Polispeak: October 2007: Archives

October 31, 2007

Does Hughes Resignation Signal A Strike On Iran? genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak

Reading Tea Leaves

Tea leave reading is clearly not an exacting science...but if I were asked to interpret the announced resignation of longtime Bush crony Karen Hughes, I would conclude that it signals the likelihood that stealth president Dick Cheney has succeeded in convincing his presidential placeholder, George W. Bush, to launch a strike on Iran prior to packing up the U-Hauls in January of 2009. I'll explain my rationale following some excerpts from the Associated Press article.

WASHINGTON - Karen Hughes, who led efforts to improve the U.S. image abroad and was one of President Bush's last remaining advisers from the close circle of Texas aides, will leave the government at the end of the year.

Hughes told The Associated Press that she plans to quit her job as undersecretary of state and return to Texas, although improving the world's view of the United States is a "long-term challenge" that will outlast her.

"This will take a number of years," Hughes said in an interview Tuesday.

Bush and Rice had picked Hughes two years ago to retool the way the United States sells its policies, ideals and views overseas. A former television reporter and media adviser, Hughes' focus has been to change the way the United States engages and responds to criticism or misinformation in the Muslim world.

"Negative events never help," Hughes said when asked how events like last month's shooting of Iraqi civilians by private U.S. security guards in Iraq affects the way the world sees the United States.

Polls show no improvement in the world's view of the U.S. since Hughes took over. A Pew Research Center survey earlier said the unpopular Iraq war is a persistent drag on the U.S. image and has helped push favorable opinion of the United States in Muslim Indonesia, for instance, from 75 percent in 2000 to 30 percent last year.

Hughes said the Iraq war was usually the second issue that Muslims and Arabs raised with her, after the long-standing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. Hughes said she advised Bush and Rice two years ago that U.S. help in ending the six-decade old fight over Israel would probably do more than anything else to improve the U.S. standing worldwide.

Hughes is serving her second stint in the Bush administration...this time assigned a task that she concedes will not be achieved in short order and that will undoubtedly remain a challenge for the President's successor.

More telling is Hughes assessment of the prevailing obstacle to improving the U.S. image...especially in the Middle East region and the Muslim world. As noted in the above excerpt, Hughes has told the administration that the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict serves as the primary impediment to reversing the slipping view of America.

I took note of the fact that Hughes made this remark to the President and his current Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, two years ago. I interpret the statement to suggest there was a meeting of the minds at the time she offered this assessment and agreed to take the job.

Today, I believe her resignation may well indicate a shift in the thinking of the President...one that would make Hughes' task virtually impossible and therefore lead her to conclude it better to leave now rather than later. I suspect the event which would lead Hughes to an abrupt departure is knowledge of the administration's plan to strike Iran.

Let me explain my reasoning. Given the anti-Israeli rhetoric of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a strike upon Iran would be seen as a defense of Israel and a affirmation of the assertions that Israel and the United States have no real intentions of establishing an independent Palestinian state. Such a strike would further fuel the anger at Israel and the United States and make it virtually impossible for Hughes to maintain the credibility necessary to pursue the mending of the American image.

As such, rather than wait for the terse and inevitable repudiations, Hughes has chosen to jump ship prior to a strike which would almost certainly unravel any progress she has been able to achieve. I also don't believe Hughes would have returned to the Bush administration with any intention of leaving prior to the end of the President's second term.

Adding support to my speculation is the fact that Josh Bolton advised White House senior aides that if they were to stay past Labor Day they would be obliged to serve till the end of the President's second term. The fact that Hughes is leaving regardless of that directive must indicate changing circumstances have created an untenable situation. Lastly, the fact that Hughes has long been regarded as one the George Bush's most loyal supporters makes the resignation all the more suspect.

Obviously my hypothesis is little more than anecdotal. Notwithstanding, this resignation raises a red flag which cannot be ignored. I hope I'm wrong but I've learned not to bet against the Bush administration when it comes to cowboy diplomacy. The fact that Hughes is walking away from her hospitality assignment leads me to believe George Bush is once again running around the White House sporting a half-cocked handgun in his spanking new holster...you know...the one Dick Cheney told him to strap on.

Tagged as: Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Holy War, Iran, Israel, Josh Bolton, Karen Hughes, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Middle East, Muslim, Palestine

Daniel DiRito | October 31, 2007 | 10:44 AM | link | Comments (2)
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October 21, 2007

Clarence Thomas: Blind To The Chip On His Shoulder? genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Clarence Thomas

Clarence Thomas, in his new book titled My Grandfather's Son, draws perhaps one of the most inane conclusions I've heard in a long time. Thomas contends that affirmative action rendered his Yale law degree virtually worthless...leading him to literally and figuratively attach a paltry value of fifteen cents to it.

Perhaps I'm treading on fragile ground, but Thomas' conclusion suggests to me that his view of reality may actually emanate from persistent resentments and a series of misguided attributions.

The conservative justice says he initially considered his admission to Yale a dream, but soon felt he was there because of his race. He says he loaded up on tough courses to prove he was not inferior to his white classmates but considers the effort futile. He says he was repeatedly turned down in job interviews at law firms after his 1974 graduation.

"I learned the hard way that a law degree from Yale meant one thing for white graduates and another for blacks, no matter how much any one denied it," Thomas writes. "I'd graduated from one of America's top law schools, but racial preference had robbed my achievement of its true value."

Thomas says he stores his Yale Law degree in his basement with a 15-cent sticker from a cigar package on the frame.

Excuse me, but isn't is possible that what Mr. Thomas exuded, and employers perceived, in his post-Yale interviews was the same surly "chip on his shoulder" persona that many point to this very day? The fact that a man burdened by such insecurity and conflicted by so many inferred grievances sits on the highest court in the land and likely filters each case through this skewed template is a frightening thought. The fact that many of the current GOP presidential candidates point to Thomas as a model for future judicial appointments is unconscionable.

Let me be clear. No doubt Thomas is a man of extraordinary intellect and possesses the credentials to warrant his position. Notwithstanding, anyone who has been in a position to hire employees realizes that a stellar resume can be negated by an incongruous attitude. In fact, this very circumstance is often rife with the potential for distorted perceptions to overwhelm an otherwise eRudyte individual.

Anecdotally, one could also argue that Thomas' difficulty in securing a position following his graduation may have resulted from residual racism that certainly existed in 1974, the year of his graduation. The fact that affirmative action may have facilitated his education and provided the grounds to reject him as an employee (his view) needn't nullify the significance of the opportunity it afforded and the eventual benefit it provided.

If Mr. Thomas believes his inclusion at Yale was a function of an ill-advised quota system, do his eventual achievements not suggest that affirmative action actually succeeded in opening doors that may have otherwise been closed to those who should have been welcomed based upon merit? Had Mr. Thomas been excluded from Yale and subsequently written a book which argued that racism played a part in denying access to education for individuals of merit, he could easily be a champion for the very program he seeks to skewer...and his seat on the Supreme Court would provide the very same justifications for that argument.

Frankly, Thomas' difficulties finding work are not foreign to millions of qualified Americans...black, white, brown, Italian, Catholic, or gay to name a few. Fortunately, the vast majority of them don't focus upon harboring animosities...animosities which tint or taint the views they hold for the remainder of their lives. Some of his fellow Yale students support that very argument.

His view isn't shared by black classmate William Coleman III.

"I can only say my degree from Yale Law School has been a great boon," said Coleman, now an attorney in Philadelphia. "Had he not gone to a school like Yale, he would not be sitting on the Supreme Court."

Edgar Taplin Jr., raised by a single parent in New Orleans, said he landed a job after graduation at the oldest law firm in New York, and does not recall black graduates struggling more to get jobs than their white classmates.

"My degree was worth a lot more than 15 cents," said Taplin, who retired in 2003 as a global manager with Exxon Mobil.

William Coleman says it's time for Thomas to move on.

"You did OK, guy," he said.

In fairness to Thomas, I'm certain he encountered unwarranted obstacles and that is supported by some former classmates and teachers at Yale. His book is noteworthy for the sincere homage he pays to his grandfather. Had it not included the portions that suggest he remains an unresolved and vengeful individual, one could actually view his life as a tale of remarkable resiliency. Unfortunately, my impression is that Thomas is appreciative of the former but driven by the latter.

Thomas has declined to have his portrait hung at Yale Law School along with other graduates who became U.S. Supreme Court justices. An earlier book, "Supreme Discomfort," by Washington Post reporters Kevin Merida and Michael Fletcher, portrays Thomas as still upset some Yale professors opposed his confirmation during hearings marked by Anita Hill's allegations that Thomas sexually harassed her.

If Clarence Thomas' experience represents the worst of affirmative action...and it seems he believes as much...then it seems to me that the benefits have far outweighed the costs. Lest we forget, for every Clarence Thomas there was no doubt ten others who faced the discrimination and the inequity of opportunity that affirmative action sought to correct. Mr. Thomas, through his words and actions, continues to ignore the relevance of that actuality.

