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Born at the Crest of the Empire

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Picture of the Day

(President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton tour the Sultan Hassan Mosque in Cairo, Thursday, June 4, 2009. (AP/Gerald Herbert))


In 2005, (Senate Minority Leader) McConnell demanded an up-or-down vote on President Bush’s judicial nominees, arguing that “regardless of party, any president’s judicial nominees, after full debate, deserve a simple up-or-down vote.”

McConnell said Republicans would not be bound to that position this time around.

I'm waiting for someone to put together the video of all the Republican Senators then saying "up or down vote" against their comments now. There are enough of them that a filibuster effort will turn into Republican mockery.

(Again, I maintain that in this era of readily available web video, the game has changed. Old comments are a much heavier anchor in the era of "then and now" video that can be produced by almost anyone.)

The Israeli government writing in the NYTimes.....

An opening paragraph of a "news piece,"
Iran seems to be hurtling toward nuclear weapons capacity, Hezbollah could win Sunday’s election in Lebanon and Hamas is smuggling long-range rockets into Gaza again. So why is President Obama focusing such attention on the building of homes by Israeli Jews in the West Bank?

Seriously, how is that written as a "news" lede? Iran is not "hurtling" any faster than it was six months or a year ago.... Hezbullah is not likely to win any more than the minority seats they currently hold, and this NYTimes piece says they "could win..." and Hamas might be smuggling rockets, I don't know.

So, two out of three seriously mischaracterized in the lede of a "news piece." That's just awful.

(PS. I know I'm going on and on about the settlement issue, but diplomatically, it's extremely important in the peace process, and the Israelis have chosen to fight here. Plus, the Israeli objections have more to do with internal politics than any concrete security issues.)

Friday, June 05, 2009

The Republican route to Resuscitation

Thinking about it tonight, I don't think the Republicans break out of their current box until they see more moderates voting in their primaries.

I don't know if that comes from better moderate candidates or some kind of backlash against Democrats, but I don't think they come back to power without nominating more moderate Republicans for general elections.

The Democrats came back through a combination of the two. 1) They put up a bunch of more conservative Dems in more conservative areas as part of the 50 state strategy, and 2) Bush's unpopularity drove many more moderates to the Democratic camp.

So, How are the Republicans doing? Michael Steele is not going to elevate more moderates, and Boehner and McConnell just seem to be following. (Do they hang onto their leadership after 2010? If not, which way does that go?)

Arguably, Cornyn is trying to recruit and back slightly more centrist Senate candidates in more purple areas, but, so, far, nobody besides Charlie Crist looks likely to greatly increase moderate turnout in the primaries.

(This may be a "water is wet" post of obviousness.)

Rahm's wicked magic

It's too long to read, but there's a NYTimes Magazine piece on the mechanisms the Obama administration uses to work Congress. The main gist is that Biden and Emanuel work every Congressman and Senator while the administration overall does a gentle push and massage to get what they want through.
The second tenet of Emanuel’s theory is that the White House itself comes with strategic assets you can put to good use, if you allocate them properly. There’s the White House theater, where guests can watch movies and sporting events; formal state dinners; smaller gatherings in the first family’s residence, which spouses can join; tickets to the Easter-egg roll for kids; tickets to the White House tours that members like to give out to their constituents. These prizes are not handed out randomly or, as in the Bush White House, doled out mostly as rewards to allies who’ve demonstrated the requisite loyalty. Rather, in Obama’s nascent administration, they are considered carefully and accounted for obsessively. Emanuel holds a daily legislative meeting at which aides discuss the status of pending legislation, and often they go over the distribution of White House assets during those sessions. “We have a tracking system,” Emanuel told me. “Who came to watch the football game? Who came to watch the basketball game?”....

Fumbling clumsily to button my suit coat as I stood in his presence, I was reminded of how different it is to talk with someone who has actually assumed the historical weight of the presidency, even if you’ve spoken with him before. Emanuel knows this phenomenon is as real for senators and congressmen as it is for reporters, which is why he choreographs the same kind of “spontaneous” drop-bys when members comes to see him. “I’ll have a lunch here, and he’ll come by to say hi to Susan Collins the way he came by to see you,” Emanuel told me after Obama departed, referring to the senator from Maine. “It’s an efficient use of his time.”

Picture of the Day - 2 (Holiday Road)

(President Barack Obama laughs while Press Secretary Robert Gibbs takes a photo of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel riding a camel as he tours the Sphinx and pyramids outside Cairo, Thursday, June 4, 2009. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert))

You're telling me they all stood up to the Israelis?

