Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Almost there


Hold Jean Schmidt Accountable

This is it -- your last chance to help place billboards in Jean Schmidt's district sending her a clear message:

"Shame on You, Jean Schmidt: Stop Attacking Veterans. Keep Your Eye on the Ball -- We Need a Real Plan for Iraq."

In a few hours we need to finalize the order, and the contributions that come in before then will be the deciding factor on how many billboards can go up and where.

Your contribution can put a billboard up right near the Schmidt office in Portsmouth, Ohio:

Thank you,

Tom McMahon
Executive Director
Democratic National Committee

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RE: Shame on them

Democratic News

automat-- Hold Jean Schmidt Accountable

Since Tom wrote to you yesterday, thousands of people have stepped up to challenge Republican leaders in their own backyard when they attack our veterans.

I saw the video of Republican Jean Schmidt calling decorated combat veteran and Democratic Congressman Jack Murtha a coward. I couldn't believe what I heard.

Immediately after her attack, you can hear something else on that tape. That is the House Democrats shouting her down and calling her to account for the attack. They ultimately forced her to retract her words.

We're following your suggestion to put billboards up in the hometown of any Republican leader trying to distract from their failed leadership by attacking a veteran's service.

The first target is Jean Schmidt -- and there are less the 24 hours left to make a contribution to put a billboard up right outside her district office in Portsmouth, Ohio. Will you contribute to kick start this effort?

Jean Schmidt is only the latest Republican leader to cross this line of civility and respect for our veterans -- it's time to say enough is enough.

Republican leaders use these tactics to distract people from the simple fact that they have lost credibility on national security and foreign policy.

They abandoned the hunt for Osama bin Laden. They manipulated intelligence to sell the war in Iraq, and failed to plan adequately for the war before it started. They destroyed the moral authority America built up over five decades of Democratic and Republican presidents, and they alienated the universal support for our cause after September 11th.

Americans deserve to hear an exit strategy in Iraq and a plan to restore our moral leadership in the world. And questioning the patriotism of those who demand these things is absolutely out of bounds.

Thank you for standing up.

Governor Howard Dean, M.D.

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Slowly, the wheel is turning in Iraq

Gary Hart

Dear Friend,

"The public trust must be earned, and speaking clearly, candidly and forcefully now about the mess in Iraq is the place to begin."

I wrote those words in August in The Washington Post to call on Democratic Party leaders to step forward on Iraq. My years in the Senate and as co-chair of the Bipartisan Commission on National Security had convinced me that, unless Democrats provided real leadership, Americans would never receive the honest and open debate about Iraq that our country deserves.

When I first read John Kerry's October speech on Iraq, I knew it was a turning point. He spoke with the same unwavering voice - truth speaking to power - as he did when I first heard him speak out about the war in Vietnam in 1971. John Kerry got it right last month when he said, "Asking tough questions isn't pessimism; it's patriotism" and then answered those questions by offering a detailed plan to get the troops home.

In recent weeks, Democratic leaders across America - Jack Murtha, Ted Kennedy, Joe Biden, Pat Leahy, John Edwards and Barack Obama - have questioned the Bush Administration's unfocused "stay as long as it takes" approach. Democrats have joined together to offer substantive alternatives to get it right in Iraq and made it clear that our conscience and conviction lie with taking care of our troops.

The grassroots community at has played a critical role making sure these ideas are heard and that brave Democrats are protected against the inevitable Republican attacks.

When John Kerry called for the withdrawal of 20,000 troops over the holidays, and the majority of remaining combat troops by the end of 2006, linking bringing troops home to clear benchmarks, you added energy and passion to that initiative.

When John Kerry called for accelerated training of Iraqi troops, greater international involvement, and improved reconstruction efforts, you amplified his voice.

Now, because of your efforts and those of all these Democratic leaders, make no mistake: the wheel has turned in the national debate over the war in Iraq. The American people have responded to the tough questions we've been asking because they had the same ones. The result is that the Bush Administration is being forced to engage in something they've gone to great lengths to avoid: an open debate about the war in Iraq.

We should all be proud of what has been accomplished, but never complacent. Asking questions and debating the issues alone will not rectify this disastrous situation exacerbated by the endless stream of Administration failures. You have to demand answers. You have to demand results for our troops.

That means making sure the intensity of your grassroots effort doesn't fade over the holidays. Our troops don't have the luxury of taking it easy over the holidays, and neither do we.

We have to continue to speak out - on talk radio, in letters to the editor, and to our neighbors - to demand an Administration strategy to get our troops home.

This fight isn't just about the future of the Democratic Party - whether we're going to have a strong Democratic Party that speaks its mind or settles for being a second Republican Party. This fight, at its core, is about restoring the strength and honor of America.

America needs your continued leadership, courage and passion on the grassroots level. I can't thank you enough for everything you have already done, and I am confident about what the community is sure to accomplish in the future.


Gary Hart

Paid for by Friends of John Kerry, Inc.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

RE: Shame on them

Dear automat,

Hold Jean Schmidt Accountable

Ten days ago Governor Dean asked Democrats to stand up for decorated combat veteran and Democratic Congressman Jack Murtha, who was under attack for speaking up about Iraq. More than 115,000 of you sent Murtha notes of encouragement, letting him know you would not be silent as Republicans try to score political points by attacking veterans.

