How Obama Could Lose Me

President Obama has had a jam-packed two years and done some great things: Saving the economy from collapse. Health care reform. Now financial reform. Two qualified Supreme Court nominees. A tobacco law we tried for over a decade to pass. Credit card reform. The Lily Ledbetter Pay Act. Support for high-speed rail, clean energy research, and other green initiatives. On the foreign side, we're getting out of Iraq, albeit slowly. And unlike many progressives, I supported the Afghanistan surge.

But I supported it because Obama included the beginning of a timetable. Yet yesterday, at the G-20 summit in the wake of Petraeus appointment, he seemed to be back away from that promise - and that's where he could lose me.

Progressives have been uncertain about Obama in the areas of foreign policy and executive power for quite some time. He has done very little to roll back George W. Bush's unconstitutional and dangerous expansion of executive power, and now he's implying that he'll pull another Bush and lead us down the same road of endless war. From yesterday's G-20 press conference (emphasis my own):

We intend to be a partner with Afghanistan over the long term. But that is different from us having troops on the ground...

What I expect is that by the end of this year, we will have seen progress on the strategy that was laid out. We will conduct a full review. Those things that are not working, we will fix. Those things that are working we will build on -- both on the civilian side, and on the military side, as well as on the diplomatic side...

I think that right now the debate surrounding Afghanistan is presented as either we get up and leave immediately because there’s no chance at a positive outcome, or we stay basically indefinitely and do “whatever it takes” for as long as it takes. And what I said last year I will repeat, which is we have a vital national interest in making sure that Afghanistan is not used as a base to launch terrorist attacks...

So, A, we’ve got a vital interest in the region. B, we do not expect because of our involvement in Afghanistan that the country is going to completely transform itself in a year or two years or five years. President Karzai does not expect that. The Afghan people don’t expect that. Afghanistan has its own culture. It is a very proud culture. It has a lot of work to do with respect to development and it’s going to have to find its own path....

Now, there has been a lot of obsession around this whole issue of when do we leave.  My focus right now is how do we make sure that what we’re doing there is successful, given the incredible sacrifices that our young men and women are putting in. And we have set up a mechanism whereby we are going to do a review -- and I’ve signaled very clearly that we’re not going to just keep on doing things if they're not working -- and that by next year we will begin a process of transition.

That doesn’t mean we suddenly turn off the lights and let the door close behind us. 

I don't want to turn off the lights and close the door behind us next summer. I do, however, want to rapidly flick the light switch on and off for a minute as a heads up to the Afghani people, signaling last call. Ten years is one thing; ten years and counting is another.

It's tough to tell what, if anything, the President was signaling with these answers. He says we'll help Afghanistan for the long term, but not necessarily with troops. That sounds good. But then he says we'll build on our military success even after next summer, and the only instance where he talks time he says "five years," and that's troubling. Mr. President, you promised the beginning of a withdrawal next summer, not a build-up. But what's most troubling is the mocking tone he uses when talking about the war's opponents. I am not an opponent of this war - yet - but taking a different position than the or demanding answers from the White House does not qualify as "obsessing."

The President said his focus is not on how to withdraw, but on how to win. I want to win in Afghanistan too, but at some point it becomes a Pyrrhic victory, a victory that just isn't worth what it once was. If by next summer the end isn’t in sight, we’ll have to get out. Even if the end is in sight but would require years more of troops-on-the-ground, we’ll have to get out. As I said, a decade is one thing, but a decade and counting is another - especially since a responsible withdrawal would take another full year anyway.

I'm with the President now, especially but on the domestic side, and I'll answer OFA's calls to help with the energy bill and the midterm election. But next summer’s review will include the withdrawal of at least two brigades and the implementation of a timetable, or Obama will likely lose me.

Weekend Open Thread

Beautiful weather, if a bit warm, for the Ironman here in Coeur d'Alene, ID and the Hoopfest tourney in nearby Spokane, WA today. Happy first official weekend of summer.

Any topics/races you'd like to see us cover this week? If nothing else, I plan to push the Going on Offense candidates a little and hope to do a post on why the BP oil spill is not Katrina.