If true, Wow. From Haaretz,
It is a disentanglement now seen most clearly in Congress, which in the past served as Israel's stronghold against administration pressure on the issue. But when Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu came to Capitol Hill for a May 18 meeting after being pressed by President Obama to freeze the expansion of West Bank settlements, he was "stunned," Netanyahu aides said, to hear what seemed like a well-coordinated attack against his stand on settlements. The criticism came from congressional leaders, key lawmakers dealing with foreign relations and even from a group of Jewish members....

The Israeli prime minister also found little support for his position on settlements from the organized Jewish community. Jewish communal groups have largely remained silent and did not spring to Netanyahu?s defense.

Admittedly, this shift is just on settlements, not the myriad other issues, but it would still mark something of a sea change if it holds.

The usual suspects

Pakistan makes its highest profile "arrests" in the current offensive, aides to Sufi Mohammad. The BBC article is filled with an interesting curious skepticism, noting that these guys travel in public and were arrested at a party headquarters where they are regularly found.

Thought for the Day

Please, please, please Virginia, don't give us Terry McAuliffe.

Update: A Blumenthal argument that low turnout may doom McAuliffe.

The audacity of hope

One thing you gotta say about Obama is that he swings big.

Obama calls for new effort for 2-state solution

So, what's he leaving for his second year?

Picture of the Day

(President Barack Obama, left, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, right, answer questions during a news conference in Dresden, Germany, Friday, June 5, 2009. (AP Photo/Gero Breloer))

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Thought on Obama's Cairo moment

The Cairo speech today was much like the "race speech" given in the heat of the Jeremiah Wright chaos.

Many against Obama are going to try and pick out an objectionable line or a twist a negative theme, but the power of a speech like this is the moment, and the moment was defined in the pitch perfect first sentences of the speech which ended Assalaamu alaykum, followed by strong applause.

That was the moment. That was the tone change.

Signs that Frankrn-Coleman is almost over

Signals out of Minnesota that the Supreme Court decision may mean the Franken-Coleman legal battle may soon be over.

The other day, Pawlenty seemed to say he'd sign certification if the Minn. Supreme Court decided that way. Today, Coleman seems to be saying the Supreme Court decision will likely be it.

Must hurt a little

Is there a bigger repudiation of Bush than rounds and rounds of enthusiastic applause for Obama before an Egyptian audience while Bin Laden and Ahmadinejad publicly worry?

The two tracks of middle east diplomacy - The Israelis try to undermine

It's no coincidence that as Obama continues his mideast tour with a major speech calling for "a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world,” the Israelis are continuing to press the idea that the Bush administration had held a secret deal with the Israelis on settlements.

I think Arab leaders and decision makers will largely see through this, but to the man on the street and to those already inclined to suspicion of the US, the Israeli discussion of secret deals is hugely undermining for any efforts at outreach.

I mean, seriously. The Israelis choose today to create a concurrently running headline across the Muslim world that the US sold out the last peace deal?

This is about way more than settlements. This is about taking a second, larger chop at the Obama administration, undermining a fairly critical foreign policy goal of outreach to the Muslim world.

(Stray thought: Israelis trying to undermine Muslim outreach puts them on the same side as Bin Laden and Ahmadinejad.)

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Picture of the Day

A May 15 Obama/Colin Powell meeting at the White House that wasn't on the public schedule. This meeting was between Dick Cheney attacking Powell as "not Republican" and Powell responding.

Just interesting.


A whole lot of Republicans are working pretty darn hard to be sure that they are the one that loses the presidential election in 2012.

They really need to come out of their bubble a little more. Excitement in their base isn't going to win the next election.


I don't know if it's me or the pace of the Obama presidency, but I am becoming a morning blogger.

Absurdity from CNN

Maybe the measure of a President shouldn't be the number of books read in office, but, instead, the number of briefing books read in office?
If Obama is close to finishing the novel, that puts him on less than a 10 book-a-year pace, far less than the close to 100 books President Bush was reportedly able to finish in the same amount of time.

It's my hunch that Obama maybe works a little harder in the job, not finding 3-4 hours a day for pleasure reading.

The US supposedly lays out the new relationship to Israel

An interesting Jerusalem Post read about the meta-message the Obama administration is sending the Israelis.
"The Israelis apparently wanted to check if we are serious on settlements, and they found out that we are," a senior official told Haaretz. ....

Last night Defense Minister Ehud Barak met in New York with the U.S. special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell....

Mitchell also emphasized that the U.S. does not accept the concept of "natural growth" for the settlements.

"We did not hear from the Bush administration about any of these so-called understandings with Israel on the settlements - all of which were supposedly oral understandings between different people every time," said one senior American official.

