Greg Craig in Trouble … But for What?

I’ve disliked Greg Craig since the time–before Obama was elected–he insulted our intelligence by suggesting Obama had flip-flopped on FISA because FISA (and not the odious Protect America Act) was expiring. It was bad enough that Obama caved on an important issue without his advisor insulting our intelligence as to why.

But I’m worried that Greg Craig’s job as White House Counsel may be in jeopardy for the wrong reasons. 

The WSJ reports that is in jeopardy.

Mr. Craig has come under criticism from inside the administration and in Congress for a perceived failure to manage the political issues that have originated from Mr. Obama’s decision to close Guantanamo, according to officials in the administration and in Congress. This criticism has drawn focus away from president’s priorities, such as health care and energy.

Since when is it the job of the White House Counsel to manage "the political issues" on key national security issues? Isn’t that the job of the political people–men like Rahm Emanuel (whom Greg Craig saved a heap of headache in the way he handled the Blagojevich fallout, though in that, too, he insulted our intelligence) and David Axelrod?

And from there, the description gets even weirder. Apparently, Greg Craig is in trouble because Dick Cheney made a stink after Obama released the torture memos.

Mr. Craig and Attorney General Eric Holder won the fight to release the memorandums, with minimal redactions, but the White House had to move quickly to limit political damage. Former Vice President Dick Cheney sharpened criticism of Mr. Obama during a televised speech that followed Mr. Obama’s own address intended to explain his national-security vision. 

And because polls no longer support closing Gitmo.

Mr. Obama signed executive orders during his first week in office to close the Guantanamo prison, to review the cases of the more than 200 detainees there and to draw up possible changes to detention and interrogation policies.

At the time Mr. Obama enjoyed public support for his Guantanamo plans, polls showed. Six months later that public support has dissipated, polls show.

In other words, WSJ seems to suggest that Craig is in trouble because he supported the right decisions on policies, but the political people in the White House mismanaged implementing those decisions. Taking the correct stand on moral issues only works, after all, if you sustain that stand and refuse to be cowed by Dick Cheney.

I fault Greg Craig because he has apparently hewn too close to Dick Cheney’s philosophy, particularly in the Obama Administration’s serial, absurd invocation of state secrets. But this rumored discussion to can him seems to instead stem from a desire to scapegoat him because Rahm screwed up health care reform.

In other words, I worry that this is an attempt to shut down all efforts to do the right thing on torture, and not an attempt to implement those right decisions more effectively.

  1. bobschacht says:

    I’ve been hearing rumors about this for at least a week, and none of the rumors made any sense to me. Those rumors were essentially along the same lines as you are reporting, depicting Craig as some sort of lefty hero for winning “the fight to release the [OLC] memorandums, with minimal redactions,” but then getting in trouble for reasons that seemed really dubious. You call these the “wrong reasons.” But are these reasons credible?

    I don’t believe the surface story. Especially since the one named source is Lindsey Graham.

    Bob in HI

  2. sgwhiteinfla says:

    I have absolutely no faith in the WSJ reporting anything on good faith anymore. If anything this looks like another hit piece meant to sow discord in the White House in the midst of this health care fight. It would have taken a blind man not to see the crap storm that was going to come after the torture memos were released besides the fact that as you pointed out Craig isn’t even a political guy.

    This stinks to high heaven.

  3. JasonLeopold says:

    Do you remember the story that appeared a few weeks ago in either the WaPo or NYT (or another pub) about certain decisions that were made that Obama didn’t know about until he read about it in the paper? I for the life of me cannot seem to track down that story. Not sure what that report revolved around but I am wondering if there is some sort of connection in it to this report about Craig.

    • emptywheel says:

      Yeah, it was the first story reporting that Holder would appoint a torture proescutor.

      The first detonation occurred in only the third week of the administration, soon after a Justice lawyer walked into a courtroom in California and argued that a lawsuit, brought by a British detainee who was alleging torture, should have been thrown out on national-security grounds. By invoking the “state secrets” privilege, the lawyer was reaffirming a position staked out by the Bush administration. The move provoked an uproar among liberals and human-rights groups. It also infuriated Obama, who learned about it from the front page of The New York Times. “This is not the way I like to make decisions,” he icily told aides, according to two administration officials, who declined to be identified discussing the president’s private reactions. White House officials were livid and accused the Justice Department of sandbagging the president. Justice officials countered that they’d notified the White House counsel’s office about the position they had planned to take.

      As I noted, that story was as much about a Holder v Rahm narrative as anything else.
      And here’s the more relevant passage from that story.

      The tensions came to a head in June. By then, Congress was in full revolt over the prospect of Gitmo detainees being transferred to the United States, and the Senate had already voted to block funding to shut down Guantánamo. On the afternoon of June 3, a White House official called Holder’s office to let him know that a compromise had been reached with Senate Democrats. The deal had been cut without input from Justice, according to three department officials who did not want to be identified discussing internal matters, and it imposed onerous restrictions that would make it harder to move detainees from Cuba to the United States.

      Especially galling was the fact that the White House then asked Holder to go up to the Hill that evening to meet with Senate Democrats and bless the deal.

      • emptywheel says:

        Two more things.

        First, I wonder to what degree the state secrets decision above was a Holder decision (he’d been in office just days) and to what degree it was a Craig decision.

        And I wonder whether the deal with Congress was a Craig deal or a Rahm deal?

        Also, I lied when I said there was one named source in the Craig article. There are two: an on the record statment from the Deputy COS. Why would these folks be getting a statement from DCOS and not press office–and why would DCOS be giving one? That’s not like this WH.

