Various items

The ACLU hosts an online torture symposium. The GOP parodies itself with a new ad campaign featuring dancing San Francisco gays. Joe Lieberman previews the attack he'll launch at the RNC.

By Glenn Greenwald
May 21, 2008 1:56PM (UTC)
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(updated below - Update II)

(1) The ACLU yesterday launched its new blog -- called "Blog of Rights" -- with the first day of a week-long, online symposium about torture that I helped them put together (as I've disclosed before, I consult with the ACLU on various matters). The blog will be a vehicle enabling the ACLU, on a daily basis, to post news items, commentary, and documents that it is uniquely able to provide by virtue of its central role in so many of the most critical post-9/11 civil liberties and constitutional battles. It should be a great resource for anyone -- bloggers and readers -- interested in those issues.


Contributors to the symposium yesterday included Daniel Larison of The American Conservative and Joan McCarter of Daily Kos. Numerous other writers and bloggers will contribute throughout the week. The ACLU Executive Director, Anthony Romero, wrote an initial post about the new blog and the torture symposium. My contribution -- concerning the expanding responsibility the country collectively shares for the Bush torture regime -- can be read here.

(2) Following up on what I wrote yesterday about the multi-media ad campaign aimed at Blue Dog Rep. Chris Carney and his support for warrantless eavesdropping and telecom amnesty, another $8,000 was raised yesterday for that campaign, bringing the total close to $75,000. That sum will buy a very substantial amount of TV, newspaper, radio and billboard ads in Carney's district -- or in anyone else's district. The announcement of the campaign was heard loud and clear in several Beltway precincts. I will post updates on its impact as they develop.

(3) Rep. Sam Graves is an obscure, party-line, three-term GOP Congressman from Missouri who is being challenged this year -- in what is expected to be a close race -- by the former Mayor of Kansas City, Democrat Kay Barnes. This is the truly amazing campaign ad that Graves is currently running against Barnes:

Here is Barnes' appropriately contemptuous response:

Republicans have really turned into complete caricatures of themselves and, as they take on the desperation typically associated with cornered rats, the way they've degraded our political discourse and political arena generally becomes more apparent. "Pathetic" really is the only word for it, and it's good to see Barnes use that word repeatedly in her response. As the collapsing Republican Party becomes weaker and more discredited, Democrats -- who have long been plagued by spasms of worry and fear in the face of such attacks -- seem to be much more emboldened when responding. That's the same approach Barack Obama needs to take, and he seems well aware of that.

(4) Credit has to be given where it's due. As Alex Koppelman details, Joe Klein this week aggressively challenged John McCain on his factually false claims that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad runs Iranian foreign policy (he doesn't) and that Obama vowed to meet with Ahmadinejad specifically (he didn't). The video of the confrontation is here. McCain ends the exchange by defending his misstatements this way: "I think if you asked any average American who the leader of Iran is, I think they'd know." McCain actually seems proud of the fact that the demonization campaign against Ahmadinejad has misled the American public about the nature of the Iranian regime.

(5) Joe Lieberman has been running around previewing the Zell-Miller-copycat attack speech he's going to deliver at the Republican National Convention, featuring all the cliches about how the weak and subversive Democrats don't want to defend the country in the grand tradition of FDR/Truman/JFK and how Obama is such a dangerous, terrorist-loving radical that the Democratic Party is now overtly hostile to patriotic, moderate centrists like Lieberman -- and John McCain. National Review details a speech Lieberman gave to that effect at a dinner this week for the Podhoertz Family's Commentary Magazine, and Lieberman has an Op-Ed today in the Wall. St Journal filled with similar platitudes.

This is what makes the constant, lavish praise heaped on Lieberman by Harry Reid and his anonymous "Senate leadership" comrades so mystifying -- and so self-destructive. Democratic leaders like Reid just keep building up the character, credentials and political wisdom of someone who is in the process of mauling their party and their candidate in the most toxic manner possible.

Along those lines, Matt Yglesais makes a very good point about the shock and horror being expressed by some "liberal" pundits towards Lieberman as a result of his "Zellification." While Lieberman's attacks on the Democratic Party as weak and inept in national security are becoming more prominent due to his role in the McCain campaign, they're nothing new -- neither for Lieberman nor for many of the Beltway "liberal" pundits pretending to find Lieberman's attacks so outrageous. After noting how wrong-headed he finds Lieberman's attacks, Yglesias notes:

In Lieberman's defense, he's not really "Zellifying" at all -- the things he's saying today were conventional wisdom among center-left elites five years ago and as recently as three years ago Peter Beinart could be found getting a respectful hearing for the idea that MoveOn members should be analogized to Communist Fifth Columnists and purged from progressive politics. It's just that most people who used to hold those views have abandoned them, often sotto voce, leaving Lieberman as an unexpected outlier.