In your letters, many of you singled out freshman Congresswoman Jean Schmidt, who had the audacity to call Jack Murtha a coward on the floor of the United States House of Representatives. (That's the same Jack Murtha who served 37 years in the Marine Corps, who received the Bronze Star, two purple hearts, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, and the Navy Distinguished Service Medal.)

You asked what you could do to turn the heat up on Jean Schmidt and show Republicans that questioning the service of our veterans isn't fair game. One great idea that many of you suggested was placing billboards in their home districts. So, at your suggestion, here's the proposal.

From this day forward, the Democratic Party will commit to putting up a "Shame on You" billboard in the home district of any Republican who attacks a veteran's service in order to score political points.

The first billboard will go up near Jean Schmidt's district office in Portsmouth, Ohio. The message: "Shame on You, Jean Schmidt: Stop Attacking Veterans. Keep Your Eye on the Ball -- We Need a Real Plan for Iraq".

If you contribute now the billboard can be up next week. Your donation right now will take the fight right into Schmidt's backyard -- and the backyard of any Republican who values political posture over a veteran's service:

We have seen this pattern from Republican leaders before. Every time a veteran -- Democrat or Republican -- challenges their authority, people who never served in combat (George Bush, Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter and the rest) feel that they have the right to attack the courage and patriotism of those who have.

It happened to Vietnam veterans John McCain, Max Cleland, and John Kerry, and now to a man who served in Korea and Vietnam, Jack Murtha. We cannot let this continue -- we need to send a strong message that this kind of attack will not be tolerated.

Even after being forced to retract her words on the House floor, Jean Schmidt wouldn't back down or admit that attacking veterans' service is out of bounds. Last week, appearing on a local radio show in Southern Ohio, Schmidt said the biggest lesson she had learned from the incident was: "Not to wear the red dress."

Obviously these billboards need to get up as soon as possible. In order to get them up before the holidays, we need to place the order by 7 AM Thursday. A $50 contribution right now will send a very powerful message to Jean Schmidt -- and make other Republican leaders think twice before attacking the courage of those who challenge them:

The time has come to stop this kind of dirty political smearing once and for all. America's veterans deserve better treatment, and the American people deserve a more honest debate about our national security.

You can make it happen.

Thank you,

Tom McMahon
Executive Director
Democratic National Committee

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Monday, November 28, 2005

Republican Resignation (CA-50), Special Election Coming


Dear Friend,

Today Republican Randy "Duke" Cunningham resigned from Congress after pleading guilty to charges of bribery related to defense contracts. This is only one more example of the culture of corruption that has pervaded this Republican Congress.

There will be plenty of discussion about Cunningham's actions that led him to resign, but I am writing you today because his resignation will lead to a hard-fought special election in his California district in the next couple of months.

Francine Busby, a grassroots favorite candidate who ran a spirited, against-the-odds campaign against Cunningham in 2004, has long since begun her campaign for 2006. She is well positioned to turn this traditionally Republican seat Democratic blue - and she needs all of our support.

The spearhead of the Democratic wave in 2006 will be courageous candidates like Francine Busby, charging into districts where the Republicans have become entrenched and far too comfortable. With this special election, we can get the momentum started early and help build it into a movement by next November.

Learn More About Francine at Our Website:

Stay tuned to the DCCC, this will be a tough fight. But one we must win.


John Lapp
Executive Director, DCCC

P.S. - To help us fight the Republicans head to head in California and across the country, make a secure contribution now. Thank you in advance.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Giving Thanks


Dear Friend,

The last few weeks have reminded us why politics matter. It's not a game -- the stakes may be higher than they've ever been. You've taken action and stood with us in the fight. Thank you.

Since the beginning of this year, we've seen a massive tectonic shift in the political landscape. On issue after issue, from ethics to Hurricane Katrina to the Iraq War, Democrats have stood up for what is right -- and you have been with us.

We couldn't have done it without you. With your help we delivered hundreds of thousands of names to the Republican leadership letting them know how you feel about their abuse of power and cynical priorities. Your contributions have helped recruit and support Democratic candidates who stepped up to the plate to challenge entrenched Republicans who thought they would never have a real race again.

We have a long way to go and much work to do over the next 11 months to change the face of power in the U.S. Congress, but today I want to thank you for your support on the grassroots level.

I also want to give proper thanks to the brave men and women who have fought valiantly for our freedom. Our thoughts will be with those whose only comfort this Thanksgiving may be a simple letter from back home, and with those who wrote those letters while there was an empty chair at the dinner table.

And though his humility would prevent him from wanting us to, we thank Congressman Murtha: for his service in the U.S. Marine Corps and for standing tall in the face of such personal and unwarranted criticism. While we all may disagree on many aspects of this war, we all support our troops and want to protect them. To those who question Congressman Murtha's character and patriotism, I say -- shame on you.

When Congress returns, the fight for the direction of the country we love will begin anew. Republicans control every branch of the government, but we will be working even harder to correct their obscene priorities -- priorities that have them pushing $70 billion in high-income tax breaks just one week after they slashed critical investments in Medicaid, child support enforcement, and college aid.

Over the next year, we will remind the working families of America that their government can work for them instead of against them. Imagine if even just the U.S. House of Representatives was held by Democrats, holding what would amount to veto power over the entire Republican agenda and giving us an opportunity to introduce actual common sense solutions to the mounting problems facing America's middle class families. Problems like skyrocketing prescription drug prices, soaring gas and home heating costs, and the burden of paying for a college education will be met with thoughtful solutions -- not used as an excuse to funnel more money to Republican special interests.

