Friday, March 24, 2006

Matthews Rips Bush On Imus

A friend of mine sent me the following e-mail this morning:
Did you hear Chris Matthews on Imus this morning??? He was great!!! He called Bush a liar. Repeatedly.
Now, I don't listen to Imus or watch him on MSNBC. But I was intrigued. Imus holds a lot of credibility with my and my friend's Connecticut Republican parents. He has a reputation for being independent-minded, and his interviews are known for getting honest and revealing responses from his guests. And this was our very own Tweety she was talking about. Could it really be?

So I wondered, where would I find a transcript or audio of the interview? But lo and behold, before I could even search, my friend's lifelong Republican mother (although she has recently abandoned Bush) sent me some choice quotes from the MSNBC website, below. It was hard to decide what to bold, since there's so much good stuff. Matthews is unflinching in his attacks...well, attacks isn't really the right word; it's more like Matthews is unflinching in his description of reality, a reality we here at kos have been complaining about for years. What's remarkable about Matthews saying these things on Imus is that this is the sort of forum wherein conventional wisdom is cemented. Fellow Kossacks, behold the new conventional wisdom:

Imus speaks to MSNBC's Chris Matthews about the decision to go to war in Iraq:

MSNBC's Chris Matthews: "I think the president made a big mistake this week, and maybe I'm the only one that caught it, but when he came out and said he never said that we went to Iraq because of what happened on 9/11, that Saddam was never involved in 9/11, that whole mentality, the whole culture, the country music, everything, was saying this was payback. We are getting them in Iraq because of what they did to us on 9/11, and now they come out and say I never claimed that. Well you know it's in the actual language of when he said to congress, I'm now going to pick you up on that authorization to go to war, but we are going to war tomorrow, this is in 2003 in March, we are going to war tomorrow and the reason we are going is because we are going to get the countries attacked us on 9/11 we are going to get them. He clearly said all along. The Darryl Worley song remember how you felt, and you know all that stuff, the Vice President saying that Saddam was involved in 9/11 again and again. To come out now and say I never said this was payback is B.S."

Imus: "Didn't they actually say, because we were talking about that as well, because the way they left it out... didn't he actually say that they harbored terrorists, and as I pointed out the way that people pay attention to the news, which is not as much as you and I do, it was easy for Americans to infer that he meant... and by the way they did these polls, as you well know, in which the majority of the American people actually thought that the people who flew the airplanes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and then the field in Pennsylvania actually came from Iraq, so while they didn't specifically say that they said that they harbored terrorists and the implication was... well you are right, but did he actually say that?"

Chris Matthews: "He said in the statement he gave to Congress when he said ok boys we are going to war tomorrow morning, in that statement he said I'm operating under the authorization that allows me to go after organizations or countries that attacked us on 9/11. Many times he said we can't distinguish between the people who attacked us on 9/11, we can't separate the two. The vice president was very clear, continually talking about coordination between the Iraqi intelligence and Muhammad Atta, who was the chief hijacker, it's right there in the tapes, and then Cheney comes out and denies it even though it's right on tape. Remember Gloria Borger interviewed him, I'm not sure if she was CBS at the time, but she interviewed him and he directly lied about it, and said that he did not say that. A number of times we have showed the tape and when he actually said exactly what he was denying on tape, we got the tape of what he was denying."


Imus: "I forgot who said this, it could have been Tom Friedman or, and I always thought that after September 11th, the administration wanted, maybe they always wanted to go to war with Iraq or whatever, but they wanted to demonstrate to the Muslim community and the Muslim world that we were not going to take that and that we were going to strike back at somebody and they picked what they thought was going to be the easiest target, they thought as that moron at the CIA said that it was a slam dunk. They went in there and instead of being greeted as liberators as the Vice President told Tim Russert a week before this thing started, they got in there and the thing blew up on him and they have been there three years trying to get out."

Chris Matthews: "Well I am just going to stick to this point that the president led us in there with the background music of American culture. Everybody was led to believe that we were getting payback, we were avenging what happened on 9/11 and that we are going to get them. Vice President Cheney said we are going to attack terrorism at its base. Over and over the language was, this is where it came from, in fact most recently the President suggested that it was always the hot pursuit, like a New York police chase, we chased them back into their country. We pursued the terrorists back to Iraq and it's all nonsense. The reason there are terrorists in Iraq today like Zarqawi is we created the opening by blowing the country apart. From the beginning it's been not true. Now you can't prove motive and you can't prove somebody lies, but from the beginning everything about how they've got WMD's, they are a threat to us, they are going to bomb us with a nuclear weapon, this country is going to be an easy liberate, it's going to be a cake walk. As Cheney said as recently as ten months ago the insurgents are in their last throws. Everything that is said is not true. And right to the end here, here we are now and it's not a civil war and when Allawi the prime Minster is saying it is a civil war and here is the president quoting his own people that it's not a civil war. I mean the denial has been continuous. So you really can't count on the administration to tell you what is going on. That is just the fact. You've got to check it out. By the way, the president said this week that he wants the whole truth about what is going on in Iraq, the whole truth and that the media isn't telling the whole story. I'll tell you what we are not telling. We are not showing pictures of the twenty five hundred bodies coming back because they won't let us show the pictures. They don't want the whole truth out and that's the fact."
Pretty stunning to think that these words came out of Matthews's mouth. He's always been right on the war but he's never before to my knowledge spoken this critically about the administration, although his growing contempt has been perceptible on Hardball recently.

