This post first appeared on Think Progress. This week, Gen. David Petraeus, top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, and Gen. William Caldwell, the training commander in Afghanistan, warned that Dove World Church’s “International Burn a Quran Day” on September 11 would put U.S. troops’ lives in danger and undermine NATO’s mission in Afghanistan. Despite their warnings, church pastor Terry Jones said his congregation would go ahead with the event. Top officials in the Obama administration, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Attorney General Eric Holder have denounced Jones’ plans, but leading Republicans are refusing to comment. MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann reported last night that he asked top GOPers — including President Bush, House Minority Leader John Boehner (OH), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY), Sens. John McCain (AZ), Lindsey Graham (SC), Jeff Sessions (AL), and Susan Collins (ME), Rep. Eric Cantor (VA), Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, and Liz Cheney — if they would condemn Jones’ Quran burning in light of Petraeus’ remarks but none would offer any comment:
OLBERMANN: And so, today, Countdown asked several Republican politicians if they now, as they have in the past, urged Americans to listen to General Petraeus and support what he needs to win the hearts and minds of an Islamic country. … [We received] total silence today.
Watch it: Olbermann is right, Republicans — including Cantor, Boehner, and McCain — have in the past demanded that lawmakers, administration officials and the American people listen to Petraeus. But these same Republicans also recently disregarded Petraeus’ concern that “Israeli intransigence on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was jeopardizing U.S. standing in the region.” So it seems likely they will again ignore his warnings.
Update Over at Slate, Fred Kaplan notes that these GOP Senators such as McCain "know better (most of them anyway)" than to stay silent on the Quran burning event and asks, "So where are they?"
Update Appearing on Good Morning America today, Boehner seemed reluctant to strongly condemn the Quran burning. When host George Stephanopoulos asked him directly, “So you’re telling [Jones] not to do it?” there was a long pause, forcing Stephanopoulos to repeat the question. Finally, Boehner replied, “Well, listen, I just think it’s not wise to do this in the face of what our country represents.” Boehner also compared Jones to the Cordoba Initiative, which is seeking to build an Islamic Community Center near Ground Zero, saying to both, “Just because you have the right to do something in America, doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.” Watch it: Update TPM's Christina Bellantoni reports that Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS) expressed his objection to the Quran burning. "I do not think well of the idea of burning anybody's Koran, Bible, Book of Mormon or anything else," he said. "I don't think it's a good idea."
This post first appeared on Think Progress. The U.S. Coast Guard said this morning that a natural gas and oil drilling platform exploded 80 miles off the coast of Louisiana. A Coast Guard spokesperson said the platform, Vermilion Oil Rig 360, is an oil and gas platform in 2,500 feet of water and is owned by Houston-based Mariner Energy. It is not currently producing oil or gas. Apache Corp. recently purchased Mariner in a multi-billion dollar deal. Just yesterday, however, the Financial Times reported that employees from Apache and Mariner, along with thousands of oil industry workers, rallied in Houston to protest the Obama administration’s offshore drilling moratorium that was designed as a safety precaution after BP’s disastrous Gulf oil spill. A Mariner Energy employee chastised the Obama administration for its drilling moratorium, which would not have affected the rig that exploded today:
Companies ranging from Chevron to Apache bussed in up to 5,000 employees to the Houston convention centre to underline to Washington the industry’s contribution to the country. [...] “I have been in the oil and gas industry for 40 years, and this administration is trying to break us,” said Barbara Dianne Hagood, senior landman for Mariner Energy, a small company. “The moratorium they imposed is going to be a financial disaster for the gulf coast, gulf coast employees and gulf coast residents.”
Apache Corp. recently agreed to buy BP assets in order to help the British oil giant meet its financial obligations as a result of its Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Thirteen workers were on the rig when it exploded; the Coast Guard has said that “all 13 workers involved in the production platform explosion are accounted for, but one person is injured.”
Update The Washington Post reports, "In its recent Securities and Exchange filing, the company said that the Interior Department's moratorium on deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico had affected Mariner's operations. It said its operations 'may be impacted in the future by increased regulatory oversight, which may increase the cost of' Outer Continental Shelf wells 'and delay drilling and production therefrom.'"