Mr. Thomas, if your charmed life is so insufficient as to warrant the angry recitations you felt compelled to include in your biographical account and you seem to exhibit in the positions you take as a Supreme Court Justice, then may I suggest you're little more than the bastion of bitterness many have come to believe you to be?

Tagged as: Affirmative Action, Anita Hill, Clarence Thomas, My Grandfather's Son, Supreme Court, Yale

Daniel DiRito | October 21, 2007 | 10:58 AM | link | Comments (1)
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October 20, 2007

The Last Puzzle Pieces Of A Dysfunctional Presidency? genre: Hip-Gnosis & Just Jihad & Polispeak

An interesting pattern is developing which may provide incontrovertible evidence that the Bush administration's foreign policy is an unmitigated failure. In reviewing the evidence, this failure may result from the propensity of George Bush to form opinions of foreign leaders based upon unfounded, instantaneous, and impulsive impressions.

Recent developments in our relationships with Russia and Pakistan highlight these concerns and raise doubts as to the President's ability to size-up Vladimir Putin and Pervez Musharraf. While these situations seem to have garnered less attention than the war in Iraq and the tensions with Iran and North Korea; they may soon provide the proof that George Bush's judgment is fully insufficient and fatally flawed.

Few can forget the President's glowing assessment of Vladimir Putin immediately following his first meeting with the Russian leader and former KGB agent. The President's characterization of his bonding with "Vladimir" sounded more like the musings of a smitten schoolboy than the measured and deliberate views of a world leader. Reason Magazine offered the following insight into the mechanics of this quickly blossoming bond.

This beginning of a beautiful friendship was reportedly aided by Putin's touching story of a cross which he received from his mother and which miraculously survived a fire at his summer cottage. (As one of Russia's surviving liberal commentators, Yulia Latynina, has noted, if Bush had belonged to a different faith Putin would no doubt have shared an equally touching tale about "a piece of advice given by a wise rabbi.")

Note that the basis of this kinship has its roots in a testimony of faith...and mirrors the perception that George Bush approaches most interactions with an emphasis upon religious ideology and a willingness to promote those he perceives to be like minded and loyal. Recall that the Bush administration has hired 150 individuals who graduated from of Pat Robertson's Regent University...a "fourth-tier" law school according to U.S. News & World Report.

Take a look at some of the other quotes from George Bush which support the argument that he relies upon instinct and intuition when making important and far reaching judgments.

From InCharacter:

After meeting Russian president Vladimir Putin, Mr. Bush had him sized up: “I looked the man in the eye. I was able to get a sense of his soul."

Explaining to journalist Bob Woodward his decision to launch the Iraq War, he said, “I’m a gut player. I rely on my instincts."

The purpose of the president’s 2006 fly-in to Baghdad was, he explained to American troops, “to look Prime Minister Maliki in the eyes — to determine whether or not he is as dedicated to a free Iraq as you are." The president’s snap assessment: “I believe he is."

When interviewed on TV by Larry King, Bush confidently said, “If you make decisions based upon what you believe in your heart of hearts, you stay resolved."

Expanding on the probability that Bush miscalculated with regards to Putin, take a look at the following exchange between Garry Kasparov (who is a candidate trying to unseat Putin) and Bill Maher during last evenings edition of Real Time on HBO.

Kasparov offers a thoughtful and insightful view of Putin which seems to have eluded George Bush throughout his involvement with the increasingly authoritarian Russian leader. Recent events seem to support Kasparov's convincing argument that Putin masterfully manipulated George Bush. No doubt that should leave the American public all the more concerned and even more anxious for the President's second term to end.

Should anyone doubt the extent to which George Bush may have miscalculated with regards to Putin and his ambitions, the Washington Times aptly fills in the blanks.

From The Washington Times:

Russian President Vladimir Putin's invitation to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to visit to Moscow is just the latest sign that, more than 16 years after the collapse of Soviet Communism, Moscow is gravitating towards Cold War behavior. The old Soviet obsession — fighting American "imperialism" — remains undiluted. "Keeping the relationship with Washington on the verge of a crisis and inventing an imaginary 'American enemy' is creating much-needed legitimacy for the current Russsian leadership, which now has only Mr. Putin's personal popularity as its political base," observes Heritage Foundation scholar Ariel Cohen.

Indeed, at virtually every turn, Mr. Putin and the Russian leadership appear to be doing their best in ways large and small to marginalize and embarrass the United States and undercut U.S. foreign policy interests. [...]

The Russian strongman has threatened to retarget Russia's missiles at Europe if missile defenses are deployed there. Mr. Putin has also threatened to withdraw from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty signed by Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and President Reagan (the INF treaty eliminated Soviet-era SS-20 missiles and U.S. Pershing II missiles deployed in Europe.) And he has also threatened to pull out of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty limiting force levels between the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea.

[...] Although Moscow has supported earlier sanctions against Iran (after lobbying to water sanctions down), Mr. Putin invited Mr. Ahmadinejad to the Russian capital in an effort to undercut U.S. efforts to isolate Tehran in response to its nuclear weapons program and its role as a state sponsor of terrorism. On Tuesday, speaking at a conference in Tehran involving nations that border the Caspian Sea, the Russian leader warned the United States against a military strike against Iran's illicit nuclear facilities, And along with the leaders of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, Mr. Putin backed the right of Iran to develop so-called peaceful nuclear energy — in essence, adopting Tehran's false assertions that it isn't attempting to obtain nuclear weapons.

But for the most part, Mr. Putin is working to damage U.S. interests, and his "anti-imperialist" policies are reminiscent of Soviet-era behavior.

Clearly Putin's recent actions aren't indicative of a sudden change of heart; rather he has merely found this moment to be the opportune time to unveil his real intentions and put the screws to his less than nimble American "friend"...the one who looked into his clever eyes and thought he saw the soul of a sincere "crony".

The fact that our President chose to characterize the potential for Iran to become a nuclear nation as the predecessor event to World War III simply gives Putin the pivotal power he seeks in order to reestablish Russia as a major player in world affairs and himself as the agent to execute that role. Putin has essentially positioned himself as a key player in any effort to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear capabilities which may well mean any peaceful resolution will have to include negotiating with Russia. Hence Putin has the leveraged position he may have been seeking from the outset.

Moving onto the President's relationship with Pakistan's Pervez Musharaff, a man George Bush called "his buddy", we see indications of the same behavior.

From India Daily:

Only time can say if the US made another mistake in Pakistan by supporting the dictatorship in Pakistan. ''Musharraf is a strong ally in the war against these extremists. I like him and I appreciate him,'' Bush said.

Bush also called Musharraf a partner in the promotion of democracy. "I''m of course, constantly working with him to make sure that democracy continues to advance in Pakistan. He's been a valuable ally in rejecting extremists. And that's important, to cultivate those allies," he said.

As one looks at the increasingly dicey situation in Pakistan, one is forced to wonder if our blind allegiance to Musharraf has precluded our maneuverability. Despite all of the gratuitous rhetoric about democracy, the people of Pakistan increasingly resent the fact that the United States has hitched its wagon to a leader who took power through a military coup and has thwarted efforts to conduct a legitimately democratic election.

History tells us that Pakistan has the makings of previous U.S. foreign policy disasters whereby we have propped up dictators who we feel we can manage...all the while doing so at the expense of wholesale unrest amongst the inhabitants of those nations. Iran is the first to come to mind and we all know that dangerous story is still unfolding. The fact that Pakistan is a nuclear nation only exacerbates the concerns. Take a look at some excerpts from a recent article in The New York Times.

From The New York Times:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 20 — The scenes of carnage in Pakistan this week conjured what one senior administration official on Friday called “the nightmare scenario" for President Bush’s last 15 months in office: Political meltdown in the one country where Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and nuclear weapons are all in play.

White House officials insisted in interviews that they had confidence that their longtime ally, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, would maintain enough control to keep the country stable as he edged toward a power-sharing agreement with his main rival, Benazir Bhutto.

But other current and former officials cautioned that the administration had invested so much in General Musharraf’s success that its leverage was now limited. Similarly, they and Pakistan experts said that a series of policy miscalculations had left the administration with few good options.

They contended that the administration was surprised by how quickly domestic support for General Musharraf eroded, and that it was slow to act on warnings dating to 2004 that the administration had built too much of its policy around a single Pakistani leader. That over-reliance meant that a more coherent policy was never fully fashioned.

Some officials fear that a year of unrest, violence and political intrigue in Pakistan could undercut President Bush’s last chance to root out Osama bin Laden from the lawless territory where Al Qaeda has regrouped, and could cripple a renewed administration effort to turn around Afghanistan.

Today, despite the administration’s heavy reliance on General Musharraf, the tribal areas are a base for a revitalized Qaeda, which has created a new command structure and is again planning international attacks, according to a National Intelligence Estimate issued in July, parts of which the administration published in an unclassified form.

So the stakes in Pakistan reach well beyond its own borders. Not only is it possible that a relatively moderate nation may be in the process of a radical transformation towards Islamic extremism, our support for an unpopular leader may be facilitating that shift and laying the groundwork for Pakistan to become a reconstituted Afghanistan under the prevailing influences of both the Taliban and al Qaeda.

