Satyam Khanna

Bill Kristol Loves Dick Cheney

While many Republicans are trying to ditch the legacy of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, one pundit is still clinging to the previous administration. In a column today titled “Don’t Wince. Fight!,” Bill Kristol offers a full-throated defense of Cheney, writing that Republicans cringing at the re-emergence of the former vice president have a “juvenile understanding of political dynamics.” Kristol then prescribes that to regain power, the GOP needs to embrace Bush’s policies and listen to Cheney:

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Dick Cheney Desperately Wants to Bomb Iran

Yesterday, former Vice President Cheney “swung quietly” through New York City to watch Liz Cheney, his daughter and a former State Department official, debate Iran policy. Continuing his long advocacy for military strikes to halt Iran’s nuclear program, Cheney said at a dinner after the debate that the only way for President Obama’s diplomacy with Iran to work is if Obama also threatens to bomb the country:

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Obama Sends Handwritten Letter to Gay Soldier Ousted From the Military Promising to Repeal DADT

In January, Sandy Tsao, an army officer based out of St. Louis, MO, told her superiors that she is gay — a violation of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law. Tsao then wrote to President Obama, urging him to change the DADT policy: “I do hope, Mr. President, that you will help us to win the war against prejudice.” On May 5, Tsao received a handwritten letter from Obama with a pledge to repeal DADT at some point:

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Afghan Women Pelted By Stones While Protesting Rape Law

Last month, Afghan President Hamid Karzai provoked international outrage when he signed legislation that effectively legalizes marital rape. Afghan women are trying to fight back, joining forces with women’s rights group and protesting the law. But yesterday, the women protesters were greeted by “largely malecounter-protesters:

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Sri Lankan Cricket Team Attack in Pakistan Rouses Anger Against Militants

On Tuesday in Lahore, Pakistan, terrorists waged a brazen attack in broad daylight against members of the Sri Lankan cricket team. The attack has roused Pakistani anger against the militants. “Cricket is so popular here,” said Imran Khan, a former Pakistani cricket legend-turned-politician. “The militants want to gather public support for their campaign. By attacking cricket, they only lose support and isolate themselves.” On The Wonk Room, Dr. Awab Alvi -- a popular Pakistani political blogger based in Karachi -- offers his perspective:

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Vanden Heuvel Rips Rove Over Fiscal Responsibility

Today on ABC’s This Week, Karl Rove slammed the cost of President Obama’s new budget. The Nation’s Katrina Vanden Heuvel quickly fired back at Rove’s newly-discovered sense of fiscal responsibility, observing that Rove and President Bush “helped plunge this nation into trillion dollars of debt”:

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Canadians Who Welcomed Bush with Protests Raise American Flags for Obama

Today, President Obama arrived in Canada, his first foreign trip since taking office. Already, the trip is a stark departure from the Bush years. U.S. presidents have traditionally made their first trip abroad to Canada. President Bush, however, broke with tradition and headed south to Mexico.

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Bailed-Out Wall Street CEOs Still Leasing Private Jets

In November, Big Three automaker CEOs were ridiculed by Congress for taking private jets to Washington to plea for a federal bailout. Subsequently, the CEOs quickly curbed their jet travel.

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Biden Takes Swipe at Chief Justice Roberts for Flubbing Oath

President Obama’s first official media appearance ran into a minor speed bump today when Vice President Biden was unsure whether he was supposed to swear in new White House senior staff. Biden then took a lighthearted swipe at Chief Justice Roberts, who misread the presidential oath to Obama yesterday:

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Obama Thinking About Investigating Bush Administration?

The top question on Change.gov's "Open for Questions" feature last week asked whether President-elect Obama will appoint a special prosecutor to "independently investigate" the "greatest crimes" committed under Bush. The inquiry, submitted by Bob Fertik of Democrats.com, has received over 22,000 votes. Today, ABC's George Stephanopoulos asked Fertik's question to Obama:

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Bush Administration Taken to Task for Allowing Loaded Guns into National Parks

Earlier this month, the Department of Interior overturned a Reagan-era regulation, allowing loaded firearms at most national park sites such as the National Mall. Yesterday, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence sued the administration, saying the rule "jeopardizes the safety of park visitors in violation of federal law." The release notes that the White House violated their own directive:

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Even the State Department Recommends Dumping Blackwater

The AP reports that a panel commissioned by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice after Blackwater's infamous September 2007 Baghdad shootout has called for the security firm's contract not to be renewed next year. Since the shootings, the Bush administration has repeatedly defended the firm, renewing its contract in May. Last October, the State Department granted Blackwater guards immunity after the shootings.