This post originally appeared on Think Progress. Earlier this week, when the Daily Caller asked neoconservative war hawk John Bolton if he wanted to run for president in 2012, the former (recess-appointed) U.N. ambassador wouldn’t rule out the possibility. “You know, as somebody who writes op-eds and appears on the television, I appreciate as well as anybody that…there is a limit to what that accomplishes,” he said. But today on Fox News, Bolton indicated that he’s getting more interested in making a run for the White House, saying, “I’m not saying ‘no’”:
HOST: Are you running for president in 2012? BOLTON: Well it’s a great honor when people ask me that question and I have been asked that question. I don’t think anybody involved in politics should worry about that until after the elections this fall because I think they’re so important. So that’s to the extent I get involved, that’s where I’m going to put my focus for now. HOST: So you’re not saying no? BOLTON: I’m not saying no, that’s right.
Watch it: “What concerns me,” Bolton told the Daily Caller, “is the lack of focus generally in the national debate about national security issues.” ThinkProgress would be eager to witness Bolton campaign on his ideas:
Bomb Iran, (or at least allow Israel to do it) and change the regime. – Endless wars (because “we’re not going to eliminate violent conflict until homo sapiens ceases to exist as a separate species”). – Invade Somalia? Nuke Chicago?
One thing is clear. If Bolton does decide to run for president, he probably won’t have the support of his former boss.
This post originally appeared on Think Progress. Last month, Alaska GOP U.S. Senate candidate and Tea Party favorite Joe Miller said that unemployment benefits are unconstitutional. “The unemployment compensation benefits have gotten — first of all, it’s not constitutionally authorized,” he said, adding, “I think that’s the first thing that’s gotta be looked at.” Today on CBS’ Face the Nation, Miller — who is currently ahead of incumbent Lisa Murkowski in the state’s U.S. Senate GOP primary — went a bit further. Host Bob Schieffer noted that Miller wants to privatize Social Security and phase out Medicare and wondered whether those positions were a bit extreme. But Miller didn’t think so, suggesting that the U.S. Constitution supports his view:
MILLER: Well, yeah I would suggest to you that if one thinks that the Constitution is extreme then you’d also think the Founders are extreme. We just simply want to get back to basics, restore essentially the constitutional foundation of the country and that means the federal government becoming less onerous, less involved than every basically item of our lives and what that means is there does have to be some transition. [...] We have to look at all the options that are out there, including privatization [of Social Security]. It’s certainly something that Bush championed…it is basically part of the crisis of leadership in DC to not look at Social Security and understand that there has got to be a solution posed.
Watch it: Miller’s views on global warming are also “very extreme.” Last week, he told a local Alaska newspaper that he does not believe that human activity is contributing to climate change (despite overwhelming evidence finding that it has). “We know the temperature change is part of the process of our existence,” he said, but “we haven’t heard there’s man-made global warming.”
This post first appeared on Think Progress. Today on NBC’s Meet the Press, House Republican leaders John Boehner (R-OH) and Mike Pence (R-IN) had a tough time answering host David Gregory’s questions about how they would pay for extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. Gregory asked Boehner to respond to former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, who said last week that extending the tax cuts without offsets would be “disastrous” and that they do not pay for themselves. “The only way we’re going to get our economy going again…is to get the economy moving,” was all Boehner could muster in response. Gregory repeatedly pushed Boehner to answer how they would paid for, but the Minority Leader simply wouldn’t respond:
GREGORY: You’re not being responsive to a specific point which is how can you be for cutting the deficit and also cutting taxes as well when they’re not paid for? BOEHNER: Listen, you can’t raise taxes in the middle of a weak economy. […] GREGORY: But tax cuts are not paid for is that correct? BOEHNER: I am not for raising taxes on the American people in a soft economy. GREGORY: That’s not the question. Are tax cuts paid for or not? BOEHNER: Listen, what you’re trying to do is get into this Washington game and their funny accounting over there. … GREGORY: Do you believe tax cuts pay for themselves or not? BOEHNER: I do believe that we’ve got to get more money in the hands of small businesses.
Later in the program, Pence ran into the same trouble:
GREGORY: This tension that I got out with Leader Boehner. Republicans want more tax cuts seems to me he acknowledged that they’re not paid for and yet at the same time they want tax cuts but they’re so worried about the deficit. How do you resolve that tension? PENCE: Well I think the way you resolve it is you focus on jobs. … GREGORY: But congressman, you’re asking Americans to believe that Republicans will have spending discipline when you’re saying extend the tax cuts that aren’t paid for and cut the deficit, how is that a consistent credible message? PENCE: Well I understand the credibility problem. … GREGORY: You acknowledge, tax cuts being extended cannot be paid for, it would be borrowed money. PENCE: Well no I don’t acknowledge that. … I think it’s apples to oranges.
Watch it: The reality is that extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy will cost $830 billion over the next ten years and the Republicans — who have made bringing down the deficit one of their signature issues — have no idea how they will pay for them.