        • Peterr says:

          The conclusion of the story may give a hint as to some of those unnamed sources:

          Mr. Craig has built a White House counsel’s office of formidable size, with 41 lawyers, according to the administration’s most recent filings. Mr. Bush left office with about 30 lawyers in his counsel’s office.

          In response to earlier questions about why he had built such a large office, Mr. Craig said: “We have the best new law firm on the planet.” He noted that the Obama administration faced an economic crisis and major national-security issues.

          This kind of tidbit is just what might be dropped by a bureaucratic rival, either another WH office that couldn’t get the positions it wanted because of the growth of WHC, or from someone at the DOJ.

          I’m guessing DOJ.

          • bobschacht says:

            I think you’re on to something. I didn’t realize that Craig had a stable of 41 lawyers. Sounds to me like some push-back from DOJ is involved.

            Bob in HI

        • Spencer Ackerman says:

          Because Jim Messina wants to shut down any “internally divided Obama administration” narrative. This is the sort of thing I can easily see a reporter coming to the WH press shop with for comment, and then Gibbs or a deputy saying, “Hang on, I’ll get you the deputy chief of staff.” That’s reportorial catnip — your editor will be pleased you got such a high-level on-the-record quote — and guarantees prominent placement in the story. (In this case, graf 7 out of 19.)

      • JasonLeopold says:

        ah it was the Newsweek story! Thank you for grabbing this. That is very interesting. So it would appear that the friction was there very early on.

        I do recall early on around February to be exact that the press office said Craig was doing a bulk of the work on certain issues that would otherwise be handled and/or shared with the Justice Department because the DOJ was not fully up to speed on some of the big issues Obama inherited from Bush.

        That answer was in the context of a question I asked about Craig working to negotiate a settlement in the Rove/Miers/HJC testimony matter and Craig’s meeting with Luskin on the terms.

        • JasonLeopold says:

          Of course, the Newsweek story would suggest that the DOJ was up to speed (at least on the state secrets case) so my input above really doesn’t have any weight.

          • bmaz says:

            And, by the same token, the privilege issues surrounding Miers/Rove/Bolten would understandably involve WH Counsel. I have a healthy distaste for Craig, but to whatever extent this article is true, it is bunk. Marcy is right, somebody is attempting to scapegoat Craig for political decisions that are not the purview of WHC.

            What I find incredibly disturbing is that Craig is being blamed not because he allowed the Obama Administration to take these issues the wrong way, but for the allegation that he did not do so nearly enough. The allegation is that Obama wishes he had been even more two faced and authoritarian than he has been. That is a scary proposition, because he has already been off the charts duplicitous. If Obama were a standard purveyor of consumer products, he could be nailed for bait and switch quite easily.

            • Peterr says:

              It seems to me that the purview of the WHCO has been growing tremendously, not only during the Bush years but continuing into the Obama administration. WHC has become a counterpoint to OLC, passing judgment on just about anything in the Executive Branch.

            • JasonLeopold says:

              yeah, I agree that it must be something bigger and that Craig is being blamed. I wonder if the issues revolving around the abuse photographs that the WSJ just throws in there is really about Rahm vs Craig like Marcy said. Because Rahm is the one who told Graham and Lieberman that after Obama reversed his position that the photographs will never see the light of day and Obama would sign an executive order if need be. And maybe Craig is the one who said don’t fight the release of the photographs because you’ll lose.

              I am doing a very poor job of articulating my thoughts and I am going to blame it on lack of sleep and no coffee yet.

          • emptywheel says:

            Well, I think Craig’s role in the Miers negotiation was proper. It was a question of privilege which has to come first and foremost from the WH, not DOJ. That said, even if DOJ was up to speed, Holder probably wasn’t.

  4. JasonLeopold says:

    and what with the abuse/torture photographs? That seem to be just thrown in the story but not fully explained.

  5. MadDog says:

    Jiminy crickets EW! Are you starting a new Late Night tradition here at the Wheel?

    I’m not sure whether I should stay up later or get up earlier. *g*

    Seriously, on the GC “Two First Names” front, I suggest this is more than just a Rahmbo diversion on the health care legislation.

    The WSJ article reads to me like a broader attack on GC from the White House grand poobah politicos Rahmbo and Axelgrease that GC is cowboying his own way through some of these issues and not being sufficiently subordinate to their own control.

    That factor itself is likely true, and should not be a surprise to anyone. Pecking order stuff in a new administration, particularly one only 6 months old, is to be expected.

    And that “6 months” factor is also meaningful.

    This past weekend the Obama Administration took a “retreat” to analyze (read critique with I’d bet heavy emphasis on the criticism part) the past “6 months” and lay down some “intended” management orders on going forward.

    I’m guessing that this story squeaked right out as one of somebody’s “can’t wait to tell about this” attendance at this “retreat”.

    I also think this says much about Rahmbo’s sharp elbows and both his own management hubris and failures. He wants to run or have everything run by him, yet is unable to find the management skills to do this.

    In effect, a Rahmbo “I’m the Top Dog” ego combined with a Rahmbo Chief-of-Staff “management vacuum”.

    And lastly, the fact that this shows up in the WSJ means that as a result of that 6 month retreat/critique, Rahmbo in particular, and Axelgrease in general, thought the internal private discussions on GC wasn’t enough and that not only was a public airing/beating necessary, but that a public acclamation of their own very rickety control and status needed reinforcing too.

    Does this mean that internal Administration management will be better in the future?

    Too soon to tell and wanting it is not the same as having the right players and skills to make it happen.

