15 September 2005

Live Blogging: Presidential Address

9:02 PM - President Bush's walk to the podium was a bad start. In 2001, it would have worked. But now everyone is so used to these dramatic entrances that appear forced and a little phony.

9:04 PM - The president's story about the citizen who lost everything but his spirit was a nice touch. While it is a political trick used by all politicians to tell a "real" story, it still works.

9:07 PM - Will President Bush address the issue of race? He has to. If he doesn't, he is a coward. I hope he does. It is important for the nation that we have an honest discussion about race and Katrina.

9:11 PM - I'm glad that the president has credited those who have opened their doors to evacuees. Those are the real heroes, and I'm glad they weren't overlooked.

9:14 PM - The president appears to be doing OK, not great. I do have a problem with his words about the rebuilding without any explanation of his administration's decision to suspend the federal Davis-Bacon law, which guarantees that all construction jobs be paid a fair wage.

Most should suspect that our tax dollars will go to increasing big corporations' bottom lines, while they exploit illegal aliens, not U.S. citizens, for their labor.

9:18 PM - The president is listing his three initiatives, and he mentioned tax cuts for businesses in the New Orleans area. From a policy standpoint, this is a good idea. From a political standpoint, the president should have not made this his number one priority. The president is becoming predictable when it comes to tax cuts. It's always his first priority.

This wouldn't be bad except for the way that Republicans have put tax cuts over other priorities in dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Immediately after the disaster, the RNC pushed for eliminating the estate tax. Then Congress wanted to extend tax cuts for capital gains and dividend income. Shameless!

9:20 PM - The president just mentioned "weapons of mass destruction." I hope he didn't really mean "weapons of mass destruction programs!"

9:24 PM - The president is talking about how strong we are as a nation. This is the kind of talk that America needs to hear. Of course, it would have been nice if he said this a week ago, but I guess it is better late than never.

9:25 PM - The speech is over. Not as strong an ending as we are used to from this president. I can't see how this speech solves the president's problems.

9:28 PM - I'm still amazed at how weak the speech's closing was. The president tried too hard to speak in terms that the people of New Orleans would understand, but it didn't appear as if he felt it. It was just like John Kerry when he went hunting in Ohio. Just a little too phony.

9:31 PM - FOX News has four right-wing conservatives critiquing the speech. How fair & balanced! It's too bad that FOX is so willing to mislead its viewers. It's even worse that there are people that buy this stuff.

9:34 PM - The woman on FOX News discussed how Bush appeared to take an LBJ-style liberal view on poverty when addressing the United Nations this week. Of course, most believe that liberals better handle domestic issues. It is wise for the president to lurch left.

9:35 PM - Sean Hannity has Governor Barbour on the show. I wonder how long until the smearing of Governor Blanco begins! She has done a remarkable job. She has handled two storms - Hurricane Katrina and the attacks launched at her by Republicans in Washington.

9:38 PM - On MSNBC, Tucker Carlson, who just called himself a "right-winger," is ripping the speech, because the president came across as "liberal-lite." The president acknowledged that racism causes poverty and has proposed more government. Tucker believes that the right-wing base of the Republican Party is going to be upset with the speech.

9:40 PM - "He (President Bush) is a big spender," said self-proclaimed right-winger Tucker Carlson.

9:43 PM - Congressman Elijah Cummings of Maryland has given the president some credit for taking a more liberal approach to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He did say that "the devil is in the details," and this is so true. Vague policy speeches are fine, but let's see what the Bush administration does with it.

9:45 PM - Cummings blasted all those critics who are discussing cost. He mentioned that this is about human lives, not money. Well said Congressman.

His comment about how if we can rebuild Iraq, we can surely rebuild the Gulf Coast was brilliant!

9:46 PM - Barbour is now on MSNBC. He talking about tax cuts and how important they are. Apparently, Barbour got the RNC talking points.

9:47 PM - Chris Matthews asked Barbour if he agreed with Blanco's statement that the federal government should pick up 100% of the tab to clean up the Gulf Coast. Barbour dodged the question and Matthews let him off the hook. It is a shame how the Republicans have made this disaster such a partisan issue.

