10:37 AM ... Obama's making a very powerful case for the familiar and powerful argument that setting aside our values to protect ourselves actually makes us less safe. Pulls in McCain, to make the point that both parties nominated candidates who opposed[...]
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VERSE CASE SCENARIO
In the House, courtesy of the Office of the Majority Leader:
FLOOR SCHEDULE FOR THURSDAY, MAY 21, 2009
House Meets At... 10:00 a.m.: Legislative Business
Ten “One Minutes” Per Side
Last Vote Predicted... 4:00 – 5:00 p.m.
Conference Report on S. 454 - Weapons Acquisition System Reform Through Enhancing Technical Knowledge and Oversight Act of 2009 (Rep. Skelton – Armed Services) (Subject to a Rule)
H.R. 915 - FAA Reauthorization Act of 2009 (Rep. Oberstar – Transportation and Infrastructure) (Subject to a Rule)
Postponed Suspension Vote (1 Bill)1) H.R. 1676 - PACT Act (Rep. Weiner – Judiciary)
In the Senate, courtesy of the Office of the Majority Leader:
Resume consideration of H.R.2346, Emergency Supplemental Appropriations. The time until 10:00am will be equally divided and controlled between the two leaders or their designees and for debate only.
10:00am cloture vote on H.R.2346.
9:30am filing deadline for germane second degree amendments.
Plenty of committee action, however, as you'll see below, especially for the Appropriations committees, which are still rolling toward the FY10 appropriations bills. In addition, the House Energy & Commerce's marathon markup of H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act, continues. I think they're still following the action on Twitter, under the hashtag #ACES.
Big names appearing before committees today include Treasury Sec. Tim Geithner at 10am before the House Appropriations Financial Services Subcommittee, and CBO Director Doug Elmendorf at 10 before the House Budget Committee.
Hope you're finding the shortcut committee schedules useful and navigable. I'm debating whether or not to return to the old format, but I had to cut corners a little this week. I've been on vacation in the fantastic North Carolina Outer Banks, save for yesterday, when I took a side trip you may have read about (though you didn't see my name attached to it) that required some time savings on the charts yesterday and today.
It was interesting, to say the very least. The very least. And let me tell you, if you ever find yourself on the Outer Banks and needing to get home at the drop of a hat, Charlie at Outer Banks Air Charters is your man.
On the May 20 edition of his CNN show, Lou Dobbs asserted: "White House press secretary Robert Gibbs today acknowledged that the administration had made what he called some hasty decisions -- those are his words -- on closing Guantánamo Bay, and that it will take some time to unwind." Similarly, on the May 20 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly aired a video clip of Gibbs saying, "It was a mistake to set up something that became a rallying cry for our enemies around the world. We've made some hasty decisions that are now going to take some time to unwind. And closing Guantánamo Bay obviously is one of those decisions." O'Reilly then said: "All right. It sounds like he's ... admitting a mistake, and still didn't have a real plan to deal with it." However, neither Dobbs, O'Reilly, nor Politico executive editor Jim VandeHei, who appeared during the O'Reilly Factor segment, mentioned that during the same May 20 briefing in which Gibbs made the remarks O'Reilly aired, Gibbs made clear that he was not characterizing as "hasty" President Obama's decision to close the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, but rather was "discussing decisions that were made in the previous administration."
From the May 20 White House press briefing:
Q: This is a President who has not been afraid to admit that he made a mistake in the past when he made one. If you say Congress deserves a plan before we ask them for resources, was it a mistake to ask for the resources before you give them a plan?
MR. GIBBS: It was a mistake to set up something that became a rallying cry for enemies around the world and to hope for so long that we could simply continue to perpetuate the theory of keeping detainees there while the courts ruled otherwise.
I don't doubt that the President -- and I think he'll say this tomorrow -- that we've made some hasty decisions that are now going to take some time to unwind. And closing Guantanamo Bay obviously is one of those decisions.
Q: Thank you. All right. And you said hasty -- you talked about hasty decisions tomorrow, that it's going to take some time to unwind. Are you talking about the President's hasty decisions or the previous administration's hasty decision as it regards Guantanamo?
MR. GIBBS: No, no, no, I'm sorry, let me be -- good question. My boss might want to know the answer to that. (Laughter.) No, no, I'm discussing decisions that were made in the previous administration --
Q: You were not referring to the executive order --
MR. GIBBS: No, no, no --
Q: -- as a hasty decision.
MR. GIBBS: No.
Q: Absolutely not?