Summers and Gibbs Both Get Jobs From Obama

ABC News reports that President-elect Obama "has decided to name former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers the director of the National Economic Council, essentially the president's senior economic adviser." Also today, Obama named his campaign spokesperson Robert Gibbs as White House press secretary and Ellen Moran of Emily's List as communications director.

McCain Jokes About Killing Iranians With American Tobacco Exports


Last year, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) joked about bombing Iran to the theme of the Beach Boy’s “Barbara Ann.” McCain was widely criticized for the remark, but simply told critics to “lighten up and get a life.” The Washington Post notes that McCain tried joking about “killing” Iranians again today:

Responding to a question about a survey that shows increased exports to Iran, mainly from cigarettes, McCain said, “Maybe thats a way of killing them.” He quickly caught himself, saying “I meant that as a joke” as his wife, Cindy, poked him in the back.
According to a report released today, U.S. exports to Iran “grew more than tenfold during President Bush’s years in office even as he accused Iran of nuclear ambitions and helping terrorists. America sent more cigarettes to Iran, at least $158 million worth under Bush, than any other products.”

McCain Advisor Charlie Black Defended Infamous Racist Ad


As ThinkProgress noted yesterday, the late-Sen. Jesse Helms’ ran an ad in his 1990 Senate campaign that preyed on people’s fears about affirmative action. The Politico reports that Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) senior adviser Charlie Black, who was advising Helms at the time, strongly defended the ad. When asked if there was anything improper about the ad on the MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour, Black said, “Of course not.â€Â� “Do you approve of that ad, Charlie,â€Â� a guest pressed. Black responded, “I advised Jesse Helms to do what he’s always done.â€Â� “[T]here is nothing racial about the campaign,” Black added.

Only 7% of Americans Support Invading Iran

According to a new poll from Public Agenda, nearly 50 percent of those who follow the situation in Iran say “the one� best way to deal with Iran is through using diplomacy “to establish better relations.� Only five percent favor threatening military action, down from nine percent in fall 2007. Seven percent support taking military action:

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Former Head of Iraqi Anti-Corruption Agency Now an Undocumented Immigrant

After the 2003 Iraq invasion, Coalition Provisional Authority chief Paul Bremer created a major anti-corruption ministry in Iraq, the Public Integrity Commission (CPI). Last October, former CPI commissioner Judge Radhi al-Radhi, who was appointed by Bremer and whose work has been praised by top U.S. officials, told Congress about the “rampant� corruption in Iraqi ministries that had cost Iraq as much as $18 billion.

Radhi’s gripping account detailed how Prime Minister Maliki tried to subvert his commission and how nearly four dozen of his staff members were killed. Subsequently, he was forced to seek asylum in the United States.

But today, Radhi is living as an undocumented immigrant in Virginia. In a Democratic Policy Committee hearing yesterday, former State Department official James Mattil told Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) that Radhi has no “official status� in the U.S. Currently, only a group of Quakers and Arthur Brennan, the former head of the department’s Office of Accountability and Transparency, are funding Radhi, he said:

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Rumsfeld Blames the Generals for Poor Pre-War Planning

In February 2003, Gen. Eric Shinseki famously predicted that "several hundred thousand" troops would be needed for post-war hostilities in Iraq. According to documents recently released by the Pentagon in response to The New York Times's expose on its propaganda program, however, Donald Rumsfeld claimed in a 2006 briefing that the reason why he did not support a larger invasion force was because commanders did not request it:

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1/3 of Military Women Sexually Harrassed


The AP reports that one-third of women in the military and six percent of men said they were sexually harassed, according to the latest Pentagon survey:

The figure for women was worse than the previous finding several years ago but better than a similar survey taken in 1995, the Defense Department said in a report Friday. […]

There were 2,688 sexual assaults reported last year by people in uniform, the figures showed. That was down about 9 percent from the 2,947 reported the year before. […]

Reports of sexual assault reports had jumped by about 24 percent in 2006 and nearly 40 percent in 2005. Officials attributed the increases partly to more aggressive efforts to encourage victims to come forward.