Efforts to include former leader Benazir Bhutto in a newly formed government may be too little too late as anything remotely endorsed by Musharraf may be viewed to be too closely directed by the United States. Since Bhutto is popular with Pakistan's moderates and arguably viewed as a strong proponent for democracy, were her role in a shared leadership to be seen as capitulation to a plan guided by the United States, it may precipitate the wholesale embracing of those extremists who renounce the perceived meddling of the West in the region.

I contend that those who have relied on the relatively moderate temperament of the Pakistani population as grounds for continued support of Musharraf and the gradual move towards democratization may fail to realize that all of the ingredients for radicalization are present in this increasingly unstable nation. Should the circumstances continue to fuel the fire, the recipe will not only take shape, but the finished product will turn out to be a culinary catastrophe we can't swallow.

Frankly, the situations with Putin and Musharraf are reminiscent of many other instances of stubborn bravado and blind loyalty that have typified the Bush administration. When persistent intransigence is accompanied by the isolation it naturally engenders, the path to rational and reasoned objectivity is often erased. Worse yet, it frequently happens unconsciously.

In the end, its as if the President all too often confronts issues by first defining his own intuited reality and then proceeds to operate as if it is the equivalent of the proverbial "gospel truth". As such, adjustments are grudgingly made only when the prevailing facts become completely incontrovertible and the circumstance are utterly untenable. By that time, the damage has been done and the costs have been incurred.

With approximately fifteen months to go, we can only hope that George Bush won't have the opportunity or the inclination to further exercise his suspect abilities to discern friend from foe.

Tagged as: Afghanistan, al Qaeda, Bill Maher, Foreign Policy, Garry Kasparov, George W. Bush, Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, Russia, Taliban

Daniel DiRito | October 20, 2007 | 12:16 PM | link | Comments (1)
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October 19, 2007

Political Strategy: Keep An Eye On Mike Huckabee genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Mike Huckabee

The Republican Party remains unconvinced by their front running presidential candidates. This weekend religious conservatives are holding a Values Voter Summit in Washington DC...hoping to identify a candidate they can support. Despite the many pundits who believe Rudy Giuliani is headed towards the Republican Party's nomination, I have my suspicions that we will see Mike Huckabee emerge as a viable alternative. Here's the basis of my speculation.

1. Giuliani will not be able to undo the damage done to his prospects by the strident opposition of evangelical leaders like James Dobson. While polling indicates he has support from Christian conservatives, the same polling suggests that support is soft and therefore vulnerable.

2. Romney may be willing to say whatever evangelicals want to hear but when its all said and done, he remains a Mormon and that's a hurdle far too many evangelicals will not be able to overcome.

3. Thompson created high expectations by delaying his announcement to run and his performance since entering the race has been disappointing. His opposition to a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage put an exclamation mark on the disappointment.

4. McCain may have the best track record on social issues but his history with evangelicals has been confrontational and I suspect many GOP voters simply don't think he can win the general election. The fact that he supported the President on immigration and is so closely aligned with the President on the war in Iraq doesn't help his cause with independent voters.

5. The anticipated withdrawal of Sam Brownback eliminates one of Huckabee's primary rivals for the evangelical vote...as well as the votes of conservative Catholics. The fact that Brownback believes the GOP nominee must be "a pro-life candidate" suggests the Kansas Senator will not support Giuliani.

So how does Huckabee enter the top tier and become a legitimate contender? Partly by who he is...inclusive of his Christian credentials...and partly be default especially if he can succeed in becoming the protest candidate in the Iowa primary. The challenge Huckabee faces is formidable. He has his detractors amongst traditional conservatives and they include the influential Richard Viguerie. My own belief is that Viguerie favors establishing a third party nominee and is therefore doing his best to disqualify the existing GOP candidates.

Notwithstanding the opposition Huckabee faces from the evangelical elite, his down home approach appeals to the average church goer in the GOP...individuals who will ultimately decide the winner of the Iowa primary. Huckabee may also be the best speaker in the field and his conciliatory tone plays well with those evangelicals who fear another abrasive candidate like George Bush may turn off moderate conservatives and independents who have grown weary of the unyielding gridlock. The fact that Huckabee holds true to the GOP social agenda but seeks to enact it with civility and a seemingly sincere style is also appealing.

If one looks at the criticisms of Huckabee from the likes of Viguerie; they may represent differences on issues that will play well with middle class Republicans...voters who many believe have supported the GOP even though doing so may have not been in their own best interest. The fact that the GOP has had success in painting prior Democratic candidates as elitists may have actually opened the eyes of these mainstream Republicans who now feel they may have been used by their own GOP elite.

What evangelicals are beginning to realize is that elitism exists throughout the political system and the promises they received from the GOP on social issues may have been nothing more than the means to guarantee their votes. Viguerie's criticisms of Huckabee may actually represent the other concerns that impact values voters...interests which are beginning to resonate and may influence their future votes...votes that may be cast for men like Mike Huckabee who support their values but do more than provide lip service. A few of Viguerie's objections to Huckabee follow.

Not only did he increase Arkansas's minimum wage from $5.15 to $6.25 per hour, but he even encouraged the U.S. Congress to do the same thing nationally.

He supported President George W. Bush's 2003 massive expansion of Medicare by adding a prescription-drug benefit.

He called the No Child Left Behind Act, which increased federal education spending by 48 percent and expanded big-government control of local schools, "the greatest education reform effort of the federal government in my lifetime."

The GOP elite seems to believe they can take values voters for granted with little more than stating the right things with regards to social issues. However, these voters may be ready to embrace a candidate who not only shares their religious values but will support programs that provide them with other important economic considerations. Truth be told, many values voters who have repeatedly supported the GOP received little benefit from the Bush administration's policies (think tax cuts). A candidate like Mike Huckabee may offer a much more palatable formula.

A number of stars have to align for Huckabee to emerge as a viable contender...but he can look to the path taken to the presidency by another former Arkansas Governor. The fact that Bill Clinton, frequently regarded as one of the best political minds in recent history, cites Huckabee as the second tier GOP candidate to watch suggests that those stars may be more malleable than we may realize.

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Bill Clinton, Christian Conservatives, Evangelicals, Fred Thompson, GOP, James Dobson, John McCain, Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney, Richard Viguerie, Rudy Giuliani, Sam Brownback

Daniel DiRito | October 19, 2007 | 12:14 PM | link | Comments (1)
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October 17, 2007

Top 10 Reasons George Bush Appointed Susan Orr genre: Hip-Gnosis & Little Red Ribbon-Hood & Polispeak & Tongue-In-Cheek

Access To The Eggs

I've come to realize that one must avoid the inclination to be shocked or surprised by the actions of the Bush administration. Today's reported appointment of Susan Orr to head the Department of Health and Human Services family planning program is just another in a long string of head scratchers.

Susan Orr, most recently an associate commissioner in the Administration for Children and Families, was appointed Monday to be acting deputy assistant secretary for population affairs. She will oversee $283 million in annual grants to provide low-income families and others with contraceptive services, counseling and preventive screenings.

In a 2001 article in The Washington Post, Orr applauded a Bush proposal to stop requiring all health insurance plans for federal employees to cover a broad range of birth control. "We're quite pleased, because fertility is not a disease," said Orr, then an official with the Family Research Council.

"We have another appointment that just truly politicizes family planning," said Mary Jane Gallagher, president of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association. "The last time I looked, both Republicans and Democrats used contraception in America."

Orr is a former employee of the Family Research Council, a right wing group founded by James Dobson of Focus on the Family and currently headed by Tony Perkins. The group has used the research of discredited psychologist Paul Cameron to promote their anti-gay agenda as well as to promote other extreme positions of the far right. Need I say more?

I think not. Instead, I decided to have some fun with the appointment so I created the following top ten reasons George W. Bush appointed a birth-control opponent to head the family planning program at the Department of Health and Human Services:

Number Ten:

He's simply trying to be consistent with his disdain for the "politics of obstruction".

Number Nine:

Ever since hearing the band "Rhythm Method" perform, his views on family planning were changed forever.

Number Eight:

The President doesn't like to make the same mistake twice...therefore he accepts that Iraq didn't have...STD's (or was that WMD's?) so he's sure as hell not going to support the meme that people who use condoms won't acquire them either.

Number Seven:

Ever since the Iran-Contra Affair, the President has been opposed to the government having any involvement with "contra-ception".

Number Six:

His father hated broccoli...he hates "condom-ments".

Number Five:

The President opposes a draft because he believes its a free country...but not when it comes to having children. We're going to need every soldier we can get to man his planned fifty year presence in Iraq.

Number Four:

He thinks getting your tubes tied has to do with restricting access to the "internets".

Number Three:

The President previously stated, "Too many OBGYN's aren't able to practice their love with women all across this country." To make that happen, he has a vision in mind and Susan Orr is the best person to bring his plan to fruition.

Number Two:

The President is willing to expand poor children's access to health care through S-CHIP...but not unless he has some guarantee that the country is going to have a lot more of them.

Number One:

In order to insure unencumbered access to the "eggs", the President believes the fox should guard the hen house.