With your help, we will stop them and hold them accountable. The Republicans will not give up; they will unleash any attack they think they can get away with -- but that's why I will spend Thanksgiving with my family and be grateful that you are with us.


John Lapp
Executive Director, DCCC

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Don�t let George Bush pardon this turkey

Dear automat,

Don't Pardon this Turkey

You know the drill -- every Thanksgiving the president pardons a turkey. But this year George Bush may try to use the holiday season to slip in another pardon -- of his friend and former senior aide I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who was indicted for perjury, obstruction of justice and making false statements.

Conservatives around Washington are buzzing with rumors that George Bush will regain control of his lame-duck presidency by ending the investigation into manipulated intelligence on Iraq and the subsequent cover-up with a pardon for anyone involved.

Despite pressure from Democratic lawmakers, Bush refuses to pledge that he will not pardon Libby or anyone else implicated in this breach of national security. A pardon for anyone on this deadly serious matter would be yet more evidence that Republican leaders value political party over country.

It's up to you to show that the American people are watching -- don't let George Bush pardon this turkey over the Thanksgiving holiday:

From the cover-up of manipulated intelligence on Iraq to Tom DeLay's money-for-influence machine to Bill Frist's questionable stock deals, this administration and Republicans in Congress have always considered themselves above the law.

Forward this message to your friends and family -- the more people who sign the No Pardons petition, the more the White House will know that Americans are watching.

If we can make a strong showing before holiday weekend, George Bush will have to think twice before pardoning this turkey. Add your name now:

On behalf of Governor Dean and everyone else here at the DNC, let me wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.

Enjoy your holiday -- but don't forget to spread the word that we need to keep an eye on this lame duck.

Thank you,

Tom McMahon
Executive Director
Democratic National Committee

P.S. -- More than 100,000 Americans responded to Republican attacks on decorated veteran and Democratic Congressman Jack Murtha by sending him a note of thanks for his corragous stand. You can still tell Jack Murtha not to back down by visiting:

P.P.S. -- Here is the letter Senate Democrats sent to George Bush asking him to pledge not to pardon Libby -- so far he has refused:

November 8, 2005
The Honorable George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

The indictment of I. Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff, marks the first time in 131 years that a senior White House official has been charged with a crime while still serving in the White House. The charges, while not yet proven, are extraordinarily serious and deeply disturbing.

Although it is too early to judge Mr. Libby guilty or innocent of these particular charges, it is not too early for you to reassure the American people that you understand the enormous gravity of the allegations. To this end, we urge you to pledge that if Mr. Libby or anyone else is found guilty of a crime in connection with Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation, you will not exercise your authority to issue a Presidential pardon.

It is crucial that you make clear in advance that, if convicted, Mr. Libby will not be able to rely on his close relationship with you or Vice President Cheney to obtain the kind of extraordinarily special treatment unavailable to ordinary Americans. In addition you should do nothing to undermine Mr. Fitzgerald's investigation or diminish accountability in your White House. A pardon in these circumstances would signal that this White House considers itself above the law.

We also urge you to state publicly whether anyone in the White House including White House counsel Harriet Miers or Vice President Cheney has already discussed the possibility of a pardon with Mr. Libby. Particularly given that the American people are still in the dark about what precisely transpired in the White House with respect to the CIA leak, it would be highly inappropriate if there were such discussions going on behind the scenes.

Swift public action on your part will make clear that you take seriously perjury and obstruction of justice at the highest levels of our government and that you meant what you said about bringing honor and dignity to the White House. We eagerly await your response and hope that you will announce your intentions promptly.


Sen. Harry Reid, Democratic Leader
Sen. Dick Durbin, Assistant Democratic Leader
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Democratic Conference Secretary
Sen. Chuck Schumer, Chairman of Campaign Committee

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Friday, November 18, 2005

Shame on them

Dear automat,

Shame on them

I want to tell you about John Murtha. He's a Democratic Congressman from Pennsylvania. He's also a combat veteran and retired Marine Corps colonel.

Murtha spent 37 years in Marine Corps, earned the Bronze Star, two purple hearts, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, and the Navy Distinguished Service Medal. And for the last thirty years he's been one of the most respected voices in Congress on military issues -- universally respected by Democrats, Republicans and military brass alike.

Until now.

Republicans have disgraced themselves by viciously attacking John Murtha with such disrespect that not only veterans, but every decent American should be angry.

What did Murtha, a decorated combat veteran, do to draw fire from a White House led by a president and vice president who evaded service in Vietnam? He questioned their management of the war in Iraq. Here's part of what he had to say:

The war in Iraq is not going as advertised. It is a flawed policy wrapped in illusion. The American public is way ahead of us. The United States and coalition troops have done all they can in Iraq, but it is time for a change in direction. Our military is suffering. The future of our country is at risk. We cannot continue on the present course. It is evident that continued military action is not in the best interests of the United States of America, the Iraqi people or the Persian Gulf Region. ...

For two and a half years, I have been concerned about the U.S. policy and the plan in Iraq. I have addressed my concerns with the Administration and the Pentagon and have spoken out in public about my concerns. The main reason for going to war has been discredited. ...