    • bmaz says:

      The WSJ article reads to me like a broader attack on GC from the White House grand poobah politicos Rahmbo and Axelgrease that GC is cowboying his own way through some of these issues and not being sufficiently subordinate to their own control.

      But stuff like that is not seized from the President and politicos, it is abdicated by them. The top either made shitty decisions, or decided they were too big and busy to make them, and either way they are unhappy with the result (if the article is correct, which is still iffy). Either way, this is whiny ass titty baby BS from the top.

    • phred says:

      What worries me is that Rove may be gone, but now we have Rahmbo following his precedent. This is deeply worrying. It appears that Obama’s WH is perfectly content with the practice of using DOJ for political purposes and with letting the GC take over functions more properly left to DOJ.

      As for EW’s question as to why DCOS was quoted in the story, I would assume it is for the same reason Libby talked to Judy — his boss told him to. This is not good at all.

      • bobschacht says:

        What worries me is that Rove may be gone, but now we have Rahmbo following his precedent. This is deeply worrying. It appears that Obama’s WH is perfectly content with the practice of using DOJ for political purposes and with letting the GC take over functions more properly left to DOJ.

        Since the Bush admin left the DOJ in such shambles, it would be natural for the next admin to make a lot of decisions out of the WH until the new AG got staffed up at the DOJ and in control. This could explain GC’s huge staff of 41 lawyers. When the new AG and his upper-level staff were fully in place, then the WH counsel could relinquish their involvement and life could return to normal.

        That sounds reasonable, but the decisions the DOJ is making on cases doesn’t look like a new administration in charge. So many of the court issues being watched here look like Bush Admin all over again. So I don’t get it.

        Bob in HI

        • phred says:

          Mornin’ Bob, you are more generous than I am. I don’t see any of Obama’s legal failures as one of transition, but one of principle (or in this case, lack thereof). I’m with Mary on this. The failures are Obama’s. He could have used his enormous oratorical talents to explain to the public that what was done at Guantanamo and Bagram was illegal and indefensible and that these people are not what they have been made out to be. Instead he folded like a cheap tent in a high wind.

          The moral high ground is there. All we need is some fucking leadership to stake it out and defend it. The non-crazy portion of the public will join such a leader. If only we had one.

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            Waiting for Godot…Obama is not the One.

            More importantly, Obama seems to have no interest in compromising with progressives, only radical conservatives who scream the loudest. Which suggest he, or Emanuel, are as addicted to triangulating as Bill Bennett is to gambling. But Obama chose Emanuel precisely for his bureaucratic ruthlessness, his temper, conservative triangulating, not in spite of them.

  6. klynn says:

    But this rumored discussion to can him seems to instead stem from a desire to scapegoat him because Rahm screwed up health care reform.

    The implications here are not good for the US. Does Rahm have his Dr. Evil pinky finger twitching? Did Rahm screw up health care as a bright shiny object to torture?

    How about we start to counter this with the name of a progressive blog which will hire Craig should he leave? Then…

    In other words, I worry that this is an attempt to shut down all efforts to do the right thing on torture, and not an attempt to implement those right decisions more effectively.

    …he can fight Dick and Rahm (+ Lindsay Graham? Hmmm…) from a fresh venue with lots of citizens covering his back and lead the public charge to implement the right decisions irt torture more effectively.

    Really, our sphere of influence in the b-sphere could have serious pressure to add to Craig’s status.

    Think of all he could write to support the ACLU from a blog? Or perhaps there might be an opening at the Hague? Or maybe Sheldon Whitehouse could use some well informed assistance?

    They want to “game” torture? We have legs to push back.

  7. emptywheel says:

    Meanwhile, John Brennan is giving a speech on Thursday.

    The speech will focus on the CT challenges faced the administration and the institutions the administration is building to contain them.


    Aides say that Obama appreciates Brennan’s blunt-speaking manner and his direct experience with the controversial issues with which Obama has had to contend, including renditions, detention policies and interrogations. Brennan has served as the NSC’s chief liaison to the president’s detainee review task forces.

    Will he announce that Obama’s moving the detainees to MI? Will he apologize (ha!) for illegal wiretapping Americans? Will he admit that Obama, like Bush, has violated Posse Comitatus?

    • phred says:

      Will he announce that Obama’s moving the detainees to MI? Will he apologize (ha!) for illegal wiretapping Americans? Will he admit that Obama, like Bush, has violated Posse Comitatus?

      Given that his speech will:

      will focus on the CT challenges faced the administration and the institutions the administration is building to contain them.

      My guess is that he will simply describe why Yoo has been right all along and that large chunks of the Constitution are no longer in force. This is the Change presidency afterall and what would be a bigger change than permanently dispensing with consitutional protections?

  8. Citizen92 says:

    O/T but, after seeing President Clinton arriving in the DPRK this morning, I couldn’t help but think…

    …that former VP Cheney was probably at his home, watching it TV, muttering something to the effect of “…did his wife send him on a junket… do we usually send our people pro-bono…”

      • BoxTurtle says:

        Isn’t that kind of the political equivalent of speaking parseltongue?

        Boxturtle (If you don’t follow Harry Potter, just skip this post)

        • BayStateLibrul says:

          You snake.
          and I thought “posse comitatus” was code word for “coitus interruptus”

      • Citizen92 says:


        Clinton’s trip is fascinating. He was weighing a visit to the DPRK in the last few months of his presidency and a political/military/security advance team was even sent to do a site survey. He’s wanted to engage the DPRK for some time.