Yglesias specifically points to The New Republic's Jonathan Chait, who this week feigned such grave offense at Lieberman's attacks but was himself reciting very similar themes when joining in the Cheney/McCain/Lieberman war dances not too long ago. It wasn't all that long ago that Lieberman was the hero of the Beltway "liberal hawk" crowd. After all, The New Republic, just four years, endorsed Lieberman for President.

(6) As I noted last week, the White House's Dana Perino emphatically denied that the White House was aware of or involved in the military analyst program -- denials which are conclusively proven to be false by several of the documents released by the DoD. The Raw Story's Eric Brewer -- who asked the question that prompted Perino's false denial and is still the only reporter to ask about these matters -- intrepidly returned to the White House briefing room yesterday and followed-up with Deputy Press Secretary Scott Stanzel. This time, confronted with the proof that the White House was involved, Stanzel didn't bother denying the White House's involvement but, instead, implicitly acknowledged it and then defended it as proper.

It's always striking how seamlessly they lie and just abandon the lie without acknowledgment -- or scandal -- once the lie is documented to the point where it can no longer be maintained with a straight face (Step 1: "We had no knowledge or involvement." Step 2: "Oh, OK, so we did have knowledge and involvement. Nothing wrong with that").

Relatedly, The Washington Post's Philip Carter has some thoughts on the military analyst scandal and specifically on the great Joe Galloway column I noted the other day.

(7) In response to the post I wrote a couple days ago about Bill Kristol's latest factually inaccurate NYT column, I received an email from NYT Op-Ed Page Editor Andy Rosenthal. Rosenthal said that while his father (Abe) and Kristol's father (Irv) were friends, and while he (Andy) and Bill had a "reportorial" relationship when Andy covered the Bush 41 administration and Bill worked for Dan Quayle, their prior relationship was not actually a "friendship," which is how I had characterized it. I immediately published Rosenthal's email as an update to the post I wrote in order to note his objection to my characterization, and -- just in case it wasn't seen -- I note it again now.


Notably, in his email to me, Rosenthal invited me to call him or email him in the event I wanted to write about him again in the future. But in response to his email, I twice asked Rosenthal if he would require Kristol to publish a correction to the factually false claim in his column, and Rosenthal -- while demanding that I note his "correction" -- just ignored my question and refused to answer. He even refused to say if he thought Kristol's column needed a correction at all. So much for his generous willingness to answer questions about his Op-Ed page. It remains to be seen if Kristol will correct his latest false statement.


(8) There is now a correction appended to Kristol's last column in order to correct two factual errors he made (that makes a total of four corrections in less than six months that Kristol has been writing a once-a-week NYT column). It reads:

Correction: May 21, 2008

In his column on Monday, Bill Kristol said he could not find a recent primary in which the candidate who would go on to win the nomination lost by as big a margin as Barack Obama lost by (41 points) in West Virginia. Mitt Romney won the essentially uncontested Utah primary on Feb. 5 with about 90 percent of the vote.

Also, the California Supreme Court is based in San Francisco, not the state capital, Sacramento.

The correction is intended to downplay the significance of Kristol's error ("Mitt Romney won the essentially uncontested Utah primary on Feb. 5 with about 90 percent of the vote"), but it fails to note that McCain also lost the Arkansas primary by 40 points to Mike Huckabee.

(9) Somewhat buried in today's NYT article on the report by the FBI Inspector General concerning Guantanamo is this rather significant revelation (h/t reader ct):

Many of the abuses the report describes have previously been disclosed, but it was not known that F.B.I. agents had gone so far as to document accusations of abuse in a "war crimes file" at Guantánamo. The report does not say how many incidents were included in the file after it was started in 2002, but the "war crimes" label showed just how seriously F.B.I. agents took the accusations. Sometime in 2003, however, an F.B.I. official ordered the file closed because "investigating detainee allegations of abuse was not the F.B.I.'s mission," the report said.

"War crimes" is exactly what they are, and the fact that the FBI called them that -- and then had its investigation impeded on the ground that it wasn't its jurisdiction -- is a very significant revelation.


(10) Room Eight's Jerry Skurnik, who was the first to document the factual inaccuracy in Kristol's original column, today demonstrates that the "correction" from the NYT is as sloppy and inaccurate as the original Kristol column itself.

Glenn Greenwald

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