Thursday, April 05, 2007



Yesterday I had lunch with Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), a progressive stalwart. He told me a story about how Bush's clueless Homeland Security Department tried to force New Jersey to lower the state's strict anti-terrorism standards that protect the sprawling chemical industry. It wasn't that the Bush Regime was necessarily looking for a way to endanger the 12 millions people who could be effected by an incident; it was just the regular garden variety incompetence we have come to expect from a Regime that revels at decimating functioning government service providers like FEMA (bye-bye, New Orleans), the Food and Drug Administration (bye-bye, Fido), the IRS (bye-bye billions of dollars in lost revenues; of course, that one had less to do with incompetence than with careful planning and execution), even to the U.S. military, which has been decimated under the Bush Regime's cavalier stewardship. No, Senator Lautenberg seemed to suggest that they were just trying to enforce the same set of standards for everyone so that those states, like New Jersey, that have been most vigilant, would be forced to adhere to new standards which may bring up vigilance in Utah and Nebraska but are definitely not nearly strong enough for what is needed in high risk areas.

It's a battle Senator Lautenberg wound up winning. I asked him if, in that case and others like it, Republican congressmembers in the House, who after all, represent the same residents of New Jersey eager to not be consumed by a catastrophe caused by more National Security laxness on the part of the Bush Regime, are willing to work across the aisle for the good of the state. He told me, basically, that there are Republican congressmen who, in a case like this, do not hesitate to work with him in a bipartisan fashion for the obvious good of New Jersey. He used Rodney Frelinghuysen as an example of a New Jersey congressman who will put the welfare of the state's residents above narrow partisanship-- the opposite of a doctrinaire and extremist wingnut like Christopher Smith, one of the more virulently partisan of the New Jersey congressional caucus.

The Bush Regime, on the other hand, makes Christopher Smith come off almost like a model of bipartisanship. They only know one thing: attack, attack, attack. The Bush Regime was just engaging in more of their political gamesmanship. Even a notorious Bush apologist like Joe Klein (NO relation) has now reassessed his own ignorant and dishonest posture enough to admit, in tomorrow's Time, that Bush is "clearly unfit to lead." The Regime's disingenuous response to Speaker Pelosi's trip to Syria-- not to mention the reaction of their supporters in the media-- was nothing short of contemptible. The Washington Post was simply uninformed and bending over backwards to kiss ass. President Carter has a very different perspective than the Bush Regime-- one shared by most Americans:
I was glad that she went. When there is a crisis, the best way to help resolve the crisis is to deal with the people who are instrumental in the problem.

"Carter said he recently wanted to visit Syria, in connection with a Palestinian election, but 'for the only time in my life, as a former president, I was ordered by the White House not to go.'"

Jim Walsh teaches at MIT, at the Security Studies Program, and he thinks that Pelosi's visit could actually be beneficial, not just to America but to the Bush Regime as well. "Every president wants to have complete control over their foreign policy," he said, "but I think in the long run it's helpful. The more information flow you have back and forth, the more contact you have back and forth, the greater the chance that you're going to be able to resolve some of these issues."

The Chicago Tribune takes the Post's moronic editorial apart and, although, they don't speculate on the Post's motives for lying about Pelosi's trip, they leave no doubt that that is exactly what they did. Now what about Republicans in Congress?
Three Republican congressmen who parted with President Bush by meeting with Syrian leaders said Wednesday it is important to maintain a dialogue with a country the White House says sponsors terrorism.

"I don't care what the administration says on this. You've got to do what you think is in the best interest of your country," said Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va. "I want us to be successful in Iraq. I want us to clamp down on

..."This is an area where we would disagree with the administration," (Rep. Robert) Aderholt (of Alabama) said. "None of us in the Congress work for the president. We have to cast our own votes and ultimately answer to our own constituents. ... I think there's room that we can try to work with them as long as they know where we draw the line.

Another Republican congressman, David Hobson (R-OH), who traveled with Speaker Pelosi to Syria also differed with the Bush Regime partisan game players.
"I think we played a useful role," Hobson said in a phone call from Saudi Arabia. "We reinforced the administration's positions and at the same time we were trying to understand and maybe getting some voice to some things people wanted to say that maybe they were not comfortable saying to the administration. The jury's out ... but this was not an anti-administration trip at all."

Hobson, who has been generally supportive of the war in Iraq, said the war was not the subject of discussions in countries that also included Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Instead, he said, Middle East leaders who have watched Pelosi criticize the war may have been surprised by her support of other Bush policies in the Middle East. He said, however, that Assad urged the United States to find a diplomatic way to get out of the war.

"I think they might've thought there was some wedge between the president's policies and the House Republican policies," he said. "But (Pelosi) enunciated and we all enunciated that we wanted them to do more."

Darrell Issa (R-CA) is generally even further to the right and at least as much of a rubber stamp as New Jersey's Christopher Smith. But he just drew a line. He's in Damascus today, meeting with Assad and also with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem. He said "Bush had failed to promote the dialogue that is necessary to resolve disagreements between the United States and Syria."


With House Minority Leader Boehner echoing Rove's anti-Pelosi talking points, Hobson has taken issue with his old friend and colleague. He pointed out the groundless and partisan nature of the Bush Regime's baseless attack on the Speaker and "along with rebutting those comments, Hobson, the only Republican on the trip, also dismissed complaints about the trip from Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney, a former Massachusetts governor. Hobson said the administration knew about the trip in advance and provided the delegation with a jet. 'As far as I know, they never said a word to anybody until we were in the air,' Hobson said."


Although Cheney, Bush, Boehner and other Regime mouthpieces-- including and even especially mass media mouthpieces-- have tried to portray the Bush Regime's argument with Speaker Pelosi in a narrow partisan frame, it is, as some honest Republican congressmen also recognize, not so much partisan as it is a very important battle between an authoritarian and secretive Executive Branch and a Legislative Branch determined to provide the checks and balances that the American public now demands. Scott Lilly did a brilliant piece on just this aspect for the Center For American Progress. I recommend it highly.

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