        For today’s trip, though, I really have wonder when we’ll see the nutty talking points surface… The North is an extortion regime, they’ll most certainly want a quid pro quo for the release. And Clinton, as the head of an international foundation, receiving $ from donors worldwide, connections to Hillary, pretty soon we’re woop-woop-woop, the Clinton Foundation is a CIA front…

  9. BoxTurtle says:

    ObamaCo looking for it’s first scapegoat and it’s still the first year. I’m gonna guess that GC somehow crossed Rahmbo, probably some personal slight. So revenge is required. *sigh*

    Boxturtle (Dueling used to provide an outlet for this sort of childishness)

  10. WilliamOckham says:

    I’ll posit an alternative explanation for this story (which, I think we all agree makes no sense on its face). The effort to oust Craig is aimed at undermining the independence of the AG and stopping any investigation into torture. Look at the stuff Craig is criticized for. It’s all for siding with Holder (and to certain extent, Obama). The pro-torture folks within the administration can’t (yet) take on Holder directly, so they’re aiming at Craig.

    • emptywheel says:

      I think that’s very plausible–that’s why I posted the pieces from the Newsweek story and mentioned Brennan. But that’s sort of what I mean by suggesting this might bode for a far right turn from an already authority happy Admin.

    • Mary says:

      That’s basically my reaction too, but on the even more specific up front issue of what they are going to do with GITMO detainees as the first fire the torturers are wanting to address. Obama’s under a ticking time clock there, and when a proposal comes out it is going to be comprehensive and horrible. They want to make sure it is just as horrible as they can get it.

  11. Mary says:

    Neither the Newsweek nor this WSJ piece have any internal logic to them, but in the end what they both do is paint a not-too-flattering picture of Obama more so than anything else. Which might be a part of what they intend.

    The Newsweek piece, for example, painted this picture of Holder the Crusader (uh huh) who was fighting for the release of info and thereby rising the ruin of civilization as we know it. (uh huh) But the point they use to show conflict with the White House and President is the invocation of state secrets to cover up Executive crime – on that, they say, the Prez got ticked. Really? If so, why has that been the repeatedly applied approach, over and over, in a multitude of cases since?

    And the *issues* with Greg Craig are being highlighted as being issues involving GITMO and prior administration crimes (the criminals from that administraton know damn good and well the possible consequences of bringing their victims into the country and a real court and it has them itchy)

    Then there’s the Dawn Johnson nomination that Obama let die on the vine.

    So what else has been going on during all this? The people behind the torture programs have been looking at the fact that the admin is currently working on how it’s going to create a Presidential Funhouse, where courts, commissions, kidnappers and torturers can all carry out their functions under the same roof, with forever detentions and even forever disappearances, secret courts, etc. all in the pipeline. Ya think they want to be the ones to call the shots on how that is structured and implemented? I’d say yep – and keeping both Craig and Holder under fire as being too liberal on terrorists rights and national security serves that end.

    If you watched the quiet, polite surrender of law evident in the Jeh Johnsen/David Kris testimony on commssions and forever detentions, it was pretty clear who has been the winner over the last few months. And in the end, Holder and Craig don’t matter. It won’t bother me if they do squeeze Craig out, he’s not really doing much that’s worthwhile and someone did screw up the GITMO issues beyond belief. Was it him? Who knows – that would be an odd allocation, to charge his office with the political posturing on the issue. But even while asking the question, I can answer it – no, it wasn’t him. In the end, it is Obama. It is all about Obama. He is the President. He’s the lead, follow or get out of the way guy.

    He’s the guy who had every opportunity to take to the airwaves and explain the GITMO and Bagram and other kidnap destinations to America – explain that we have innocent people. Couple it with the release of the 2002 CIA memo telling the White House that it was abusing innocent people at GITMO and explain that this is the real problem we have – that torture is torture and the laws of war are just as important as the civilian law to keep us from a collapse into chaos and depravity and you can’t abandon either without doing untold harm. We did abandon both, and so we have a tough situation, where we have bad people and innocent people and on both we have used depraved policies. If we turn our back on the use of those polices against bad men, then we authorize them for the use on innocents, the world over and at home. And if we turn our back on the innocent victims of our policies, we can no longer pretend to be puzzled by the worldwide reaction.

    Obama instead joined in with Graham and Goldsmith on a “lawsy lawsy, terrorists terrorists!” approach at the same time he was signing off on closing GITMO. He tried to shift everything onto dist ct judges and let them reap the political fallout individually – to put them and their families in the firestorm instead of shouldering the responsibility himself.

    As long as Obama is President and is who he is, Craig, Holder, Johnson, Johnsen, etc. – none of it matters much. If he doesn’t find some moral center, it just doesn’t matter.

    • greenwarrior says:

      wow, mary! what you’re saying looks right on to me.

      a president with a moral center? wouldn’t that be beautiful? we do deserve it and so does the rest of the world.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      I conclude Obama hasn’t a moral center. He’s a Chicago pol who owes a lot of favors and has more on his plate post-Bush than perhaps any president in history. The combination makes him a pinball looking for the center line between two flippers, wherever the hell those flippers are on the spectra of judicious vs. corrupt, cost-effective vs. wasteful, or right vs. wrong.

      Apart from his rhetoric, it makes no difference to him as long as he splits the difference between the flippers and keeps on going instead of being shunted around from bumper to bumper. Inertia and hunger for power being what they are, that means he, too, is a torture, spying president, and whatever else Bush got up to we don’t know about.

    • Petrocelli says:

      If I might be so bold … I think Dawn Johnsen will be confirmed in the Fall and one bright ‘young’ Senator in SJC will take up this matter to add to what I’m certain will be his illustrious career.

