Wednesday, February 28, 2007

FIRE UP THE TIVO Charlie Rose and Harold Pinter have sat for several lively, combative televised chats over the last several years.

Tune in tomorrow night for next round.

Friday, February 23, 2007

THAT'S BETTER Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) should listen to Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL):
"Now, keep in mind, this is the same guy that said we'd be greeted as liberators, the same guy that said that we're in the last throes. I'm sure he forecast sun today," Obama said to laughter from supporters holding campaign signs over their heads to keep dry. "When Dick Cheney says it's a good thing, you know that you've probably got some big problems."

Thursday, February 22, 2007

HIT BACK This doesn't cut it:
Vice President Dick Cheney on Wednesday harshly criticized Democrats' attempts to thwart President Bush's troop buildup in Iraq, saying their approach would "validate the al-Qaida strategy." House Speaker Nancy Pelosi fired back that Cheney was questioning critics' patriotism.

"I hope the president will repudiate and distance himself from the vice president's remarks," Pelosi said. She said she tried to complain about Cheney to President Bush but could not reach him.
The Vice President accuses Democrats of validating Al Qaeda's strategy and Pelosi's response is to call the President to complain?

How many more years will we have to wait for the Democratic leadership to realize that there's no referee in politics?

Would it be so hard, when Cheney spouts nonsense, to respond with something like this:

This administration has spent the last six years playing into the hands of our enemies and making Americans less safe. The arrogance, poor judgment and downright incompetence of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, have cost thousands of American lives and billions of dollars over the last six years. When it comes national security, neither of these men has any credibility.
Don't whine, for crying out loud. Hit back.

Monday, February 19, 2007

TAKING IN THE SENATE In the nation's capitol on unrelated business, I had a chance earlier this weekend to watch part of the rare Saturday Senate session, including the vote to cut off debate on the Iraq war resolution. (Photos by Willow Lawson.)

It was a striking scene. Freshmen Sen. James Webb (D-VA) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) were nearly alone in the chamber with Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Sen. Robert Byrd (D-VA) as the latter two men wound the debate toward its close.

But soon Democrats were converging on the floor--Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) greeted Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR) with a slap on the back; Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) flew through the doors wearing what looked like a ski parka; and Sen. Hillary Clinton greeted several senators as she moved through the room, eventually parking herself near Webb.

Within a few minutes, nearly all the Democratic seats were filled, even as all but a handful of Republicans remained out of sight. The left side of the room reverberated with smiles and friendly, if hushed, conversations.

Having never seen the Senate in action before, I can't offer an explanation for the lopsided turnout in minutes preceding the vote. But it seems at least plausible that it was a conscious effort on the part of Democrats.

A show of unity? An effort to underscore the importance of the vote? Or a not-so-subtle demonstration to their colleagues across the aisle that they have no qualms about working on Saturdays?

In any event, it was heartening to see all the Democrats in one place, and it was encouraging to see them all getting along famously.

Now, onto results.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A FORD FOUNDATION Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney kicks off his presidential campaign at the Henry Ford Museum?

Guess he isn't planning on winning the Jewish vote.

LAUGH LINES Number of US military fatalities in Iraq since the war began: 3127

Number of "laughter episodes" noted today in the official White House transcript of the President's morning press conference: 16

(That's up from 14 laughter episodes during the December 7, 2006 presidential press conference. It equals the total of 16 achieved during the September 15, 2006 presidential Q & A.)

Monday, February 12, 2007

COLLINS WATCH This just in: Sen. Susan Collins proposes homeland security legislation.

Hasn't she done enough to undermine the security of the homeland over the last five years?

Read about it at Collins Watch.

HEY, REMEMBER WHEN Hey, remember back when the Bushies characterized every successive spike in Iraq violence as evidence that the insurgents/terrorists/Baathists, on the verge of defeat, were making ever-more-desperate attempts to prove their continued relevance?

Haven't heard that argument in a while.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

IT'S A BLOG! CONTRAPOSITIVE is proud to introduce Collins Watch. Same incisive commentary, same erratic news judgment, new narrower focus.

We'll continue to write about Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) at this address from time to time. But for in-depth commentary, you'll want to turn to the new blog.

Bookmark it today.

Monday, February 05, 2007

COLLINS WATCH In the past I'd heard vague rumblings about a 1996 pledge from Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) to serve no more than two terms in office. But searches both on and off the internet turned up nothing.

