John Kerry on Roe v. Wade

Senator John Kerry on the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade:

“Thirty five years ago today, the Supreme Court affirmed the right to privacy in the landmark Roe v. Wade decision,” said Kerry. “Ever since that day, the modern conservative movement has spared no resources or energy to try and roll back a fundamental freedom and put personal and private decisions in the hands of politicians not women, families, doctors, and clergy. We’ve seen the right wing pack the courts and pass backdoor legislative efforts at the local, state, and federal level to chip away at or even undermine Roe v Wade entirely.”

“Now more than ever, we need to protect the right to privacy. We must rededicate ourselves to the fight to make it clear that a 35 year old statement of a constitutional right must not be overturned. From the struggle to repeal a global gag rule, to the battle against extreme judicial nominees, to filibusters of conscience against President Bush’s most dangerous choices for the bench all the way to the Supreme Court, we have fought for principle, and that fight must continue until we have a voice in the White House who will stand up for a woman’s right to privacy rather than work to erode it.”

And another Kerry quote on another topic which is worth repeating in light of the manner in which the Clintons have resorted to Swift Boat tactics:

“I support Barack Obama because he doesn’t seek to perfect the politics of Swiftboating — he seeks to end it.”

Bloomberg Dismisses Economic Stimulus Package

While a third party candidate has little chance, as a consequence of the poor choices offered by the major parties Michael Bloomberg has moved up to second in my rankings of potential 2008 candidates (with this subject to change between now and November). Bloomberg has dismissed the proposed economic stimulus package being considered with this criticism:

“There’s just one problem: It’s not going to make much of a difference because we’ve already been running huge deficits,” Bloomberg said. “If we spend all the money right now, and there is no recovery because of it, then we don’t have a second hand to play.”

Bloomberg has offered these suggestions:

Bloomberg argued that the government’s first goal should be to stop the bleeding in the housing sector. “What good is a rebate going to do for a family who’s about to lose the place that they sleep in?” he said. Keeping people in their homes, he added, “is more important than giving everyone a check.”

Instead, the mayor argued, the government should:

_ Adopt a capital budget to oversee long-term infrastructure spending, instead of the current year-to-year spending.

_ Offer financial counseling, modified loans and, in some cases, subsidized loans to homeowners who find themselves unable to afford their mortgages.

_Overhaul immigration laws to bring more workers in, not keep workers out.

“Illegal immigration has become the pandering politician’s best friend,” he said. “We have to stop turning away people that our economy needs.”

Freedom in Retreat

Freedom House has released their annual report finding, ” The year 2007 was marked by a notable setback for global freedom.”

The decline in freedom, as reported in Freedom in the World 2008, an annual survey of political rights and civil liberties worldwide, was reflected in reversals in one-fifth of the world’s countries. Most pronounced in South Asia, it also reached significant levels in the former Soviet Union, the Middle East and North Africa, and sub-Saharan Africa. A substantial number of politically important countries whose declines have broad regional and global implications—including Russia, Pakistan, Kenya, Egypt, Nigeria, and Venezuela—were affected.

Complete survey results reflect global events during 2007. A package of charts and graphs and an explanatory essay are available online.

“This year’s results show a profoundly disturbing deterioration of freedom worldwide,” said Arch Puddington, director of research at Freedom House. “A number of countries that had previously shown progress toward democracy  have regressed, while none of the most influential Not Free states showed signs of improvement. As the second consecutive year that the survey has registered a global decline in political rights and civil liberties, friends of freedom worldwide have real cause for concern.”

Obama and Romney on Faith-Based Programs

Earlier today I looked at Obama’s views on faith-based programs. Obama discusses this further in an interview in Christianity Today. In the past I’ve criticized Mitt Romney’s views on religion and government. The Washington Independent shows that as governor Romney actually acted along the guide lines discussed by Obama:

During Mitt Romney’s time as governor of Massachusetts, he took only a few steps to help faith-based groups increase their access to public contracts to provide social services.

But the governor made one high-profile move that showed his commitment to the issue: Romney appointed his wife, Ann, in 2005 as an unpaid liaison to religious and community groups in the state. Her job was to help them compete for federal funding.