This whole exchange reminds me of one of the more moving plotlines of the remarkable documentary Why We Fight. If you haven't seen it yet, please go out and see it. It is a searing indictment of the U.S.'s obsession with war since the creation of the military industrial complex post-WWII. In fact this term was coined by Dwight D. Eisenhower in his farewell address to the nation in 1960 in which he warned us, with creepily prescient detail, about the merging of war and industry:

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

What elevates the film above just another history lesson (albeit one with a decidedly anti-war bent) is the inclusion of several smaller stories, all of which, in some way, reflect the premise of the film, which is that Eisenhower's warnings have indeed come to pass. The most moving of these is that of Wilton Sekzer, Retired officer, NYPD, whose son died on 9/11. All he wanted to do was retaliate against the killers of his son. So when George Bush sold the war in Iraq as part of the war on terror, as a direct response to 9/11, Mr. Sekzer emailed all branches of the armed forces to ask if his son's name could be written on a bomb to be dropped on Iraq. The Pentagon complied and Mr. Sekzer was informed of the date that the bomb was dropped. Imagine Mr. Sekzer's surprise, then, when Bush later acknowledged that there was no connection between Iraq and 9/11 and that he had never said there was. Mr. Sekzer's disillusion is potent, the loss of trust in his commander in chief still painfully visible in his eyes. But his recognition, although he is unable to express his hurt and regret -- you see it and feel it in every word, that he leant his son's name to a lie, is the most personally heartwrenching scene in the film.

Monday, March 20, 2006

No Plan For Iraq, eh?

Chris Matthews is a favorite punching bag of ours and for good reason. But you look at conversations like the one between Republican strategist Ed Rogers and Democratic strategist Hillary Rosen that took place on 3/14 Hardball, and it's clear, Matthews isn't the only problem we have.

MATTHEWS: The Democrats, what do they say we should do in Iraq?

HILLARY ROSEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well the Democrats want the president to stop sugar coating this and saying over and over again that we‘re headed for victory.

ROGERS: But we are. We are headed for victory. Are we headed for defeat?

ROSEN: We have no plan. We‘re headed for prolonged trillion dollar spending, multiple casualties, and potential civil unrest. That‘s what we‘re readied for.

ROGERS: The Democrats don‘t have a plan.
Umm okaaay. So, the Democrats' plan for Iraq is that the we want the president to stop saying we‘re headed for victory? Way to walk right into the "Democrats are for defeat" talking point. As the conversation went on, it didn't get much better.

MATTHEWS: In other words, don‘t offer a strategy, just say we need new leadership. Admit that, will you?

ROSEN: Seventy percent of the American people do not know why we‘re there and think it was a mistake. To suggest somehow that is the Democrats‘ fault is just hogwash.

MATTHEWS: In terms of policy right now, where do the Democrats stand?

ROSEN: I think Democrats are on the range of Iraq. Some are still trying to be—you‘ve got a Joe Lieberman who is saying the president is right—
ROSEN: It doesn‘t have a policy because it doesn‘t need to have a policy.

ROGERS: It‘s a lucky thing.

ROSEN: What‘s the point of a Democratic policy. We are Americans.

ROGERS: The Democrats having a position on war and peace, what‘s the point?
Sigh. This conversation is dispiriting for so many reasons. Not only does Rosen cite Lieberman as a leader within the Democratic caucus on Iraq, but come on, even if it were true that the Democrats don't have an Iraq policy, is saying "we don't need one" or "what's the point?" really productive? Talk about asking for defeat.

It's true that the ones whose onus it is to have a policy are those who are actually waging the war, but we learned the danger of not having a coherent Iraq policy in 2004. If we want voters to choose Democrats, those running really do need to spell out what differentiates us from the Republicans on this issue. Remember, it is this issue that is cited as respondents' most pressing concern in poll after poll after poll.

Perhaps the most maddening thing about Hillary Rosen's performance last week is that the Democrats actually have been advancing a policy, consistently and repeatedly on talk show after talk show for weeks now. But why is no one noticing? And why doesn't the leadership make sure that every surrogate on every show repeats OUR talking points, not allow Republicans (and the media) to portray us as a party adrift without any productive policies other than to criticize the policies of the president?