Senator Byrd Hospitalized

From The Hill:

Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) has been admitted to a Washington-area hospital and is in "seriously ill" condition, his office said in a news release Sunday.

The statement said that Byrd, 92, "was admitted to the hospital late last week suffering from what was believed to be heat exhaustion and severe dehydration as a result of the extreme temperatures." The region has experienced a stretch of temperatures in the 90s with high humidity.

Byrd's office said he was not expected to remain in the hospital more than a few days, but "other conditions have developed which has resulted in his condition being described as 'serious.'"

Here's wishing both Senator Byrd and former VP Cheney speedy releases and full recoveries.

UPDATE from desmoinesdem: From Nate Silver's post on West Virginia vacancy laws: "we are within a week of the threshold established by West Virginia law. If a vacancy were to be declared on July 3rd or later, there would not be an election to replace Byrd until 2012. If it were to occur earlier, there could potentially be an election later this year, although there might be some ambiguities arising from precisely when and how the vacancy were declared."

Obama Doing All He Can For The Gulf, Despite Repub Criticisms

Conservatives continue to hound the President for his handling of the BP oil spill, but there continues to be no “there” there. The basic question one has to ask these critics is, what more would you have him do? What is he not doing that you think he should?

True, communication and transparency were lacking for weeks. But the only other substantive, policy-based answer critics tend to give is that the President should have waived the Jones Act and accepted the assistance of European ships, but didn’t because of his ties to labor unions. The truth, however, is that the federal government HAS accepted some foreign aid and it HAS given legitimate reasons why other aide was refused. The same cannot be said of the Gulf State governors who, despite their criticisms of the President, are not using all of the resources at their own disposal.

Prospective 2012 (though I’d wager 2016) presidential candidate Governor Bobby Jindal (R-LA) said,  “It's clear the resources needed to protect our coast are still not here,” and Senator George LeMieux (R-FL) Tweeted, “State Department reports today 17 countries have offered 21 times to send aid, including skimmers. Why has the White House refused help?” I’ll get to the hypocrisy of Jindal’s criticisms, as well as those from other Gulf State governors, in a moment. First, however, here’s why Politifact rated LeMieux’s quote “barely true,” which seems to be a rather generous rating:

The State Department on June 14 released a list of [17 countries] that offered to help… The State Department also detailed what offers had been accepted.

From Mexico -- Two skimmers and 13,780 feet of boom (accepted in early May).

From Norway -- Eight skimming systems (accepted in early May).

From Netherlands -- Three sets of Koseq Rigid Sweeping Arms, which attach to the sides of ships and gather oil (accepted on May 23).

From Canada -- 9,843 feet of boom (accepted on June 4).

On June 15, Qatar, the 18th country, offered chains of containment boom and Sweden followed up on an earlier offer to provide skimmers. State Department officials also started making a distinction about the aid -- it wasn't coming for free…

The Washington Post reported about the decision to accept or decline foreign aid in its June 15 edition, noting that the decision to accept foreign aid came after weeks of delay, and that foreign governments were unsure if they should contact the government or BP. In some cases, the Post reported, the administration rejected offers because they failed to meet U.S. specifications: For example, the private consortium that serves as Norway's spill-response team uses a chemical dispersant that the Environmental Protection Agency has not approved.

In other words, Jindal, LeMieux, and right-wing bloggers are claiming that Obama refused aide and won’t tell us why despite the facts that a) he was unable to accept many of those offers because they were made to BP, not to him; b) the Coast Guard and State Department have indeed accepted some aide and c) legitimate explanations were provided for the aide that was refused.

On a similar note, if right-wing blogs and Senators are going to criticize the President because the federal government hasn’t blindly accepted all that was offered to it, they should do the same for the four affected governors, all Republicans. With the feds it’s skimmers and booms to stop the leak; with the governors it’s National Guardsmen to clean up the spill. From CBS News on Thursday:

All along the Gulf coast, local officials have been demanding more help from the federal government to fight the spill, yet the Gulf states have deployed just a fraction of the National Guard troops the Pentagon has made available, CBS News Chief Investigative Correspondent Armen Keteyian reports.

That's a particular problem for the state of Louisiana, where the Republican governor has been the most vocal about using all resources.