Thankfully, Foster's Daily Democrat has the scoop:

Collins said during her first campaign for the Senate she did not plan to serve more than two terms and thereafter reaffirmed that position when she first sought re-election.

The Bangor Daily News, on Sept. 17, 1996, reported Collins saying: "I want to go to Washington, serve two terms, and then come home."

Six years later, in a letter dated Sept. 6, 2002, to Carl Lindemann of Portland, Collins wrote: "I am proud of the accomplishments I have made during my first term, and I hope to have the opportunity to serve the people of Maine in the Senate for another six years. I intend to serve only two terms as I indicated in the Sanford forum six years ago."

But now, heading into a campaign for a third term, Collins says she has had a change of heart...

"I've found that I really underestimated the importance of seniority and how much difference it makes when you are a more senior member," said Collins, who worked for former U.S. Sen. William Cohen for a dozen years after college.

"At the time, I thought that 12 years, that two terms, would be enough. This was at the height of what I would call the frenzy over term limits," Collins said.

While it doesn't sound as though Collins made a formal, explicit promise not to seek re-election in 2008, she certainly made something close to a pledge. In any case, blaming the "frenzy over term limits" for her predicament does little to enhance her credibility.

In other news, Roll Call demonstrates why the minimum wage will be an issue in Collins's 2008 campaign:

Democrats are targeting Collins, who is up for reelection in 2008, and part of their strategy will be highlighting her mixed record on the minimum wage...

On March 7, 2005, Collins was one of only 16 senators to vote no on competing wage amendments offered by Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Rick Santorum (R-Pa.).

Kennedy's measure would have raised the minimum wage $2.10, and enjoyed bipartisan support with Republican Sens. Pete Domenici (N.M.), Norm Coleman (Minn.), the recently defeated Lincoln Chafee (R.I.) and Mike DeWine (Ohio). The amendment was defeated 46-49, falling 14 votes short of the 60 needed.

The Santorum amendment was billed as more business-friendly, calling for a wage increase of $1.10 with tax breaks for small businesses. Some conservatives, such as Sens. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) and then-Sen. George Allen (R-Va.), voted for the measure, but it also fell, 38-61.

Collins's office declined to comment to The Hill on her votes at that time, but explained her stance when pressed on those votes this week, stating that the senator repeatedly has voted against minimum-wage bills that do not contain small-business exemptions and tax breaks.
Except that the Santorum amendment did include small business tax breaks.

Looks like Collins is going to have explaining to do on a whole host of fronts.

QUESTION: Do you see any contradiction between supporting McCain, who is in favor of escalating the war, and your current role now in trying to stop the escalation?

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R-ME): No, because there isn’t going to be any candidate who I agree with 100 percent. This is a major issue, and I’m sure that John wishes he hadn’t taken me on the trip [to Iraq] with him in December. That’s the real irony.
Silly me. And I thought the irony was that almost two years before the election, Collins has already signed on to back a candidate for president who she vehemently disagrees with--or at least professes to--on the most important issue facing the country.

IRAQ REWIND Reasonable people now agree that the Iraq war has been a debacle, and that invading the way we did, when we did, was a mistake.

But what kind of mistake?

Was the core mission fundamentally misguided? Or was the problem only that it was badly executed?

Are the Shiite exiles the chief culprits? Was the decision to dissolve the Iraqi army the turning point? Or is President George W. Bush's arrogant, incompetent leadership to blame?

It's a complicated question, naturally--and there isn't a single, knowable right answer. But Ezra Klein over at over at The American Prospect has begun the important work of teasing out the views of the 2008 Democratic nomination contenders.

All the candidates have an interest in fudging the details--it's hard to score political points when you're dealing with nuances. And splitting hairs about why the war failed risks alienating voters who disagree on the specifics.

But it's important that primary voters understand exactly where each of the candidates stand.

In Klein's interview with John Edwards, for example, the former Senator suggests that the mistake he made in supporting the war was the mistake of trusting an incompetent President. But Edwards is not ready to say the project of invading, occupying and democratizing Iraq was itself misconceived.

For her part, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) seems to believe that the war was a mistake in that it turned out badly. In other words, that in hindsight we must call it a mistake.

But she hasn't yet been ready to go even as far as Edwards in saying that the decision to give this particular President the authority to go to war was a misjudgment on her part.

We'll be interested to see what else these (and other) candidates have to say about these issues as the campaign unfolds.

CONTRAPOSITIVE is edited by Dan Aibel. Dan's a playwright. He lives in New York City.