Mitch McConnell

Complicit in 20 Children’s Death, Mitch McConnell Claims He Can Do Nothing

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This afternoon, the man who will soon lead a filibuster against laws intended to lessen the chances that a massacre like Newtown will happen again had this to say for the people for Newtown.

So we stand with the people of Newtown today and in the days ahead. We can do nothing to lessen their anguish, but we can let them know that we mourn with them, that we share a tiny part of their burden in our own hearts. And that we lift the victims and their families and the entire community in prayer.

He said nothing in his speech about the personal responsibility he bears for not having acted to prevent this massacre and similar ones before 20 children died. He said nothing about immunizing gun manufacturers and making it easier to buy a gun. Indeed, he remained silent–simply clearing his throat once–when specifically asked about the actions he might take or obstruct to prevent similar massacres in the future.

No, Mitch McConnell. We may not be able to do anything to lessen their anguish, but we sure as hell can do more than your proposed solution–to pray.

I’ve been mentally responding to reactions like this much as The Economist’s Democracy in America did generally.

So unless the American people are willing to actually do something to stop the next massacre of toddlers from happening, we should shut up and quit blubbering. It’s our fault, and until we evince some remorse for our actions or intention to reform ourselves, the idea that we consider ourselves entitled to “mourn” the victims of our own barbaric policies is frankly disgusting.

Unless Mitch McConnell is willing to reverse his career of catering to the NRA, he has no business offering solace to the victims. Because he was one of the people ensuring the perpetrators of this gun violence would have easy access to their guns.

Note, McConnell is not the only one who followed bold words with silence (though he does have the NRA A rating, unlike these others). The White House today refused to say whether gun control was a top priority. And as Alec MacGillis notes, “in the decade since [2000], we’ve heard nary a peep from the side of the spectrum that had previously made this one of their causes.”

While Obama Urges Caution, Netanyahu, McConnell, IAEA Fan Anti-Iran Rhetoric, Iran Takes Positive Diplomatic Steps

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President Obama and his administration have spent the last week trying to point out the extreme downside to an attack by Israel on Iran’s nuclear sites. Unfortunately, Obama’s words of caution are getting little play while Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made appearances before the war-hungry mob at AIPAC to make the case for an attack now. In the meantime, Iran took positive diplomatic steps that are likely to be overlooked, reversing a death-sentence conviction on an accused US spy and committing to an IAEA visit to the disputed Parchin site.

As seen in the video above, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano made public statements associated with his appearance before the Board of Governors.  From his prepared remarks:

As my report on Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and Relevant Provisions of Security Council Resolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran makes clear, the Agency continues to have serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme.

In January and February, a senior Agency team held two rounds of talks in Tehran with Iranian officials aimed at resolving all outstanding issues in connection with Iran’s nuclear programme. Despite intensive discussions, there was no agreement on a structured approach to resolving these issues. Iran did not grant access to the Parchin site during the visits, as requested by the Agency. Iran provided an initial declaration on the issues listed in the Annex to my November 2011 report, although it did not address the Agency’s concerns in a substantive manner. During the visits, the Agency also submitted questions on Parchin and the possible role of a foreign expert.

Iran’s Ambassador to the UN agency Ali Asghar Soltanieh dismissed Amano’s report as “only a summary of his earlier report“. Today, Soltanieh announced that Iran remains prepared to define the conditions under which IAEA will be allowed access to Parchin: Continue reading

How Dare the President Protect Consumers!?!?!

We’ll have to come back to the issue of why President Obama decided to use his recess authority to appoint Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Board but not Dawn Johnsen or Elizabeth Warren. But for now, I’d like to collect the wails of Republican outrage.

Shorter John Boehner: Protecting consumers from rapacious banks is an extraordinary and entirely unprecedented power grab! Protecting consumers is bad for the economy!

Shorter Mitch McConnell: Obama has arrogantly circumvented the American people by protecting the American people!