    • Nell says:

      Thanks v much for keeping the big picture on this.

      The obsession with Rahm Emanuel isn’t particularly healthy, and in this case is a weedy distraction from the message of these articles.

  12. orionATL says:

    rahm emmanuel, prez’s pal or no,

    is going to have to go.

    the question is how long will it take obama to figure this out and act on it.

    this white house gets a lot of credit from me for making solid appointments and for approaching running the federal governments many, many parts in a very solid way.

    it also gets credit (with the fed reserve) for preventing another depression by printing tons of money to prevent the collapse of the banking/credit system.

    beyond those accomplishments, both major ones, the obama administration has screwed up nearly every other thing it has touched.

    this is due in part to obama’s extraordinary inexperience. but it’s also due IMO to the ass-backwards, short-sighted political calculations obama’s political advisers have taken.

    everything is being sacrificed for health care legislation. that is a genuinely stupid approach because for one it puts too much weight and pressure on the health care issue, an issue which would be better approached with a stealthy, a-little-at-a-time legislative strategy.

    and it ignores the elephant in the room – joblessness for men and women, poor sales for businesses. but you can bet the republican elephunk will not ignore those issues in 2010.

    so the bottom line is that obama the outsider is being “run” by insiders like emmanuel and poll-watchers like axelgrease (thanks MadDog).

    what obama needs to be doing to gain respect, popularity and, thereby, political clout is not being done.

    oh well. we just burned through the first eight years of the 21st century failing to grow thru technology and development of new industries while managing to make ourselves look like arrogant, criminal asses in the eyes of the rest of the world.

    but what the hell, we’re america. we can afford to burn thru another eight years

    can’t we?

    • Rayne says:

      I really wish you could be here in my household for some of our evening downloads. The 35% of total expenses paid by my spouse’s business attributable to health care is killing his business. Killing it. If his business cannot find a way to shave off another couple of percent in expenses here and there, he will be out of business taking a hundred jobs down directly, who knows how many more indirectly. It’s absolutely essential that you understand health care reform is part of the stimulus package and it’s that urgent; how many bankruptcies and foreclosures are due to health care expenses? how many more of these medically-induced bankruptcies and foreclosures can we bear?

      You’re kidding yourself if you don’t think that health care is going to be an issue at the polls come November 2010, more so than any other thing on the administration’s plate, because health care affects every single American. Gitmo, torture, Afghanistan? always somebody else’s problem because the path between their wallet and these things is very fuzzy to them. But health care is absolutely in their face every day.

      BTW, the H1N1 virus: what do you think will happen if people without health care don’t go to the doctor when they need it? There are many health care professionals who are worried about the ramp up of the flu once school starts again in weeks or days.


      • PJEvans says:

        Well, if people who have H1N1 don’t go to the doctor, I’d say that a lot of things would shut down because way too many people would be out sick. (We need that health insurance system in place ASAP, too.)

        I hope that they get a reasonably good vaccine for H1N1 in place Real Soon Now, because we’re going to need it. (In fact, I’m leaving several days of vacation available, Just In Case.)

  13. Kassandra says:

    Want campaign finance reform???????????? New bill introduced. Whip it!

    ”Last Thursday, the House Administration Committee held a major hearing on the ”Fair Elections Now Act.”

    This is our bill. In a packed hearing room, for the first time in decades, Congress considered real campaign finance reform. Under this bill, qualifying candidates would get a chunk of funding for their campaign and then would be free to raise more in contributions of $100 or less per citizen. These donations would then be matched four-fold by a central fund.

    If passed, this would be a game changer — replacing our system of special-interest-funded elections with citizen-funded elections.”…..on_hearing

    • bobschacht says:

      Thanks for this! I had no idea that this was being considered. I do so hate the idea that the Court’s response to money in politics is to make it comparable to free speech, which gives incomparable undemocratic advantage to the rich. I hope your optimism on this bill is justified.

      Bob in HI

  14. Mary says:

    38/39 – if everything is being sacrificed for health care, lousey job of it. And btw Rayne, you make it sound over and over like you are the only person who faces those kinds of issues. Don’t you think some of the rest of us have or do run businesses? Have or do face insurance issues in our own families?

    I have a disabled relative I take care of every freaking day, day in, day out. I have another family member who filed bankruptcy over medical bills. I don’t run up the flag on it every day and I hope that doesn’t come across as harsh, but it’s hard bubble wrap in a comment.

    It does no good to say that Obama can be immoral and incompetent on GITMO and torture because he needs to focus on being incompetent on health care.

    And the same issue is at the heart of both – he doesn’t really go for the heart of the problems and issues and gear his administration towards framing those issues and going all out, bc he’s a finger steepler, not a problem solver.

    • greenwarrior says:

      agreed. except i’d love to hear what a “finger steepler” is.

      the president has a very large staff. and, therefore, should be able to do more than one thing at a time.

      health care: imo his best option, if it’s really important to him, is for the wh to formulate a health care plan, that has a single payer option, explain to the public what the plan is that he’s asking support for and get his messaging out strongly all the time. right now he’s asking for support on a plan not yet written. and taking single payer off the table is a bad negotiating position for him to start from even if that’s what the bought for leaders in congress have said.

      torture/gitmo: close it all down. yesterday. take a stand for habeas corpus. without that, what do we really have? democracy? or something that resembles democracy on the outside?

      and my favorite and number one priority: deconglomerate the media. if we had independent media, the news could get to ordinary people, who would then actually know what was going on.