Cross-posted from Think Progress. For months, conservatives — led by Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, and right-wing media — have engaged in paranoia-induced hysterics over a proposal to build a mosque and Muslim community center near the former World Trade Center in New York City. Many claim that having a mosque near Ground Zero somehow disrespects the victims of 9/11 (despite the fact that there has been a mosque in the area since the 1980s). Others on the right think that the project’s leader, American Society for Muslim Advancement founder Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, has ties to terrorists and/or terrorist financing. The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol and Keep America Safe’s Liz Cheney picked up on this meme yesterday on Fox News Sunday’s online “Panel Plus” edition. Cheney went so far as to say that a founding principle of the United States should not apply to Abdul Rauf:
KRISTOL: It’s just ludicrous. That’s not — his intention is not a good intention. Whether it can be stopped legally, I don’t know. Can people appeal to him and say, as the ADL did, to say, “This is counterproductive by your own…” — leaving aside his funding which is dubious and has terror-related connections, leaving aside past statements of him — “…is this the right thing to do?” I mean really. CHENEY: I think that it’s exactly those things, the issue of his funding, and the issue of his past statements that take this out of the realm of freedom of religion. When you’ve got an Imam that has got the very questionable and dubious ties to radical Islamist organizations that this man does, saying he’s going to build a mosque at Ground Zero, I think we as Americans have every right to say, “No you’re not going to do that.”
When host Chris Wallace asked if Cheney would support the mosque if Abdul Rauf had none of these alleged terror connections, she still wouldn’t concede. “It would depend,” Cheney said. Watch it (the segment starts at 3:20): Of course, Kristol and Cheney did not offer any specifics on Abdul Rauf’s alleged terror connections. After inquiries from ThinkProgress, Keep America Safe would not provide any evidence on the record and the Weekly Standard did not respond. The Standard’s Steven Schwartz tried to connect Abdul Rauf to terrorism, but as the New America Foundation’s Robert Wright noted, he wasn’t very successful:
Schwartz’s piece goes on and on, weaving webs of association so engrossing that you have to keep reminding yourself that they have nothing to do with Rauf. At one point Schwartz spends several paragraphs damning someone whose connection to Park51 seems to consist of having spoken favorably about it.
While the project has received considerable support from New York state and city politicians, it has also been praised by local religious leaders, Jewish and Christian. And if Abdul Rauf is so anti-American as Cheney and Kristol say, why would the FBI praise his cooperation with the agency after 9/11? “We’ve had positive interactions with him in the past,” an agency spokesperson said. So, by denying religious rights to Abdul Rauf simply because she disagrees him, isn’t Cheney espousing one of the central tenants of the religious extremism she claims to abhor? Read more about the right-wing’s intolerance to the New York City mosque in today’s Progress Report.
This post originally appeared on Think Progress. At the end of the year, President Bush’s tax cuts are set to expire. President Obama and many Democrats in Congress favor extending those tax cuts for the middle class. But Republicans — seemingly not worried about the $700 billion cost — want tax cuts for the rich included as well. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) seems to be one of those Republicans. But when C-Span host Steve Scully asked the California Republican about the tax cuts issue on Washington Journal this morning, Nunes went slightly off message:
SCULLY: Tax cuts, do they increase the debt or do they spur economic growth? NUNES: Well, I think that they increase the debt. If you let them expire at the end of the year we’re going to have a huge, the largest tax increase in American history.
Nunes drifted back on message later, saying that the deficit is “going to grow” if all the Bush tax cuts expire. But when asked why, he couldn’t provide any specifics. “Because it’s going to throw the economy into a tailspin,” he said. Watch it: Nunes is right about one thing: Tax cuts do increase the debt, but he’s dead wrong in claiming that they reduce the deficit. In fact, as the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities pointed out, the Bush tax cuts will cause $3.4 trillion in deficits between 2009 and 2019 while the “debt-service costs caused by the Bush-era tax cuts, amount[] to more than $200 billion through 2008 and another $1.7 trillion over the 2009-2019 period — over $330 billion in 2019 alone.” Moreover, the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein has noted just how the federal debt will skyrocket if the Bush tax cuts are extended as opposed to allowed to expire: twoscenarios2 “If they’re willing to let the tax cuts expire,” Klein writes, “it’s good evidence that they’re serious about cutting the debt. If they’re not willing to let the cuts expire, it’s irrefutable evidence that they’re not.”