I have been visiting our wounded troops at Bethesda and Walter Reed hospitals almost every week since the beginning of the War. And what demoralizes them is going to war with not enough troops and equipment to make the transition to peace; the devastation caused by IEDs; being deployed to Iraq when their homes have been ravaged by hurricanes; being on their second or third deployment and leaving their families behind without a network of support.

Shameless Republicans immediately went on the attack. Dick Cheney, who has said that he had "other priorities" and collected 5 deferments while people like Murtha served in Vietnam, called Murtha's comments "irresponsible" and regretted that "the president and I cannot prevent certain politicians from losing their memory, or their backbone." The White House spokesman, who has also never worn the uniform, pronounced himself "baffled" that Murtha, who volunteered for two wars, wanted to "surrender to the terrorists". A Republican Congressman said Murtha and others "basically are giving aid and comfort to the enemy".

Shame on them. Every one of us -- right now -- needs to let Jack Murtha know that we respect his service, respect his leadership, and respect his right to speak the truth. This man has spent his life serving us. The very least each one of us can do is let him know that no matter what dishonorable smear campaign Republicans wage we will be there with him.

Send Congressman Murtha a note telling him that you will not be silent while he is attacked:

I will deliver your message to him personally, along with my own thanks for his service to our country and his continuing courage in the face of threats.

Lies and manipulation characterized the Republican case for war, and lies and manipulation have been the primary weapon against anyone who questions their failed leadership.

First it was Senator Max Cleland, who left limbs in Vietnam, being savagely attacked in 2002. Then John Kerry, who received three purple hearts, being smeared in 2004. The history of this war has shown that Republicans value political posturing more than the service of America's veterans.

Republicans don't want a serious debate about Iraq because they know the American people are simply not with them. They cannot respond to the substance of Murtha's criticism -- or any criticism -- because they are wrong.

Jack Murtha is already fighting back. When told of Cheney's comments he reminded people where Cheney was while he was in Vietnam: "I like guys who got five deferments and have never been there and send people to war, and then don't like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done."

But Jack can't beat this back alone. Show him that Americans know that Republicans should be ashamed of themselves:

Enough is enough -- we cannot allow another veteran to be smeared by George Bush's cronies.

Thank you for taking a stand.

Governor Howard Dean, M.D.

P.S. -- Here is the full text of Murtha's statement yesterday:

"The war in Iraq is not going as advertised. It is a flawed policy wrapped in illusion. The American public is way ahead of us. The United States and coalition troops have done all they can in Iraq, but it is time for a change in direction. Our military is suffering. The future of our country is at risk. We cannot continue on the present course. It is evident that continued military action is not in the best interests of the United States of America, the Iraqi people or the Persian Gulf Region.

"General Casey said in a September 2005 hearing, 'the perception of occupation in Iraq is a major driving force behind the insurgency.' General Abizaid said on the same date, "Reducing the size and visibility of the coalition forces in Iraq is part of our counterinsurgency strategy."

"For two and a half years, I have been concerned about the U.S. policy and the plan in Iraq. I have addressed my concerns with the Administration and the Pentagon and have spoken out in public about my concerns. The main reason for going to war has been discredited. A few days before the start of the war I was in Kuwait - the military drew a red line around Baghdad and said when U.S. forces cross that line they will be attacked by the Iraqis with Weapons of Mass Destruction - but the US forces said they were prepared. They had well trained forces with the appropriate protective gear.

"We spend more money on Intelligence that all the countries in the world together, and more on Intelligence than most countries GDP. But the intelligence concerning Iraq was wrong. It is not a world intelligence failure. It is a U.S. intelligence failure and the way that intelligence was misused.

"I have been visiting our wounded troops at Bethesda and Walter Reed hospitals almost every week since the beginning of the War. And what demoralizes them is going to war with not enough troops and equipment to make the transition to peace; the devastation caused by IEDs; being deployed to Iraq when their homes have been ravaged by hurricanes; being on their second or third deployment and leaving their families behind without a network of support.

"The threat posed by terrorism is real, but we have other threats that cannot be ignored. We must be prepared to face all threats. The future of our military is at risk. Our military and their families are stretched thin. Many say that the Army is broken. Some of our troops are on their third deployment. Recruitment is down, even as our military has lowered its standards. Defense budgets are being cut. Personnel costs are skyrocketing, particularly in health care. Choices will have to be made. We cannot allow promises we have made to our military families in terms of service benefits, in terms of their health care, to be negotiated away. Procurement programs that ensure our military dominance cannot be negotiated away. We must be prepared. The war in Iraq has caused huge shortfalls at our bases in the U.S.

"Much of our ground transportation is worn out and in need of either serous overhaul or replacement. George Washington said, "To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace." We must rebuild out Army. Our deficit is growing out of control. The Director of the Congressional Budget Office recently admitted to being "terrified" about the budget deficit in the coming decades. This is the first prolonged war we have fought with three years of tax cuts, without full mobilization of American industry and without a draft. The burden of this war has not been shared equally; the military and their families are shouldering this burden.

"Our military has been fighting a war in Iraq for over two and a half years. Our military has accomplished its mission and done its duty. Our military captured Saddam Hussein, and captured or killed his closest associates. But the war continues to intensify. Deaths and injuries are growing, with over 2,079 confirmed American deaths. Over 15,500 have been seriously injured and it is estimated that over 50,000 will suffer from battle fatigue. There have been reports of at least 30,000 Iraqi civilian deaths.