      • Rayne says:

        This bit, the part in bold:

        health care: imo his best option, if it’s really important to him, is for the wh to formulate a health care plan, that has a single payer option, explain to the public what the plan is that he’s asking support for and get his messaging out strongly all the time. right now he’s asking for support on a plan not yet written. and taking single payer off the table is a bad negotiating position for him to start from even if that’s what the bought for leaders in congress have said.

        That’s the part which has been identified as the failure of the Clinton attempt. Obama was told that Congress would in no way support a plan formulated by the White House, that it had to be one which came bottom up. And that’s what he’s attempted, to give Congress the reins to make a program.

        And now you see that the same key players screwed HRC then, and are doing it again now.

        Somebody is going to have to take to the media and point this out, and while they do so, point out that the insurance industry is just like the car industry. There are too many providers, there’s too much bloat, they aren’t working with the interests of the consumer/patient in mind, they aren’t innovating solutions on their own to this problem.

        And perhaps like the car industry, it’s time for a complete reset.

    • Rayne says:

      I’m fully aware of the fact we’re not the only people facing this problem. I can only testify to the fact that this is a considerable drag on ALL small and medium business in this country, which has been the engine of growth in this country for decades.

      And yeah, many of the people attached to this site let alone across the country are up to their ears in the experience of having to deal with the problem of health care. In that neither you nor I are alone, far, far from it.

      Which is exactly my point: none of the people critically and acutely in need of economic and medical attention are going to give a rat’s ass about Gitmo.

      And I also did NOT say that “Obama can be immoral and incompetent on GITMO and torture because he needs to focus on being incompetent on health care.” Those are your words, don’t put them in my mouth.

      Re-read what I said: I’m simply saying that we cannot ignore health care and put it on the fucking back burner. We don’t have the time or the money to do that. It’s a critical mission.

      I wouldn’t be burning as much of my own time gratis on the topics of torture and government oversight if I didn’t believe they were just as important. (My last conversation with a Senator was about torture.) We just don’t get to put one thing ahead of the other.

      Maybe the real problem isn’t finger-steepling as you characterized but multi-tasking combined with the screaming of every single group about the urgency of their own issue. We’re asking one helluva lot of this guy to hit a lot than we did the last guy and wanting home runs on all of it. Oh, and we want it done already, six months into office; we want him to have fixed decades-long problems with health care and oversight, RIGHT THE FUCK NOW and without much money or adequate political support.

  15. kyeo says:

    I saw that story and had the same reaction. Either the White House is floating a trial balloon to make Craig the fall guy for the Guantanamo flameout, or WSJ got their story all screwy. I’m hoping it’s the latter.

  16. earlofhuntingdon says:

    If this is Rahm’s version of Night of the Long Knives, we’re all in a heap of trouble. Craig, like Obama, is in trouble for doing the right thing but not enough of it.

    If Rahm can derail a high-profile player like the presidential lawyer, then Rahm is doing a Cheney. He is demonstrating his unchallenged bureaucratic power, demonstrating that he controls the president’s direct reports and his agenda, not the president, and that accountability is for other little people, not Rahm. Most of all, he would be demonstrating to players who would rather do the right thing that that would be as self-destructive as saying “No” to Big Dick.

    If anyone should go, it is Mr. Emanuel. And if I were Dawn Johnson, I’d go back to IU Bloomington, where she could make a difference.

  17. orionATL says:

    rayne @39

    i understand your personal concern. small businesses and people with chronic illnesses are particularly vulnerable to bankruptcy under our present system – or, rather, our lack of a national system.

    paul krugman has written that the costs of medical care are a tremendous burden on the american economy and will only get far worse, absent reform, over the next decade.

    what i said was that it is stupid of the obama administration to attack health care head-on. it should be attacked stealthily. let me give you some examples of what might be done piecemeal to help build a national health system. veterans care could be extended to families and even parents of vets. health care for children (schip) could be expanded to include parents of children. congress and the prez could permit the government to use its bargaining powers to drive down drug costs could be granted. medicare/medicaid could be extended to cover caretakers of elderly, for example, or all in a household with an elderly relative (now THAT would be an incentive to keep mom going forever).

    all of these would involve some opposition from interests who benefit from the current system, but that opposition might not be as uniform and as furious as the current effort against obama’s health care effort.

    my feeling is that a weak prez cannot twist enough arms to get thru the congress what needs to be gotten thru the congress on health care reform, but might be able to chip away at the problem of our lack of a coherent, consistent national health care system with two or three pieces of legislation aimed at expanding existing government medical programs.

    given the lobbying forces arrayed against major reform and redistribution of american medical care, if obama pursues health care reform directly, i would be surprised if the resulting “reform” was not mostly for show – with far less benefit for those who need better, or any, medical insurance.

    consider the proposal to tax the rich for health care reform. can you believe that americans felt this was a wrong thing to do? how incredibly stupid can we get. yet obama apparently was forced to withdraw that proposal.

    in general, i believe that obama would do well to develop among the american people a far stronger sense of admiration and respect for himself as prez than he has now before tackling some issue head-on.

    he might do this by speaking out more frequently on joblessness or health care reform. though recent press stories have claimed that the prez was going to go on the offensive to explain his health program, i haven’t noticed any major effort yet.

    • Rayne says:

      I’m sure we can find some common ground here; agree that the administration is not doing an effective job on managing the message. But they may have lost it when they felt they had to turn the reins over to Congress, and we all know Congress is corrupt in the sense that they are loyal to money and not to votes.