This post first appeared on Think Progress. Many conservatives have been criticizing the Obama administration for what they regard as a harsh treatment of BP in the wake of its Gulf oil spill. Kentucky GOP Senate candidate Rand Paul called the White House pressure on BP “un-American.” Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) apologized to BP (and later apologized and then unapologized for the apology) for what he called a White House “shakedown” of the oil giant after BP agreed to create a $20 billion escrow account to compensate claims resulting from the spill. Greg Sargent reports that yesterday on a local Nevada radio show, the state’s GOP Senate candidate Sharron Angle joined in, calling the BP escrow account a “slush-fund”:
CALLER I wanted to know what she thought of the $20 billion slush fund and whether or not government should be able to do that to a private company. ANGLE: Well, the short answer is no, government shouldn’t be doing that to a private company. And, I think you named it clearly, it’s a slush fund. … But everyone in the petroleum industry shouldn’t be penalized for one bad person’s actions. It would be like throwing us all in prison because one person committed murder. And that’s exactly what’s going on here is it’s an overreaction by government for not the right reasons.
Angle contends that the White House is following “Saul Alinky’s rule for radicals. They are using this crisis now to get in cap-and-trade and every fine and penalty and slush fund.” Listen here: As Sargent noted, Angle’s comments are particularly egregious “since such funds imply corruption and are often illegal.” Of course, the escrow is not a “slush fund” considering there is no bribery involved, and BP’s money is allotted for a specific purpose: helping victims of the disastrous oil spill which resulted from BP’s negligence. Moreover, BP agreed to set it up and in comments after BP made the deal to set up the account, CEO Tony Hayward took full responsibility and called the escrow account “the right thing“:
“From the outset we have said that we fully accepted our obligations as a responsible party. This agreement reaffirms our commitment to do the right thing. The President made it clear and we agree that our top priority is to contain the spill, clean up the oil and mitigate the damage to the Gulf coast community. We will not rest until the job is done.”
Today, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) brought her bill — the Homeless Women Veterans and Homeless Veterans With Children Act — to the Senate floor seeking unanimous consent. Murray said the bill would “expand assistance for homeless women veterans and homeless veterans with children and would increase funding and extend federal grant programs to address the unique challenges faced by these veterans.” However, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) objected on behalf of Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) to this seemingly non-controversial issue:
McCONNELL: Madam president, reserving the right to object and I will have to object on behalf of my colleague Sen. Coburn from Oklahoma. He has concerns about this legislation, particularly as he indicates in a letter that I’ll ask the Senate to appear on the record that it be paid for up front so that the promises that makes the Veterans are in fact kept. So madam president I object.
Watch it: This is pretty low, even for Republicans,” the Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen said. While Murray pledged to continue to fight for the bill’s passage, Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) spokesperson said “Republicans have their priorities backwards — according to them, it’s OK to give tax breaks to CEOs who send American jobs overseas, but not to help out-of-work Americans and homeless veteran.”
Cross-posted from Think Progress. Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade has been embarrassing himself more than usual over the last few days on Fox & Friends. Yesterday, after news broke that the cap BP placed on its leaking oil well had to be removed because one of its robots bumped the well’s venting system, Kilmeade had some harsh words for the robot. “I’d love to talk to that robot that knocked…the top off the cap that was in the bottom of the Gulf yesterday,” Kilmeade said. “What was that robot thinking?” he asked in disgust. Then today, as Media Matters notes, the Fox co-host had had this dim-witted question for President Obama:
KILMEADE: The President took a matter of hours to pick a commander in Afghanistan so why is it taking months to plug the leaking oil?
It’s unclear how Kilmeade believes that appointing an individual to lead the war in Afghanistan is comparable in difficulty to plugging an oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico. Even Newt Gingrich found the comparison hard to swallow. “Is it fair to draw a correlation between the two?” co-host Gretchen Carlson asked. “No. No, no. The oil spill is more like the entire Afghan campaign,” Gingrich said. To top it all off, on the Fox and Friends set this morning, Kilmeade played a little one-on-one with last night’s NBA draft top pick John Wall. After Wall dunked on Kilmeade and blocked his shots, Carlson had to show him how it’s done. Watch a compilation: Last night on The Daily Show, John Stewart had to inform Kilmeade that “robots don’t think”:
STEWART: The BP guys, or the robot. Kilmeade. Robots don’t think. They’re machines. They don’t cry. They don’t fall in love. They can’t be your girlfriend. They’re f***in’ robots. It’s like talking to your toaster. “This English muffin is burnt! Why toaster!? Why?!?! Why have you done this to my breakfast?” Fox and Friends, I don’t want to have to do this everyday.