Gov. Bobby Jindal's message has been loud and clear, using language such as "We will only be winning this war when we're actually deploying every resource," "They (the federal government) can provide more resources" and "It's clear the resources needed to protect our coast are still not here."…

But CBS News has learned that in addition to Louisiana's 1,053 troops of 6,000, Alabama has deployed 432 troops of 3,000 available. Even fewer have been deployed in Florida - 97 troops out of 2,500 - and Mississippi - 58 troops out of 6,000…

The Coast Guard says every request to use the National Guard has been approved, usually within a day. Now Jindal's office acknowledged to CBS News the governor has not specifically asked for more Guard troops to be deployed.

At the end of the day, it would seem that policy-wise Obama is doing just about all he can to stop the leak, and that he’s certainly no more behind the curve than are the local Republican officials. Yes, he could have demanded more transparency from BP earlier; yes, he could have better communicated what his Cabinet was doing earlier than he did; and yes, perhaps he could have subjected himself to more deficit criticisms by renting or purchasing more foreign aid. But none of that would have actually stopped the leak or even slowed its rate. Maybe his leadership style needs some tweaking, but from a policy perspective, he’s doing just about all he can.

Thankfully, voters seem to get it. Only one new poll – NBC/WSJ – shows the spill affecting his approval rating, while most others show him holding steady right around 48.

What Would a Repub Congress Investigate?

The DCCC sent out a fundraising e-mail earlier this week in Speaker Pelosi’s name trying to use GOP subpoena power as a rallying cry for Democrats. With the subject line “Endless Investigations,” Pelosi said, “They will bring back the days of Ken Starr and the politics of personal destruction, including endless investigations against President Obama, while continuing to put corporate special interests first.”

I rolled my eyes when I saw this on Wednesday, remembering 2006 when we liked the idea of Congress investigating the White House. Granted, Obama is no Bush and Axelrod is no Rove, but it still struck me as hypocritical to call the very thing we campaigned on in 2006 the end of the world. Until just now when I saw this – Bill Randall, Repub candidate in NC-13, suggested that BP and the government teamed up to cause the oil spill on purpose, and that subpoenas should be issued: "Now, I’m not necessarily a conspiracy person, and I do not think enough investigation has been done on this… Personally I feel there's a possibility that there was some sort of collusion... I'm not saying there necessarily is, but I think that there are enough facts on the table for people that are really need to do so to do some investigative research and find out what went on with that and subpoenaing, getting a subpoena of records and everything else.”

Granted, this happened June 16, an eternity in blog time - my bad for missing it at the time (blame travel). But it's gained new life since then given than Randall won his June 22 runoff and is now the GOP's official nominee.

This is what the Repub Party stands for now? And I thought Rand Paul was crazy. CNN’s Carl Sanchez aptly compares this to the 9/11 “Truthers.” All the more reason to support progressive candidates and avoid a GOP takeover. Randall's oponent, btw, is Rep. Brad Miller. Charlie Cook rates this race as a "solid D", thank God, but Randall's kooky ilk do stand chances to win in places like KY-SEN and NV-SEN.

Support Progressive Candidates Now

The end of the second fiscal quarter is rapidly approaching – less than a week to go. This is an important deadline for showing the strength of progressive candidates, especially since the next quarter is traditionally the weakest. Things are already off to a good start this year – for example, the Democratic nominee for Idaho Governor, Keith Allred, is outraising and underspending Repub incumbent Butch Otter – but we have to keep that momentum going.

Here are the 8 candidates from MyDD’s Going on Offense Act Blue page. I hope you’ll consider supporting at least two of them.

For Governor

Bill White (Texas) - Incumbent Texas Governor Rick Perry has a 35% approval rating. Former Houston Mayor Bill White is well known for his excellent handling of Hurricanes Katrina and Ike, greening Houston, and cutting taxes. The next Governor's term will include both census-based redistricting and a presidential election. The race is a toss-up. What more incentive to give do you need?

Matt Dunne (Vermont) - Spend just ten minutes with Matt Dunne and you'll realize that he has one of the deepest commitments to service and firmest grasps on public policy of anyone you’ve ever met. Matt, an executive at Google, is the former director of Americorps-VISTA and a former state senator. His resume and his values are the right choice for Vermont and for the Democratic Party as we seek to take this statehouse back.