"I just recently visited Anbar Province Iraq in order to assess the condition on the ground. Last May 2005, as part of the Emergency Supplemental Spending Bill, the House included to Moran Amendment, which was accepted in Conference, and which required the Secretary of Defense to submit quarterly reports to Congress in order to more accurately measure stability and security in Iraq. We have not received two reports. I am disturbed by the findings in key indicator areas. Oil production and energy production are below pre-war levels. Our reconstruction efforts have been crippled by security situation. Only $9 billion of the $18 billion appropriated for reconstruction has been spent. Unemployment remains at about 60 percent. Clean water is scarce. Only $500 million of the $2.2 billion appropriated for water projects have been spent. And most importantly, insurgent incidents have increased from about 150 per week to over 700 in the last year. Instead of attacks going down over time and with the addition of more troops, attacks have grown dramatically. Since the revelations at Abu Ghraib, American causalities have doubled. An annual State Department report in 2004 indicated a sharp increase in global terrorism.

"I said over a year ago, and now the military and the Administration agrees, Iraq can not be won 'militarily.' I said two years ago, the key to progress in Iraq is to Iraqitize, Internationalize and Energize. I believe the same today. But I have concluded that the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq is impeding this progress.

"Our troops have become the primary target of the insurgency. They are untied against U.S. forces and we have become a catalyst for violence. U.S. troops are the common enemy of the Sunnis, Saddamists and foreign jihadists. I believe with a U.S. troop redeployment, the Iraq security forces will be incentivized to take control. A poll recently conducted shows that over 80% of Iraqis are strongly opposed to the presence of coalition troops, about 45% of the Iraqi population believe attacks against American troops are justified. I believe we need to turn Iraq over to the Iraqis. I believe before the Iraqi elections, scheduled for mid December, the Iraqi people and the emerging government must be put on notice that the United States will immediately redeploy. All of Iraq must know that Iraq is free. Free from United Stated occupation. I believe this will send a signal to the Sunnis to join the political process for the good of a "free" Iraq.

"My plan calls:

  • To immediately redeploy U.S. troops consistent with the safety of U.S. forces.
  • To create a quick reaction force in the region.
  • To create an over-the-horizon presence of Marines.
  • To diplomatically pursue security and stability in Iraq.

"This war needs to be personalized. As I said before, I have visited with the severely wounded of this war. They are suffering.

"Because we in Congress are charged with sending our sons and daughters into battle, it is our responsibility, our obligation, to speak out for them. That's why I am speaking out.

"Our military has done everything that has been asked of them, the U.S. can not accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily. It is time to bring them home."

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DCCC @Stake - Republicans on the Defensive

@Stake Brought To You By The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee

Republicans on the Defensive

November 18, 2005

Republicans on the Defensive

Last week saw big Democratic victories in the gubernatorial elections in both New Jersey and Virginia, and already the implications for the 2006 mid-term elections are being felt. The Virginia result is particularly noteworthy, as Democrat Tim Kaine posted a 6% victory in a state that President Bush had carried 54-46 only a year before. You can be sure that every Republican in Congress took careful note of this result.

Republicans had been hoping for a victory in the Virginia Governor's race to stop their recent downward spiral of corruption and incompetence, but instead faced a demoralizing defeat. As a result, Democratic momentum heading into next year's mid-term elections continues to build, as esteemed congressional analyst Charlie Cook noted:

Forecast For GOP Looks Anything But Sunny
National Journal - 11/12/05

Republicans who had hoped that this year's almost relentless stream of bad news would be broken by a GOP victory either in the New Jersey or Virginia gubernatorial contests were disappointed again. As the Morton Salt slogan goes, "When it rains, it pours." These days, the Bush White House and the rest of the Republican Party are getting drenched, and no relief is in sight for them.

...For President Bush, the danger is that Election 2005 has pushed Republican senators and House members closer to the point of stampeding. Their willingness to break ranks with his administration has increased dramatically over the past month, compared with six months ago. And that willingness is likely to continue growing.

Among GOP lawmakers, the prevailing view now seems to be that Bush has appeared on the ballot for the last time, that their own names will be on the line next November, and that he will be of little or no help to them. He might even be a liability for some of them. So, they must do whatever they can to save their own seats.

The snowball rolls on.

President Bush's increasing radioactivity when it comes to Republican electoral prospects is a story that continues to grow, especially in the wake of his failed attempt to campaign for Republican Jerry Kilgore in Virginia. As we head into a midterm election year, how much of a drag will Bush be on Republican candidates? At the very least, it appears certain that he won't be any help, despite the best protestations from Scott McClellan:

New Jersey, New Hope
The American Prospect - 11/15/05

The White House, of course, is spinning hard against the idea of any domino theory.

"I think the facts say otherwise," Scott McClellan assures us. "I don't think any thorough analysis of the election results will show that the elections were decided on anything other than local and state issues and the candidates and their agendas. That's what I think. And I think that if you look at the facts, that bears that out."

We'll see, for sure. But bluster that looks like self-confidence when you're winning starts to look self-delusional when you're taking a thorough butt-kicking. When, for example, McClellan, as evidence that the president is not a drag on GOP candidates, states that the president will shortly be campaigning for Maryland Lieutenant Governor Michael Steele, who is running for the Senate, he seems to be missing the point. Raising money from GOP donors is not the same as getting regular, aggravated folks to vote for your guy. And if Bush couldnít help Kilgore in magenta red Virginia, what's on the after-dinner menu at the White House that makes him think he can help Steele in Democratic Maryland, which he lost 56-to-43 to John Kerry and 57-to-40 to Al Gore?