9:50 PM - A black business owner said that he doesn't think racism is the biggest issue. He said that it is money and whether businesses in New Orleans are used or whether the federal government outsources all the work to carpet baggers.

9:54 PM - Senator David Vitter (R-Louisiana) is speaking to Rita Crosby. He's talking tax cuts too. Again, those RNC talking points really made the rounds.

Vitter is an absolute embarrassment to the state. He came out initially after the storm and attacked the federal government. Then when he remembered that he was a Republican, he flip-flopped and praised the federal government, while attacking Governor Blanco. What a disgrace!

9:58 PM - Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley said that the speech probably came up short. Brinkley said the speech was 10-days late, it was not a memorable speech, and it won't stop the loss of confidence that people now have in the president.

UPDATE: Read the speech transcript. View the speech at Inside Politics at CNN.

09 September 2005

Compassionate Conservatism among casualties of Katrina

As the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina unfolds on television, Americans are increasingly disgusted with the lack of leadership shown by the Bush administration. President George W. Bush has scored low marks with the American people, with an overwhelming majority saying that he botched the handling of the infamous category 5 hurricane that hit the Gulf Coast two weeks ago.

According to a recent CBS poll, only 38 percent of Americans approved of Bush's response to the hurricane, while Zogby found only 36 percent of Americans approved of President Bush's handling of Hurricane Katrina. The Pew Research Center had the worst news for Bush, showing only 28 percent of Americans approving of Bush's response to the hurricane [PDF - 84 KB].

The Bush White House is desperately trying to salvage their public relations nightmare. Today, the Brownie was out and the girl scout was in. Michael D. Brown, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, was ousted from his position overseeing the hurricane cleanup, and former Bush Communication czar, Karen Hughes was brought in as the Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy. If anyone can spin the White House out of this mess, it is the French-born Karen Hughes.

Unfortunately for Hughes, too many Republicans have gone off script and have given her more work than necessary. Republicans love to tell people that they care about average Americans, not just the rich ones. Sadly, no one's buying it. And this week, too many Republicans showed their true colors. Here are some memorable quotes by our favorite compassionate conservatives.

- Barbara Bush, showing that blue blood that has been a strong Bush family trait - 09/05/05

- RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman, responding to the Democrats' call for accountability - 09/07/05

- RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman, discussing the RNC's top priority as thousands of fellow Americans die in the South - 09/01/05 (only 3 days after the hurricane hit the Gulf Coast)

- Congressman Tom Tancredo (R-Texas), writing Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois) and calling for a halt to emergency funds to the areas hithard by Hurricane Katrina - 09/07/05

- Congressman Richard Baker (R-Louisiana), overheard speaking to a group of lobbyists.

- Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania) - 09-03 or 04/05

- Right-wing TV and radio commentator Bill O'Reilly - 09-02-05

- U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois) - 08/31/05

- U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, blaming the victims of Hurricane Katrina

- Michael D. Brown, DHS Undersecretary of Homeland Security for Emergency Preparedness and Response

05 September 2005

Scalia and Thomas are big losers in Roberts CJ nomination

As featured today on Daily Kos.

This morning, President George W. Bush nominated Judge John G. Roberts, Jr. to be the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. This nomination comes in the wake of the death of former Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, who died over the weekend from cancer at the age of 80 years old.

While liberal groups will never admit it, this is good news for their cause. Roberts is seen to be conservative, but much less so than his likely predecessor. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has promised to remain on the court until her replacement is found, so for the brief time that Roberts is the Chief and the Court is filled at nine sitting justices, the U.S. Supreme Court will actually be more liberal than the court under Rehnquist.

The big losers in this announcement are the extreme right-wing activists, particularly those of the religious right, who have been hoping for a Chief Justice Scalia or Thomas. Both of those scenarios are now impossible.

Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas are extremely conservative and very activist jurists. If the religious right and those in the conservative community were hoping for a court aimed at overturning liberal precedence, those were the two men they needed in the Chief Justice position.