Shorter Orrin Hatch: It is a very grave decision by this heavy-handed, autocratic White House to appoint someone to protect consumers. The American people deserve to be treated with more respect than this White House is affording them by protecting them from the banks!

Shorter Spencer Bachus: Appointing a director to the CFPB will cripple it for years. The greatest threat to our economy right now is uncertainty, and by protecting consumers the President just guaranteed there will be even more uncertainty.

 

Mitch McConnell’s Greatest Fear: DOJ Proved Him Wrong for 5% of the Cost

When the Obama Administration charged two Iraqis on al Qaeda related charges in Bowling Green, KY, Mitch McConnell wrote an op-ed wailing about all the fearful things that could happen as a result.

In short, these two are not common criminals who should be provided all the rights and privileges of American citizens. They are enemy combatants who should be transferred to the military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where they can be interrogated, detained, and brought to justice.

I commend the skill and professionalism of law enforcement and prosecutors for apprehending these terrorists and preventing further violence on our troops. And yes, it is possible to simply try them as common criminals in a civilian court. But after Congress created a $200-million, state-of-the-art facility in Guantanamo Bay precisely to handle foreign fighters like them, why would we want to? It simply makes no sense to saddle Kentuckians with the security and logistical costs associated with ensuring the safety of our residents during a civilian trial.

[snip]

Trying these terrorists in a civilian courtroom could also risk compromising classified information used as evidence in the trial. That too has happened before in trials of this sort—and the Justice Department has already said that they expect the use of classified information in this case.

[snip]

And what happens if these detainees are acquitted, as nearly happened with Ahmed Ghailani?

[snip]

Unlike the Attorney General, Eric Holder, who believes that our “most effective terror-fighting weapon” is our court system, the good people of Kentucky know that our military is what keeps us safe. Our men and women in uniform have sacrificed everything to preserve our freedom and our rights as Americans.

Today, one of the two, Waad Ramadan Alwan, pleaded guilty to all charges against him.

Alwan, 30, a former resident of Iraq, pleaded guilty to all counts of a 23-count indictment charging him with conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals abroad; conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction (explosives) against U.S. nationals abroad; distributing information on the manufacture and use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs); attempting to provide material support to terrorists and to al Qaeda in Iraq; as well as conspiracy to transfer, possess and export Stinger missiles. Alwan was indicted by a federal grand jury in Bowling Green, Ky., on May 26, 2011.

Alwan faces a maximum sentence of life in prison under the sentencing guidelines and a mandatory minimum of 25 years in prison.

Presumably, Alwan will testify against his co-defendant, Mohanad Shareef Hammadi under the kind of cooperation agreement not readily available at Gitmo.

Thus far, the citizens of KY have only had to pay for security for a few hearings (if my experience at a hearing for the much more dangerous Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is any indication, the additional security amounted to a few more burly guards). Alwan released no classified information. He plead guilty without even a trial.

In short, at least for Alwan, McConnell’s fear-mongering proved to be totally baseless.

And rather than spend the $400,000 we would have spent to house Alwan for six months at Gitmo–with similar amounts to be expected for the length of his potential life sentence–we have probably spent $20,000 to house him, even assuming SuperMax levels of security (which Abdulmutallab, at a low security prison, presumably didn’t have). Why was Mitch afraid of saving $380,000?

More importantly, why was Mitch so afraid of this typical result, in which a terrorism suspect pleads guilty before trial?

So Much for the Apolitical Fed

The claim that the Federal Reserve is insulated from politics has always been a farce. Greenspan did a number of ideologically inconsistent things that just happened to help Republicans. And given that the banks run the Fed, it would be impossible to say it is isolated from the politics of the MOTUs (which is increasingly the politics of Congress, anyway).

Nevertheless, when a transpartisan group threatened to require Fed audits during the Dodd-Frank debates, people on both sides of the aisle objected because it would politicize the Fed.