“I work with inner city at-risk youth,” she told ABC News last year, “and we find that a lot of the black churches in the inner city have been very, very helpful in being there on the ground, helping these kids, really making a difference in their lives. I’m very supportive of that, of trying to find anyone that’s helping, give them a hand, as well.”

Romney, a Mormon, has faced difficult questions about the role his religion might play in his public life. While he said some faith-based groups do a better job at helping poor families than some government social service agencies, he made clear that his support for such groups is limited to their secular work. “Helping them in a religious role… would be unacceptable,” he said in the same ABC interview, appearing with his wife in the early stages of his presidential campaign.

It is good to see that, at least in this case, at least one Republican candidate is showing some respect for separation of church and state.

Kerry Defends Obama From Clinton Smear Campaign

Earlier I expressed hope that Democratic leaders would stand up to oppose the type of dishonest campaign that the Clintons are running. After all, I’ve often criticized Republicans for accepting the same type of dishonesty from the Bush administration, and we cannot accept this regardless of which party it comes from. One senior Democrat has repeatedly stood up to defend candidates from “swiftboating.” The Guardian reports:

John Kerry, the Democratic candidate in the 2004 presidential election, today made an extraordinary intervention on behalf of Barack Obama, accusing his opponents of stooping to “Swiftboat” smear tactics to destroy the black senator’s presidential ambitions.

Kerry, whose presidential bid was wrecked by innuendo and lies about his Vietnam service as a Swiftboat officer on the Mekong river, did not name the Clintons, but they appeared to be the main target of his outburst.

“The fight is just heating up. We won’t let them steal this election with lies and distortions,” he said.

His comments came amid signs of a backlash in the Democratic party, especially among African-Americans, at the way that Hillary and Bill Clinton have gone about taking Obama apart during the past fortnight…

Kerry, a senator from Massachusetts, endorsed Obama last month, despite his long friendship with Bill Clinton. It was an important endorsement, giving heart to other members of Congress who had been dithering about supporting Obama for fear of antagonising the Clinton machine.

But it is a big jump for Kerry to go from endorsement to criticism of the former president and his spouse, even if indirectly. He described as “disgusting lies” allegations on the internet about Obama’s religion and record of public service.

“I support Barack Obama because he doesn’t seek to perfect the politics of Swiftboating – he seeks to end it,” he said. “This is personal for me, and for a whole lot of Americans who lived through the 2004 election.”

One other Democrat is also mentioned:

Tom Daschle, the former Senate majority leader and Obama supporter, denounced Bill Clinton’s conduct as “not keeping with the image of a former president”.

“I think it destroys the party. Ultimately it’s going to divide us, and it’s going to have a lasting effect down the road,” Daschle said.

Gore Backs Same Sex Marriage

Al Gore has released a video supporting legalization of same sex marriage. The Politico reports:

“Gay men and women ought to have the same rights as heterosexual men and women — to make contracts, to have hospital visiting rights, to join together in marriage, and I don’t understand why it is considered by some people to be a threat to heterosexual marriage,” he says on the video, which appears on his Current TV network. “Shouldn’t we be promoting the kind of faithfulness and loyalty to ones partner regardless of sexual orientation?”

Gore’s words come after the leading presidential candidates have tiptoed up to, but not crossed, the line of support for same-sex marriage. All three support equal substantive rights for gay and lesbians couples, and they’ve sought to woo gay voters in other ways: Elizabeth Edwards has voiced her support for same-sex marriage, for instance, and Barack Obama recently scolded the black church for homophobia, in a speech to an African-American congregation.

Will Gore have as much influence on public perception of this issue as he has with global warming?