For Senate

Jack Conway (Kentucky) – As state Attorney General, Jack Conway has taken over 40,000 images of child pornography out of circulation, helped take 90,000 child predators off MySpace, and led the largest drug bust in state history. As a candidate, he focuses on job creation, high school drop-out rates, Wall Street reform, and repealing DADT. Oh, and his opponent? That would be one Rand Paul, who has repeatedly said he doesn't support the 1964 Civil Rights Act and considers criticism of BP "un-American."

Robin Carnahan (Missouri) – They say that as Missouri goes, so goes the nation, and in 2010, this might be the closest thing to a true toss-up anywhere on the Senate map. Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, a Missouri resident who still runs her family's farm in Rolla, has cracked down on financial predators and helped guide her office into the 21 Century. Her opponent, Roy Blount, was one of Tom DeLay's top lieutenants during the Bush administration. The choice is clear.

Paul Hodes (New Hampshire) – Paul Hodes has been an outspoken, aggressive and unwavering proponent of real health care reform since his recent election to Congress. A true progressive advocate, Hodes refused to give up when things were at their darkest after Scott Brown won the MA-Sen seat, writing on the Huffington Post, “The Washington Republican Party and their tea-party allies would take us back to the Bush years… Now is not the time for Democrats to shy away from a fight, to back down or run away from who we are. There is too much at stake.”

Russ Feingold (Wisconsin) – Though not running for an open seat, no progressive movement would be complete with Senator Russ Feingold. Feingold was the lone vote against the now-notorious Patriot Act in 2001 and has been one of the most outspoken advocates for peace and justice in Iraq and beyond.

For House

Alan Grayson (Florida Eighth) – Congressman Grayson emerged as a true progressive hero in 2009 when he led the fight for a health care public option and debunked Republican lies on the House floor. He has since turned his attention to Wall Street reform and accountability, but is a top conservative target. Only the second Democrat to ever represent this district and still new enough to be a reformer, he needs our help.

Tom White (Nebraska 2nd) – For the first time in history, a state split its Electoral College vote when NE-02, which includes Omaha, cast its vote for Barack Obama. Let’s keep this district blue and send Lee Terry packing. Help state Sen. Tom White take his record of success on education, civil rights, and workplace discrimination to Congress. White is one of the DCCC’s 13 “red to blue” candidates.

Give now! Because seriously, is there any reason to wait?

BP's Approval Rating In Context

This paragraph from NBC's Mark Murray might be the funniest thing I've seen all week. H/T 538's Twitter stream:

Indeed, the poll shows that only 6 percent have a favorable rating of BP. In the history of the NBC News/Journal poll, Saddam Hussein (3 percent), Fidel Castro (3 percent) and Yasser Arafat (4 percent) have had lower favorable scores, and O.J. Simpson (11 percent) and tobacco-maker Philip Morris (15 percent) have had higher ratings.

BTW, this is somewhat old news, but I wanted to make sure you saw that the always-reliable Rep. Steve King (R-IA) followed up his Obama-is-a-racist comments with a defense of BP, telling Laura Ingraham, "I think Joe Barton was spot-on when he called it a shakedown." So that's Reps. Barton, King, Bachman, Fleming, Nunes, the 100 members of the [House] Republican Study Committee, Sen. Cornyn, Senate candidate Paul, and commentator Limbaugh all claiming that BP shouldn't be held accountable for its mess. When the defenses are coming from that many corners, you know Rahm Emanuel was right to point out that this is the Republican governing philosophy, and the McConnells and Murkowskis lose credibility when they feign anger at the accusation.

If nothing else, the Republican defense of BP should put to rest criticism of Democrats as "the Mommy Party." It's the progressives, not the conservatives, who are looking at BP and saying, "Who do you think I am, your mother? Clean up this mess!"

Toss Up In TX-GOV

I’ve made this point before, but it bears repeating: This is not an anti-Democratic year, it is an anti-incumbent year. And that means Democrats can blunt our losses by winning in places where Repubs are still in charge.

