United States News Digest
Bush Asserts 'Unitary Executive' Privilege vs. Congress
On the same day that President Bush held a televised ceremony to sign his torture bill, he quietly accompanied his signing of the 2007 Defense Authorization Act with the issuance of a "signing statement" objecting to no less than 17 of its provisions. Among requirements that Bush asserts he may ignore: a provision that his defense budget submissions include Afghan and Iraq war funding; and a detailed justification of the war funds. He also objected to the requirement that he name a special coordinator of policy for North Korea within 60 days, and that he provide Congress with a report on the program to replace some nuclear warheads on Trident submarine-launched ballistic missiles with conventional warheads.
The statement says: "The executive branch shall construe these provisions in a manner consistent with the President's constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch and to recommend for the consideration of the Congress such measures as the President deems necessary and expedient."
Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, was unaware of the signing statement until he was told about it by a reporter at a press conference. Asked about the requirement that funding for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars be included in the regular Defense budget, Levin said: "I'm very dubious he'll abide by it. He's ignored it when we've stated it before." Levin pointed out that this was "a bipartisan expression about responsible budgeting ... to ignore them in the regular budget is to be irresponsible. But that's the way he's handled the funding of this war."
Clinton Defends the Common Good
Speaking at his alma mater Georgetown University Oct. 18, former President Bill Clinton challenged his audience to realize that the 18th-Century concept of our Founding Fathers for a "more perfect union" means today "a permanent mission for America, designed to make America a permanent work in progress." What he took away from his college experience is that "ideas matter, ... that thinking and reasoning matter, that ideas have consequences, and that in politics that means ideas lead to policies" which impact people's lives.
That mission, now, is threatened by an "ideological right-wing element of the Republican Party" which insists on "unilateralism." He pointed to Bush's new national security space policy released Oct. 18 whereby U.S. dominance, it argues, must prevail, and that when 160 countries were asked to vote on "making outer space weapons-free, the vote was 159-1 to do it." Next, he raised the "legitimate concern about North Korean nuclear tests [and] Iran's nuclear ambitions." But, he noted, for the last six years, U.S. policy funding development of a "nuclear bunker buster" bomb and a "tactical battlefield nuclear weapon," has "weakened our position" to negotiate. "There is a sense that the world is divided between the good guys and the bad guys, and the good guys should have their nuclear weapons and the bad guys shouldn't." Rather, he argued, "I think a common good approach on national security worked."
Finally, Clinton recounts that the "ideologues in the current government" tag him and "even moderate Republicans like Colin Powell and Admiral Scowcroft, as lesser political mortals" because from their perspective, "we are trapped in 'the reality-based world.'" By that, he said, "they mean 'we are an empire, we're the world's only military superpower, and you can use power to change reality. And if you don't see that, then you'll always be condemning your country to a lesser status.'"
LaRouche: Dems Can't Win; But GOP can Lose
The Democrats are incapable of winning, but the Republicans can lose, noted political strategist Lyndon LaRouche, on May 19. Indeed, a survey of changing electoral winds and the "wisdom" of political pundits from today's media outlets confirms this analysis. GOP House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) told Fox News, "all of our numbers look pretty bad. And there's no question that there's a jet stream in our face.... I think that we'll lose a few seats in the House." A Time magazine report says that unnamed Republican officials "now concede they could lose a net of 23 to 27 seats in the House." The Democrats only need net 15 to take control. Here's a sample of the line-up:
Virginia: The Oct. 18 "Allen Report" of Time magazine says "strategists for both parties ... believe control of the Senate could turn on a race that wasn't on anyone's toss-up list two months ago," i.e., Democratic challenger Jim Webb of Virginia could defeat Sen. George Allen, whose desperate response is to bring in President Bush to campaign for him. Latest polls show Webb, the former Navy Secretary in the Reagan Administration, in a statistical dead heat with Allen, whose campaign has been dogged by charges of racism and other problems.
Ohio: Desperate gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell (R), who is trailing Rep. Ted Strickland (D) by 27 points in the polls, dredged up an old 1990s misdemeanor sex scandal involving a staffer hired by Strickland. The charge has long been refuted and Strickland, a psychologist and minister, has won election to Congress twice since then.