Bush Stuffs Spending Bills with Earmarks for His Daddy and Wife

This post, written by Satyam Khanna, originally appeared on Think Progress

On Monday, President Bush explained his veto of the recent Labor-HHS bill, claiming the "majority" in Congress had abandoned his "clear goals for the Congress to reform the earmarking process" and was "acting like a teenager with a new credit card."

In reality, Bush "stuffs his budget with billions for pet projects." According to Senate Democrats, Bush placed 580 earmarks worth $15.6 billion in a recent military and veterans appropriations request, along with "billions" in the energy and water spending bill:
Some presidential earmarks have obvious roots, such as $24 million for the Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program. The president earmarked a billion dollars for the Reading First program, which was criticized by government auditors for steering contracts to favored companies. He also sought $8.9 million for the Points of Light foundation, a pet project started by his father, former President George H.W. Bush.
Congress slashed $676 million from Bush's request for Reading First and eliminated the Points of Light funding. Bush retaliated by vetoing the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education bill.
The Democratic-led Congress has made major advances in earmark reform in contrast to the profligate spenders of recent conservative-led Congresses. An analysis by Citizens Against Government Waste estimates that earmarks in FY08 appropriations bills are "down about 33 percent from the $29 billion in earmarks in FY06 spending bills":
The report showed a significant reduction in one of the largest magnets for earmarks, the Defense appropriations bill. The FY08 measure, by the group's reckoning, included 2,074 projects worth $6.6 billion. This compared to 2,822 projects worth $14.9 billion in the FY06 bill.
The group also said Democrats have made strides against earmarks in the Labor-HHS spending bill, which Bush vetoed Tuesday.

Right Wing Flips Out Over Laura Bush Wearing a Headscarf

This post, written by Satyam Khanna, originally appeared on Think Progress

When House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) wore a headscarf while visiting the Umayyad mosque in Damascus in April, the right wing pounced on her, attacking her as "subservient" and calling the act "disgust[ing]." Ironically, the right wing failed to note that First Lady Laura Bush had also worn a headscarf while previously visiting the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

During a tour of the Middle East this week, Laura Bush again donned a traditional hijab given to her as a gift by a Saudi Arabian doctor. Subsequently, several progressive bloggers questioned whether similar "opprobium" would follow from the right wing this time. Now we have our answer.

The conservative blogosphere has released its seething intolerance, collectively rising up to denounce Laura Bush as "Ms. Pander Clause" for wearing the head cover:
"I find the image from Saudi Arabia so disturbing. ... That she would oblige her hosts by wearing a shmata on her head is a tacit endorsement of Islam's subjugation of women." -- Weekly Standard
"Bad craziness in Saudi Arabia ... [W]e get this, from one of the most misogynistic societies on the planet: a photo of Laura Bush wearing an abaya and a veil. -- Little Green Footballs
"This is Sheikha Laura, yesterday, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia ... Laura Bush [is] butt-kissing Saudi King Abdullah." -- Debbie Schlussel
Showing tolerance and respect for other cultures is interpreted as "butt-kissing" by far right conservatives.

Gonzales Tried to Get John Ashcroft to Sign on to Wiretapping Program on His Sickbed

In March 2004, President Bush's warrantless domestic spying program was temporarily suspended after then-acting Attorney General James Comey refused to sign onto an extension of the program, citing an "extensive review" by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, stating "that the program did not comply with the law." In "gripping testimony" yesterday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Comey†revealed extraordinary details about the efforts made by Alberto Gonzales and Andrew Card -- then-White House counsel and chief of staff, respectively -- to persuade John Ashcroft to overrule Comey, even as Ashcroft was debilitated in an intensive care unit with pancreatitis. The Washington Post calls Comey's "account of Bush administration lawlessness so shocking it would have been unbelievable coming from a less reputable source." Indeed, Comey's revelations confirm the worst fears about Gonzales's dangerously flawed judgment, and provide further evidence of the administration's -- including the President's -- contempt for basic legal restraints.