While he is conservative, Roberts has been a vocal advocate for judicial restraint and does not feel that the Court should actively overturn precedence. Roberts has told senators privately that he will "respect settled law" if approved to the Supreme Court. This statement is important for those who fear Roberts might vote to overturn the 1973 landmark case, Roe v. Wade, which recognized a woman's right to privacy when making reproductive decisions.

This morning's announcement is historic. The big winner is obviously Judge Roberts. At the age of 50, he is guaranteed to head the High Court for possibly 30 or 40 years.

Believe it or not, the other winners are the liberal groups, like NARAL, People For the American Way, and others. Of course, they'll never be happy with any of Bush's nominees, but this is definitely the best that they could ever hope for.

The big losers are the right-wing groups, like Progress For America, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, and especially the religious right, who will now witness a U.S. Supreme Court that will briefly move to the left but in the end stay virtually the same.

And of course, the biggest losers are Justices Scalia and Thomas. These two men dreamed of heading the High Court, and Bush would have preferred to select one of them for Chief. Unfortunately, timing is everything, and Rehnquists death prior to the Roberts' hearing ruled out their chances and extinguished their dreams of serving as Chief Justice of the United States.

03 September 2005

BREAKING NEWS: Chief Justice Rehnquist dies

Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, the ultraconservative activist jurist on the nation's highest court, has passed away at his home in Virginia. Rehnquist was 80 years old.

"The Chief Justice battled thyroid cancer since being diagnosed last October and continued to perform his dues on the court until a precipitous decline in his health the last couple of days," said Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg.

Rehnquist was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1971 by President Richard Nixon and was elevated to Chief Justice by President Ronald Reagan in 1986. During his time as head of the court, the Rehnquist Court proved to be the most activist court in U.S. history, striking down more acts of Congress than any other court.

The death of Rehnquist creates an opportunity for President George W. Bush to nominate another conservative jurist to the bench. But the death of the leading activist conservative doesn't give the president much room to move to the right.

With the confirmation hearings for Judge John G. Roberts, Jr. scheduled to begin on Tuesday, the whole situation may get flipped on its head. How will the extremist groups on the right and those groups on the left react? Will the fight intensify? My guess is yes.

UPDATE: Conservative pundit George Will, on ABC News' This Week, declared the Rehnquist Court to be the most activist in American history, striking down 30 acts of Congress. This number has not even been approached by any other court. The panel also noted the most activist decision of the Court's history, Bush v. Gore, which occurred under Rehnquist's watch.

30 August 2005

Help the victims of Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina is behind us, but for many the pain is just beginning. Whether you're a bleeding-heart liberal or a compassionate conservative, please give what you can to help our fellow Americans in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, and elsewhere.

Below is a post by DNC contributor Josh McConaha on the Democratic National Committee's blog. In order to be bipartisan, I checked the Republican National Committee's web site to include their message as well, but nothing was available.

The DNC blog posting provides very important information regarding the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Even after being hit by Katrina, the situation in the Gulf states continues to worsen...

In Mississippi, hundreds are feared dead.

Helicopters plucked frantic survivors from rooftops of inundated homes on Tuesday and officials said hundreds of people may have died in Hurricane Katrina's attack on the U.S. Gulf Coast, which sent a wall of water into Mississippi and flooded New Orleans.

The economic cost of the hurricane's rampage could be the highest in U.S. history, according to damage estimates.

"The devastation is greater than our worst fears," Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco told a news conference. "It's totally overwhelming."

New Orleans is
filling with water. The mayor is saying 80% of the city is underwater.

The historic city of New Orleans was steadily filling with water from nearby Lake Ponchartrain on Tuesday after its defenses were breached by the ferocity of hurricane Katrina.

With the floodwaters rising in many areas, threatening the French Quarter, residents were plucked from the roofs of their homes, bodies were seen floating in the streets and rescuers searched the city in boats and helicopters.

"We probably have 80 percent of our city under water; with some sections of our city the water is as deep as 20 feet. Both airports are underwater," Mayor Ray Nagin told a radio interviewer.

Troops in Iraq are
worried about what's happened to their homes and families...