Tagged as: Abstinence, Contraception, Department of HHS, Family Research Council, George W. Bush, Humor, James Dobson, Paul Cameron, Susan Orr

Daniel DiRito | October 17, 2007 | 1:02 PM | link | Comments (2)
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October 16, 2007

Randi Rhodes, Orwell's 1984, & The Ministry Of Truth genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Ministry of Truth?

The internet is abuzz with reports that Air America Radio personality Randi Rhodes will be off the air while she recovers from injuries she sustained last evening.

There are conflicting reports on how Rhodes sustained her injuries. According to a fellow Air America personality, Jon Elliott, Rhodes was the victim of an attack while she was walking her dog. That statement led to immediate speculation that the assault upon Rhodes may have been politically motivated; making her the victim of a hate crime.

The following is from the Air America blog:

Air America host Randi Rhodes experienced an unfortunate incident hindering her from hosting her show. The reports of a presumed hate crime are unfounded. Ms. Rhodes looks forward to being back on the air on Thursday.

As the story has continued to unfold, the following alternate explanation comes from the New York Daily News:

Air America radio host Randi Rhodes is temporarily off the air, but claims she was brutally attacked near her Manhattan apartment are bogus, her lawyer and a police source said today.

A police source said Rhodes never filed a report and never claimed to be the victim of a mugging. Cops from Manhattan's 17th Precinct called her attorney, who told them Rhodes was not a victim of a crime, the source said.

Rhodes' lawyer told the Daily News she was injured in a fall while walking her dog. He said she's not sure what happened, and only knows that she fell down and is in a lot of pain. The lawyer said Rhodes expects to be back on the air Thursday. He stressed there is no indication she was targeted or that she was the victim of a "hate crime."

The network released a statement that said Rhodes "experienced an unfortunate incident."

"The reports of a presumed hate crime are unfounded," the statement read by a receptionist at the network's New York offices said. "Ms. Rhodes is looking forward to being back on the air on Thursday."

First and foremost, I hope Rhodes is recovering from her injuries and will soon be able to resume her work at Air America. With that said, I have to admit that I find the speculation and the commentary related to the incident sickening. In a country we contend represents the best of the civilized world, the truth of the matter is that there is less and less civility to be found.

Honestly, the stories making headlines in the last couple weeks highlight the endless bickering which has come to typify our political discourse...a discourse that has deteriorated into hate filled diatribes designed to destroy the "enemy" regardless of the facts or the likelihood of collateral damage.

In a country which goes out of its way to revile terrorism and the terrorists who carry it out, we are on a fast track to fomenting the anger and animosity which is the hallmark of these hate groups. We are on the precipice of virtually every event being filtered through one of the two polarized political templates...whether warranted or not.

As I've read the various comments on the Rhodes incident, I noticed several sites mentioned the murder of Denver talk radio personality Alan Berg in 1984. I was a fan of Berg's radio program and I remember my feelings of sadness upon hearing of his death. While no one was ever convicted of the murder, it appears that a white supremacist group called The Order may have been involved in Berg's death.

In 1984 Berg was undoubtedly abrasive...but he was also eRudyte. He loved the debate and he routinely savaged those who were unable to elucidate their position on the subject at hand...but I don't recall that he engaged in the organized political rhetoric that dominates today's dialogue. Alan Berg was his own man and the views he held were his own convictions. His contact with listeners was heated but his positions were more than hyperbole. The innuendo of swift boating wouldn't have appealed to Berg. If he believed in something, he didn't just seek to discredit his opponent by raising doubt, he sought to sink the boats of those who disagreed with him and he did so with a full frontal assault which was replete with an arsenal of tangible evidence.

As I draw comparisons between the Alan Berg era and the current political environment typified by the debate on Randi Rhodes, one thing becomes abundantly clear...a murder which what was likely carried out by a fringe group in 1984 is today apt to be committed by an otherwise ordinary citizen.

Let me be clear. I don't offer such conjecture in support of the assertions that the Rhodes incident was politically motivated or a hate crime. In fact, we simply don't know enough about the incident to draw any conclusions...which is integral to the argument I seek to make. I offer my thoughts as evidence of an environment where we're too willing to jump to conclusions and far more focused upon escalating animosity than encouraging deliberate debate.

While the Alan Bergs of the world were content to live in isolation on a virtual island rather than compromise their principles...today's provocateurs will willfully compromise principle if they can be convinced it may lead to a world that is populated with malleable minions...virtually programmable robots who have had their ability to reason replaced by a susceptibility to subjective subterfuge. The Randi Rhodes incident is simply the vehicle upon which this manufactured reality is built.

In the ultimate of ironies, Alan Berg died while opposing the silencing of societal critics and promoting the open exchange of ideas in the year (1984) we associate with George Orwell's famous tale (1984) of a world dominated by the deceptive efforts of the "Ministry of Truth". Some three decades later, we live in a world inhabited by individuals who willingly embrace one of the available ideologies of insinuation with nary a passing consideration of our proximity to the truth.

Is it possible that what Orwell warned would result in "the individual person's subordination to the Party collective" has come to pass? On days like today, with stories like this one, my answer is yes.

Tagged as: 1984, Air America Radio, Alan Berg, George Orwell, Jon Elliott, Ministry of Truth, Randi Rhodes, The Order

Daniel DiRito | October 16, 2007 | 11:37 AM | link | Comments (2)
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October 15, 2007

Bravenewfilms Releases Video: The Real Rudy: Radios genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Video-Philes

Many Republicans view Rudy Giuliani as the front runner for the GOP nomination and they do so based upon his handling of 9/11. If Bravenewfilms is successful in getting their message out to the public, voters may reconsider their assessment of Giuliani's tenure as the mayor of New York City. The group has recently released another short film which questions the leadership and decision making of Giuliani.

The following video is titled, The Real Rudy: Radios, and it explains the situation surrounding the failure of the New York Fire Department's radios on September 11th. The radios were the same ones used during the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center...the same ones which also failed to function properly during that prior event.

Even worse, in early 2001, the city awarded a lucrative 14 million dollar contract to Motorola for the replacement of the radio system. The radios were put into service without adequate testing and, after a week, the new system was scrapped and the Fire Department returned to the old radios.

Many believe that the high numbers of firefighters killed in the towers resulted from the fact that they were unable to hear the calls to evacuate the building. Evidence suggests that police officers received the communications and many were therefore able to move to safety.

Bravenewfilms has released two other videos detailing Rudy Giuliani's service as "America's Mayor" which can be found here and here.

Those wishing to sign a petition to launch a new investigation can do so here.

Tagged as: 2008 Presidential Election, 9/11, Fire Department, GOP, Motorola, New York City, Rudy Giuliani, World Trade Center

Daniel DiRito | October 15, 2007 | 10:54 AM | link | Comments (1)
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October 11, 2007

NGLTF Editorial On ENDA By Matt Foreman genre: Gaylingual & Polispeak

Matt Foreman

Efforts to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) have been difficult and time consuming. The National Gay & Lesbian Task Force has been at the forefront in advocating for the passage of this legislation.

Recently, the pending legislation was revised to remove transgendered from the protected status. Since that time, the gay community has debated and rejected the merits of pursuing legislation which would exclude any of the LGBT family. NGLTF succeeded in rallying the community to urge Congress to pass ENDA with full inclusions.

The following editorial is from Matt Foreman, the Executive Director of NGLTF, and it outlines the recent efforts and makes the case for the inclusion of the transgendered in the bill. Please use the above link to find out more about NGLTF and their ongoing efforts.

All of us, every one of us
By Matt Foreman, Executive Director
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

At this critical moment in our efforts to pass an Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) that includes transgender people under its protections, it is important to recall just why so many of us believe that no one can be left behind.

The last five days have been a grueling and defining moment in our movement’s history. When we learned that protections for transgender people would be stripped from ENDA, an unprecedented groundswell of anger, energy and determination rose up to reverse that decision.

The other day, a letter signed by more than 300 national and state advocacy organizations that work on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people was delivered to Congress, asking for more time to garner support for ENDA as it was originally introduced. Some 2,500 congregations were asked to activate their memberships to call Congress. Students are also calling and e-mailing Congress and launching Facebook accounts to build support, working from 120 LGBT campus resource centers. Action alerts, blog postings and opinion pieces supporting a trans-inclusive ENDA have been flying over the Internet.

We at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force are immensely proud to be part of this moment. Our staff mounts a full-court press in the halls of Congress, on the telephones and over e-mail, to convince our congressional leaders that separating transgender people from the rest of us is unacceptable and unsupportable.

Why have we all worked so hard together and in such a dramatic way over this issue? For over a decade, the Task Force, and increasingly our organizational colleagues, has re-embraced transgender friends, family and colleagues as part of our community and part of our movement for freedom and equality. We believe the social disapproval and punishment of LGBT people varies only by degree. Yes, we can be fired if we identify ourselves as lesbian, gay or bisexual. But it isn’t always about who we love; sometimes it’s about a refusal or inability to disguise ourselves — “pass" — as heterosexual.