It's obvious that the White House has awakened to this burgeoning problem, and with good reason: as Congressional Republicans lose faith in Bush's ability to help them in next year's elections, their motivation to support his legislative agenda will falter significantly -- something we are already seeing. As further evidence, the Republican Leadership in the House lost their first vote in years yesterday when a united Democratic front thwarted the majority's attempt to force through a spending bill that would have made major cuts to both education and health care funding:

House Democrats Defeat Spending Bill
Associated Press - 11/17/05

Legislation to fund many of the nation's health, education and social programs went down to a startling defeat in the House Thursday, led by Democrats who said cuts in the bill hurt some of America's neediest people.

The 224-209 vote against the $142.5 billion spending bill disrupted plans by Republican leaders to finish up work on this year's spending bills and cast doubt on whether they would have the votes to pass a major budget-cutting bill also on the day's agenda.

Democrats, unanimous in opposing the legislation, said it included the first cut in education funding in a decade and slashed spending for several health care programs. "It betrays our nation's values and its future," said House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland. "It is neither compassionate, conservative nor wise."

...Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., said one factor in the bill's defeat was the drop in the president's popularity and his inability to maintain unity among the GOP ranks. He also noted that the Republican Party misses the vote-gathering powers of Texas Rep. Tom DeLay _ nicknamed "The Hammer" _ who has stepped aside as majority leader because of legal problems, replaced by Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. "Not every blunt instrument is a hammer," Frank said.

And after Democrats forced Republicans to delay the vote for literally weeks on a series of massive cuts to Medicaid, food stamps, student loans, child support enforcement, and job creation -- coupled with massive high-end tax cuts -- Republicans finally managed to cram the bill through the House in the middle of the night last night. Every single Democrat showed up and voted against the bill, and this morning every Republican who voted for it will begin to be held accountable in their districts.

Unless Republicans miraculously begin proposing policies that actually help the American people, they will be in this bind throughout 2006.

Bad GOP Policy Watch

This week brought the start of the sign-up period for the Medicare Prescription Drug benefit, and already the flawed program is causing headaches for eligible seniors attempting to join. But before we discuss the myriad problems with the program as it was written by Republican leaders, it's worth remembering the stunning abuse of power that led to the plan's enactment in the first place. The vote was held open for almost three hours -- representing an unprecedented power grab -- so that Republican leaders could twist enough arms (and, in the case of Tom DeLay, make enough threats) to squeek the bill through:

The Night The Clocks, Scoreboard Stood Still
The Hill - 11/16/05

As exhausted lawmakers walked off the House floor, Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) grabbed Billy Pitts by the arm.

"We're still friends," Dingell told the Republican Rules Committee staff director, "but that was one of the most shameful things Iíve ever seen."

It was dawn on Nov. 22, 2003. After keeping the vote open for nearly three hours, the House had just delivered President Bush a major victory by passing its Medicare prescription-drug bill less than a year before the election.

...If the Medicare vote were a prizefight, it would have been stopped early on. Democrats were up between 15 to 20 votes in the first 10 minutes. At the 15-minute mark, the tally was 194 for, 209 against.

With most eyes focused on the changing vote count, some Republicans were looking to get out of sight. GOP leaders had set up "door men" around the exits of the floor to make sure that Republican no votes would be around until the end.

Some, including Reps. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Charles Norwood (R-Ga.), quietly voted no, evaded the guards and escaped into the night.

...The vote stood at 216-218 at 4 a.m. It would stay that way for the next 111 minutes.

...Various so-called "cells" were working the floor in search of votes. Staffers and aides moved from member to member. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) worked on Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) for close to an hour. Rep. Chip Pickering (R-Miss.) relentlessly worked the room.

Proponents were using every possible argument:

"The president needs this to be reelected."

"If we don't pass it, we could lose the House and the Senate."

"Do it for the team."

"Do you want the Democrats to win?"

Notice what wasn't offered as an argument: that this bill would actually help seniors with the high cost of prescription drugs. Instead, the Republican leadership was focused exclusively on the politics of the bill. And when politics and pleasing your donors are the top priorities, chances are the program you enact will be inherently flawed.

The bill was finally passed at the break of dawn that morning. Now, almost two years later (and following a dramatic increase in the expected cost of the program), the benefit is finally taking enrollees, and its poor design is already causing problems for seniors trying to enroll. In particular, seniors are basically being forced to rely on the internet as a source for information, and - predictably - that is not working out very well:

Problems Cited In Medicare Drug Benefit Sign-Up
Washington Post - 11/16/05

Medicare beneficiaries for the first time began signing up for federally subsidized drug coverage yesterday, and early indications were that many will need an antidote for the outbreak of confusion and frustration that accompanied it.

The 43 million people eligible for the new benefit have at least 40 plans to pick from on average, reflecting the competition that Medicare officials say promotes lower costs -- but also more head-scratching. Moreover, one of the most efficient ways to get comparative information is via the Internet, a medium with which many seniors are uncomfortable or unfamiliar.

...After nearly a month of delays, Medicare officials rolled out last week an interactive tool on the Web site They say the tool will allow seniors to key in the names of the drugs they take and other information and to instantly receive a personalized list of drug plans in their area ranked by annual cost. With a few mouse clicks, officials said, seniors can choose a plan and sign up for coverage.

