The Ugly Truth On What Was Really “Left At The Altar”

Graphic by @TWolf10

I was away during the dueling banjos press conferences of Barack Obama and John Boehner this afternoon. Apparently it was quite the show. Despite stating repeatedly how he was “left at the altar” by his Orange Glo golfing chum Boehner, President Obama seemed to get surprisingly effusive praise from pundits on the left for his speech.

Indicative of the praise is this tweet from Keith Olbermann:

You know my criticisms of this POTUS. In this news conference he has been absolutely effing kickass, and properly pissed off.

David Corn of Mother Jones tweeted:

O was as passionate and as close to angry as he gets. #debtageddon

And Corn is now on Lawrence O’Donnell’s show on MSNBC, where Lawrence the “Eleventy Dimensional Chess Scold” himself just said of Obama’s presser:

“It was a brilliantly effective appearance for his reelection.”

And there is the problem isn’t it? Obama really was, and is, worried more about his reelection than he is the welfare of the country and the entirety of its citizens who are not members of his cherished moneyed elite and financial sector magnates.

The details seemed to ebb and flow over the last few days, but this from Bloomberg sums up the basics of what Obama was willing to pull the trigger on:

Two congressional officials said the White House told Democratic leaders it was pursuing a deal to cut spending, including on Social Security and Medicare, and a tax overhaul that could raise $1 trillion. That provoked an angry reaction yesterday from Senate Democrats, who said they feared they might be asked to swallow steep reductions in programs and trims to entitlement benefits with no assurance of higher tax revenue.

Right. What Obama was caterwauling about being “left at the altar” was his willingness, nee burning desire, to make huge cuts in spending and social safety net programs, in return for the possibility of a tax reform later.

And, make no mistake, Mr. Obama is absolutely desperate to make that deal in order to get the debt ceiling issue off the table until sometime after his reelection campaign. His “Grand Bargain” is shit for the economy, shit for almost all Americans safety net now and in the future; it is only good for the howling idiots in the Tea Party sphere and, of course, the reelection campaign of Barack Obama.

So THAT is what was “left at the altar”, and why Barack Obama was suddenly so apoplectically passionate about it. And, yes, it must be stated Boehner, Cantor and the Tea GOP are even more craven and lame than Obama here, but that is pretty weak tea to hang your hat on if you are a sentient being. And that, folks, was the way it was on the day the debt ceiling fell to the floor.

But, fear not trepidatious Americans, Mr. Obama is going to try to save your future and his “grand bargain” again tomorrow! Gee, what dedication.

UPDATE: Paul Krugman understands the ugly truth here, having issued an article today entitled “What Obama Was Willing To Give Away”. Exactly.

[The wonderful and appropos graphic is by the one and only @TWolf10]

“Robo-signing” the PATRIOT Act

Chuck Todd tweeted last night:

WH announced that POTUS ordered the Patriot Act renewal to be signed by the “autopen”; so, yes, it was robosigned

Reason given for robosigning via autopen: Patriot Act expires midnight tonight, so as to not have gap, either robosigned or flown to him

Now, Todd was writing in the early hours of morning, French time, while watching hoops (I believe he’s a Heat fan). So this interpretation may be a product of his inattention/fatigue.

Nevertheless, it’s interesting because Todd improperly called signing the PATRIOT Act with an autopen “robosigning.” They’re not actually the same thing. Robosigning as currently used is when a poorly paid live person signs a name to a document (though maybe not the one whose name gets signed), claiming to attest to the accuracy of documents without actually doing so. By ordering that PATRIOT be signed using his autopen, Obama gave the law the full weight of law, yet without actually signing the document.

As I joked last night, they’re going to have to add a couple of lines to Schoolhouse Rock to explain to children the magic of the President’s autopen:

I’m just a bill, yes I’m only a bill, thanks to the President losing his auto-quill.

I’m off to the White House to wait in a line for the President’s autosign.

So Todd was somewhat inaccurate in calling this robosigning. But in a funny way that accorded the PATRIOT signing the same illegitimacy and fraud of foreclosure fraud.

That said, Todd then parroted the Administration fib about why “robosigning” was necessary: because the PATRIOT authorities extended yesterday expired at midnight, so the only way to get the bill signed into law was with Obama’s autopen (or a whole lot of wasted jet fuel, and even that wouldn’t have worked in time).