The freedom to express ourselves and be ourselves is at stake when any one of us is punished and persecuted for stepping outside the rigid rules of gender conformity. Lesbians, gay men and bisexual people historically engage a whole range of dress and behaviors that challenge the traditional gender code. Women who are too masculine and men who are too feminine often suffer job discrimination and harassment at work, just as our transgender sisters and brothers do.

Two women loving each other, two men loving each other, men and women who may love either men or women, and people who self-define their gender identity or expression all challenge and change gender-based assumptions and expectations. Centuries of formal state-sponsored and informal cultural oppression show that none of us are intended to exist, to thrive and to enjoy good and long lives.

There is no more fundamental human right for all of us than to be free to love and live as our minds and hearts guide us. But what is the value of freedom if we can’t get and keep a job, something we all need to make for ourselves a decent life?

Discrimination at work hits transgender people particularly hard. A survey conducted in Washington, D.C., shows that 60 percent of transgender respondents report either no source of income or incomes of less than $10,000 per year, a clear indication of the desperate need for employment protections for transgender people. Employment discrimination undeniably erodes the freedoms of transgender people, and all the rest of us, to live as we know we must.

Uncounted numbers of LGBT people courageously refuse to live a lie. This basic need to live fully as the people we know we are — loving someone of the same sex or transforming one’s self to express the other long-sought gender — forms the foundation of our very movement for freedom and equality. Just as we would oppose any legislation that cut out lesbians or gay men from needed protections, we oppose the re-drafted ENDA that excludes gender identity. We dream that all of us, every one of us, will some day be able to be and tell others who we are, each minute of every day, and not face punishment, prosecution or persecution.

A groundswell of support for a trans-inclusive ENDA, resounding across this entire country, cannot be ignored. We call on congressional leaders and all people of compassion and good will to work harder to win passage of a federal law that protects LGBT people in the workplace so that every one of us can simply live.

Matt Foreman is the Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.

Tagged as: Civil Rights, Congress, ENDA, LGBT, Matt Foreman, NGLTF, Transgendered

Daniel DiRito | October 11, 2007 | 2:45 PM | link | Comments (2)
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October 10, 2007

Humanity: Can We See The Forest For The Trees? genre: Hip-Gnosis & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Can We See The Forest For The Trees

We've all heard the expression, "Can't see the forest for the trees". It's simple yet poignant, and it's message is abundantly accurate...yet all too often ignored. In the last few days, all I've been able to see is the forest...not because I possess prescient abilities or feel that I'm above the fray; rather because there are times when the fray is so disheartening that I'm pushed over the edge into what I have long called my moments of hyper-reality...those periods of time when I let myself see and feel all that I've learned to suppress in accordance with the rules we've established and accepted in this sometimes all too calloused existence.

Look, I'm no angel and I'm not writing this to garner any accolades or to assert any position of advanced awareness. More likely, I'm writing to purge what feels like a persistent period of ad hominem attacks and the hatred which now accompanies our efforts to extend one groups hegemony over another.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy robust dialogue and I'm more than willing to engage in an argument. Notwithstanding, I ultimately attempt to see others as more than objects in an elaborate chess game...pawns one can sacrifice in order to succeed. Yes, it is a slippery slope because we all encounter individuals we believe exert more influence over our environment than we believe is reasonable...which leads us to conclude it is a right or even a requirement to undermine or end their authority.

In a representative government, we enlist others to act as our emissaries and we hope they do so with conscience and consideration. Unfortunately, there are times when the divisions are so pronounced that elections serve to embolden one faction while negating another. Sadly, America seems to be locked in that dynamic and I'm not optimistic our intentions or our efforts are designed to extinguish it.

Let me provide some context. I don't understand what is sought or achieved in making the wearing of a lapel pin a relevant measure of a presidential candidate's patriotism...in reducing one's support or objection to the Iraq war to a debate about whether we issue a congressional condemnation of a political advertisement by MoveOn.org and/or the political ramblings of Rush Limbaugh...in drafting lists of Republicans and Democrats who have committed crimes or ill-advised acts in order to paint half of America's beliefs as wrong and half as right...in assaulting the credibility of a twelve year old boy and his family in Baltimore in order to determine the threshold by which our nation intends to extend access to necessary health care...in pointing to the circumstances behind the death of a minister in Alabama as the means to invalidate the agenda of the religious right or those opposed to them and their agenda...in arguing that a poster using the imagery of The Last Supper for a gay event in San Francisco either proves or disproves that gays are anti-Christian and therefore either good or bad people.

As I was thinking about all of these issues and getting ready for bed last night, I wrote down the following words, "Can we actually argue that we love America if we spend so much of our time hating so many other Americans? Does America even exist if our perceptions of her and what she represents are so polarized? When did we stop being the United States of America?"

Frankly, I've begun to think that America has become the equivalent of two people locked in a surly and pathetic marriage...one in which the participants have become so resentful that neither side has any interest in communicating; rather each side rails on endlessly about each and every aspect of the other such that little, if anything, about the other remains acceptable or warrants anything but ridicule and abject animosity.

I don't know what we want anymore...and in saying as much it becomes evident that just seeing the forest doesn't cure what ails the trees which inhabit it. What once were similar beings weathering the same storms, being nourished from the same soil, drinking from the same stream, have seemingly become twisted and gnarly protrusions...self-absorbed and obtuse...fighting for their share of the sun while wantonly casting shadows of immense darkness.

Worse yet, what lies beneath is even more convoluted and entangled...a mess of barnacled beliefs entwined in a battle for validation...each day more entrenched...locked in a deadly game of tug of war...one that advances out of sight but is clearly marked by the heaving soil upon which we walk and have apparently come to accept. Passed from tree to tree like an insidious disease, death is measured in agonizing inches...a slow yet certain culling of those less able or less willing to defend against the ever advancing encroachments.

Like an overgrown forest, there is no time to mourn the dead...the fallen become fodder for the formative saplings who grow stronger in their beliefs as they are encouraged to feast upon the carnage...each tribe elated at the other's loss...each death an opportunity to acquire more literal and figurative territory...each birth an affirming act and a source of hope that the tribe will one day defeat the demon and thus be granted their deserved dominion.

In a world where gardens have given way to garrisons, what we cultivate is more apt to kill than to coddle. Instead of giving thanks for the bounty mother earth provides, we beseech her to yield to our demands and then we ignore her cries for consideration. Are we not a species out of sync with our world? If we are, then did we not become so by first being a society in the throes of a self-sustaining suicide spiral?

In this last man standing mind set, there may be a survivor...but rest assured there will be no solace and no salvation. Humanity may continue to build its future on the bones of the beleaguered, but when that task is completed, our humanity will be nowhere to be found. I weep at the thought.

Tagged as: Barack Obama, Folsom Street Fair, Gary Aldridge, Graeme Frost, Humanity, MoveOn.org, Rush Limbaugh

Daniel DiRito | October 10, 2007 | 9:13 AM | link | Comments (0)
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October 9, 2007

The Mouthpiece Of Malice: Mercenary For Hire? genre: Little Red Ribbon-Hood & Polispeak & Snapshot Thoughts

Not all children are created equal...at least that seems to be the message from the President and those who support his veto of legislation which sought to expand the States Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP)...legislation which is favored by a wide majority of the voting public and which passed both the House and the Senate by margins just short of the numbers necessary to override the President's veto.

In response to the President's recent radio address...in which he highlighted the veto of the S-CHIP legislation...Graeme Frost, a twelve year old boy, delivered a plea for George Bush to reconsider his opposition to the expanded coverage. In short order, the GOP throat dogs literally converged upon Graeme and his family.

Leading the right wing lynch party of unhinged and uber enforcers in the attacks on the twelve year old boy and his family is none other that Michelle "The Mouthpiece of Malice" Malkin. Malkin's assault contains the regular ration of bloviated blogging...lecturing her legions as to the lessons learned from the last episode of Hillary's efforts to impose socialized medicine. She posits her mission is one which results from duty...a duty which she must accept in light of the liberal leaning media's unwillingness to get to the "bottom" of the Frost family details...details she unabashedly chases with reckless abandon. She frames the fracas as follows.

From Michelle Malkin:

When a family and Democrat political leaders drag a child down to Washington at 6 in the morning to read a script written by Senate Democrat staffers on a crusade to overturn a presidential veto, someone might have questions about the family’s claims. The newspapers don’t want to do their jobs. The vacuum is being filled.

If you don’t want questions, don’t foist these children onto the public stage.

Fight your battles like adults and stop hiding behind youngsters dragging around red wagons filled with your talking points.

___________________________________________________

Not content to argue the merits of the legislation, Malkin decided it was her duty to "examine" the financial status of the Frost family since she's convinced the mainstream media aren't "doing their jobs". Her "journalistic" duties included a drive-by of the Frost family residence and a stop off at the commercial building owned by Mr. Frost.

Malkin is seemingly operating under the misguided assumption that her job is akin to the donning of latex gloves and ordering the "patient" to bend over. Given the fact that her own head routinely resides in a dark and dank domicile, it should come as no surprise that she would believes it is her prerogative to insert it where it most certainly doesn't belong.