No such worries for the top four Republicans, I guess.

Dear Chairman Bernanke,

It is our understanding that the Board Members of the Federal Reserve will meet later this week to consider additional monetary stimulus proposals. We write to express our reservations about any such measures. Respectfully, we submit that the board should resist further extraordinary intervention in the U.S. economy, particularly without a clear articulation of the goals of such a policy, direction for success, ample data proving a case for economic action and quantifiable benefits to the American people.

It is not clear that the recent round of quantitative easing undertaken by the Federal Reserve has facilitated economic growth or reduced the unemployment rate. To the contrary, there has been significant concern expressed by Federal Reserve Board Members, academics, business leaders, Members of Congress and the public. Although the goal of quantitative easing was, in part, to stabilize the price level against deflationary fears, the Federal Reserve’s actions have likely led to more fluctuations and uncertainty in our already weak economy.

We have serious concerns that further intervention by the Federal Reserve could exacerbate current problems or further harm the U.S. economy. Such steps may erode the already weakened U.S. dollar or promote more borrowing by overleveraged consumers. To date, we have seen no evidence that further monetary stimulus will create jobs or provide a sustainable path towards economic recovery.

Ultimately, the American economy is driven by the confidence of consumers and investors and the innovations of its workers. The American people have reason to be skeptical of the Federal Reserve vastly increasing its role in the economy if measurable outcomes cannot be demonstrated.

We respectfully request that a copy of this letter be shared with each Member of the Board.

Sincerely,

Sen. Mitch McConnell, Rep. John Boehner, Sen. Jon Kyl, Rep. Eric Cantor

Especially nice is that McConnell’s signature is first. You know, the guy who has said his single most important goal is to make Obama a one-term President?

To be fair, there are reasons to oppose QE3, which is the most likely form any Fed intervention would take. Masaccio described last year, for example, how it hurts savers. So it’s not that I’m sure QE3 would do anything but goose the stock market. But I am shocked that more people aren’t objecting to this naked political ploy.

Further, these Republicans pretend that the Fed doesn’t already have a clear mandate to do something about the economy. Mind you, the Fed has mostly forgotten itself that, in addition to “maintaining stable prices” it is supposed to achieve maximum employment. But it is part of its charter to pursue policies that will bring unemployment down from 10%.

That seems to be precisely what the Republican leadership is trying to prevent.

These boys have blatantly broken one of the rules of the Village, which is that it at least pretend that politics is not directing the Fed. Thus far, though, the Village wailers have not yet commented on it.

Update: Now that I note the coincidence, I wonder whether Lamar Alexander’s letter announcing he was stepping down from his leadership position–sent the same day as the leadership letter to Bernanke–is more than a coincidence. After all, the decision amounted to an admission that Republican partisanship was impeding actual useful policy. His letter focused on the Senate, mind you, not on inappropriate interventions in the Fed. Still, I wonder whether this was a factor?

Reid and Republicans Tee Up Another PATRIOT Extension

This is the disrespect in which our Congress holds our Constitution: they will continue to chip away at the Fourth Amendment, by passing yet another extension of the PATRIOT Act without addressing the clear abuses identified since the last extension.

US Congress leaders have agreed to extend for four years an array of counter-terrorism surveillance and search powers adopted after the September 11, 2001 attacks, sources said Thursday.Under the arrangement, the Senate and House of Representatives will hold a vote on extending the controversial powers at the core of the Patriot Act before they lapse on May 27, according to several congressional aides.

The officials said the vote would be “a clean extension” to June 1, 2015, meaning it would not include new civil liberties safeguards sought by some senior lawmakers of both major parties.

Apparently, it’s just too much work to do their fucking jobs and deal with the sound reform proposals on the table.

The ACLU is trying to get a barrage of contacts to legislators.

But if your legislator is either a real liberal or a TeaPartier, please contact them one way or another.