In the U.S. Senate race between Rep. Sherrod Brown (D) and incumbent Sen. Mike DeWine (R), National Republican Committee chair Ken Mehlman, defensively reacting to an Oct. 16 New York Times report that the RNC had given up on the DeWine race and planned to spend its money elsewhere, told Time: "No state will receive more resources from the RNC than Ohio." Mehlman also announced the RNC will now spend "millions more on turn-out and message," as a new attack ad against Brown was released.
Maryland: The Nat'l Republican Senate Committee will spend $650,000 on Lt. Gov. Mike Steele's campaign for U.S. Senate against Ben Cardin (D) in a race that is too close to call. Steele has distanced himself from the President's policies on the campaign trail.
Minnesota: CQ Politics.com now rates the House contest in Minnesota's 1st CD as "leans Republican, from Republican favored." Poll data and reports from state political analysts indicate Democrat Tim Walz, a retired command sergeant in the Army National Guard and high school teacher, is gaining steam in his bid to upset six-term Republican Rep. Gil Gutknecht. Walz just got an infusion of cash too.
Another GOP Candidate Calls on Rumsfeld To Resign
Washington State GOP Senate candidate Mike McGavick, who is challenging Democratic incumbent Maria Cantwell, called Oct. 16 for the replacement of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and the creation of a bipartisan panel to propose new directions for the Iraq war. Asked if he was breaking with the White House, McGavick told AP, "I am trying to concentrate on what Congress should be doing when confidence [in the Bush Administration's Iraq policy] is sliding. Congress has been standing by, watching this." While McGavick indicated that his statement was inspired by the criticisms of Administration policy by Republican Senators John Warner (VA) and Chuck Hagel (Neb), Warner distanced himself from McGavick's call for Rumsfeld's resignation and for a bipartisan panel.
Former FDA Chief Owned Stocks in Regulated Companies
Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Lester Crawford pleaded guilty Oct. 17 to conflict-of-interest and false-reporting charges, for owning stocks in companies considered "significantly regulated" by the FDA, while acting head of the agency for a year, and then confirmed head for two months in late 2005, before resigning abruptly. While serving, he earned nearly $42,000 from illegally owned shares and owned between $188,000 and $336,000 in shares of Pepsico, Inc., Sysco Corp., Kimberly-Clark Corp., Wal-Mart stores, and biotech company Embrex.
Crawford, while serving as acting FDA head, tried to get rid of the whistleblower who revealed that the drug companies were calling the shots at the FDA, and who refused to approve importation of flu vaccines from Canada or Germany in the 2004 "go flu yourself" epidemic. According to the Washington Post Oct. 17, the agency, which regulates almost one-quarter of the U.S. economy, has had a confirmed commissioner for less than two years since the Bush Administration came into office.
Kerry: Bush Administration in 'World of Make Believe'
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who gave a high-profile speech in New Hampshire Oct. 14, appeared Oct. 15 on Fox News Sunday, and was interviewed by Bob Woodward in the Washington Post. In each venue he attacked the Administration strongly, including characterizing the North Korean nuclear test as the "Bush bomb," and the Administration as a "house of lies."
Kerry's aggressiveness vis-a-vis Chris Wallace of Fox News was reminiscent of Bill Clinton, as he challenged the set-up, lying, narrow questions. Substantively, he called for bilateral talks with North Korea, and the abandonment of a policy of "regime change" for that nation. He cited Eisenhower and Nixon a couple times for having taken a reasonable approach to diplomacy, and blamed the Administration's "ideological" approach for having derailed the previous agreements with North Korea.
Murtha Restates Case for Iraq Withdrawal
In a Washington Post op-ed Oct. 15, Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa) said that the Republicans are "running scared," and reiterated his sound arguments that the U.S. military has done all it can do in Iraq, and that the Administration had better come up with a reasonable timetable for withdrawing. Murtha declared his regret for voting for the war authorization, cited the retired generals' statements, and asked if the Administration is prepared to label the likes of Eisenhower, Colin Powell, and James Baker III as "defeatists."
Murtha concluded: "Democrats are fighting a war on two fronts: One is combating the spin and intimidation that defines this Administration. The other is fighting to change course, to do things better, to substitute smart, disciplined strategy for dogma and denial in Iraq.
"That's no defeatism. That's our duty," the war hero said.