Given the above excerpt, it would seem that Malkin also suffers from a selective memory and has conveniently chosen to forget the vainglorious promenading of snowflake babies which took place when the President signed the veto of legislation which would have expanded government funding for stem cell research...a veto which sought to prevent the destruction of embryos...the same embryos which are frequently destroyed in the invitro fertilization process that created these snowflake babies...a procedure which is only available to the privileged or those who possess first rate health insurance policies.

Apparently the Bush administration and its minions believe they are entitled to determine which children are worthy of being paraded in front of the camera for partisan political purposes and which ones are to be savaged by those who oppose the expansion of health care coverage. The Frost family apparently failed to read the relevant sections of the Malkin marquee which disqualified them from entry into the ever increasingly constricted tent of compassionate conservatism.

I guess we shouldn't be surprised to find out that the Bush administration condones the use of mercenaries given their prevalence in the war in Iraq. Notwithstanding, while it may be premature for us to condemn the actions of Blackwater with regards to their alleged transgressions for which we at home lack first hand evidence; it isn't too early for American's to condemn the vile and vicious acts of the mercenaries who have chosen to visibly and indiscriminately savage a twelve year old boy and his family here in the homeland.

Michelle The Mercenary

Tagged as: Blackwater, George W. Bush, Graeme Frost, Health Care, Health Insurance, Iraq, Mercenary, Michelle Malkin, SCHIP, Veto

Daniel DiRito | October 9, 2007 | 1:28 AM | link | Comments (2)
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October 8, 2007

Hypocrisy: If Only Sandy Berger Were A Republican? genre: Polispeak & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

The Usual Suspects

There are days when I wish the blogosphere would disappear...and then I reconsider because by and large it is a valuable venue for the exchange of ideas and information. Unfortunately, there are times when the content provides more spin than a spinning class at the health club.

One of those items is making the rounds today and it involves an article in the Examiner which makes the assertion that Sandy Berger is a foreign policy advisor for the Clinton campaign...a fact the Senator's staff has denied. The focus, of course, is on the fact that Berger was caught removing classified documents from the National Archives.

Sandy Berger, who stole highly classified terrorism documents from the National Archives, destroyed them and lied to investigators, is now an adviser to presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton. Berger, who was fired from John Kerry’s presidential campaign when the scandal broke in 2004, has assumed a similar role in Clinton’s campaign, even though his security clearance has been suspended until September 2008. This is raising eyebrows even among Clinton’s admirers. “It shows poor judgment and a lack of regard for Berger’s serious misdeeds," said law professor Jonathan Adler of Case Western Reserve University, who nonetheless called Clinton “by far the most impressive candidate in the Democratic field."

The Justice Department initially said Berger stole only copies of classified documents and not originals. But the House Government Reform Committee later revealed that an unsupervised Berger had been given access to classified files of original, uncopied, uninventoried documents on terrorism. Several Archives officials acknowledged that Berger could have stolen any number of items and they “would never know what, if any, original documents were missing."

At his sentencing in September 2005, Berger was fined $50,000, placed on probation for two years and stripped of his security clearance for three years.

The USA Today reported the following exchange with the Senator in which she denies that Berger is an advisor:

"He has no official role in my campaign. He's been a friend for more than 30 years. But he doesn't have any official role," Clinton said.

But he's an unofficial adviser, Susan asked?

"I have thousands of unofficial advisers," said Clinton, "and, you know, I appreciate all of that. But he has no official role in my campaign."

No doubt the Clinton response could have been better...but there is also a risk of overreacting to a non-event and giving it more credence than it warrants. Take whatever side you want on Senator Clinton's candidacy...but when this situation is coupled with the Obama lapel pin "scandal"...I find myself wondering what's next in the political pursuit of petty prevaricating.

Perhaps if Sandy Berger had only been indicted on federal cocaine charges like the Giuliani "official" South Carolina campaign chairman...or endorsed for Secretary of Homeland Security to the Bush administration like Rudy Giuliani's business partner, Bernard Kerik...or arrested for soliciting sex in a public restroom like Senator McCain's "official" campaign operative in Florida...or plead guilty to disorderly conduct in Minnesota after being arrested for soliciting sex in a Minneapolis airport bathroom while serving as the "official" Idaho chairman for the Romney campaign...or raised thousands of dollars for numerous GOP candidates...including the President...before pleading guilty to fraud, tax evasion, and conspiracy...then just maybe his inferred "unofficial" role in the Clinton campaign wouldn't be such a serious matter worthy of intense scrutiny.

Better yet, if Mr. Berger had worked for the Vice President, he may have garnered the sympathy of the Bush administration and received a commutation from none other than the President.

Too bad Mr. Berger isn't a Republican...they have so much more experience with these types of situations.

Image courtesy of Talk Left

Tagged as: Bernard Kerik, Hillary Clinton, Hypocrisy, Jack Abramoff, John McCain, Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, Sandy Berger, Scooter Libby

Daniel DiRito | October 8, 2007 | 5:31 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Hypocrisy: If Only Sandy Berger Were A Republican? genre: Polispeak & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

The Usual Suspects

There are days when I wish the blogosphere would disappear...and then I reconsider because by and large it is a valuable venue for the exchange of ideas and information. Unfortunately, there are times when the content provides more spin than a spinning class at the health club.

One of those items is making the rounds today and it involves an article in the Examiner which makes the assertion that Sandy Berger is a foreign policy advisor for the Clinton campaign...a fact the Senator's staff has denied. The focus, of course, is on the fact that Berger was caught removing classified documents from the National Archives.

Sandy Berger, who stole highly classified terrorism documents from the National Archives, destroyed them and lied to investigators, is now an adviser to presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton. Berger, who was fired from John Kerry’s presidential campaign when the scandal broke in 2004, has assumed a similar role in Clinton’s campaign, even though his security clearance has been suspended until September 2008. This is raising eyebrows even among Clinton’s admirers. “It shows poor judgment and a lack of regard for Berger’s serious misdeeds," said law professor Jonathan Adler of Case Western Reserve University, who nonetheless called Clinton “by far the most impressive candidate in the Democratic field."

The Justice Department initially said Berger stole only copies of classified documents and not originals. But the House Government Reform Committee later revealed that an unsupervised Berger had been given access to classified files of original, uncopied, uninventoried documents on terrorism. Several Archives officials acknowledged that Berger could have stolen any number of items and they “would never know what, if any, original documents were missing."

At his sentencing in September 2005, Berger was fined $50,000, placed on probation for two years and stripped of his security clearance for three years.

The USA Today reported the following exchange with the Senator in which she denies that Berger is an advisor:

"He has no official role in my campaign. He's been a friend for more than 30 years. But he doesn't have any official role," Clinton said.

But he's an unofficial adviser, Susan asked?

"I have thousands of unofficial advisers," said Clinton, "and, you know, I appreciate all of that. But he has no official role in my campaign."

No doubt the Clinton response could have been better...but there is also a risk of overreacting to a non-event and giving it more credence than it warrants. Take whatever side you want on Senator Clinton's candidacy...but when this situation is coupled with the Obama lapel pin "scandal"...I find myself wondering what's next in the political pursuit of petty prevaricating.

Perhaps if Sandy Berger had only been indicted on federal cocaine charges like the Giuliani "official" South Carolina campaign chairman...or endorsed for Secretary of Homeland Security to the Bush administration like Rudy Giuliani's business partner, Bernard Kerik...or arrested for soliciting sex in a public restroom like Senator McCain's "official" campaign operative in Florida...or plead guilty to disorderly conduct in Minnesota after being arrested for soliciting sex in a Minneapolis airport bathroom while serving as the "official" Idaho chairman for the Romney campaign...or raised thousands of dollars for numerous GOP candidates...including the President...before pleading guilty to fraud, tax evasion, and conspiracy...then just maybe his inferred "unofficial" role in the Clinton campaign wouldn't be such a serious matter worthy of intense scrutiny.

Better yet, if Mr. Berger had worked for the Vice President, he may have garnered the sympathy of the Bush administration and received a commutation from none other than the President.

Too bad Mr. Berger isn't a Republican...they have so much more experience with these types of situations.

Image courtesy of Talk Left

Tagged as: Bernard Kerik, Hillary Clinton, Hypocrisy, Jack Abramoff, John McCain, Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, Sandy Berger, Scooter Libby

Daniel DiRito | October 8, 2007 | 5:31 PM | link | Comments (0)
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Politics: History & The Future - A Zero-Sum Equation? genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

A Zero-Sum Equation

Paul Krugman has an interesting opinion piece in today's New York Times in which he argues that, despite assertions to the contrary, the GOP (conservatism), under the tutelage of George W. Bush, "is the same as it ever was".

Generally speaking, Krugman makes a number of convincing points. While one could argue that some of his citations may have represented the actions of fringe figures who did not, at the time, actually denote conservatism, they did, in retrospect, assist in shaping our understanding of how it is presently defined. As such, it may well be reasonable to suggest that the tail wagged the dog. Regardless of the process, it is what it is.

There have been a number of articles recently that portray President Bush as someone who strayed from the path of true conservatism. Republicans, these articles say, need to return to their roots.