Obama to Shelby (and Others): Let Those Hostages Go

graphic: twolf1

Apparently, Obama told Mitch McConnell that if the GOP didn’t start releasing their hostages, he would recess appoint the whole lot of them. And, as a result of a direct threat, McConnell and his buddies released 27 of their hostages.

But Obama is calling for the Republicans to release all their hostages.

Today, the United States Senate confirmed 27 of my high-level nominees, many of whom had been awaiting a vote for months.

At the beginning of the week, a staggering 63 nominees had been stalled in the Senate because one or more senators placed a hold on their nomination. In most cases, these holds have had nothing to do with the nominee’s qualifications or even political views, and these nominees have already received broad, bipartisan support in the committee process.

Instead, many holds were motivated by a desire to leverage projects for a Senator’s state or simply to frustrate progress. It is precisely these kinds of tactics that enrage the American people.

And so on Tuesday, I told Senator McConnell that if Republican senators did not release these holds, I would exercise my authority to fill critically-needed positions in the federal government temporarily through the use of recess appointments. This is a rare but not unprecedented step that many other presidents have taken. Since that meeting, I am gratified that Republican senators have responded by releasing many of these holds and allowing 29 nominees to receive a vote in the Senate.

While this is a good first step, there are still dozens of nominees on hold who deserve a similar vote, and I will be looking for action from the Senate when it returns from recess. If they do not act, I reserve the right to use my recess appointment authority in the future.

Sure, it reads like a sternly-written letter. But with recess upon us in just over a week, it may not be an idle threat. I’ve asked for clarification, but the general read on this is that Obama is not going to recess anyone this time around.

So it is, indeed, a sternly-written letter.

Republicans Trashing Law Enforcement because It Polls Well

The best explanation for why, after having been briefed that underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was in FBI custody (and therefore, anyone who watches TV would know, mirandized), Republicans more recently started attacking the Obama Administration for having mirandized Abdulmutallab is this:

Republicans discovered the renewed power of terrorism in last month’s special Senate election in Massachusetts. Neil Newhouse, the pollster for the Republican victor, Scott Brown, said voters responded to the way Mr. Brown framed the issue, supporting him 63 percent to 26 percent when told he favored charging suspected terrorists as enemy combatants in a military tribunal while his Democratic opponent would give them constitutional rights and a civilian trial.

“This moved voters more than the health care issue did,” Mr. Newhouse said. “The terrorism stuff resonated, and it wasn’t just from the advertising we did.”

In fact, Mitch McConnell all but admitted that he was hitting the Administration on civilian court issues because of Scott Brown’s election in response to a question he was asked on February 3.

“If this approach of putting these people in U.S. courts doesn’t sell in Massachusetts, I don’t know where it sells,” he told a questioner.

He added: “You can campaign on these issues anywhere in America.”

That is, Republicans are attacking law enforcement–even as they have succeeded in getting Abdulmutallab’s cooperation quicker than it took the torturers to get false information out of KSM–because it polls well, because Scott Brown won on a pro-waterboarding platform.

Here’s the timeline:

December 25, 2009: Abdulmutallab attempts to bomb plane; after refusing to talk, FBI reads Miranda warning; John Brennan briefs Republican leadership that Abdulmutallab in FBI custody; FBI tells intelligence partners it will charge Abdulmutallab criminally, to no objections

December 26, 2009: FBI again tells intelligence partners it will charge Abdulmutallab criminally, to no objections

January 1, 2010: Two FBI agents fly to Nigeria to seek help from Abdulmutallab’s family

January 4, 2010: Scott Brown embraces water-boarding, advocates trying Abdulmutallab in military commission

January 5, 2010: Administration considers, but rejects, possibility of treating Abdulmutallab as enemy combatant

January 7, 2010: Obama Administration releases report of what went wrong on terror attack

January 8-10. 2010: 57% surveyed prefer military commission to civilian trial

January 17, 2010: Two Abdulmutallab family members fly back to Detroit to convince him to cooperate