MR. GIBBS: Thank you for letting me clarify that before I go see the boss later this afternoon.
Q: Well, it was an open question in my mind.
Q: Would have been nice to -- (laughter.)
MR. GIBBS: You just saved us a series of phone calls. Let me explain a little bit of what I meant by that. And again, you know, well, I mean, I think you can see we discussed this a little bit around military commissions, the decision that we made and announced on Friday. Again, I think you've seen it in a series of cases that have happened over the past many weeks in this administration, and that is, you know, military commissions as they were originally set up in 2001 and 2002 were invalidated by the Supreme Court. New legislation was put together that was also invalidated --
MR. GIBBS: -- partially, but largely to some degree made unworkable Section 7 of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that don't work.
I think that's in many ways why after nearly eight years three cases have gone through the previous design of military commissions. As I talked about, there are detainees, as a result of different cases that have -- well, as the result of one case all can challenge the evidence and their right to be held, some of whom have proved and some that have been transferred by the past administration and this administration because courts have ruled there isn't enough evidence to hold them for what they were originally being charged with.
So I think the President -- part of the reason I refer to framework on this is there are -- there were a series of decisions that were put together, one on top of the other, that bring us to this point. And regardless of any actions that we might have made in January, any administration would be dealing with some of these circumstances, because different courts -- the Supreme Courts of Appeals, different circuit courts -- have ruled some of those decisions to be unworkable.
From the May 20 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight:
DOBBS: After the Senate vote, the White House said the president will not make any decisions that would, quote, "Imperil the safety of the American people." But White House press secretary Robert Gibbs today acknowledged that the administration had made what he called some hasty decisions -- those are his words -- on closing Guantánamo Bay, and that it will take some time to unwind.
The president tomorrow is likely to talk about Guantánamo Bay in what had been billed as a major speech on national security. That address will come on the same day as another speech on fighting terrorism -- this one by former Vice President Dick Cheney. Jill Dougherty has our report.
From the May 20 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
O'REILLY: Now, Mr. VandeHei -- Mr. VandeHei, I want you to react to what Robert Gibbs, Obama's spokesperson, said today. Roll the tape.
[begin video clip]
REPORTER: This is a president who has not been afraid to admit that he made a mistake in the past when he made one. If you say Congress deserves a plan before we ask them for resources, was it a mistake to ask for the resources before you give them a plan?
GIBBS: It was a mistake to set up something that became a rallying cry for our enemies around the world. We've made some hasty decisions that are now going to take some time to unwind. And closing Guantánamo Bay obviously is one of those decisions.
[end video clip]
O'REILLY: All right. It sounds like he's, Jim, admitting a mistake, and still didn't have a real plan to deal with it.
VANDEHEI: Right. And you can -- you don't even need to listen to us for a critique of this. Dianne Feinstein and other Democratic senators say that this was a big defeat for Obama because he did not get involved and he did not articulate where exactly --
O'REILLY: But this is what I don't understand, you know --
VANDEHEI: -- where these detainees would be. And think about this. This is not -- go ahead, Bill.
O'REILLY: Yeah, this is what I don't understand. Obama's a savvy guy. And tomorrow he'll come up with something, because unlike the Bush administration, whenever the Obama administration is embarrassed, they react instantly, whereas the Bush administration did not.
O'REILLY: So he'll come up with something tomorrow, Obama will. God knows what it's going to be, but he'll come up with something. He's going to talk at 10 o'clock in the morning.
O'REILLY: But, you know, the guy had -- the administration has four months to come up with something. And, again, they couldn't come up with it. So what does that tell you, Jim?
VANDEHEI: Well, one, this is a tough nut to crack. I mean, think about it. Number one, he probably should not have said he's going to shut down Guantánamo Bay within a year without thinking it through more. I think that's crystal clear. That's what Democrats will tell you.
But think about it. Like who the heck wants --
O'REILLY: Nobody wants them.
VANDEHEI: -- a suspected terrorist, an accused terrorist, in their backyard? It's not just here. They thought people overseas would take them.
Another day, another indication that the CIA briefings document that Republicans are currently trying to bludgeon Nancy Pelosi with is deeply flawed and unreliable.
The Associated Press yesterday spotted two clear new errors in the document -- including one real howler we're kicking ourselves for not spotting ourselves:
The CIA chart states that a Senate staffer, Chris Mellon, attended a briefing on July 15, 2004. However, Mellon told The Associated Press that he left the Senate in April 2004 and did not attend the briefing.
