Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Republican Backtracking

As I read the paper this morning, I was hit by a surprising volly of two big backsteps by the Republican leadership and a big hit against the conventional wisdom that Gonzalez will be confirmed to Attorney General without much of a problem. A Social Security analyst for the Heritage Foundation says:
"If this was a case of just price indexing and doing nothing else, frankly, some of the [opponents'] charges are pretty valid," John said. "But if you give the personal accounts as well, you're giving people the opportunity to make up the difference. Not everyone will do that, but a substantial number will."
Is he accepting Kinsley's Proof in a very subtle way? I think he is. While he may misleadingly argue that a "substantial number" will make up the difference (as there is very little evidence that this is plausible), he doesn't argue that privatization will increase benefits in any way. Thus, it looks like even the Heritage Foundation is either not sticking to the administration line on this (not highly likely) or the strategy for rolling out private accounts will include telling everyone that their benefits will at best be the same but most likely cut by privatization (not to mention it will slow economic growth by increasing interest rates, weakening the dollar, and increasing the national debt.) It will be interesting to see the White House line develop on this in the coming weeks, but if privitaztion at its best is only equitable with the current government management of benefits, then how could any sane Congress let this plan go through when there are MUCH BETTER ALTERNATIVES???

Also, in today's paper, the GOP decides to abandon the ethics changes they had proposed on New Year's Eve. After I found out about the proposed changes, I turned to my father, a federal employee, and remarked, "Let me get this straight. If you accept a gift valued at say, $50 ($25 over the $25 limit) then you could lose your job." My dad interjected, "Certainly, it would be definite grounds for dismissal." I continued, "Yet, Tom Delay can be indicted by a grand jury on campaign finance charges, use the FAA's resources to track down political opponents fighting his gerrymandering of questionable legality, and can bribe other politicans for votes on legislation...yet he still gets to keep his job?"

Looks like enough House Republicans saw the sheer absurdity of essentially taking away the traditional ethical restrictions on its members as it would easily be viewed as a highly partisan tactic meant to defend questionable activity. Now if they only had the sense to reprimand Delay more harshly-- perhaps his constituents will, but that's doubtful.

Lastly, I thought I should bring up this little nugget:

"A dozen high-ranking retired military officers took the unusual step yesterday of signing a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee expressing "deep concern" over the nomination of White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales as attorney general, marking a rare military foray into the debate over a civilian post."

The signers of the letter include a former chariman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a former Air Force Chief of Staff -- this is not some group of no-name disgruntled soldiers. I hadn't really given a whole lot of thought before to the power of military opposition against U.S. sanctioned torture, but they have very good reason to take a stand.

Money Quote from their letter:

"Today, it is clear that these operations have fostered greater animosity toward the United States, undermined our intelligence gathering efforts and added to the risks facing our troops serving around the world,"
I think the American public, both left and right, could actually become very opposed to Gonzalez' nomination if this group or more others like it can create enough of a stir. Here's a crazy idea for some Senate floor confirmation hearing theatrics that could really get some attention: Ideally get a pair of senators, (1 Republican--John McCain anyone? 1 Democrat) and have them both start showing huge poster board images of the Abu Grahib abuse-- followed by blow ups of quotes of internal documents revelead through recent ACLU FOIA requests and International Committee of the Red Cross reports while debating Gonzalez' confirmation, and then finish by blowing up real big this little legal opinon sanctioning U.S. sponsored torture Gonzalez did not so long ago. Sure, such a scenario of theatrics is probably just as likely as a Senator actually reading this blog, but nevertheless I have a lot of faith in the American public's ability to oppose such vile acts. Perhaps I'm naive, but I think that people aren't sufficiently outraged at Gonzalez or even the recent allegations of torture because there aren't images like Abu Grahib confronting them on television and thus psychologically the torture does not exist. Put those images on the Senate floor in the manner I described above, and not only would you get the attention of all of the American newsmedia, but you would also probably have a good chance of blocking his appointment.


At 4:53 PM, Blogger Nick said...

Well, the Attorney General confirmation hearings begin Thursday, so we'll find out soon. According to this Times article, though, a lot of Senate Democrats have given up on trying to prevent Gonzales's nomination to AG, and instead are looking to the future and attempting "to lay down a record that will make it difficult for him to be confirmed to the Supreme Court." I don't know if this is just an instance of the "nominee obstruction cost Tom Daschle his job" meme taking hold in the Democratic party, but I would think we have just as much to fear from Alberto Gonzales as the AG as we would from seeing him on the Supreme Court.


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