Withdrawal Language Survives!

Looks like the Cochran amendment was defeated and the withdrawal language stays in the bill, for now. That's a big deal.

My earlier cynicism notwithstanding, kudos to Harry Reid, Dick Durbin, and the Senate leadership!  I'm told that we lost Pryor, held Nelson, and gained Smith and Hagel. I'll update as soon as I confirm.

Update (Chris): The vote is up on the Senate Roll Call page now, so it is confirmed. Senator Feingold, the first Senator to come out in favor of a timetable, and who once again has turned a majority of one into a voting majority in the Senate, just issued the following statement:
Today marks an important step toward ending the war in Iraq . For the first time, the U.S. Senate will pass binding legislation requiring the President to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq . While this is long overdue, it is a big step in the right direction and it brings us closer to ending our involvement in this disastrous war.
The only Democrat who voted to strike the withdrawal language was Mark Pryor. I don't care what state he is from--that is the sort of issue that could cause you to lose either a primary or a general election. There isn't a state in the country that currently has a majority in favor of the war, or against this bill. Even moderate Republicans are split.

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The difference between the progressive and conservative netroots

Today, DSCC Chair Chuck Schumer posted a diary on Daily Kos and it was tremendously well received.  Senator Schumer urged the involvement of the progressive netroots in asking for input regarding recruitment for Senate races across the country in 2008.

How do the NRSC and conservative netroots get along?  Not nearly as well.  More than 33,000 netroot-conservatives have signed a pledge threatening not to contribute to the NRSC if any Senators up for re-election in 2008 decide to exercise independent thought and not tow the GOP party line.

And what do the conservative netroots think of the NRSC?  Let this entry from my blog illustrate that relationship:

How does the conservative blogosphere regard the NRSC? Well, in the wake of Scott McInnis' apparent departure from the Senate race and rumors that the NRSC is courting state AG John Suthers, ToTheRight.org, which bills itself as Colorado's Top Conservative News Outlet, offered these comments:

Suthers' barely-a-victory victory against unknown Fern O'Brien doesn't impress us as the sort of thing that would scare off a relatively popular Congressman from a swing district.

If there is truth to recent claims that the NRSC is courting Suthers to run for Senate, it only proves that are just as inept now as they were last year.

"Just as inept now as they were last year" when they lost six seats and the Senate majority. It doesn't sounds like the conservative blogosphere has much affection for the NRSC, if this is any indication.

I think it's clear which side of the aisle enjoy a more supportive relationship between Party apparatus and netroots.  And we know how to translate that supportive relationship into a huge advantage.

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Schumer, Dems Don't Fall for Bush Admin. Trap, Maintain Focus on Rove

With a second Republican Senator (both of whom are unsurprisingly up for reelection in blue states next fall) joining the call for Alberto Gonzales to resign as Attorney General, the effort by Republicans and the Bush administration to designate the Justice Department and its chief as the fall guys for the prosecutor purge scandal is now clearly in full swing. Unfortunately for the White House and the GOP, Democrats just aren't taking the bait. Per a release from the office of Senator Chuck Schumer:

"New emails show conclusively that Karl Rove was in the middle of this mess from the beginning. It is now imperative that he testify before Congress and give all the details of his involvement both in the proposal to fire the 93 U.S. Attorneys in the beginning of George Bush's second term, and his involvement in the firing of the individual eight U.S. Attorneys who were fired throughout 2006.  If the White House prevents Karl Rove from testifying, it will be thumbing its nose at the American people and at the rule of law. The reason it's so imperative that people testify under oath is that every time new information comes out, it proves that the White House was not telling the truth in their previous statements. Statements from those involved have proved to be false, false, false, time after time after time."

-U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer

Jan Crawford Greenburg has the details of this new document dump for ABC News.

New unreleased e-mails from top administration officials show that the idea of firing all 93 U.S. attorneys was raised by White House adviser Karl Rove in early January 2005, indicating Rove was more involved in the plan than the White House previously acknowledged.

According to a senior White House official who has seen the e-mail exchange the Justice Department is preparing to release, "It does not contradict what we have said and it's not inconsistent with what we have said."

The e-mails also show that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales discussed the idea of firing the attorneys en masse weeks before he was confirmed as attorney general.

The e-mails directly contradict White House assertions that the notion originated with recently departed White House counsel Harriet Miers, and was her idea alone.

Two independent sources in a position to know have described the contents of the e-mail exchange, which could be released as early as Friday. They put Rove at the epicenter of the imbroglio and raise questions about Gonzales' explanations of the matter.