      But the concern I have about health care isn’t merely personal. I dread the fact that my entire state is just like my spouse’s business. It’s only personal because of the example I used; the same problem exists at four subsidiaries in the same holding company, at the hundreds of small businesses they buy from, at the much larger companies to which they sell equipment, across the entire country.

      You know which part of the holding company doesn’t have this problem?

      The one in Germany. And maybe that’s why a rather large car company looking at building a facility in eastern Europe wrote a specification for equipment demanding that the product be built in Germany and not the U.S. as part of the cost reduction formula for the site’s construction.

      I spent an hour on the phone yesterday on this topic with a UAW retiree who continues to work on political organizing; he communicated an absolute sense of panic from the spectrum of folks he connects with around the issue of health care and the economy, and there’s a lack of effective organizing on the left to address it. We’re pinning it all on a couple of people when the problem is massive, widespread, and on us. Just look at the teabaggers’ ability to disrupt townhalls; it’s because they are funded by corporations who are organizing this effort. We the people just don’t seem to be up to the task of fighting back and going on the offensive – but that’s Obama’s and Rahm’s fault, right?

  18. orionATL says:

    rayne @39

    “…BTW, the H1N1 virus: what do you think will happen if people without health care don’t go to the doctor when they need it? There are many health care professionals who are worried about the ramp up of the flu once school starts again in weeks or days.


    you want to know what will happen if h1n1 shows up in the fall, as it almost certainly will?

    i tell you what will happen.

    we will suddenly see a one-issue, one-time national heath care system emerge. cdc, dhs, and state health departments have already been thru their practice runs this spring.

    and no congressman, not ben nelson, not max baucus, not mitch mcconnell will dare get in the way of free or cheap vaccines for all.

    so why can’t we do this for health care in general? too little political clout on the health care side; too much political clout on the health industry side.

    it would take a lyndon johnson to tackle health care reform head-on and obama ain’t no lyndon johnson. (for one thing he did not grow up poor. for another he has no passion for ANY issue, as johnson did for civil rights and medicare. obama’s just another self-satisfied little rich kid).

    • Rayne says:

      “just another self-satisfied little rich kid”? that meme, too? Just how poor does one have to be to have any credibility? and just how poor does one have to be to have credibility but get elected to office?

      The guy actually worked for nonprofits and in community organizing, which I know means crap pay and some really challenging in-your-face work. I think he paid his dues. Also says something about the reality of organizing at street level versus uppermost echelons of government — the money will stop nearly anybody if you’re not on their side.

  19. bobschacht says:

    Phred @ 51,
    I am of two minds on this. I want all war crimes prosecuted now, with no more pussyfooting around. And I want a bunch of the other crimes prosecuted, now, as well. But the full measure of Obama’s achievement, or lack thereof, will only be fully apparent at the end of his presidency, not in the middle of it (I almost wrote ”muddle” instead of middle). –but I don’t entirely believe that, either.

    When I’m feeling generous, I think that Axelrod & Obama have already made a list of the things they want to accomplish by the end of his first term, and they have in mind a game plan, a strategy, of what order to do things in, in order to achieve these goals. This strategy is, no doubt, being adjusted as realities set in, and it becomes apparent that he can’t get all that he wants.

    But I think he pays attention to who is screaming the loudest when he makes his adjustments. And sadly, concern about war crimes and violations of the Constitution seem to concern only a few of us. Lacking a Barbara Jordan, and adequate training in civics (one of the sacrifices involved in No Child Left Behind?) the majority of the public has grown careless about the value of our Constitution, and no longer seems to care about it all that much.

    Bob in HI

    • phred says:

      Fair enough, but I don’t see any real leadership coming from Obama. The moral high ground isn’t just about detainee treatment, state secrets and the rest of the constitutional issues near and dear to our hearts around here, it is also there for health care reform, climate change, ending the wars, ending abusive banking practices etc. Obama has failed repeatedly to stand up to Republicans and use his influence to get the Blue Dogs on board. His abilities should not be underestimated. We have not seen a politician with his charisma, oratorical skills, and persuasiveness in decades. But rather than put those skills to good use, his creepy need for bipartisanship prevents him from standing up to the selfish and corrupt bullies who would thwart his every move. So instead everything gets watered down. No one gets held to account (whether John Yoo or AIG). He has developed a disgraceful habit of ceding territory to Republicans rather than fighting for principle.

      I’ll agree that only time will tell how Obama’s presidency will be viewed in the grand sweep of time, but in the first 6 months evidence suggests that it won’t be what we had hoped it might be last fall. And what is really discouraging is the corporate forces are arrayed from DC to NYC to amplify the teabaggers while the rest of us get shut out of the debate. We need Obama to amplify our voices so we can be heard, but it increasingly appears that he does not represent our interests.

  20. AmiBlue says:

    Please consider the source of this report, Marcia. The WSJ is as likely as Fox to spread right wing rumors.

  21. bobschacht says:

    Phred @ 63,
    I think Obama is trying to govern from the Center. During the last campaign, there were people who argued that the Center did not exist anymore. But Obama won the Independent vote, and got a lot of otherwise Republican votes. But in these days, the challenge of governing from the Center when one of the parties is the Party of NO is taking its toll. In the meanwhile, he has to figure out how to bring the Blue Dogs along, because he’s not getting much help from ”Milquetoast” Reid in the Senate.

    BTW, I’m working on a major analysis of ”Blue Dogs” in the Senate.