Well, I don't know what true conservatism is, but while doing research for my forthcoming book I spent a lot of time studying the history of the American political movement that calls itself conservatism — and Mr. Bush hasn’t strayed from the path at all. On the contrary, he's the very model of a modern movement conservative.

For example, people claim to be shocked that Mr. Bush cut taxes while waging an expensive war. But Ronald Reagan also cut taxes while embarking on a huge military buildup.

People claim to be shocked by the Bush administration's general incompetence. But disinterest in good government has long been a principle of modern conservatism. In "The Conscience of a Conservative," published in 1960, Barry Goldwater wrote that “I have little interest in streamlining government or making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size."

People claim to be shocked at the Bush administration's efforts to disenfranchise minority groups, under the pretense of combating voting fraud. But Reagan opposed the Voting Rights Act, and as late as 1980 he described it as "humiliating to the South."

People claim to be shocked at the Bush administration's attempts to equate dissent with treason. But Goldwater — who, like Reagan, has been reinvented as an icon of conservative purity but was a much less attractive figure in real life — staunchly supported Joseph McCarthy, and was one of only 22 senators who voted against a motion censuring the demagogue.

The above excerpts give the reader a taste of Krugman's argument but I highly suggest you read it in its entirety to garner the full flavor. My goal today isn't to focus upon the specifics of Krugman's piece. Rather, I will attempt to put forth a theory as to why the GOP has been so successful in its efforts to portray conservatism favorably and to paint liberalism as an unseemly scourge.

The short answer, which I intend to expand upon, is that the GOP has adopted the view that elections are best approached with little more than a strategy for success; relying upon current considerations to craft a palatable message which will garner the most votes. Part and parcel of this strategy is a willingness to maximize the visceral while not emphasizing the eRudyte. In so doing, they portray the opposition as pedantic elitists who revile the regular in favor of all that is highfalutin. In essence, they do not seek to elevate the electorate; they elect to engage it where it resides.

As such, they have demonstrated that intellect, while a requisite tool, should not be presumed to be singularly sufficient to secure success. Instead, it is more likely the subtle segue. Those with intellect must therefore be mindful of the needs of those they seek to enlist and enroll. Hence, the GOP has determined that intellect must be utilized to first manufacture the message and then apply history as an effective embellishment.

I contend that the Democrats suffer from a belief in the reverse; whereby they ascribe to the threadbare theory that the message is revealed through an understanding of history which will then also provide the reasoned rationale to embrace it. This might be effective if voters were content to discern their decisions accordingly. I'm not convinced they do.

We generally think that intelligence is a measurable trait and we purport to have the tests to prove that assertion. Little did we know, the equation is far more complex because we frequently equate success with intelligence even though the two are arguably not one and the same.

At the same time, the effort to divorce success from intelligence is far more difficult than the effort to marry the two. In acknowledging as much, perhaps the notion of a zero-sum equation is better suited to understanding intelligence than economics...or perhaps in all human interactions, they are both essential integers in an elaborate formula which will always lead us to a sum of zero.

If one accepts that premise, and I contend the argument is compelling, then success and intelligence are clearly dependent upon each individual's stated objectives. Alas, one must therefore conclude that the moment individual objectives (arguably read as the pursuit of power in politics) become the relevant considerations, everything suddenly becomes subjective...and the slippery slope of sagacity is exposed. Notwithstanding, it is arguably the mechanism by which the human experience unfolds. Success, power, and prosperity may all flow from intellect...but how each is defined may be different for each one of us. More importantly, how they are achieved is no doubt a function of countless formula's.

For example, a scorned spouse who elects murder over divorce may well equate intellect and success with ending the life of their partner. The fact that we have law enforcement suggests the formidability of the criminal mind...wrong as its objectives may be. Despite the fact that faith may tell many of us that death isn't a zero-sum equation, some individuals operate as if it is; therefore believing that accelerating it's occurrence meets with their notion of success.

Conversely, one could also argue that premature death equates with a form of success...albeit one that shifts the individual to a new reality which many of us embrace in the abstract but rarely as a matter of choice. While this is an extreme example, it clearly illustrates that success and intellect are difficult to define...and we haven't even touched on the millions of other definable constructs. With regard to politics, this exercise ought to tell us that there are numerous definitions of success.

Coming back to the Krugman piece, yes, there is little doubt that the GOP is in trouble. At the same time, the argument herein points to the risks associated with all efforts to simplify our understandings of where they've been, where they're at, and where they're going. Without knowing how other's define and pursue success, little can be unequivocally discerned. The fact that the players change over time serves to minimize our predictive capacities even though it creates our history.

Krugman's ability to trace the history of the GOP to this moment in time will not insure success for the Democrats nor will it preclude the GOP from rapidly revising its message and accessorizing it with seemingly edible accoutrements. Democrats may be justified in believing that history illuminates our heritage and therefore our destiny...but if they get caught flat-footed, they run the risk of being duped by the GOP's documented dance of dexterity...a dance found in countless iterations throughout all of human history.

That would seem to suggest that today's "successes" are destined to be defined as some expression of intellect in the future...if for no other reason than they influenced it. Nevertheless, only one thing is certain - history remains uncertain so long as the future arrives. Isn't it possible that should lead us to presume that the sum is zero because the equation remains infinitely incomplete?

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Conservatism, Death, Democrats, Faith, George W. Bush, GOP, History, Intellect, Paul Krugman, Politics, Success, Zero-Sum Equation

Daniel DiRito | October 8, 2007 | 10:38 AM | link | Comments (0)
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October 6, 2007

Faux News: Chirs Matthews Is Mean; NBC Is Biased genre: Polispeak & Video-Philes

Good news comrades. Chris Matthews has made the journey to the dark side...at least according to Faux News and a number of the loyal "Repeat-Agains" in wingnut world.

Matthews, while attending an event celebrating the tenth year of Hardball, his MSNBC program, is reported to have remarked that the Bush administration had finally been "caught in their criminality".

For me, Matthews is a mixed bag...sometimes I appreciate his candor and other times it's all too apparent that he has an axe to grind. Regardless, the fact that Faux News decided to weigh in on "fair and balanced" reporting is priceless.

Knowing as much, I may actually have to pay more attention to Matthews in the future. Poor Fox News...they must feel like the last man aboard the SS George W. Bush. That could be a dangerous place to be for people who still think the world is flat.

From The New York Post:

October 6, 2007 -- So, should viewers of Tuesday's Republican presidential debate expect an exchange of views between the candidates - or between the candidates and one of the event's moderators?

It's a fair question, given the jaw-dropping comments Thursday evening from MSNBC blowhard - and scheduled debate moderator - Chris Matthews.

He compared this White House's behavior with another one, saying, "Spiro Agnew was not an American hero."

Of the vice president, Matthews said, "God help us if we had Cheney during the Cuban missile crisis. We'd all be under a parking lot."

By engaging in this sort of intemperate rhetoric, Matthews has effectively disqualified himself as an "honest broker" for this coming debate.

NBC needs to replace him as a debate moderator immediately. The job - by definition - requires an attempt to display objectivity going into an event.

Given Matthews' outrageous rhetoric - and if MSNBC doesn't haul him off the debate forthwith - the GOP candidates would be well within their rights to stay home, too.

Otherwise, viewers should just change the channel.

________________________________________________

Frankly, I think the Post is making a mistake in calling for GOP candidates to stay home or for viewers to change the channel. I think it will only send more viewers to their TV sets...and I think Matthews may have more credibility that the Post may realize.

If this trend continues, we may not be able to find a moderator for any of the debates. After all, these poor candidates are fragile little flowers who shouldn't be put to the test by a partisan pundit with an opinion...that would be cruel, wouldn't it?

I suspect voters are feeling increasingly insulted when networks, newspapers, and internet pundits tell them what to think and what to watch. In the end, aren't the debates supposed to get candidates to share their positions with the voting public? If not, what purpose do they serve?

The following video is a segment from Faux News where they discuss the "appalling" impartiality of MSNBC and Chris Matthews.

H/T to Cliff Schecter

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Chris Matthews, Debates, Dick Cheney, Fox News, George W. Bush, GOP, Hardball, MSNBC

Daniel DiRito | October 6, 2007 | 10:05 AM | link | Comments (0)
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October 5, 2007

U.S. Politics: Substance Gave Way To The Superficial? genre: Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

With the 2008 presidential campaign in full swing, we are beginning to see each campaign initiate efforts to cast doubt on the opposition. As the primaries approach, candidates hasten their attempts to derail each other's momentum in order to position themselves for the primaries as well as the general election.

Over the years, the methods and means utilized to achieve these goals have become far more negative. At the same time, the rhetoric and the rationale of each candidate has also become far more superficial. While it is easy to assail politicians for the current environment, one mustn't ignore the fact that the voting public has lowered the bar...demanding less substance and accepting more hyperbole. Frankly, clever phrases and short sound bites work because voters have embraced the simplistic nature of partisan politics over the complexity of careful consideration.