On Wednesday, CIA spokesman George Little said the CIA has reviewed its record and agrees that Mellon was erroneously listed as having attended the 2004 briefing.
And even more embarrassingly, 2)
The CIA chart also shows former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Porter Goss attended a March 8, 2005, briefing as a member of Congress. However, Goss was at that time the director of the CIA. He took that job in November 2004.
These are hardly the first pieces of evidence that the document is unreliable. Four Democratic lawmakers, including Pelosi, are now on record differing with the document's version of what happened. And as Greg Sargent reports today, Goss himself, who attended that 2002 Pelosi briefing is refusing to say that the CIA informed him and Pelosi that waterboarding had already been used -- the key issue in dispute.
In addition, as we reported earlier this week, the document refers frequently to "enhanced interrogation techniques" or EITs, as a subject of discussion, even though, as we reported earlier this week, that appears not to have come into widespread public use until 2004.
We're starting to wonder: given the number of errors it contains, why did CIA feel comfortable releasing this document in the first place?
The cable news channels have decided to ignore the election. That’s right. It’s 2008 all over again, pre-election day. They seem to have forgotten that the voters spoke and Democrats won, President Obama trouncing the Republican Pro Torture[...]
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So those CIA documents that supposedly show that Nancy Pelosi was briefed on waterboarding also identify Porter Goss as a member of Congress at the time he was actually Director of the CIA.[...]
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I wonder whether Michael Steele agrees with his own organization on this one?
Today, Obama gave his national security speech at the National Archives, which houses the U.S. Constitution. Trying to be clever (which they're not), the RNC tweeted an attack on Obama for his belief that slavery was a "fundamental flaw" in our constitution, we learned via the Media Matters Action Network. Apparently the RNC does not believe that the Constitution was wrong to permit slavery:
RNC: as he prepares to deliver remarks in hall that holds the constitution, flashback obama: "constitution flawed" http://bit.ly/tFL7O #RNC [Twitter, 5/21/09]As MMAN notes, George W. Bush, Colin Powell and Condi Rice all said similar things. But, they might not be considered Republicans anymore. It's hard to tell who is and who isn't these days.
FACT: Obama Explains The Constitution's "Fundamental Flaw" Was Slavery. The out of context video the RNC links to contains audio from a September 6, 2001 program called "Slavery and the Constitution" on WBEZ Chicago. On the show, Obama explained that the "fundamental flaw" was "Africans at the time were not considered as part of the polity that was of concern to the framers." In addition, the framers did not "see...it as a moral problem involving persons of moral worth." [WBEZ Radio, accessed 5/21/09]
Bumped: Today the House Judiciary Committee (Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security)is holding a hearing on the disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentences.
Members of Congress will receive a petition with 21,000 signatures calling for an end to the disparity. The hearing is called “Unfairness in Federal Cocaine Sentencing: Is it Time to Crack the 100 to 1 Disparity?"
Among the witnesses is a former U.S. Attorney, Veronica Coleman-Davis (Tennessee). From her written testimony:
“After more than 20 years, multiple studies debunking the myths, recommendations from the United States Sentencing Commission, and at least two generations of families and children torn by the systemic imposition of imprisonment for one -100th the amount of cocaine than their white counterparts, it is surely not only good policy but also good politics to correct this injustice,”
The pending bills addressing the disparity are:[More...]
Other witnesses include Marc Mauer of the Sentencing Project and Willie May Aikens, a former major league baseball player who served 12 years for small amounts of crack.
Here's a little of my analysis of the bills: The best are H.R. 1459, H.R. 1466 and H.R. 2178:
H.R. 1459: Fairness in Cocaine Sentencing Act of 2009
H.R. 2178: Crack-Cocaine Equitable Sentencing Act of 2009
H.R. 1466: Major Drug Trafficking Prosecution Act of 2009
H.R. 265: Drug Sentencing Reform and Cocaine Kingpin Trafficking Act of 2009:
And, since you know some Republicans had to get their warped views in, here's their bill: It increases the penalties for powder to match those now set for crack.
H.R. 18: Powder Crack Cocaine Penalty Equalization Act of 2009 (A bill to target cocaine kingpins and address sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine.)
Bottom line: It's time to crack the disparity, reduce the penalties for crack to match the lower levels for powder and end mandatory minimum sentences for both. Retroactivity would be nice too, so the thousands already languishing in our prisons serving these draconian and unjust sentences could get some relief.
Latest from Blago: Please compare me to FDR, TR and Truman. [...]
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