But that’s not right. Because it ignores the way Congress did nothing with the PATRIOT extensions in the existing extension period, the way those defending the status quo preferred letting time run out to a real debate on these authorities, the way a long-term extension was rammed through at the last moment.

The way to avoid the fraudulent appearance of auto-signing the PATRIOT act, of course, would have been to have an actual debate about it. But Harry Reid and John Boehner and Obama and the other defenders of the status quo couldn’t have that!

Update: Apparently it’s okay to “robo-sign” bills into law because Steven Bradbury said it was:

WH says “auto pen” use authorized by Office of Legal Counsel finding in 2005. Obama phoned auto pen OK to staff secretary last night.

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.

Chamber of Commerce Flip-Flops on Retroactive Legislation

As you’ve likely heard, the Chamber of Commerce has officially endorsed government welfare to limit corporate risk. (Again.)

The head of the United States Chamber of Commerce said Friday that his group is not yet lobbying against legislative efforts to raise BP’s liability cap, viewing the issue as not yet “ripe.”

He signaled, however, that his group would figure out a way to get the government to share in the cost of cleaning up the Gulf Coast.

It is generally not the practice of this country to change the laws after the game,” said Tom Donohue, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “. . . Everybody is going to contribute to this clean up. We are all going to have to do it.  We are going to have to get the money from the government and from the companies and we will figure out a way to do that.” [my emphasis]

And like an obedient orange puppy, John Boehner has embraced the Chamber’s call for government welfare for corporations.

I do agree with Steve Benen that the Republican (and Mary Landrieu) embrace of big oil ahead of taxpayers ought to be a game changer.

But I’d also like to note how, um, opportunistic the Chamber is with its insistence that “it is generally not the practice of this country to change the laws after the game.” This is what the Chamber wrote to pressure the House to support a FISA amendment that invalidated a law holding telecoms liable for illegal wiretapping of private citizens.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world’s largest business federation representing more than three million businesses and organizations of every size, sector, and region, strongly supports S. 2248, the “FISA Amendments Act of 2007,” as passed by the Senate on February 12, 2008. The Chamber believes that this bill, in its current form, provides necessary, appropriate, and targeted relief commensurate with the threat to national security that arose in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.

The Chamber represents companies across various industries which own or operate vital components of the nation’s critical physical, virtual, and economic infrastructures. The federal government continually depends upon such industries for cooperation and assistance in national security matters, including homeland security programs and activities. The government also turns to these companies in times of crisis, when the speed, agility, and creativity of the private sector can be critical to averting a terrorist attack.

Therefore, the Chamber urges the House to consider S. 2248 and pass this bipartisan compromise legislation. The Chamber firmly believes that the immunity provisions in S. 2248 are imperative to preserving the self-sustaining “public-private partnership” that both Congress and the Executive Branch have sought to protect the United States in the post-September 11 world. [my emphasis]

Of course, the Chamber is being utterly consistent on one point. That’s in lobbying to make sure big corporations never pay for the negative consequences–be they legal or financial–of their actions.

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.

Obama (and John Boehner) on Al Punto

Since I pushed Obama’s appearance on Univision’s Al Punto the other day, I thought I should watch it.

The Obama interview lasted about 15 minutes (as did the Boehner interview that followed) and included–in addition to the questions about whether undocumented workers and health care reform I discuss in more detail below–the following questions (working from memory–my Spanish too rusty to live-blog and retranslate while listening!!):

  • Whether the opposition to Obama’s policies stem from racism (he gave the answer about delegitimizing government he has given elsewhere)
  • Presenting a claim John Boehner made–that Democrats don’t have the votes to pass health care by themselves–whether the Democrats could do it on their own (Obama gave a typical answer celebrating bipartisanship but saying he thought it would pass)
  • Whether Obama supported a public option and whether it could be passed (Obama repeated his answers about the importance of the public option as part of a larger reform, and said he did not believe that it was dead)
  • Whether Obama, who has said he supports more cultural exchange with Cuba, supported a big concert they’re doing there
  • What Obama would do regarding Honduras (Obama took a middle ground, appealing to having a more legitimate election in the future)
  • Whether Obama would fulfill his promise to put forth immigration reform in the first year of his Administration (again, Obama took a middle ground, and pointed out he promised he’d have to get it passed)

