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Mainers Ask “What Side” Sens. Snowe And Collins Are On

The votes by Maine Republican Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins against the American Jobs Act, which Moody’s Analytics estimated would create nearly 2 million new jobs, have sparked protests in Augusta:

The ongoing series of Wall Street protests moved to Maine’s capital Thursday as about two dozen trade workers, state employees and residents held a rally calling for passage of a federal jobs bill and a new tax to pay for it.

“They got bailed out, we got sold out,” the protesters chanted from under their umbrellas as they left the State House in the rain for the federal building a couple of blocks away to deliver their demands to the offices of U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. Those demands included lists of projects that could be funded in Maine. […]

“Workers like us didn’t crash the economy; Wall Street did,” said Dawn Frank of Oxford, an electrician who has had difficulty finding work. “It’s been rough. It’s been rough for everybody. Let’s get Maine workers like me rebuilding our country.”

Donna Dachs, a retired teacher from Readfield, said the state’s schools, roads, bridges and ports urgently need upgrades.

And the protesters aren’t just unhappy with Wall Street — they want some answers from their senators, too:

The folks here, like Cokie Giles, President of the Maine State Nurses Association, say they want congress to pass legislation to create jobs. “The first one is good jobs with livable wages. There’s a difference between having a job and having livable wages,” Giles said. […]

Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins both voted against the president’s jobs bill earlier this week. A move that angered the people gathered in Augusta. “What we’re gonna do is ask Senators Snowe and Collins what side they’re on. Are they on Wall Street’s side or are they on Main street?” Giles asked the supporters.

That’s a good question — but Snowe has already answered it. In her five-paragraph statement about her vote against the jobs bill, Snowe indicated an objection to only one of the bill’s provisions: the surcharge on adjusted gross income in excess of one million dollars a year, which would affect only one-tenth of one percent of Maine residents.

So it’s pretty clear what side Snowe is on: She sides with the richest one-tenth of one percent of Mainers, and against 99.9 percent of her constituents. It really doesn’t get much clearer than that. But just to drive the point home, Snowe spoke to group of businessmen this morning, where she courageously told themtheir taxes are too high and they are over-regulated. That probably played better with the financial elites who fund her campaigns than with the struggling working-class voters who elect her, but it is neither the problem with the economy nor the solution to its problems. Snowe also backed a balanced budget amendment, which, according to Gus Faucher, Moody’s Analytics’ director of macroeconomics, “is likely to push the economy back into recession.” Naturally, Snowe didn’t explain how she’d balance the budget — she likes to leave the solutions to others.

 

Jamison Foser, Media Matters, October 14, 2011

October 17, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Congress, Conservatives, Democracy, Elections, GOP, Ideologues, Ideology, Income Gap, Middle Class, Taxes, Wall Street | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Conservatives Outraged Over Prosecution Of Terror Suspect In Criminal Court

A decidedly unremarkable event by past standards occurred yesterday. The U.S. government brought criminal terrorism charges in a New York City courtroom against a Somali man captured in the Gulf of Aden. This is the first prosecution in criminal court to happen during the Obama administration, but such cases have been a common and extremely successful feature of U.S. policy that passed without notice for decades. This move, however, has provoked the now-typical reaction from conservatives who reflexively oppose every Obama administration action as a radical departure from U.S. norms that threatens the security of the nation. That’s ridiculous, and these conservatives risk U.S. security by pushing to remove a very powerful weapon against terrorists.

Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame was reportedly seized in April onboard a ship in the Gulf of Aden between Somalia and Yemen. He is charged with conspiracy and providing material support to terrorist groups—in this case the Somali-based al-Shabaab and the Yemeni-based Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP.

The Obama administration revealed that Warsame was held on a U.S. Navy ship for two months and interrogated by the High-Value Interrogation Group, the team drawn from numerous frontline U.S. government agencies established by the Obama administration specifically to question suspected high-ranking terrorists. This produced significant information outlining a deeper connection between al-Shabaab and AQAP than previously known. U.S. officials reportedly discussed all options for Warsame’s future and unanimously decided on criminal prosecution.

Warsame’s trial in New York City is like many previous instances when individuals were seized abroad and brought to the United States to face terrorism charges in criminal court. The most recent similar case dates from the Bush administration, when Afia Siddique was detained in Afghanistan by U.S. troops in 2008 for attempting to shoot U.S. military personnel. She was quickly brought to New York,  convicted, and sentenced to 86 years in prison. During the Clinton administration, Mir Aimal Kasi stood outside CIA headquarters in Virginia in 1995 and murdered two CIA employees as they drove into work. He was captured in Pakistan in 1997 and brought to Virginia for trial, convicted of murder, and executed in 2002.

Neither of these cases or the others like them produced negative responses from conservatives. Once the Obama administration did it, however, conservatives were outraged.

Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said that “Congress has spoken clearly multiple times … of the perils of bringing terrorists onto U.S. soil.”

What perils? There has never been a terrorist attack related to the trial or incarceration of terrorists in the United States.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) said, “A foreign national who fought on behalf of al Shabaab in Somali—and who was captured by our military overseas—should be tried in a military commission, not a federal civilian court in New York or anywhere else in our country.”

Forcing all prosecutions of suspected terrorists into military commissions has political appeal because it sounds tougher than using criminal courts. But let’s look closer at that military commission option.

First off, Warsame has been charged only with conspiracy and military support for terrorism. Those offenses are available in military commissions but neither has ever been considered a war crime. For that reason, the Department of Justice believes that convictions on those offenses in military commissions are susceptible to being overturned on appeal.

Further, the extremely short record of military-commissions cases based on conspiracy or material support reveals that those convicted receive short sentences and are quickly transferred back to their home countries and released. The most famous of these cases was that of Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden’s driver, who was sentenced to only five additional months in custody. The Bush administration sent him home to Yemen soon after.

U.S. criminal courts, on the other hand, have an excellent record at convicting terrorists. In a case analogous to Hamdan’s, Ali Asad Chandia was convicted in 2006 of providing material support for terrorism for driving a member of Lashkar-e-Taibi from Washington National Airport to spots around the D.C. area. His sentence was 15 years. So bin Laden’s driver got five months from a military commission but driving an unknown member of a lesser-known terrorist group resulted in a 15-year sentence in a criminal court.

Since the 9/11 attacks, U.S. criminal courts have locked up more than 200 individuals on terrorism charges while military-commissions convictions can be counted on one hand.

American presidents of both parties have relied on criminal courts for decades because they are extremely effective at convicting suspected terrorists and have an excellent record of producing reliable and actionable intelligence information. Today’s conservatives are trying to deny the U.S. government this valuable tool because they are more interested in using political weapons against President Barack Obama than counterterrorism weapons against America’s enemies.

 

By: Ken Gude, Managing Director of the National Security and International Policy Program, Center for American Progress, July 6, 2011

July 6, 2011 Posted by | 911, Congress, Conservatives, Foreign Policy, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Justice Department, National Security, Neo-Cons, Politics, President Obama, Republicans, Right Wing, Terrorism | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

GOP Has 2012 Trouble: Attacking Medicare And Social Security Could Be Death Of Republicans’ 2012 Hopes

Recent weeks have finally defined the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. The field has finally achieved a greater level of clarity as many candidates have opted out, running the absurd-to-formidable gamut from Donald Trump to Mitch Daniels. A smaller number have opted in, running the has-been to may-never-be gamut from Newt Gingrich to Tim Pawlenty, not to mention former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who officially entered the race yesterday.

A former Minnesota governor, Pawlenty officially joined the wannabe ranks last week with a speech aimed at defining himself as a fearless teller of hard truths (previously he had perhaps best been known for lacking any definition at all). This is smart on several levels. He quickly moved to fill the void left by Daniels, the governor of Indiana, whom many in the party had yearned for as a tough-minded fiscal hawk. And in part it is a strong bid for the mantel of not-Romney, the alternative to the former Massachusetts governor and current GOP front-runner. Romney is a laughably transparent flip-flopper, so Pawlenty’s new truth-teller frame could make him an ideal foil.

Politicians love to position themselves as tellers of hard truths, brave enough to boldly level with the voters. And the current tempestuous political climate, with its roiling discontent with politics as usual, especially lends itself to such a pose. Pawlenty is merely the latest candidate to seize this meme.

But his candidacy runs squarely afoul of Robert’s 13th rule of politics: People like the idea of hard truths and hard-truth tellers much more than they like the reality of them. You can ask straight shooters like Walter Mondale (“Mr. Reagan will raise taxes, and so will I. He won’t tell you. I just did.”), Paul “I’m not Santa Claus” Tsongas, and John “Straight Talk” McCain. Winning the presidency requires an aspirational element at odds with the doom-and-gloom that comes with those self-consciously trying to speak hard truths.

So kudos to Pawlenty for standing up to big ethanol in little Iowa. But while some may take off their hats to him for traveling to Florida in order to call for overhauls (read: cuts) of Social Security and Medicare, it might be merely to scratch one’s head. As Hot Air blogger Allahpundit quipped after Pawlenty’s Florida performance, “Alternate headline: ‘Pawlenty now unelectable in not one but two early primary states.’ ”

Maybe this is actually deep strategy. Many conservatives and Tea Partyers in particular seem intent these days on—as Ronald Reagan used to complain of some of his more gung-ho supporters—going “off the cliff with all flags flying.” Perhaps this is a clever way for Pawlenty to appeal to that “I’d rather lose being right” instinct.