So, what is that policy, you ask? It's simple: "Memo to Iraqis: shape up or we ship out."

Listen to what the Democrats have been saying:

This Week, 2/26:
Senator Carl Levin:

"If within the next six to eight weeks, you do not create a government of national unity, if you continue to squabble, if you continue to fiddle while Baghdad burns, then we are going to have to reassess our presence," Senator Carl Levin, the top Democrat on the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, said. Asked, in an interview with ABC News television's "This Week" program, if this position represented a warning that the US military could be withdrawn from Iraq, Levin replied: "Exactly."
Meet The Press, 3/12:

SENATOR JOE BIDEN: If they don't have a constitution in place by this summer that is viewed as a uniting document, where everybody signs on to it, it's game over. Now, how you pull them out, where you pull them to, whether you have them over the horizon, whether you kept a containment policy that, that, that secures the region in a different way, that's a whole different question. But status quo, the way it is now, is over.
This Week With George Stephanopolous, 3/19 (self-transcribed):

SENATOR JACK REED: [Redeploying our troops] needs to be done as quickly as possible. We do that by not only encouraging but insisting that the Iraqis stand up. The president's slogan, and he's good at slogans, not good at strategy, but good at slogans, is that we'll stand down when they stand up is wrong. We're standing down, they have to stand up much faster than they're doing it right now. And then we can redeploy within the country and then hopefully begin to deploy tour troops out of the region.

GS: Picking up on what Senator Hagel has said, two of your Dem colleagues, Sen Levin and Sen Biden have said that basically this political solution has about six weeks and if they can't come together in the next six weeks, we have to reassess our entire presence. Do you agree with that?

REED: I absolutely do agree with that...I think he shouldn't be timid. I think he should send Secretary Rice over there to convene these people to insist that this is the highest level priority for the people of Iraw and also the United States...The only leverage we have is our troop presence. And I think we have to make it clear to the Iraqi political leaders that if they're not able or willing to come together with a political solution that recognizes the differences and pulls together different factions that our presence can't be definite there...We're not gonna be hostage to their feuds to their factions that we will in fact at some point determine that our presence there is not helping at all, it's disabling, not enabling. I think we have to be very clear to them and I think we have to do it publicly. The president has been very reluctant to send a strong public signal that our longterm presence there is a function of the political steps the Iraqis have taken. But that's precisely what we have to do.

And finally, on Tuesday's Hardball, a week after Hillary Rosen's poor performance, my Senator, Dianne Feinstein, impressed the pants off of Matthews with a "nuanced" Iraq policy. And yes, Feinstein continued to advance the same policy:

Hardball, 3/21
You need to say to Iraqis, you need to affect a reconciliation between Shia and Sunni. Absent that there is no united Iraq and absent that the United States is not going to stay there.
So, you may ask, does this really constitute a solid policy that Democrats can win on? I think so for a couple of reasons. First of all, it is in direct opposition to the Republicans. They have been extremely reluctant to talk about using our troop presence as leverage in an ultimatum to make the Iraqis step up. In fact, in two of the above interviews, George Allen and Chuck Hagel openly disagreed with the idea. And it is counter to Bush's own "stay the course" strategery, even as it smartly co-opts Bush's "we'll stand down when Iraqis stand up" meme.

The second reason it could work well for Democrats is that it represents a sort of tough love approach that allows us to act the disciplinarian father role, if you will, and simultaneously paint the Republicans as the more forgiving "mommie" figure, a complete reversal of the current conventional wisdom about how the two parties are perceived on this issue. In fact, this is the very strategy that Tom Friedman assigned to Dick Cheney in his March 10 column precisely because of Cheney's "mean streak" and is, as the title of his column reads: "Mr. Nasty, Brutish and Short-Tempered." Friedman urges:'s time for some dramatic new thinking and acting. To put it in a nutshell: It is not time for the U.S. to leave Iraq, but it is time for the U.S. to start threatening to leave Iraq.
We need to bring together all the newly elected Iraqi leaders for a national reconciliation conference -- outside Baghdad. We should lock them in a room and not let them out until they either produce a national unity government, so Americans will want to stay in Iraq, or fail to produce that government, which would signal that it's time to warm up the bus.
If the Democrats are going to advance this policy, as I think they should, it's about time they got credit for doing so. There needs to be some message discipline and some better coaching of our talk show surrogates. I for one am sick and tired of hearing Ed Rogers, time and time again, get away with saying things such as he did once again on last night's Hardball:

ROGERS: The Democrats are quick to go there because they can’t go anywhere else. They don’t have a plan themselves.
They keep asking what the Democratic plan is. It's about time we gave it to them!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Democratic Agenda via Barack Obama

On Face The Nation today, Bob Schieffer advanced the now familiar (and, sadly, hard to dispute) narrative that Democrats have no message. Bring it on, Bob, especially if you're asking Democratic Party star Senator Barack Obama to explain the message for you. His response broke down as follows:

Energy independence. "The notion that we're sending billions of dollars to countries like Iran that are hostile towards us makes no energy policy that switches to alternative fuels and bio-deisel..."