Simultaneously, the passage of time tends to anesthetize us...enabling us to travel great distances without an understanding of where we began nor a recognition of where we've arrived. Such journeys are fraught with danger as they are journeys which often occur more by chance born of complacency than by choice derived from deliberation. The former tends to leave us tone deaf while the latter has the potential to launch a legion of luminaries. One is a series of steps in the sand; quickly washed away by the wind...the other is a map of measured marks; able to withstand the worst of storms.

One recent event illuminates the importance of remembering our roots and respecting the growth they so eloquently engender. As such, a tree provides an important metaphor...one which should remind us to look beyond the surface. Hence, we arrive at the substance of my musing. It is a mistake and a miscalculation to malign the absence of a flag pin on the lapel of Senator Obama. What's not present on the surface likely tells us little about what lies beneath. To conclude otherwise negates our journey, ignores our roots, and darkens our destiny.

After completing the below graphic, I came across an article by Andrew Sullivan in which he points to a Wall Street Journal piece which was written by Peggy Noonan. While no fan of Noonan, her thoughts amplified my concerns with the criticism being directed at Senator Obama. Taken together, their thoughts provided the symmetry that can only come with the passage of time and an appreciation for what history can teach us about ourselves and the prospects of our future. I offer the following excerpts...first Noonan, then Sullivan.

From Peggy Noonan - The Wall Street Journal:

Barack Obama has a great thinking look. I mean the look he gets on his face when he's thinking, not the look he presents in debate, where they all control their faces knowing they may be in the reaction shot and fearing they'll look shrewd and clever, as opposed to open and strong. I mean the look he gets in an interview or conversation when he's listening and not conscious of his expression. It's a very present look. He seems more in the moment than handling the moment. I've noticed this the past few months, since he entered the national stage. I wonder if I'm watching him more closely than his fellow Democrats are.

Mr. Obama often seems to be thinking when he speaks, too, and this comes somehow as a relief, in comparison, say, to Hillary Clinton and President Bush, both of whom often seem to be trying to remember the answer they'd agreed upon with staff. [...]

You get the impression Mr. Obama trusts himself to think, as if something good might happen if he does. What a concept. Anyway, I've started to lean forward a little when he talks.

Mr. Obama is fortunate to have one with the grace and vigor of Ted Sorensen, John F. Kennedy's great staffer and speechwriter, who told me this week, "I am supporting Obama."

When I asked if his support was connected in any way to the idea of breaking away from the Bush-Clinton-Bush rotation, he said, "Above all, I believe this country needs change, and continuing the 20-year hold on the White House of the same two families is not my idea of change."

The Bushes are winners; the Clintons are winners. We know this, they've won. The Bushes are wired into the Republican money-line system; the Clintons are wired into the Democratic money-line system. For a generation, two generations now, they have had the same dynamics in play, only their friends are on the blue team, not the red, or the red, not the blue.

Is this good for our democracy, this air of inevitability? Is it good in terms of how the world sees us, and how we see ourselves? Or is it something we want to break out of, like a trance?

From Andrew Sullivan - The Atlantic:

I don't always agree with her [Noonan], but she represents for me that brand of blue-state conservatism that came of age in the Reagan era, one that was often Catholic (though not dogmatically so), repelled by the bile of the far left, respectful of religion and tradition but very much at ease with the modern world, often urban and ethnic, and very susceptible to the charm and rhetoric and deep seriousness of Reagan. I guess she reminds me of my mum and sister. These kinds of conservatives are meritocrats. They were much more Reagan than Bush. And they are deeply distrustful of dynasty and inheritance. They're not country club Republicans. But they're not Dobsonites either. And they don't always vote for the party of the right.

I've been following him [Obama] for a while and got to interview him the other day for a forthcoming cover-piece in the Atlantic. He's still a real human being, a commoner. She's [Clinton] to the Manor wed. I don't believe this race is over. I think it has barely begun.

________________________________________________

Now it's no secret that Noonan and Sullivan both despise Hillary Clinton...which should make one skeptical of their words with regard to the selection of a Democratic presidential nominee. Moreover, Noonan may well be singing the merits of Obama as a result of her believing the GOP nominee stands a better chance to defeat him. On the other hand, I've found Sullivan to be more forthcoming so I doubt he would praise Obama just to undermine Clinton...though it is possible.

Regardless, both of them were Reaganites and see the former president as the last representation of a true conservative Republican. Truth be told, I suspect both of them believe George W. Bush squandered the Reagan legacy and will leave the GOP in a state of shambles...forced to grapple with its identity.

Unfortunately, the GOP's problems have become part and parcel of America's problem...a problem which has emerged under the tutelage of two families...a duality which has come to represent two distinct ideologies in a woefully divided nation.

In this dynamic, the nation and it's citizenry is therefore more susceptible to the pitfalls discussed above. Consequently, as the two sides have jockeyed for dominance, the words of the war have continued to escalate...and to devolve into narrow black and white arguments intended to mobilize the combatant constituencies. Success has become an equation dependent upon division.

As I think about the assault triggered by what isn't on Senator Obama's lapel, I can't help but think back to Ronald Reagan. In saying as much, I am not suggesting that President Reagan's policies were palatable to all Americans...they weren't. Notwithstanding, his approach to the political process...the means by which a president must govern in a two party nation...was in many ways functionally superior to what has now emerged at this juncture in the Bush and Clinton years.

When Ronald Reagan stated that he didn't wear his religion on his sleeve, he established a necessary barrier between political practicality and ideological intransigence...a move that arguably served both the president and the nation. In so doing, he also set a tone of moderation...one which has subsequently evaporated. Just the opposite is now the norm. Not only has politics moved away from moderation...moderation has become synonymous with capitulation to those on different sides of the political spectrum.

The nation that took Ronald Reagan at his word without demanding sacramental symbols...because it was brave enough to believe that his deeds would speak even louder...has seemingly lost its way. In the intervening years, emblems have become evidence of authenticity while reasonability has become the signature of insincerity.

If one endeavors to understand the statement of Barack Obama with regard to not wearing a flag pin on his lapel...and does so by first looking backward to Ronald Reagan and then coming forward to the present...he was, like Ronald Reagan, attempting to place substance ahead of superficiality...an action meant to suggest that living one's patriotism is preferential to dangling it as a badge. Further, he undoubtedly believes that love of country cannot be reduced to acts of symbolism...that it must be an ongoing set of actions meant to advance the nation; not just the political aspirations of one candidate or one party.

If we hope to reconnect with that which has steadfastly sustained us, integrity must emerge, sanctimony must surrender, and rancor must retreat. Ronald Reagan once said, "Each generation goes further than the generation preceding it because it stands on the shoulders of that generation." I'm afraid that before we can begin to do so again, we may first have to recommit to using what already sits atop our shoulders. If we do, perhaps we'll learn to look beyond each other's lapels.

The Evolution Of American Politics

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Andrew Sullivan, Barack Obama, George Bush, Hillary Clinton, Patriotism, Peggy Noonan, Ronald Reagan, U.S. Flag

Daniel DiRito | October 5, 2007 | 1:52 PM | link | Comments (2)
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October 4, 2007

Mitt Romney: He's Never Met A Position He Didn't Take genre: Gaylingual & Polispeak & Video-Philes

During the 2004 presidential election, much was made of John Kerry's statement, "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it". The remark was said to be evidence that the Senator was a flip-flopper...although one...

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Abortion, Flip-Flopper, GOP, John Kerry, LGBT, Log Cabin Republicans, Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, Roe v. Wade, Same-Sex Marriage, Ted Kennedy

Daniel DiRito | October 4, 2007 | 11:44 AM | link | Comments (0)
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October 3, 2007

Private Medicine Means No Medicine If You're Poor genre: Little Red Ribbon-Hood & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

As expected, George Bush has vetoed the expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) which was recently passed by wide bipartisan margins in the House and the Senate. The veto occurred without the fanfare which has typified...

Tagged as: Congress, George W. Bush, Health Care, Medicine, Poverty, SCHIP, Veto

Daniel DiRito | October 3, 2007 | 12:10 PM | link | Comments (0)
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October 2, 2007

Ending Discrimination: Put The "T" Back In ENDA? genre: Gaylingual & Polispeak

Efforts to pass The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) are once again encountering difficulties. The legislation has struggled for a number of years, having come very close in 1996; failing to pass by just one vote. With the legislation scheduled...

Tagged as: Congress, Discrimination, ENDA, Gay, LGBT, Transgendered

Daniel DiRito | October 2, 2007 | 7:10 PM | link | Comments (4)
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Rudy Giuliani: Continuing The Impotence Equation? genre: Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

I have a new theory...one that crystallized after reading Glen Greenwald's latest offering at Salon.com. My hypothesis is that the election of Rudy Giuliani as the next president would simply be a continuance of a phenomenon which I have...

Tagged as: 2008 Election, Cowboy Diplomacy, Fear, George W. Bush, Glen Greenwald, Iran, Iraq, Islam, Jamie Kirchick, Michelle Malkin, Norm Podhoretz, Psychology, Rudy Giuliani

Daniel DiRito | October 2, 2007 | 10:35 AM | link | Comments (1)
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