Newsweek's Howard Fineman ticked off Warner's selling points: He's a governor, not a Washington politician; he's got money and the ability to raise more; he's got a base of supporters in the high-tech world; he's a Southerner, or at least he is one now; he's got crossover appeal because of his centrist views; and he's got time because Virginia terms out its governors after just four years.

Warner sat down with Salon recently for an hour-long interview inside Virginia's 192-year-old governor's mansion.

There's been a lot of talk about the Democrats' need to "rebrand" themselves as a political party. Do you buy into it?

Somehow, we're still the party of the status quo. My starting premise is that I really think we need to change the framing of the political debate, from right vs. left, conservative vs. liberal, to future vs. past. The Democratic Party at its best has always been when it has been about the future.

How do you frame a construction of the Democrats as a party of the future? How do you articulate that to voters?

Part of the way you articulate it is -- Democrats have to be a party that recognizes that, in a global economy, the way America is going to maintain its position in the world is by having the best educated workforce. Democrats should be the party that says America has got to lead the world not only with our military might but with our moral might as well. Democrats ought to be the party that represents innovation, investment in research...

You've said in the past that Democrats can't move forward if every political conversation begins with abortion, God and guns. But the Republicans aren't going to let any conversation begin any other way. How do you break through that?

Well, on guns, I'm a supporter of existing gun laws. I believe in enforcing the existing ones rather than adding a whole lot of new ones...

I'm pro-choice, but I've been willing to support parental notification. Many folks in the Democratic Party are concerned that the debate around abortion has moved from a woman's ability to make a decision based on her own religious belief about what to do, about what kind of choice she wants to make -- where I think the overwhelming majority of Americans would still say, you know, we ought to be as much as we can about preventing abortion and we ought to be as much as we can about ensuring that women have adequate healthcare, but that ultimately a woman ought to have that choice."

You haven't mentioned faith. Not a huge issue in your campaign?

No. I think Democrats need to be able to talk about their faith. I'm a Christian, a Presbyterian. It's part of who I am. But I think that what's become the conventional political wisdom -- that every Democrat has to make sure that they include a Bible verse in every speech -- isn't the case. People want to know who you are. They see that through your faith. They see that through your values. They see that through what you've done in your life, what you emphasize as your priorities.

If there has been a perception that Democrats are somehow anti-faith -- you go back to this notion of the image that has been made of a "national Democrat," which is, you know, intellectual, anti-faith, anti-small town, anti-traditional values. But that doesn't mean that you go from that image to saying that everyone has to start with a quote from the Bible and that we have to lace that through everything we do.

And if Democrats are perceived as anti-faith in some way, then pushing too hard on that front just makes them look phony.

I don't know how to say this politely. But in all the things I did in the campaign -- well, I like NASCAR, I like bluegrass. But I didn't try to say, "That's who I am." I didn't suddenly start putting on, you know, cowboy boots and carrying a guitar or wearing camo all the time to show I'm a supporter of sportsmen. I am who I am."

(Conservative) Quote of the Day

VP Cheney employing a textbook example of the NABA defence, on our treatment of prisoners at Gitmo:

“The track record there is on the whole pretty good ...I think these people have been treated far better than they could be expected to have been treated by virtually any other government on the face of the earth.”

Quote of the Day

From the ever quotable Bull Moose Blog:

"As a minority party, Democrats need the language of persuasion more than the rhetoric of polarization. Fight, fight, fight is necessary. Convert, convert, convert is imperative. The party should have a welcome mat out even for those Christian Republicans who have had enough of the worshiping of the false gods of the religious right and Mammon. Don't fool yourself - one can feel all righteous about taking on the "right wing Taliban", but you are only playing into the hands of the Rovians and the DeLayicans who seek to portray progressives as a secular, anti-religious, effete elite. This is a time of growing Republican unpopularity with the American people - wouldn't it be nice if Democrats offered an attractive alternative...?"

"A Perfect Act of Love"

Ed Kilgore writes over at TPMCafe:

"I know I've been posting a lot, but it's Sunday, and Annie Lamott's powerful confession that's she half-ashamed to be identified as a Christian these days is eminently worthy of comment. She's got her finger on something that's terribly real for a lot of Christians on both sides of the cultural and political wars here and around the world: You look at those on the other side and think: Can these people possibly be Christians? And if so, who am I?

I've struggled with this myself, much as Annie has. I can barely comprehend the views of "Bible-based" evangelical Protestants who somehow think the primary message of Scripture in our time is to ban abortion, proscribe homosexuality, put women back "in their place," support state-sponsored religious displays, and identify with the foreign policy of the United States as carried out by George W. Bush.

And Christian Right leaders have made it abundantly clear they think people like me and Annie are infidels and poseurs of the highest order....

The thing that inevitably supports my own faith is my Anglo-Catholic conviction that all conflicts are subsumed in the Eucharist.

Every week, we drag our disagreements, our hopes and fears, our failures, a bit of our material treasure, and our own sorry asses up to a table where a perfect act of love makes us, for at least a moment, a community. But Annie's right: it's getting harder to maintain that community every day."

Latest Polling on Iraq

From USA Today:

"We have reached a tipping point," says Ronald Spector, a military historian at George Washington University. "Even some of those who thought it was a great idea to get rid of Saddam (Hussein) are saying, 'I want our troops home.' "

The pattern of public opinion on Iraq — strong support for the first two years that then erodes — is reminiscent of the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, he says.

Bush's approval-disapproval rating was 47%-49%, a tick worse than it was two weeks earlier but in the same range it has been for a year.
The poll is consistent with other recent surveys that show growing concern about the war. In an ABC News-Washington Post poll last week, two-thirds said the U.S. military was bogged down in Iraq, and nearly three-quarters called the casualty level unacceptable.