...Gary Karr, a Medicare spokesman, said officials are working to expand the capacity of the Web site. "There's been times when it's been extremely slow or just has stopped working," he said.

But besides the problems with relying on the internet as a resource for confused potential enrollees, the program is unecessarily complex, again as a consequence of trying to please Republican special interests rather than enacting sounding policy. Most of the seniors who are interested in the program have taken it upon themselves to study up on it, but this has done little to make sense of the myriad potential plans:

More than six in 10 seniors said they understood the drug benefit "not too well" or "not well at all" even though 74 percent said they had received information about it, according to a recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health. Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed said the large number of choices "makes it confusing and difficult to pick the best plan."

Keep in mind that these problems are surfacing before a single dime in benefits has been paid. Once enrollees begin to experience the infamous "doughnut hole" that could leave them on the hook for thousands of dollars in prescription drug costs, things will get even worse. In addition, it's a good bet that many will be frustrated by the fact that their provider can change their benefit at will, but the enrollee can only switch plans once a year -- putting them at the mercy of the very industry the bill was supposed to reign in.

The irony of the entire process that has led to this point is that in engaging in a reckless abuse of power to secure what is barely a nominal solution to the problem of high prescription drug costs, Congressional Republicans have placed themselves on the hook for all the problems the benefit will cause (Bush will certainly bear some blame as well, but - as Congressional Republicans are becoming increasingly aware - he doesn't have to face the voters again). They've also shown themselves to be completely incapable of enacting sound programs that will actually help solve real-world problems, something the voters will remember every time real questions of governance are asked in the lead up to next year's mid-terms elections.

Iraq Intelligence and Accountability

In a rebuke of the White House, it appears that some Republicans may finally prepared to take their responsibility for oversight seriously.

Senate demands accountability on war
CNN - November 16, 2005

"The Senate demanded regular reports on the progress of the war in Iraq on Tuesday but rejected a Democratic plan to require the Bush administration to lay out a timeline for a U.S. withdrawal.

"Senators voted 79-19 to add language to a $491 billion Pentagon spending bill that declares 2006 to be 'a period of significant transition' for Iraq and calls on the Bush administration 'to explain to Congress and the American people its strategy for the successful completion of the mission in Iraq.'

"The measure was drafted largely by Democrats, but GOP leaders removed language that would have called for a flexible timetable for a possible American pullout from Iraq. But because its stated purpose was 'to clarify and recommend changes' to U.S. policy in Iraq, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid called its adoption a vote of 'no confidence' in the administration and said 'staying the course will not do.'

"'The administration's strategy is aimless, and sadly, it's rudderless,' said Reid, a Nevada Democrat. '[The vote is] a victory for our troops and the American people.'"

Vice President Cheney, whose office remains at the center of investigation into the outing of a CIA agent for political purposes, has taken the lead in accusing Democrats of... politicizing national security. As he stated in a recent speech:

"I know what it's like to operate in a highly charged political environment, in which the players on all sides of an issue feel passionately and speak forcefully. In such an environment people sometimes lose their cool, and yet in Washington you can ordinarily rely on some basic measure of truthfulness and good faith in the conduct of political debate. But in the last several weeks we have seen a wild departure from that tradition. And the suggestion that's been made by some U.S. senators that the President of the United States or any member of this administration purposely misled the American people on pre-war intelligence is one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city."

The Washington Post's Dan Froomkin notes this irony, however:

"So what is Cheney's response to his critics? He's going to 'throw their own words back at them.'

"That's the strategy in its entirety.

"He is not, by contrast, offering to clear up, say, any one of his 51 misleading statements compiled by House Democrats on the Government Reform Committee.

"Here, just for example, is what he said about Saddam Hussein in remarks on January 30, 2003: 'His regime aids and protects terrorists, including members of al Qaeda. He could decide secretly to provide weapons of mass destruction to terrorists for use against us.'"

Kevin Drum of Washington Monthly also identifies five central claims where Bush Administration rhetoric went well beyond the intelligence given to them:

1. The Claim: Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, an al-Qaeda prisoner captured in 2001, was the source of intelligence that Saddam Hussein had trained al-Qaeda members to use biological and chemical weapons. This information was used extensively by Colin Powell in his February 2003 speech to the UN.

What We Know Now: As early as February 2002, the Defense Intelligence Agency circulated a report, labeled DITSUM No. 044-02, saying that it was "likely this individual is intentionally misleading the debriefers." Link. This assessment was hidden from the public until after the war.

2. The Claim: An Iraqi defector codenamed "Curveball" was the source of reporting that Saddam Hussein had built a fleet of mobile biowarfare labs. Curveball's claims of mobile bio labs were repeated by many administration figures during the runup to war.

What We Know Now: The only American agent to actually meet with Curveball before the war warned that he appeared to be an alcoholic and was unreliable. However, his superior in the CIA told him it was best to keep quiet about this: "Let's keep in mind the fact that this war's going to happen regardless of what Curveball said or didn't say, and the powers that be probably aren't terribly interested in whether Curveball knows what he's talking about." Link. This dissent was not made public until 2004, in a response to the SSCI report that was written by Senator Dianne Feinstein. Link.