Healthcare. "Having a serious message that says by '08 we 're gonna have every child in America insured and by 2012 we've got every American who's working has accesible health insurance."

Education. "Being serious about ensuring that our young people are competitive around issues of math and science."

Security. "Being serious about the ports, chemical plants, rail, that the 9/11 Commission says we have not adequately protected since 9/11 and has to be part of our national security apparatus."

Yep, four things that took less than a minute and a half to communicate. It's short, it's sweet but is it enough? Is this the Democrats' answer to "less government, lower taxes, and a strong defense"?

Energy independence is an issue that the Democrats would have had to themselves prior to Bush's State of the Union. It's not too late; certainly they have more credibility on the issue than someone who leads a party that doesn't seem to believe humans have had an impact on global warming. But fact is, Bush has used his position to promote alternative fuels and throw money at it. How are Democrats going to distinguish themselves?

Healthcare we do have to ourselves. The challenge? To make sure we don't sound like/are painted as socialist and to avoid (as much as possible) comparisons to "Hillary-care." Seems to me the people are coming around on this issue and Republicans may find themselves flat footed.

Education. This is taking on one of the President's pet issues and even jumping on his "competitiveness" agenda. While it's tricky, Democrats may be onto something here. They may benefit from a sort of "what have you done for me lately" mood toward Bush. No Child Left Behind seems unpopular on many levels.

Security. The Dubai port deal, if nothing else, brought port security to the fore. This is one aspect of homeland security that Democrats have been advocating for and losing for years. This is a winner because it takes on the president where he is supposedly strong but where there is now a chink in his armor.

The upshot? Get used to seeing this phrase in print: "Barack Obama, 2008 Vice Presidential candidate." On second thought, just get used to saying "Vice President Obama."

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Fox News Asks The Right Question

In a story on Fox News Live's Studio B today, Fox asked the important question: "the economy's rebounding, so why am I so broke?" To discuss this question, Fox trotted out Dakila Divina, Managing Editor of that hard hitting publication Parade Magazine, whose annual "What People Earn" issue comes out tomorrow. You know Parade, it's that flimsy little trifle you throw out with your Sunday paper. His conclusion: "What we found in our survey is that people on the high end of the scale...the disparity, is growing bigger and bigger, especially when it comes to celebrity salaries."

Well, you knew there had to be some agenda for Fox to actually be asking a question of substance. Yes, the entire purpose of this piece was to advance the right wing "Hollywood is out of touch with average Americans" talking point. Some choice excerpts:

"American hero vs. American Idol." Kelly Clarkson makes $3million + and Marine Sgt. Jimmy Moronta Espital makes just $22,000 a year. "It raises the question, who's the real American hero here."

"Average Housewife vs. The Desperate Houswife." Teri Hatcher makes $1.25 million and New Jersey housewife Carla Kenney makes $0. "The average housewife, very important job."

The piece also touched on the salaries of sports stars but never once talked about corporate CEO salaries.

While Fox's take on this story is not surprising, I was a bit surprised to discover that the Parade article that accompanies the story actually reads like a Democrat's stump speech:

Despite a flourishing economy American workers are less confident about their financial security than they were two years ago. The U.S. has enjoyed four straight years of economic growth, but most families have lost ground: In 2005, more than 80% of American workers saw their inflation-adjusted wages fall for the second year in a row.

While the economy has been growing since 2001, all the benefits of that growth have gone into corporate profits, says Mark Zandi, chief economist at
Moody’s, a Pennsylvania-based consultant firm: “Corporate profits’ share of the national income is at a 60-year high—and that has come directly out of wages and salaries, which are at a record low.” And wages of the top 10% of earners—people making more than $90,000 a year—have risen much faster than everyone else’s. The average worker’s pay stayed almost flat at $27,000 from 1990 to 2004, one study finds.
Notwithstanding the low jobless rate, there’s a lot of uneasiness among workers, notes John Challenger, chief executive of
Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a Chicago-based outplacement firm. “Many people have been falling behind, especially in the middle class,” he says. In 2005, for the first time since the Great Depression, Americans borrowed more than they earned. “Wages haven’t kept up with inflation, and many employers have pushed the cost of health care back to employees in the form of higher premiums and co-pays,” notes Challenger. “Added to that, there’s the higher cost of driving to and from work and heating a home.” (emphasis mine.)
It's nice to see that Parade actually attempts to answer the question that Fox News posed but never truly tackled. This is one issue of Parade we should not throw out.