Hillary Clinton, The Republican Democrat

Paul Waldman has a must read article in The American Prospect on how Hillary Clinton is applying Karl Rove style tactics in her campaign against Barack Obama. He writes:

Three weeks ago, I wrote that Clinton was working to make voters uneasy, utilizing just enough fear to encourage them to stick with the known quantity in the race. But in the time since, her campaign has begun to appear more and more as though it’s being run by Karl Rove or Lee Atwater. Pick your tired metaphor — take-no-prisoners, brass knuckles, no-holds-barred, playing for keeps — however you describe it, the Clinton campaign is not only not going easy on Obama, they’re doing so in awfully familiar ways. So many of the ingredients of a typical GOP campaign are there, in addition to fear. We have the efforts to make it harder for the opponent’s voters to get to the polls (the Nevada lawsuit seeking to shut down at-large caucus sites in Las Vegas, to which the Clinton campaign gave its tacit support). We have, depending on how you interpret the events of the last couple of weeks, the exploitation of racial divisions and suspicions (including multiple Clinton surrogates criticizing Obama for his admitted teenage drug use). And most of all, we have an utterly shameless dishonesty.

On some of these points, Clinton hasn’t yet reached GOP levels of underhandedness. But on the simple question of honestly characterizing their opponent, the Clintons are giving any Republican campaign in memory a run for its money.

The latest example is the Clinton camp’s extremely effective effort to twist some remarks Obama made about Ronald Reagan and the years since his presidency beyond all recognition, which came up in their debate Monday night. In an interview with the editorial board of the Reno Gazette-Journal, Obama had said that Reagan had successfully “changed the trajectory of America, in a way that Richard Nixon did not, and in a way that Bill Clinton did not,” a claim few people of any ideological stripe would dispute. He also said, “I think it’s fair to say the Republicans were the party of ideas for a pretty long chunk of time over the last 10 or 15 years, in the sense that they were challenging conventional wisdom.”

For those of you who don’t know, the “party of ideas” is a concept that people have been throwing around for quite some time in Washington, and it is almost always used in a value-neutral way, meaning the party that at a particular time appears to the public like the one offering something new and grand, and that seems to have political momentum behind its ideological thrust. Both parties want to claim the “party of ideas” mantle, but you can acknowledge that at one time or another your opponents have successfully grabbed it without saying their ideas are actually right. But Hillary Clinton responded this way:

“I have to say, you know, my leading opponent the other day said that he thought the Republicans had better ideas than Democrats the last ten to fifteen years. That’s not the way I remember the last ten to fifteen years. I don’t think it’s a better idea to privatize Social Security. I don’t think it’s a better idea to try to eliminate the minimum wage. I don’t think it’s a better idea to undercut health benefits and to give drug companies the right to make billions of dollars by providing prescription drugs to Medicare recipients. I don’t think it’s a better idea to shut down the government, to drive us into debt.”And if you listen to the tape, the italics are right there in her voice. Bill then chimed in, taking the distortion to an even higher level: “Her principal opponent,” he claimed, “said that since 1992, the Republicans have had all the good ideas.”

Waldman also discusses other dishonest attacks from Clinton such as the distortion of Obama’s positions on Iraq and Social Security. He turns to the big question:

The question this raises is how we really feel about ethically questionable campaign tactics. The fact is that we’re very quick to forgive a politician we support for hitting below the belt, if the belt in question is around the waist of another politician we dislike. We might ask ourselves, however, whether our readiness to do so is different in kind from the Republican willingness to tolerate torture, so long as it’s done to “bad guys” (OK, so many of them won’t just “tolerate” it, they’ll applaud it enthusiastically). Try to imagine that it’s nine months from now, Mitt Romney is the Republican nominee, and flyers begin appearing in mailboxes charging that as an elder of the Mormon church, Romney participated in bizarre, cult-like rituals that may or may not have involved slaughtering puppies. Would you say that the attack was beyond the pale, but crack a secret smile when Romney was forced to deny that he was a puppy-killer?

My answer is no, I would not be happy to see Hillary Clinton win by using such tactics. This type of behavior is dangerous to our public discourse and dangerous to democracy. We have all known for years that the Clintons have no difficulty with lying, but lies such as this are far more damaging to democracy than many of their previous lies. We knew about Bill Clinton’s sexual conduct before he was elected and nobody should have been surprised he’d lie about that if caught. Basing a campaign on lying about the opponent is a far more serious matter.