Now in writing above that there is an effort to shift attention out of the White House and into the DoJ, I do not mean to suggest that there is not a need for Gonzales and those who work under him to be held accountable for their actions. They certainly have done wrong on their own. But at the same time, attention on their misdeeds should not cause people to overlook the important fact that, as evidenced by these emails as well as previous revelations, those in the White House -- and Karl Rove, in particular -- are very culpable for the improprieties that surrounded the purge and attempted partisanization of United States Attorneys. So kudos to Schumer for keeping the heat on Rove at exactly the right time.

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Dems' Big Middle Finger to the American Voter

UPDATE: Since posting this diary early this morning, Democrats have come forward with a plan on Iraq that appears - for the first time - to be binding. This is a solid (though certainly not perfect) step, indeed. Let me add two things: First, in the last week, we've seen how these proposals can get floated and then undercut. Second, when such plans do get undercut, they often get undercut by the same anti-democratic factions outlined in this diary - factions that we as progressives will have to continue to work to pressure if this plan, or any other, is going to pass. Oh, and one final note: To those automatons who are so blinded by partisan rage that they can't see the need to pressure Democrats, I say that this new announcement by Democrats is a vindication for all of us who have tried - like studious movement participants - to hold both parties' feet to the fire.

One of my idiosyncratic little hobbies of late is to keep a tally on statements by Washington politicians and pundits that are express an open hatred for democracy. This hobby is a subset of a bigger collection of quotes I collect that show how Washington politicians are entirely divorced from the political reality they purport to be experts on - a classic example is Sen. Chuck Schumer's hilariously moronic declaration that strengthening the Patriot Act is politically good for red state Democrats (thanks for your helping make the Montana Senate race that much harder, Chuck!). I'm not exactly sure why I focus on this, other than because it is important to always remind ourselves just how different - and hateful - the Beltway is towards the country it purports to represent. Today, we get a beauty from South Dakota Rep. Stephanie Herseth (D).

In the Washington Post's solid writeup of the debate over Iraq in the House, a faction of Democrats continues to attack the very Election 2006 mandate they were vaulted into office on: opposition to the war. Justifying her opposition to bills that would stop President Bush's military escalation, we get this from South Dakota's lone House member:

"I don't think we should be overreacting to public opinion polls."

I give Herseth credit - her use of "overreacting" deviously implies that there are just a few very recent polls here and there showing negligible opposition to the war, and that Serious People in Congress should never "overreact" to the supposed fleeting whims of the American people. But, of course, the American public has been strongly critical of the Iraq War for almost 4 years now.

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The Progressive Convulsions Start

With the announcement that Lieberman is going to give the Democratic radio response to Bush on Walter Reed, it's pretty well confirmed that progressives are shut out of the Congressional halls of power.  First it was Feingold's defunding proposal being poleaxed, then Hoyer winning the Majority Leader contest, then it was Murtha's plan sandbagged by Blue Dogs, then it was Reid allowing Fox News as the anchor for the Nevada Presidential debate, then it was Joe Biden and Carl Levin failing to do anything substantive on Iraq, and now it's a full-throated embrace of Lieberman.  And yes, this was Harry Reid's choice.

From what I understand from talking to a few progressives on the Hill, the freshmen in Congress are being extensively 'trained' by Rahm Emanuel's DLC band of consultants and pollsters, which is one reason they've been silent.  Carol Shea-Porter is an exception, and notice how she was shut out of the DCCC's front line program.  Also notice how our only real specific policy concern to protect our own ability to organize - net neutrality - just isn't really on the legislative radar right now (though this could change).

If you're mad, well, so am I.  But we didn't beat Lieberman, and that was the real test of strength where we went up against both the Democrats, the Republicans, and the lobbyists.  And we consistently gave Democrats a free pass in the first few months after the victory, allowing Rahm and Hoyer to consolidate power.  More to the point, we haven't been around for very long, so our institutional reach is nowhere near as capable as that of the DLC nexis, who have been operating and projecting power since the mid eighties.  My business Democrat friends are happy and very busy, as are my contacts in foreign policy elite circles.  They just love the new Congress.

The reality though is that the centrists, though they are in charge, are exceptionally weak.  It is only an accident of history that they are in power.  They have no real base, and have essentially convinced progressive voters to grab a big cup of STFU while they use their media connections and corporate cash to feel like they are in charge again.  This won't last long, two years at the most.  It's already ending, as the reality of Iraq is looming, most prominently on Hillary Clinton, but really on all of them.  Meanwhile, progressives are beginning to build their institutional capacity to craft policy and market it.