    Bob in HI

    • PJEvans says:

      The best suggestion I saw was to take a look at what “West Wing” did with their recalcitrant non-supporting party-member Congresscritters. From Making Light,

      Josh Lyman comes to mind, as he usually does:

      “LBJ never would’ve taken this kind of crap from Democrats in Congress. He’d have said, ‘You’re voting my way, in exchange for which, it is possible that I might remember your name, pal.’ We need to win. And I mean win. We need to take a curtain call and a victory lap. And that’s how we get momentum. We get it by being tough. We give away nothing.”

      “See, you [conservative Democrat about to oppose the White House’s position] won with 52 percent, but the President took your district with 59. And I think it’s high time we come back and say thanks. Do you have any idea how much noise Air Force One makes when it lands in Eau Claire, Wisconsin? We’re gonna have a party, Congressman. You should come; it’s gonna be great. And when the watermelon’s done, right in town square, right in the band gazebo. You guys got a band gazebo? Doesn’t matter; we’ll build one. Right in the band gazebo, that’s where the President is going to drape his arm around the shoulder of some assistant D.A. we like. And you should have your camera with you, you should get a picture of that, ’cause that’s gonna be the moment you’re finished in Democratic politics. President Bartlet’s a good man, he’s got a good heart, he doesn’t hold a grudge. That’s what he pays me for.”

      –The West Wing 1×04, “Five Votes Down”

    • fatster says:

      But, Bob, where is “the center” any more? Terms “left”, “right”, and “center” have been moved so far right in the last two or so decades, that “the center” is a step up from fascism. I think. And, yet, it is very disturbing that these so-called “tea-baggers” who are shutting down meetings of senators and reps with their constituents, are very very reminiscent of the Brown Shirts. So, how far are we from fascism now?


  22. orionATL says:

    rayne @57

    having been raised in poverty has little if anything to do with credibility but a lot to do with developing empathy and a very strong determination to force change.

    credibility doesn’t get you elected in this country; campaign p.r. and news media receptivity do that, i.e., these two create “credibility”.

    i don’t know what obama actually did while he was an organizer in chicago and neither do the very great majority of american voters. i am reasonably confident, though, that obama was no saul alinsky.

    the basic question for me is when will obama stop retreating on health care (and many other issues important to me) and start explaining and defending his health care reform proposals to the american people.

    our prez mustr become a very persistent educator and a determined protagonist, not another duck, dodge, and slide dem politician.

  23. JasonLeopold says:

    I don’t know if anyone has formed an opinion on Dana Jill Simpson and the allegations she made against Rove regarding the Siegelman prosecution, etc., but she has penned a very lengthy response to the WSJ story and included quite a bit of other information on why “The White House Should Slam The Door On Greg Craig.”

    For those interested in reading it click here.

    • bmaz says:

      I have never been quite sure what exactly to make of Simpson (or Siegelman for that matter); some positive, some not so much. That said, it is not surprising she is weighing in on this story, she has a beef with Craig. Her attorney issued a fairly interesting letter some months back about her dealings with Craig and allegations of unethical conduct. There were a couple of things I found a little disturbing as to Craig in that letter; He really should have disclosed before debriefing her completely as a potential client. Pretty suspect conduct if true, and by all indications it is.

      • JasonLeopold says:

        Thanks for pointing back to that letter bmaz. Those were some disturbing allegations. And there was quite a bit of detail in that letter about what Rove did and said and Craig’s ethical lapse regarding his “relationship” to Rove. Of course, I am curious as to how Rove responded to Siegelman questions posed by HJC.

    • bmaz says:

      Heh, good question. It wasn’t lodged with any ethical authorities I don’t think, so there was no requirement of a formal response. There being no requirement for a response, I sure would not have responded if I were him, and to the best of my knowledge, Craig didn’t. It was a publicity ploy (and a good and worthy one it appears) so, if you are Craig, no way you want to give it any such credibility.

      Those allegations in that letter really did sound fairly believable though.

  24. bobschacht says:

    Fatster @74,
    ”Center” is not an absolute construct, but a relative one. In any bell-shaped distribution, it is where the Median, the Mode, and the Mean are. However, there are those who argue that the modern political landscape is not described by a bell-shaped curve, but by a bimodal curve, with a scantily inhabited middle. A year or so ago, I recall serious commenters alleging that there was no middle, and independents were negligible, so that one either had to run from the Left, or from the Right.

    The Republicans have systematically destroyed their Centrist wing, thanks to Newt Gingrich and Tom ”The Hammer” Delay. Now all that remains is their Right Wing. The Democrats have consciously nurtured their Centrist wing, now called the Blue Dogs.

    Numerically, if you want to know where the center is, in Congress, go to Progressive Punch at and look for scores between 30 and 70. I plan to write a blog on this within the next few days.

    Bob in HI

    • fatster says:

      The concepts “mean”, “mode”, “median”, “goodness of fit” are numerical (statistical) concepts, as are “range”, “standard deviation”, etc., You are quite correct that “left,” “right” and “center” are relative in the political arena, rather than being determined mathematically. I was looking at what has been done to the meaning of the terms “left,” “right,” and “center” in public discourse here in the U.S. over the past couple of decades. It is disturbing that the Repugs somehow made themselves the definers and propagandists of those terms.

      • bobschacht says:

        Are you familiar with the “Overton Window“? Since Ronald Reagan, the Overton Window has been pushed so far to the right that some of the things Nixon proposed would look today like a Leftist Dream.

        Our job, in part, is to push the Overton Window back towards the Left.

        Bob in HI

  25. orionATL says:

    pjevans @72

    love that cite.

    i’m laughing, then smiling big and thinking “god would i love to have a democratic president like that”.