Sunday, March 18, 2007

Oversight & Enacting Legislation Not Mutually Exclusive

There was a rather curious opinion piece in the Washington Post today by David Broder, in which he criticized the Democratic majority for allegedly pursuing investigations of the White House at the expense of enacting legislation.

Revelation, not legislation?

As Broder wrote:
"Ten weeks into the new Congress, it is clear that revelation, not legislation, is going to be its real product.

"While President Bush threatens to use his veto pen to stop some bills and Senate Republicans block other measures from even reaching his desk, no force in Washington can halt the Democrats' investigative juggernaut from uncovering the secrets inside this administration."
Yet, following that, Broder comes up with the precise reasons why it is so important for the oversight investigations to go forward.

Why congressional oversight is so important

Regarding the prior lack of oversight, Broder observed:
"A Congress under firm Republican control was somnolent when it came to oversight of the executive branch. No Republican committee chairman wanted to turn over rocks in a Republican administration.

"You have to feel a twinge of sympathy now for the Bush appointees who suddenly find unsympathetic Democratic chairmen such as Henry Waxman, John Conyers, Patrick Leahy and Carl Levin investigating their cases. Even if those appointees are scrupulously careful about their actions now, who knows what subpoenaed memos and e-mails in their files will reveal about the past?

"They will pay the price for the temporary breakdown in the system of checks and balances that occurred between 2001 and this year -- when the Republican Congress forgot its responsibility to hold the executive branch accountable.

"It was a fundamental dereliction of duty by Congress, and it probably did more to encourage bad decisions and harmful actions by executive-branch political appointees than the much-touted lobbying influence. In reality, many Republican members of Congress did not mind what was happening because they were able to get favors done in that permissive climate. Now, the Democratic investigators will publicize instances of influence by members of Congress, and the political fallout will not stop with New Mexico's Pete Domenici and Heather Wilson."
Referring to 6 years of an oversight-free presidency as simply a temporary breakdown is a bit naive. Looking at the chaos a leash-free neo-con cabal has brought to global affairs will surely demonstrate that.

To me, one cannot legislate without at first making an attempt to get at some of the truth...a truth long denied to Congress.

Broder even acknowledges that the new majority party is "stymied by Republican opposition." Besides, Democrats do not have veto-proof majorities, so how much legislation can they realistically seek to get passed, on Iraq, for instance? They cannot even bust a presidential veto on stem-cell research which has widespread bipartisan support.

Yes, Mr. Broder, they can multi-task

So, what is Broder's point, as he closes with:
"Accountability is certainly important, but Democrats must know that people were really voting for action on Iraq, health care, immigration, energy and a few other problems. Investigations are useful, but only legislation on big issues changes lives."
There is no point, because oversight and enacting legislation are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, investigations that unearth unethical chicanery by the White House will more likely encourage others in the GOP to side with Democrats that seek reform and a change in direction.

Mr. Broder has to know that not only can investigations ultimately aid future legislation, but that Congress should be expected to have multi-tasking capabilities. So why does he seem so concerned that lawmakers may actually be doing their job?

Could it be that maybe we'll learn that the GOP was in bed with the press all along? That, somehow, the media was complicit in the scams perpetrated by Bushco?

Broder's column can be found here.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Warding Off 'The Coultergeist'

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann has my favorite way of referring to Ann Coulter. He calls her "the Coultergeist."

Ann of the thousand slurs

The Coultergeist was in rare form Friday at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

After being warmly welcomed by her favorite candidate, Mitt Romney, Ann Coulter made the following comment:
"Oh, and I was going to have a few comments on the other Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards. But it turns out that you have to go into rehab if you use the word 'faggot,' so I'm -- so I'm kind of at an impasse, can't really talk about Edwards."
Of course, that comment was greeted by the predictable adulation by members of the coven (audience) who think of Coulter as a rock star.

Equally predictable is the silence of the mainstream media. They continue to use her as a frequent guest and continue to bestow credibility upon her that she does not deserve.

Lukewarm rebukes and Edwards' response

And then, we have yet to hear the candidates distance themselves. Would Mitt Romney dare to distance himself from Coulter after receiving such lavish praise? Well, not until he has at least snared the nomination and then tries to reinvent himself as a true moderate for a general election.

Today saw some very mild rebukes from the various campaigns. The McCain and Giuliani camps issued statements deeming the comments "inappropriate." Romney's retort was even more pathetic, merely stating that everyone should be treated with dignity and respect. It's still unclear if that comment was aimed at gay people or the Coultergeist, herself.

John Edwards' campaign team responded aggressively and creatively. According to CNN,
"Edwards' campaign posted the video on their Web site, and asked readers to help them 'raise $100,000 in 'Coulter Cash' this week to keep this campaign charging ahead and fight back against the politics of bigotry.'"
I think the response of the Edward's camp, using this as a means to generate money, was spot on.