The most important questions, of course, had to do with the exclusion of undocumented workers from the health exchange (and therefore from health care in the United States). Al Punto host Jorge Ramos asked Obama whether this policy made sense in about three different ways (and asked the same question in his interview of John Boehner). Both Obama and Boehner generally responded by pretending that exclusion from the exchange didn’t amount to exclusion from health care (Obama said something like, "well, if they buy health care from insurers directly, that’s between them and the insurer"). Both, too, responded to questions about health care by talking about the need for immigration reform. Ramos asked Obama specifically about the number of children born in this country who, because at least one parent is undocumented, will have problems accessing health care (if I heard it right, Obama said he’d like to cover these children in SCHIP).

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The Hill’s Campfire Games on Intelligence Briefings

The Hill has a childish article out–one that encourages our Congress to function like a child’s playroom, and one that manufactures "news" at the whim of its sources. The "story," as told by the Hill, is that Republicans attended a closed briefing (the article doesn’t really explain that "closed" means "classified"), and then came out and made claims about what they heard in the briefing.

Republicans ignited a firestorm of controversy on Thursday by revealing some of what they had been told at a closed-door Intelligence Committee hearing on the interrogation of terrorism suspects.

Democrats immediately blasted the GOP lawmakers for publicly discussing classified information, while Republicans said Democrats are trying to hide the truth that enhanced interrogation of detainees is effective.

GOP members on the Intelligence Committee on Thursday told The Hill in on-the-record interviews that they were informed that the controversial methods have led to information that prevented terrorist attacks.

When told of the GOP claims, Democrats strongly criticized the members who revealed information that was provided at the closed House Intelligence Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations hearing. Democrats on the panel said they could not respond substantively, pointing out that the hearing was closed.

Now, reading those first few paragraphs, you’d think you’d find a series of quotes from Republicans in the article that supported the claim that torture "had led to information that prevented terrorist attacks," right? The Hill promised "on the record interviews."

As it turns out, the Hill gives us just one on-the-record quote from a Republican who attended the briefing, and it doesn’t quite live up to billing:

Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), a member of the subcommittee who attended the hearing, concurred with Hoekstra [who was not at the briefing, that they told him interrogation worked].
“The hearing did address the enhanced interrogation techniques that have been much in the news lately,” Kline said, noting that he was intentionally choosing his words carefully in observance of the committee rules and the nature of the information presented.
“Based on what I heard and the documents I have seen, I came away with a very clear impression that we did gather information that did disrupt terrorist plots,” Kline said.

Kline makes two claims:

  1. The hearing did "address" techniques that have been in the news lately
  2.  We did gather information that did disrupt terrorist plots

And from this, the apparently English-challenged Hill writer, Jared Allen, claims that GOP members–plural Read more

Scrapple and Pelosi

Yes, I’m glad that Arlen "the Scrapple formerly known as Haggis" Specter has come out in support of Nancy Pelosi’s suggestion that CIA misled her in her September 2002 briefing.

"The CIA has a very bad record when it comes to — I was about to say ‘candid’; that’s too mild — to honesty," Specter, a former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a lunch address to the American Law Institute. He cited misleading information about the agency’s involvement in mining harbors in Nicaragua and the Iran-Contra affair."Director [Leon] Panetta says the agency does not make it a habit to misinform Congress. I believe that is true. It is not the policy of the Central Intelligence Agency to misinform Congress," Specter said. "But that doesn’t mean that they’re all giving out the information."

Because of leaks that have come from Congress, Specter said, he understands the agency’s hesitancy to disclose all its information.

"The current controversy involving Speaker Pelosi and the CIA is very unfortunate, in my opinion, because it politicizes the issue and it takes away attention from … how does the Congress get accurate information from the CIA?" Specter said. "For political gain, people are making headlines."

But one thing should be mentioned about Specter’s comments. Note that Scrapple, unlike John Boehner and Crazy Pete Hoekstra and John McCain, doesn’t claim to know WTF Pelosi was briefed.