In the Gallup Poll, 56% say the Iraq war wasn't "worth it," essentially matching the high-water mark of 57% a month ago.

• Of those who say the war wasn't worth it, the top reasons cited are fraudulent claims and no weapons of mass destruction found; the number of people killed and wounded; and the belief that Iraq posed no threat to the United States."


Sunday, June 12, 2005

Here it is
New link to the latest petition: http://www.johnkerry.com/petition/rove.php

Sign on up.

Dean's Positive Effect on the DNC

Newsweek on Dean and the DNC. This article covers the usual line on Dean's "counter-productive invective." I've blogged before on that, and think the media has WAY over-covered it. Even this article's title "Scream 2" is an easy and kinda cheap shot at Dean. That said, I did find that when the article touched on the positive effect Dean has had on the DNC, I thought that was worth highlighting.

On Dean as a DNC fundraiser: "Early in the last "cycle," in 2001, the Republican National Committee outraised the DNC by a 3-1 margin. So far this year, that ratio has been cut to 2-1. More important is the way it was raised. In the past the party relied on "soft money" from millionaires. But such donations are now illegal. Officials estimate that $12 million of the $14 million the Dean regime has collected so far this year has come from those who gave less than $250. "For people who really look hard at the numbers, he's wowing people," says Elaine Kamarck, a respected DNC member."

Dean has a knack for organization, at least in its insurgent form...This time his theory is to strengthen weak state organizations with national help. He's visited 22 states since taking over this year; his "assessment teams" have investigated many of those same states. Drawing money from the Internet (as opposed to East and West Coast fat cats) and pumping cash into the grass roots (as opposed to waves of TV advertising) "represents a big paradigm shift in the way the Democratic Party does politics," says Kamarck.

Meeting privately with senators last week, Dean promised to watch himself more carefully. "It's important to make the news, not be the news," he told them, according to Sen. Chris Dodd."

MSNBC on Progressive Evangelicals

Saturday, June 11, 2005
Snippets from this MSNBC article:

“People like Karl Rove and people like Ralph Reed have done a brilliant job of wedding the evangelical community to the Republican Party,” said Tony Campolo, a spiritual adviser to President Bill Clinton in the White House. “And so when you begin to think about evangelicals, you begin to think in terms of the values of the right wing of the Republican Party.”

Like Jimmy Carter, Tony Campolo is a tireless campaigner for social justice, especially for the poor, for the environment and for oppressed populations in the Third World. Like Carter, he is also an evangelical Christian — a Baptist minister, in fact.

Although many Americans see evangelicalism as a monolithic construct, “in reality, there are a whole lot of us evangelicals who think differently,” said Campolo, who founded the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education.

Campolo puts the proportion of “progressive” or liberal American evangelicals at 35 percent to 40 percent. Other scholars say that is probably too high; the leading authority on religious populations in America, John Green of the University of Akron in Ohio, puts it closer to 20 percent.

Whoever is correct, one thing is clear: There are millions of progressive evangelicals. And yet, the conventional wisdom resolves to a very simple equation: “Evangelical” = “religious right.”

“In a nutshell, we hold to the same kinds of theology. We just read the Bible differently than our right-wing friends. When we read the Bible, we see a Jesus who is much more radical,” Campolo said.

Where he and other progressives see Jesus most differently is in the importance placed on compassionate treatment for the underdogs in society.

Campolo praised the good works done by Focus and other conservative evangelical groups, saying he believed they acted from a sincere faith. With its soup kitchens and tutoring programs, he said, “the religious right is doing a great job with the poor.”

But while “we see some very good people who are doing a very loving thing in reaching out to people at the grass-roots level,” he added, “they’re not really asking the kinds questions that need to be asked about the policies our government has that in many cases have facilitated poverty.”

But “it’s time for us to stand up and say Jesus is not a Republican; Jesus is not a Democrat,” he said. “I hope that the answer to the religious right is not to create a religious left in which we get a bunch of Christians who are saying if you don’t vote Democratic, you’re out of the will of God.”

"Obama Gets It"

From the BullMoose blog:

"Obama Gets It

The Moose salutes the junior Senator from the Land of Lincoln.

The Moose knew that Barack Obama was going to be a star the first time he heard him speak early in '04. That view was strongly reinforced by his superb performance at the Democratic Convention. Contemplate his expression of faith-based optimism from the speech,

"In the end, that is God's greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation; the belief in things not seen; the belief that there are better days ahead."

Of course, then, it was far too soon to make any long term predictions because he had never served in Federal office. However, he has proven in his brief Senate tenure that all of the Moose's expectations about Obama have been realized. He is thoughtful, measured and has magnificent political instincts.

Evidence of his savvy was demonstrated in his response to Chairman Dean's remarks characterizing the Republican Party. Obama commented,

"As somebody who is a Christian myself, I don't like it when people use religion to divide, whether that is Republican or Democrat," Obama said. "I think in terms of his role as party spokesman, [Dean] probably needs to be a little more careful and I suspect that is a message he is going to be getting from a number of us," Obama explained. "We are at a time in our country's history that inclusive language is better than exclusive language," he added.

The tone of those comments was similar to that of his Democratic convention address. Obama has a Bill Clinton-like ability to synthesize an appreciation of the cultural sensitivities of religious Americans with a progressive narrative. That is no accident. Both Clinton and Obama were deeply influenced by the civil rights movement which was rooted in a progressive faith tradition.

The conventional wisdom is that 2008 is too soon for Obama to serve on a national ticket. Maybe, the conventional wisdom is wrong.

In the meantime - paging Doctor Dean - please call Senator Obama for a consult ASAP."