The Phelps' model

Years ago, when Fred Phelps' clan began picketing funerals of gay men who had died of AIDS (a practice they later expanded to include picketing the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq), a great idea was born.

I do not recall the group that initiated the practice, but the appearance of the hate-mongers was used as an opportunity to raise money for groups that fight hate and intolerance. It's possible that money was even being raised to generate funding for pro-gay marriage initiatives.

The tactic turned a negative into a positive. Since the group was going to picket anyway, and they were going to get their coverage, this somewhat defused the event by making clear that it would make money for the causes that those people so detested.

This move from the Edwards campaign works in the same way. It tells the Coultergeist that if she wants to continue to spew her hatred it will only make it that much easier for the Democratic candidates to raise money.

Further action

However, there are other things that need to be done.

We need to make sure that there is an 'appropriate' response from both the media and the other GOP candidates. A response with teeth in it.

In the past, Coulter has gotten away with outrageous comments and been allowed to remain a credible participant in the political process.

Media Matters always seems to set the right tone for responding. In this case, they asked the following:
"Will the media -- including the "mainstream media" figures Romney said attended his speech -- ask Romney whether he will repudiate Coulter's apparent endorsement?

"Will the media ask the other Republican presidential candidates and potential candidates participating in CPAC -- including Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich, Duncan Hunter, and Mike Huckabee -- whether they will seek the votes of the CPAC attendees who cheered Coulter's smear of Edwards?"
It's one thing for McCain and Giuliani to suggest that the comments are "inappropriate," and it's quite another to act upon it. It's one thing for Romney to talk about dignity, and quite another to be enriched by the person who makes a career of making undignified, hate-filled remarks.

What you can do

On a personal note, contacting any media outlet that continues to give Coulter a platform is a good start towards making the Coultergeist responsible for what she says. Contacting one's local paper, as well as one's local politicians, asking them to repudiate Coulter's comments, should also be part of a creative response.

Let her hate speech inspire us to activism. That is the response Coulter most dreads. Creatures like the Coultergeist always thrive most in the darkness, while the populace is in a deep slumber.

It's time to wake up.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Snow Job: Personification of A Bush Talking Point

There was a time when I would catch a televised daily briefing by Tony Snow, because I wanted to see how the replacement for Scott McClellan was able to improve on the former press secretary's excruciating performance.

That didn't last very long.

You see, Mr. Snow is far worse.

Snow piled high

Where once we just had a figurehead who could parrot talking points, but not speak out of the box, now we have a man who is very creatively mean-spirited, arrogant and uninformative.

I had taken a sabbatical from reading Dan Froomkin's White House Watch in the Washington Post. I am glad I checked out his column on Tony Snow today.

Froomkin writes,
"Snow's glib, confrontational approach to reporters -- rarely giving straight answers to even the simplest and most legitimate questions -- has made him a hero to Bush partisans and a darling of the right-wing media.

"But it's becoming increasingly clear that the fears that some journalists had when Snow first came to the job from Fox News last May have been realized.

"Not surprisingly, considering his background, Snow seems to treat his encounters with the press more like a cable show than as an opportunity to provide the public with a fuller picture of what's going on inside the White House. His prime goal seems to be to "win the half hour" -- which generally entails out-talking and mocking your opponent, rather than mustering facts and actually staking out a persuasive position."
Any doubts about the man's slanting and spinning are dispelled when Froomkin refers to his campaigning for the GOP and possibly running for office himself. How can this man claim any credibility?

Snow storm

As to his demeanor, and Snow's ability to factually represent the Bush administration's policies, Froomkin sticks in the dagger:
"From his very first formal briefing, on May 16, Snow has often put his foot in it. (At that one, he said his reaction to the 2,500th American death in Iraq was that 'it's a number' and he used a phrase -- 'tar baby' -- that some consider racist.)

"And he is frequently combative. As I described in my June 16 column, Snow often demands that reporters define the terms that he himself has just used.

"Sometimes, he picks fights over obvious facts. Case in point, at Wednesday's press briefing, he was asked about testimony from Bush's new spy chief that Osama bin Laden is alive in Pakistan and reestablishing training camps. Snow responded by suggesting that bin Laden might not really be the leader of al Qaeda."
If the snowshoe fits

As far as I am concerned, Tony Snow is the perfect man for the job. He seems to have the intellectual capacity of George Bush and the bedside manner of Dick Cheney.

In other words, Bushco has, as its mouthpiece, the man they truly deserve.

Now let's see if the White House Press Corps grows a set and starts poking through the press secretary's marshmallow veneer and come up with a little substance.

I won't hold my breath.

Dan Froomkin's entire column can be accessed here.