Race to the hospital: Describing the events as "the most difficult of my professional career," Comey explained yesterday how the ordeal began on the evening of March 10, 2004, hours before the authority for the spying program was set to expire. A top aide to Ashcroft alerted Comey that Gonzales and Card had arranged a visit with†Ashcroft, who was then hospitalized with gallstone pancreatitis. Comey "ordered his driver to rush him to George Washington University Hospital with emergency lights flashing and a siren blaring, to intercept the pair." Comey said yesterday, "I was concerned that, given how ill I knew the attorney general was, that there might be an effort to ask him to overrule me when he was in no condition to that." He described how he "literally ran up the stairs" to Ashcroft's room, and had FBI Director Robert Mueller order the agents on Ashcroft's security detail not to evict him from the room if Gonzales and Card objected to his presence.

Ashcroft, 'barely conscious,' rejects power play: Comey "arrived first in the darkened room, in time to brief Mr. Ashcroft, who he said seemed barely conscious." Minutes later, Gonzales and Card arrived, envelope in hand, and explained that they were seeking his approval to extend authority for warrantless spying.†"Attorney General Ashcroft then stunned me," Comey said yesterday. "He lifted his head off the pillow and in very strong terms expressed his view of the matter, rich in both substance and fact...and then laid his head back down on the pillow, seemed spent, and said to them, 'But that doesn't matter, because I'm not the attorney general'ˇ�?and he pointed to me." The White House effort to overrule Comey had failed. "The two men did not acknowledge me," Comey said. "They turned and walked from the room." Comey added, "I was angry. I had just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man. ... I thought he had conducted himself in a way that demonstrated a strength I had never seen before, but still I thought it was improper."


White House Caves only after mass resignation threat: Shortly afterwards, a "very upset" Card called Comey "and demanded that I come to the White House immediately." Comey told Card that, after the conduct he had just witnessed, he would not meet with him without a witness present. Card apparently replied, "What conduct? We were just there to wish him well." Comey insisted on having then-solicitor general Ted Olson accompany him to the White House, but Card "would not allow Mr. Olson to enter his office." Comey was informed that White House officials (including Vice President Cheney and Cheney's then-general counsel David Addington) wanted to continue the program. The next morning, March 11, the program was reauthorized "without a signature from the Department of Justice attesting as to its legality." Comey had seen enough, and wrote up his resignation letter. "I couldn't stay, if the administration was going to engage in conduct that the Department of Justice had said had no legal basis. I just simply couldn't stay." Comey said yesterday that he believed both Mueller and Ashcroft were prepared to resign with him, along with all of their top aides. One day later, on March 12, facing a threat of mass resignations, the administration cracked. Bush informed Mueller that he would authorize the changes in the program sought by the Justice Department. Comey said he signed the reauthorization "two or three weeks" later. "It was unclear from his testimony what authority existed for the program while the changes were being made."

Bush and Gonzales in the spotlight: The Washington Post notes that "the bottom line" of Comey's revelations is "the administration's alarming willingness...to ignore its own lawyers." After all, the Justice Department's conclusions "are supposed to be the final word in the executive branch about what is lawful or not, and the administration has emphasized since the warrantless wiretapping story broke that it was being done under the department's supervision." The fact that Gonzales "is now in charge of the department he tried to steamroll may be most disturbing of all." Moreover, Bush's direct role in this affair remains to be fully explored. Last year, Newsweek reported that Bush dubbed Comey "with a derisive nickname, 'Cuomo,' after Mario Cuomo, the New York governor who vacillated over running for president in the 1980s"; Bush was "[m]iffed" that Comey, "a straitlaced, by-the-book former U.S. attorney from New York, was not a 'team player' on this and other issues." Comey noted yesterday that Ashcroft's wife "had banned all visitors and all phone calls" to the hospital, but that Card and Gonzales were permitted to visit Ashcroft after a direct call from the White House. "I have some recollection that the call was from the president himself," he said.

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