"It's a significant emotional event. Their families are on the forefront of the disaster," said Lt. Col. Jordan Jones of the 141st Field Artillery of the Louisiana National Guard.

"They're all watching TV and some have seen their neighborhoods completely submerged in water."

Jones, from Luling on the west bank of Lake Pontchartrain, said he hasn't been in touch with his own family for three days because of clogged phone lines, but that his neighbors had helped board up their home.

"It's hard, a lot of soldiers are watching this play-by-play, they're having a hard time," said Lt. Taysha Deaton, a spokeswoman for the unit.

Take time now to visit the American Red Cross website and donate to the relief efforts. This is bigger than politics - so many have already lost so much, we as a country need to band together to help.

Well said Josh!

28 August 2005

Harris stumbles on abortion issue

In an act of desperation, Congresswoman Katherine Harris (R-Sarasota) has decided to debate abortion in her attempt to unseat Democratic Senator Bill Nelson. Unfortunately for her, Harris has taken an extreme position that places her well outside the mainstream of Florida's voters, and she has flip-flopped as compared to prior statements.

Senator Bill Nelson is one of the United States Senate's true moderate politicians. He isn't with the conservatives, and he isn't with the liberals. He is truly camped out in the middle, along with most of Florida and the nation. Nelson's GOP opponent, Katherine Harris, used to be a centrist, but now as the Republican base becomes narrower and more extreme, Harris has been forced to the extreme right.

Running too far to the right or to the left is a losing strategy in Florida, a state famous for its centrist views. Harris may feel that she must move to the far right in order to shore up support among reliable GOP voters, but as a result, she may be torpedoing herself among swing voters before the campaign even begins.

Harris now states that she is against abortion in all cases, even if the failure to terminate a pregnancy results in the death of the mother. This position is so far to the extreme that according to a recent poll, only 16.1% share her view on this issue [PDF - 368 KB]. Bill Nelson, on the other hand, shares the values of the overwhelming majority of Americans and Floridians when it comes to abortion rights. Nelson opposes government control over the reproductive rights of women, but he favors parental notification for minors obtaining abortions and he favors a ban on late-term abortions. According to a study by the centrist political group, The Third Way, Nelson's position is shared by 62.8% of the nation's voters [PDF - 368 KB].

The fact that Harris is so far outside the mainstream on the issue of abortion is bad enough, but what makes it worse is that she has taken a 180 degree turn on the matter. In 1994 when she first ran for the Florida Senate, Harris was a pro-abortion candidate. That year, pro-life groups attempted to claim Harris as one of their candidates, but she fought them over the issue. Harris opposed the pro-life groups, claiming that she was pro-choice.

According to Barbara Zdravecky, executive director of Planned Parenthood in Sarasota County, Harris met with her prior to the 1994 election and voiced her support for abortion rights. Now according to Zdravecky, "Definitely, she's (Harris) changed."

Katherine Harris is in a heap of trouble. Polls show her falling far behind Senator Nelson, and she has been the subject of countless attacks by members of her own party. (Democrats have largely ignored her.) Now as she tries to jump start her campaign, she chooses a losing issue. Not only does she choose a minority view (opposing abortion even if necessary to save the life of the mother), but she flip-flops from her prior statements.

No one will ever know for sure what Katherine Harris believes. Is she pro-abortion, like she was in 1994, or is she anti-abortion, like she says she is today?

Harris apparently only believes in getting elected to higher office, and she is obviously willing to say whatever it takes to get there.

19 August 2005

Joke of the day

A Marine squad was marching north of Basra when they came upon an insurgent soldier badly injured and unconscious. Nearby, on the opposite side of the road, was an American Marine in a similar but less serious state.

The Marine was conscious and alert.

As first aid was given to both men, the Marine was asked what had happened. The Marine reported, "I was heavily armed and moving north along the highway and coming south was a heavily armed insurgent.

Seeing each other we both took cover. I yelled to him that Saddam Hussein was a miserable low-life scumbag, and he yelled back that President Bush is a rich, good-for-nothing egotist."

"We were standing there shaking hands when a truck hit us."