Rather, his statement is general (a sentiment Specter probably formed when he was on SSCI): Specter’s noting that CIA is less than forthcoming with Congress, and that that needs to change. (He’s also correctly suggesting that those making headlines are doing so for political spin.)

The distinction is important. This whole debate has largely been drummed up by people who have no fucking clue how CIA briefed Congress in 2002. It’d be nice if that kind of rank ignorance wasn’t making the headlines anymore. 

WaPo’s Partisan Press Release Service

The front page of the WaPo website features what amounts to a press release from John Boehner, attempting to continue blaming Nancy Pelosi because Dick Cheney tortured.

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) "ought to either present the evidence or apologize’" in the wake of her comments that CIA officials misled her about the use of controversial interrogation techniques on terrorist suspects.

"Lying to the Congress of the United States is a crime," Boehner said yesterday on CNN’s "State of the Union." "And if the speaker is accusing the CIA and other intelligence officials of lying or misleading the Congress, then she should come forward with evidence and turn that over to the Justice Department so they can be prosecuted."

He added: "And if that’s not the case, I think she ought to apologize to our intelligence professionals around the world."

The story doesn’t report that two out of three of the other members of Congress who were "briefed" in September 2002 (including the hyper-anal Bob Graham) back Pelosi’s claim. Here’s Graham:

The CIA when I asked them, what were the dates these briefings took place, gave me four dates. And I went back to my spiral notebooks and a daily schedule that I keep and found, and the CIA concurred, that in three of those four dates, there was no briefing held. That raises some questions about the bookkeeping of the CIA. Under the rules of clandestine information, I was prohibited from keeping notes of what was actually said during that briefing other than a brief summation that it had to do with the interrogation of detainees.

And here’s Goss, speaking of the torture techniques prospectively (and therefore revealing that he was not briefed they had already been used, which is precisely what Pelosi has claimed):

the techniques on which they were briefed were to actually be employed

And for good measure, here’s Jello Jay, pointing out that the CIA also got its briefing schedule wrong with him, as they did with Graham.

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Doolittle’s Payoff

Back when Rove quit was canned quit to spend time with his family that had gone away to college, he gave the WSJ a sweet retrospective. He attributed the inaccuracy of his "math" during the 2006 election to his inability to get rid of scandal-ridden Republicans before their scandals broke out.

He says Republican Chris Shays and Independent-Democrat Joe Lieberman survived in Connecticut despite supporting the war, while Republicans who were linked to corruption or were complacent lost. His biggest error, Mr. Rove says, was in not working soon enough to replace Republicans tainted by scandal.

And while it’s hard to distinguish the scandal-ridden Republican retirees from among the mob of retiring Republicans, some key scandal-ridden Republicans are retiring, including Domenici, Renzi, and Doolittle.

I’m particularly interested in Doolittle’s thought process. Less than two months ago, a defiant Doolittle admitted that he was going to use the William Jefferson precedent to stay out of jail.

Now, Rep. John Doolittle, R-Roseville, has crawled into the freezer with Jefferson.

On Dec. 19 Doolittle said he is challenging the constitutionality of subpoenas, issued by a federal grand jury, which seek congressional office records related to his relationship with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

It’s purely a strategy of delay. "My attorney tells me that this issue alone – the constitutional issue presented by those subpoenas … is going to take one to two years to resolve," Doolittle said.

But then less than a month after that–on January 10–Doolittle announced he would not run for reelection. Poor John Doolittle won’t have a Congressional freezer in which to hide the evidence of his next bribe.

Which is why I’m interested in the donors to Doolittle’s defense fund (h/t TP).

Republican U.S. Rep. John Doolittle collected nearly $35,000 in his legal defense fund during the fourth quarter of last year, including contributions from a potential candidate to replace him, former U.S. Rep. Doug Ose.


Ose donated $2,000 to Doolittle’s legal fund, according to a filing Wednesday, and another $2,000 from his family business, Enlow Ose & Associates. Doolittle also got $5,000 from House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio.

Don’t get me wrong–Doolittle clearly needs all the money he can get to pay his lawyers. But doesn’t this look like a little extra persuasion? So that maybe this time around, Rove can at least do his "math"a little more accurately?