An additional problem for would-be hard-truth tellers is that in the telling, these so-called truths often become vehicles for an even harder ideology. The attempt to conflate serious problems with ideologically inflexible and partisan solutions can create political tensions and open deadly political rifts. See the political abyss House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan has marched his colleagues into over his plan to repeal and replace Medicare.

With the future insolubility of Medicare as a starting point, Ryan and the GOP have embarked on an emphatically ideological course. They hailed themselves as seriously facing a tough issue, and they spin the plan as an attempt to save the program, but all it would save would be the name “Medicare.” A guarantee of healthcare would be replaced with a voucher of diminishing value. If it fails to cover seniors’ costs . . . tough luck. The view was perhaps best summed up by Georgia GOP Rep. Rob Woodall, who chastised a constituent at a town hall meeting last month when she asked how, after Ryan’s reforms eliminated the guarantee of Medicare, she could expect to get medical coverage since she worked for a company that doesn’t offer it in their retirement package. “Hear yourself, ma’am,” he said. “You want the government to take care of you, because your employer decided not to take care of you. My question is, ‘When do I decide I’m going to take care of me?’ ”

Woodall, like many conservatives, fails to grasp why programs like Medicare were created. They were a response to a market failure—specifically an inability of senior citizens to get or pay for healthcare. But in Woodall’s world there are apparently no market failures; if seniors can’t get healthcare it’s because they simply won’t take responsibility for themselves. Of course in 1964, 44 percent of senior citizens had no health coverage, and the cost of medical bills had driven more than one third of them below the poverty line. If only they had had the moral fiber to take care of themselves!

Safe in a heavily conservative district, Woodall can spout such nonsense. But roughly 60 House Republicans represent districts Barack Obama won in 2008 and virtually all voted for the Ryancare overhaul. In this case, the gap between hard truths and hard ideology may be big enough to swallow a House majority.

Just ask the pollsters employed by the House GOP, who warned that the bill was a ticking time bomb, Politico reported last week. Or ask Jane Corwin, that bomb’s first casualty. She is the Republican who lost May’s special election in a GOP-leaning New York district in which the Ryan plan was the defining issue. Or ask Sens. Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, and Scott Brown, four of the five Senate Republicans who fled the plan last week (the fifth, Rand Paul, opposed it as not being conservative enough).

Or ask Gingrich, the former House speaker who drew party-wide opprobrium when he dismissed the Ryan plan as being so much “right-wing social engineering.” Pity poor Newt: He was just trying to tell a hard truth.

 

By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, June 3, 2011

June 3, 2011 Posted by | Conservatives, Consumers, Elections, GOP, Health Care, Ideologues, Ideology, Medicaid, Medicare, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, Senate, Seniors, Tea Party, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Congress And The War Powers Resolutions: Libya Airstrikes Constitutionally Legit

Under the Constitution, only Congress has the power to “declare war.” The president, however, has ample authority to use military force without a “declaration of war” where the anticipated U.S. engagement in hostilities is limited in its expected nature, scope and duration. Presidential administrations of both political parties have recognized a long tradition that supports this use of force. And Congress has acknowledged its legitimacy as well.

The authority for the president to act without specific congressional authorization is set out in two opinions of the Office of Legal Counsel. The first, issued in 1994, defends the plan to send 20,000 troops into Haiti and the second, issued in 1995, provides the legal authority for the use of air power in Bosnia. (I should note that I was head of OLC at the time these opinions were issued).

As these opinions note, the structure of the War Powers Resolution enacted by Congress necessarily presupposes the existence of unilateral presidential authority to deploy armed forces “into hostilities or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances.” The resolution requires that, in the absence of a declaration of war, the president must report to Congress within 48 hours of introducing armed forces into such circumstances and must terminate the use of U.S. armed forces within 60 days unless Congress permits otherwise. This structure makes sense only if the president may introduce troops into hostilities or potential hostilities without prior authorization by the Congress: the resolution regulates such action by the president and seeks to set limits to it.

President Obama has fully complied with the reporting requirements set out by Congress in the War Powers Resolution. To be sure, the resolution declares that it should not be construed to grant any new authority to the president. But it obviously assumes that the president already had such authority, and sets out reporting (and subsequent withdrawal) requirements when he exercises that power.

It has been 15 years since these OLC opinions were issued and widely discussed. In that time, Congress has continued to provide for military forces to be deployed throughout the world without placing any restrictions that would preclude their use in circumstances such as those presented by Haiti, Bosnia and Libya. Under well-established precedents endorsed by both the executive and congressional branches of the national government, there is no doubt of the legitimacy of the president’s use of force in Libya.

By: Walter Dellinger, Visiting Professor of Law, Harvard University; Former Assistant Attorney General and Head, Office of Legal Council. Article published in The Arena, Politico, March 22, 2011

March 22, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Constitution, Foreign Policy, Libya, Middle East, Military Intervention, National Security, No Fly Zones, Politics, President Obama, Qaddafi, War | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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