January 19, 2010: Scott Brown wins special election

January 20, 2010: Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins hold hearing on Christmas bombing; Collins complains about information sharing, not Miranda warning; Blair says not consulted before Miranda read, says new interrogation team should have made decision though it is not yet functional

Several days after his family arrives: Abdulmutallab begins to cooperate

January 25, 2010: Lieberman and Collins write letter attacking FBI for giving Miranda warning

January 27, 2010: Mitch McConnell and others write Holder complaining about Miranda warning

January 30, 2010: Susan Collins attacks Obama for Miranda warning in weekly radio address

February 2, 2010: Mueller tells SSCI Abdulmutallab is cooperating

February 3, 2010: Holder responds to Republican critics; Mitch McConnell attacks “law enforcement” approach and later admits it works in campaigns, mentioning Brown’s victory

February 7, 2010: John Brennan reveals that Republican leaders briefed on FBI custody for Abdulmutallab, made no objections

February 9, 2010: John Brennan writes op-ed, “We need no lectures.”

And Now They're Disclaiming Responsibility for their Briefings

Surprise, surprise. Just days after Crazy Pete Hoekstra did what Crazy Pete Hoekstra attacked Nancy Pelosi for last year–accused the CIA of lying–he’s now caught in another position he has criticized Pelosi for–not objecting in a briefing to an Administration policy he subsequently claimed to be vehemently opposed to. On Meet the Press this morning, John Brennan revealed that he briefed the Republican members of the Gang of Eight about the treatment of underwear bomber Umar Farouk Adbulmutallab (this is already an improvement on Bush policy, since they usually only briefed the Gang of Four). And they didn’t raise any objections to the planned treatment of him.

The Obama administration briefed four senior Republican congressional leaders on Christmas about the attempted terrorist attack on a Detroit-bound flight.

White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan said that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) and Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) did not raise any objections to bombing suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab being held in FBI custody.

“They knew that in FBI custody there is a process that you follow. None of those individuals raised any concerns with me at this point,” Brennan said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “They were very appreciative of the information.”

The Republicans are, predictably, claiming they didn’t know that normal FBI procedure includes mirandizing suspects, claiming that it wasn’t a real briefing–anything to sustain their efforts to politicize national security.

Meanwhile, I’m not holding my breath waiting for the press to call these Republicans on their excuses about the briefing or, more importantly, on their raging hypocrisy. After all, last year the press was able to sustain itself for several months over Crazy Pete’s attack on Nancy Pelosi for this (even while Crazy Pete’s attack was factually wrong). But somehow they seem to lose interest when someone like Crazy Pete gets exposed, for the second time in a week, as a raging hypocrite.

Justice Ginsburg to Senator Bunning: “Screw You”

Mind you, Ruth Bader Ginsburg is much too polite to say it in those terms. But this story makes quite clear: one of the things that motivated Ginsburg to return to the Court so quickly and attend Obama’s address to Congress was Jim Bunning’s prediction of her imminent demise.

One month after her surgery for pancreatic cancer, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said Thursday that she expects to be on the Supreme Court for several more years. In an interview, she also vividly recalled why, on her second day back on the bench, she attended President Obama’s televised speech to a joint session of Congress.

"First, I wanted people to see that the Supreme Court isn’t all male," the lone female justice said of the evening event Feb. 24. "I also wanted them to see I was alive and well, contrary to that senator who said I’d be dead within nine months."

You know, I had already sort of been rooting for Bunning (in that crafty sabotage kind of way), given that his continued presence in the Senate–and especially his determination to run again in 2010–is driving Mitch McConnell crazy.  And of course, having Bunning as a Republican opponent in 2010 might make that seat a pick-up opportunity.

But if Bunning’s continued idiocy is going to keep a solid liberal like Justice Ginsburg going strong on the Court, more power to the asshole. 

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