Michael Roston has an important scoop at Raw Story on this.


Consensus-seeking negotiations on a measure that would limit President Bush's troop escalation in Iraq have angered Congressional Progressives. RAW STORY has learned that they are readying a response that will call for a more rapid withdrawal of US troops from America's four year-long war.

A Democratic aide close to the Congressional Progressive Caucus told RAW STORY that some Democrats will push for withdrawal when the next bill on Iraq War funding comes to the House floor.

"There is a plan for a whip operation, to get votes for an amendment that will say that any money spent will go toward a fully funded withdrawal," the aide explained. "We can't support the idea of having a $150 billion Supplemental [Defense Appropriations bill] that gives $100 billion for the escalation."

This is perhaps the first time that the progressive caucus has flat-out said they may derail a bill, which is something that the Blue Dogs and/or the New Dems usually do.  Good for them.  It's going to split the party, but that's a split we can handle.  We should welcome having Democrats put their cards on the table, since that's a nice way of making Iraq a voting issue in primaries, where the public has an actual chance to debate and take action.  If the progressive caucus makes this happen, it would be a serious and important blow to the centrist reign of power.

On the Senate side, Max Baucus may just be the symbol of corporate greed that gets a primary challenge.  He's the Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and screwed around with the minimum wage bill until he got tax breaks for business.  Read this article, and it will disgust you.  On every key economic issue, Baucus is a Republican.  That's very out of step with Montana, whose legislature just passed a resolution expressing opposition to the Fast Track authority Baucus loves.

And then there's this.

Max is organizing a big old meeting with a bunch of corporate representatives to discuss fast track. While his staff assure me that the corporate folks are being treated no better than the labor folks were (we're setting the bar awfully low here, guys), I thought this info that landed in my inbox this morning was helpful.

The five main speakers at this Democratic Policy Conference have a decidedly pro-GOP giving history:


    Cargill

   2003-2004
    Republicans: $154,385 (77%)
    Democrats: $46,115 (23%)
    Total: $200,500

   2005-2006
    Republicans: $174,590 (79%)
    Democrats: $46,410 (21%)
    Total: $221,000

   Caterpillar

   2003-2004
    Republicans: $278,476.55 (89%)
    Democrats: $34,418.45 (11%)

   2005-2006
    Republicans: $398,362.44 (84%)
    Democrats: $75,878.56 (16%)
    Total:  $474,241

   Kodak

   2003-2004
    Republicans: $88,875 (75%)
    Democrats: $29,625 (25%)
    Total: $118,500

   2005-2006
    Republicans: $89,979.75 (63%)
    Democrats: $52,845.25 (37%)
    Total: $142,825

   New York Life

   2004-2005
    Republicans: $257,040 (54%)
    Democrats: $218,960 (46%)
    Total: $476,000

   2005-2006
    Republicans: $517,951.75 (47%)
    Democrats: $573,053 (52%)
    Total:  $1,102,025

   Wal-Mart

   2003-2004
    Republicans: $1,308,060 (78%)
    Democrats: $368,940 (22%)

   2005-2006
    Republicans: $1,013,223.96 (71%)
    Democrats: $413,852.04 (29%)

This is the equivalent of having the GOP invite NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and NOW guide their policy on choice.  It just doesn't happen.  But in Max Baucus's world, this is fine, and it's really a simple matter of him wanting campaign donations from business elites.  

Baucus's grip on the Senate caucus's economic policies is quite firm, and Lieberman's grip on the Senate caucus's foreign policy is understated as well.  It's not because Reid and Schumer have to listen to Joe, it's because they want an excuse to do nothing.  They don't need 60 votes to stop emergency funding; the Republicans need 60 votes to pass it without conditions.  This is not a non-binding resolution, this is something the Bush administration needs.

Anyway, as Washington DC centrists fiddle and the Republicans act like sociopathic teenagers, the public (and the netroots) are becoming increasingly angry.  Only Nancy Pelosi and progressives who oppose Bush and this war are liked out in the country at large.  

I'm somewhat at a loss as to how to work on the Iraq issue, and I think many progressives are in a similar situation.  But the reality is that insider negotiating strategies will run into a wall of contempt for us and the public that is unbreakable from the inside.  It's up to us, as it was in 2002, 2004, and 2006, to tear down this wall.  And we will.  They are weak because they are wrong and the public is with us.

Now it's just an organizing problem.

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