Case in point, a new PPP poll shows the TX-GOV race tied at 43. Even better, incumbent Repub Rick Perry’s approval spread has dropped to 36-49 while Democrat and former Houston Mayor Bill White is at 37-25. This is a race we can win and a candidate we should get behind.

Perry’s approval rating briefly surged when his secessionist talk gave him new-found popularity among Tea Party types, but I’m not surprised it didn’t last. Let’s remember, this is the guy who won re-election in 2006 with just 39% of the vote. More importantly, Governor Good Hair is no small government libertarian. Constitutionally and historically, the Governor of Texas is a weak figure, but Perry changed that, grabbing power the same way his predecessor did at the national level: taking it despite the law and against the peoples’ wishes. In his first two terms, he tried to ram through a corrupt and untransparent $145 billion highway project that no one wanted, including land owners, environmentalists, and yes, the 2006 state GOP platform. In 2007, he circumvented both families and the state legislature by issuing an executive order requiring all girls to receive HPV vaccinations before 6th grade.

Last December, Texas Monthly explained why White might be the dream candidate Texas Democrats have been looking for for the past 16 years. He has no true political enemies – a rare thing for a mayor – and is widely known for his adept handling of Hurricanes Katrina and Ike. Additionally:

He banned, for all practical purposes, lobbyists from city hall and from any involvement in city contracts, thereby cleaning up what many had come to call "the trough." He took on the city's legendary traffic jams and, in a series of programs, untangled some of them and sped up commuting times. He reduced the city's property tax rate five years out of six; shored up the city's wobbly pension system; reduced the City of Houston's energy consumption by 6 percent, making Houston one of the greenest cities in the country; took on petrochemical companies over air pollution; added parks and libraries; cleaned up decaying neighborhoods and built affordable housing; revamped a badly managed police department, resulting in the city's lowest crime level in decades; and signed new contracts with firefighters giving them 38 percent raises, the first salary increase in six years.

An inept and unpopular incumbent? Shifting demographics? A great Democratic candidate? This is the best chance we’ve had to win in Texas in over a decade and might be the best chance we’ll get for the next one. It’s the perfect year to have this shot, too, since the 2010 census will give us the chance to fix Tom Delay’s corrupt Congressional redistricting.

The end of another fiscal quarter is rapidly approaching, so I’m going to start pushing our Going on Offense Act Blue page again. With the Arkansas primary over, I’ve replaced Bill Halter with Bill White. Please give to White today, and to any of the other stellar progressive candidates who represent our best chances to win this November.

McChrystal Resigns, Petraeus Named As Replacement [Updated]

This from the UK Telegraph's Toby Harnden:

A senior Capitol Hill source tells me that General Stanley McChrystal had tendered his resignation to President Barack Obama and that the White House is actively discussing a replacement who could be quickly confirmed by the Senate.

The source said that among the names being touted as possible successors are General James Mattis, the outgoing head of the US Joint Forces Command and due to retire after being passed over as US Marine Corps commander, and Lieutenant General William Caldwell, commander of Nato’s Training Mission in Afghanistan.

Of course, offering to resign is not the same as actually resigning and it remains to be seen whether Mr Obama will accept the resignation. Donald Rumsfeld offered to resign as Pentagon chief on more than one occasion but President George W. Bush requested that he continue in post before eventually firing him in November 2006.

Similar stories, albeit ones that hedge their bets, from CNN and Fox News.

I take this to mean not that the General has resigned, but that he will do so at today's meeting. If replacements are already being discussed, than it sounds like Obama is going to accept. My guess is that if the leader of the COIN strategy is out, next summer's withdrawal might actually be more than a token one - it's a bit late in the game for yet ANOTHER new strategy. We'll see.

Update: The president has accepted McChrystal's resignation. David Petraeus will take over in Afghanistan - so with an old involved hand like that taking over, I have to take back what I said about the leader of the COIN strategy being out and the war winding down. The appeal of McChrystal was always that he was in the Petraeus mold. Well, Petraeus is certainly inthe Petraeus mold.

Disturbing Oil Spill Pictures, Disturbing Oil Spill Quotes

The Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC) put together this short video juxtaposing images from the oil spill with quotes from BP CEO Tony Hayward. It tells the stories of wildlife devestation and BP's lies about as well as anything else you'll see.

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