3. The Claim: Iraq had purchased thousands of aluminum tubes to act as centrifuges for the creation of bomb grade uranium. Dick Cheney said they were "irrefutable evidence" of an Iraqi nuclear program and George Bush cited them in his 2003 State of the Union address.

What We Know Now: Centrifuge experts at the Oak Ridge Office of the Department of Energy had concluded long before the war that the tubes were unsuitable for centrifuge work and were probably meant for use in artillery rockets. The State Department concurred. Link. Both of these dissents were omitted from the CIA's declassified National Intelligence Estimate, released on October 4, 2002. Link. They were subsequently made public after the war, on July 18, 2003. Link.

4. The Claim: Saddam Hussein attempted to purchase uranium yellowcake from Africa as part of his attempt to reconstitute his nuclear program. President Bush cited this publicly in his 2003 State of the Union address.

What We Know Now: The primary piece of evidence for this claim was a document showing that Iraq had signed a contract to buy yellowcake from Niger. However, the CIA specifically told the White House in October 2002 that the "reporting was weak" and that they disagreed with the British about the reliability of this intelligence. Link. At the same time, the State Department wrote that the documents were "completely implausible." Link.

Three months later, in January 2003, Alan Foley, head of the CIA's counterproliferation effort, tried to persuade the White House not to include the claim in the SOTU because the information wasn't solid enough, but was overruled. Link. Five weeks later, the documents were conclusively shown to be forgeries. Link. In July 2003, after the war had ended, CIA Director George Tenet admitted publicly that that the claim should never have been made. Link.

5. The Claim: Saddam Hussein was developing long range aerial drones capable of attacking the continental United States with chemical or biological weapons. President Bush made this claim in a speech in October 2002 and Colin Powell repeated it during his speech to the UN in February 2003.

What We Know Now: The Iraqi drones had nowhere near the range to reach the United States, and Air Force experts also doubted that they were designed to deliver WMD. However, their dissent was left out of the October 2002 NIE and wasn't made public until July 2003. Link.

For the record.

Washington Lobbying and the Need for Reform

The Senate Indian Affairs Committee, headed by Republican John McCain, held yet another hearing on the scandal surrounding Republican super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff this week. There was exactly one witness, Italia Federici, who according to emails between herself and Abramoff used her influence with high-ranking officials inside the Bush Administration to advance the interests of Abramoff's clients. As the LA Times reported...

"The head of a Republican environmental organization clashed repeatedly today with senators who accused her of trying to use her friendship with an Interior Department official to further the business interests of super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff's tribal clients.

"Italia Federici, president of the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy, told an incredulous Senate Indian Affairs Committee that she believed Abramoff's tribal clients donated $500,000 over a three-year period to her organization because they were generous, not because they hoped she would help them thwart the efforts of competing tribes to open casinos.

"Her testimony came as the committee was wrapping up a lengthy inquiry into Abramoff's collection of $82 million in fees from tribal clients. The investigation has raised questions about whether he improperly used his relationships with powerful lawmakers and administration officials to further the interests of the tribes.

"Abramoff, who is under indictment in an unrelated case, is under federal investigation along with several associates for lobbying efforts on behalf of the tribes.

"The scandal has touched powerful lawmakers, including former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), whose trip to a Scottish golfing resort with Abramoff has come under scrutiny. DeLay, who once described Abramoff as a close friend, has denied any wrongdoing and has asked the House Ethics Committee to investigate his travels."

As DCCC Executive Director noted in an online chat with DCCC supporters on Thursday, cleaning up the culture of corruption - through lobbying reform amongst other things - is a top Democratic priority:

The relationship between the Republican Congress and corrupt lobbyists has become seamless, and the American people are paying a high price. The cozy relationships between Republicans and oil and energy companies have produced a Congress that is too focused on special interests, and not focused on the priorities of American families - like lowering gas prices and prescription drug costs. The ethical cloud hanging over the Congress is a major reason why Congress has lost the confidence of a majority of Americans. National Republicans have officially turned the "people's house" into an auction house. In order to clean up the ethical mess in Washington, Congress must pass lobbying and ethics reform immediately. We support legislation that cleans up the relationship between lobbyists and Members of Congress in four ways: increasing disclosure of lobbying activities, slowing the 'revolving door' between government and lobbying, curbing lobbyists-sponsored junkets and toughening enforcement and oversight.

Indeed, the New York Times recognized the efforts of DCCC Chairman Rahm Emanuel in an outstanding editorial on these issues...

"The largely uncontrolled lobbying world of Washington deserves all the attention it is getting by way of Mr. Abramoff, who seems to have styled his shop after 'Glengarry Glen Ross.' A worthy bill to end the scandalous privately financed junketeering - $18 million worth by 600 lawmakers in the last five years - and closely track lobbyists' money and influence has been submitted by two Democratic representatives, Martin Meehan of Massachusetts and Rahm Emanuel of Illinois. As the Republican majority grows anxious about next year's elections and the public's increasing disapproval of Congress, it would be wise to resort to lobbying reform as the last refuge of ex-junketeers."

News From the Blog

DCCC & DSCC on Rubberstamps
A new report showing just how loyally the Republican Congress has done President Bush's bidding.

30-Somethings Interactive
Young Democrats take innovation to the House floor.

KY-02: Weaver In
Another veteran candidate enters the fray as a Democrat.

Murtha in Full
Text of Democrat John Murtha's remarks and resolution on Iraq.

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-- USA Today, 11/14/2005

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