"But we've never heard a thing about them - they certainly weren't formal agreements between our governments. "The Israelis want us to commit to oral understandings we have never heard about, but at the same time they are not willing to commit to written agreements their government has signed, like the road map and commitment to the two-state solution."

The Israelis used the settlement issue to try to push (test) the Obama folks. Now the Obama folks are pushing back.

Maybe I'm wrong, but it's my sense that it's in the Obama DNA to resist being pushed. (This isn't about settlements.)


What does it say about the GOP and their perceptions of race that they keep setting up these kinda crazy African Americans as a supposed counterbalance to Obama? Michael Steele now. Alan Keyes in the 2004 Senate race.

I mean, really. What is that?

Stated as fact

I found it weird that this paragraph was dropped into an article on Obama's trip, maybe just because its rarely stated so plainly.
Saudi Arabia and the United States have a near 60-year-old relationship based on guaranteeing oil supplies in return for U.S. protection for the Saudi monarchy.

Picture of the Day

No hand holding.

(King Abdullah welcomes US President Barack Obama, on his arrival in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Wednesday, June 3, 2009. (AP/Hassan Ammar))

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Torture was Cheney's baby.

We all knew that Cheney was the one orchestrating all the torture procedural stuff, but now we learn that he was personally running briefings to the Congress largely in an effort to stave off investigations and keep the program running.

Pawlenty troubles

Tim Pawlenty has announced he won't seek a third term as Governor which changes the Franken-Coleman dynamics drastically as Pawlenty is now looking to please the Republican primary voters in Iowa and South Carolina more than the people of Minnesota.

PS. From where we stand now, Pawlenty, with no national structure and not too much big name support, would seem at best an outside shot to be Republican nominee in 2012. Maybe he's looking to run for the VP slot or just looking to run for name recognition, setting up for 2016?

On withdrawing the torture photos

President Barack Obama reversed his decision to release detainee abuse photos from Iraq and Afghanistan after Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki warned that Iraq would erupt into violence and that Iraqis would demand that U.S. troops withdraw from Iraq a year earlier than planned, two U.S. military officers, a senior defense official and a State Department official have told McClatchy.

We've taken people to Guantanamo for less....

So, the name and phone number of a top Operation Rescue figure was found in the car of the man who killed Tiller. That doesn't necessarily mean this person is connected, but I just wonder how it will be treated.

If these were "environmental terrorists" in the Bush years, they'd already have the Patriot Act invoked.

My son....

(Guardian, WaPo, AP) This recent N. Korea warmongering is about toughening the image of Kim Jong-Il's 26 year old son to aid the succession of power.

Wolfe's book

More pre-press for Richard Wolffe's Obama campaign book.
When Sen. John McCain wouldn’t return the phone calls of Sen. Joe Biden, the never-subtle Delawarean sought out his longtime colleague.

In New York City with Obama and McCain where the two were both appearing at a public service event on the anniversary of 9/11, Biden was rebuffed by McCain’s aides backstage when he asked to see the GOP nominee.

So, Wolffe writes, Biden went to McCain’s green room door and knocked.

“’John McCain,’ he shouted, according to Wolffe. “It’s Joe Biden. The next time I phone you, take the damn call.’”

Monday, June 01, 2009

Picture of the Day

(Former Senator Norm Coleman looks at the reporters and photographers gathered outside before exiting the court house door. (AP))

It was a baaad day for Coleman's "recount" efforts.


At the National Press Club,
Former Vice President Dick Cheney said Monday that he does "not believe" and has "never seen any evidence to confirm (Saddam Hussein) was involved in" the September 11, 2001 attacks.


Salon collects Bill O'Reilly on his show talking about the murdered Dr. Tiller.
"No question Dr. Tiller has blood on his hands. But now so does Governor Sebelius. She is not fit to serve. Nor is any Kansas politician who supports Tiller's business of destruction. I wouldn't want to be these people if there is a Judgment Day.

Fox spokesperson: “Mr. O’Reilly will be addressing the issue/topic on tonight’s show.”

(Kos has some of the O'Reilly hate for Tiller, too.)

Clinton bombshell?

Personally, I think this probably misrepresents a bit, coloring a few Obama campaign figures as everyone, but this pre-press for Richard Wolffe's book is bound to make waves.
As it happened, plenty of people in the Senate were begging Obama to offer Clinton the job. Obama's aides believed that many Senate Democrats thought Clinton had extended her presidential campaign far beyond the point where she had lost the election. Her negative advertising wasted Democratic money, threatened to undermine the party's nominee, and suggested that she was disloyal to the party. They were unwilling to offer the junior New York senator a position ahead of her lowly rank, and she stood little chance of becoming majority leader. 'There was a lot of encouragement from inside the Senate to get her into this job,' said one senior Obama aide. 'They wanted her out of there.'"

Sotomayor/Manipulating race

In the infamous "firefighter case," Sotomayor didn't engage in some great moment of "activism." The court's decision was that the city of New Haven did not act illegally in changing its promotion process. That was the only proposition before the court.

And, my state's shame decides to wade in,
"We need to know, for example, whether she's going to be a justice for all of us or just a justice for a few of us," said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas)...

Just two days after saying such discussion was "terrible...." In the end, Cornyn chases the base, usually ending up making some of the more extreme statements trying to please them.

(Remember "None of your civil liberties matter much after you're dead"?)


After the killing of George Tiller, the focus of so much anti-abortion hate,
"George Tiller was a mass-murderer. We grieve for him that he did not have time to properly prepare his soul to face God. I am more concerned that the Obama Administration will use Tiller's killing to intimidate pro-lifers into surrendering our most effective rhetoric and actions."



If his murder was the result of anti-abortion ideology, Tiller’s would be the eighth death in the last 20 years. In addition, there have been 17 attempted murders, 41 bombings, 175 incidents of arson, 96 attempted bombings or arson, 390 invasions, 1,400 cases of vandalism, 1,993 cases of trespassing, 100 butyric acid attacks, 659 anthrax threats, 179 cases of assault and battery, 406 death threats, four kidnappings, 151 burglaries, and 525 cases of stalking directed at abortion clinics, doctors and patients according to the National Abortion Federation.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

A certain type of article....

There are certain types of articles that routinely appear in the major papers where the very important context is left out. As examples, look at the puff piece as trade, where a paper publishes a timely flattering profile on a figure as payback for a leak or story that figure gave some time back. It's an open secret that this goes on in news rooms and cloak rooms, but do you ever hear it mentioned?

Then there's the policy advancement story, probably most blatantly typified by the way Cheney repeatedly used the NYTimes. Through coordinated leaking of cherry picked data, a paper can be manipulated into writing a story that can then be leveraged into policy advancement. This was also used heavily out of the Clinton White House by those who disagreed with the consensus, and it is also very frequently used by the military and its contractors to try and elevate weapons systems purchases. (Look how well or missile defense system works!! or the repeated manipulation of the terror threat stories.)

But today, I was caught by a third type of story which, with the context left off, reads very differently. Take a read of this WaPo piece villanizing former SEC chair Chris Cox and elevating the Obama replacement as god's own answer. This develops from an incoming department head manipulating a reporter for a narrative and then pointing them to disgruntled employees for the shocking bits. It's a pretty ugly bureaucratic maneuver to try to change the offices environment by scapegoating its former chair. It's very Soviet.

(PS. Not saying Chris Cox didn't do these things or do a bad job, he probably did. But to read this story without this "clean slate" meta context really misrepresents to the reader.)

Here's another example of sorts, also in today's WaPo. Al-Qaeda Seen as Shaken in Pakistan: U.S. Officials Cite Drones, Offensive. This sort of "progress" story traditionally only sources officials who have a stake in a storyline of progress. In this one, we have Petraeus, anonymous White House officials, and the CIA telling me that their plan is working with no independent sourcing to verify any claims of progress. They get a story to say it's working because they told a reporter it's working. (Bush also did this one a bunch.)

I don't know what I'm going on about. I'm just tired of it tonight.

Later: Or here's another one. Robert Gates is publicly complaining that the Air Force is lagging in sending drones to Afghanistan which he is doing either 1) to put public pressure on the process or 2) to publicly excuse himself from the drones not being there.

I mean, he is the Sec Def. What is he doing complaining publicly complaining about people under his command? What is that?

Picture of the Day

Strength. Courage. Leadership... Biden.

(Vice President Joe Biden listens to the translation of Lebanon's President Michel Suleiman's news conference at the presidential palace in Baabda, near Beirut, May 22, 2009. (REUTERS/Jamal Saidi))

The 9/11 trauma defense.

A sorta interesting editorial by Richard Clarke.

Pakistan finally tries

I know the terrain, population, and political environment are very different in the tribal regions and the Swat Valley, but after watching the Pakistani military sweep through the Swat Valley with so little trouble, you've really got to wonder about their actions in the tribal regions for the last eight years.

Yes, I know. Much more complicated in the FATA. Politics, Taleban sympathies in the upper ranks, etc, but the difference between the efforts of the Frontier force and this by the Pakistan mainline military is so notable.

Just noticing that when the Pakistanis want it to happen, it happens.