One of the reasons I have voted Democratic in recent years has been because of the manner in which Republicans have distorted public debate. For a democracy to work effectively the voters must know what they are voting for. The Orwellian propaganda efforts of the GOP which are based upon distorting the facts have led to our current situation of having an incompetent and dishonest president who has done immeasurable harm to our nation. We must not allow the only alternative to such a party in a two party system become a mirror image.

I hope that party leaders step in to put an end to such dishonest tactics. I hope that the news media does its job in reporting the truth whenever Clinton or any other candidate spreads lies. Ultimately this responsibility to police our public officials falls to the voters. Democrats should make it clear to Hillary Clinton that we already have one Republican Party, and if she wishes to imitate them we are not going to vote for her, whether in a primary or a general election.

There She Goes Again (Hillary Clinton vs. the Truth)

Talking Points Memo reports that Hillary Clinton is running an ad repeating the same type of lies she has been saying about Barack Obama’s recent statements. Again she quotes Obama out of context referring to the Republicans as the party of ideas, suggesting that Obama supported those Republican ideas.

I’ve already had multiple posts on this topic. calls this attack “flatly false.” Eriz Zorn says the Clintons are lying. Obama has made his opposition to Reagan’s ideas quite clear when his actual statements are reviewed.

Seeing how easily Hillary and Bill Clinton are able to lie allows the Republicans to claim the final victory in their battles against the Clintons. While they overreacted with impeachment, they were certainly right about the Clintons. Bill Clinton lied about having sex with that woman. Both Bill and Hillary are lying about what Obama said.

Seeing this blatant dishonesty will make it very difficult to consider voting for Hillary Clinton should she win the nomination. I must add that this is destroying the claims of many on the left to be a part of the “reality based community.” For example, Talk Left claims “The ad properly points out that Obama did not express any criticism of the GOP ideas. That is the problem. Obama’s failure to speak out against these ideas.” There is simply no way to make such a ridiculous claim without either intentionally ignoring everything Obama has actually said since this controversy erupted or to outright lie (as Clinton’s even more shrill supporters like Taylor Marsh have done repeatedly).

Differences of opinion are one thing and I’d have no problem with either Clinton or pro-Clinton bloggers arguing over real disagreements with Obama. However, when one side repeatedly resorts to outright lying about what the opposing candidate has said in order to oppose him, I have zero respect for them and there’s little chance I’d vote for a candidate who resorts to such swift boating in the general election. Besides, the Clinton record sure is not very good with regards to either their own favorable statements about Ronald Reagan or their policies of triangulation to promote Republican policies. To attack Obama for not being sufficiently critical of Republican ideas, just like attacking him on his position on the war, are classic examples of the Karl Rove strategy of attacking a candidate on their strongest points. We hardly need another term of a Rove-style politician in the White House.

Update: Obama responds with an ad of his own. In contrast to the Clinton ad, it is totally free of lies:

It was Hillary Clinton, in an interview with Tom Brokaw, who quote “paid tribute” to Ronald Reagan’s economic and foreign policy.

She championed NAFTA – even though it has cost South Carolina thousands of jobs.

And worst of all, it was Hillary Clinton who voted for George Bush’s war in Iraq.

Hillary Clinton. She’ll say anything, and change nothing.

It’s time to turn the page.

Obama on Faith-Based Programs and Separation of Church and State

I’ve often both expressed some displeasure with the frequency with which religion plays a part in Obama’s campaign but have also accepted this in light of his strong support for separation of church and state. I would prefer a time when politicians could dismiss questions of religion as easily as Arnold Vinick, the fictional Republican candidate from The West Wing, does in this clip. Unfortunately this is not realistic in the current political climate, and Obama has an added need to remind voters of his Christian religion in response to the Muslim smears being spread. Another example of Obama’s thought on religion is seen in this exchange in an interview at Beliefnet:

You wrote in “The Audacity of Hope” about the role that faith and faith-based programs could play in confronting social ills. Isn’t your view on that similar to George W. Bush’s?

No, I don’t think so, because I am much more concerned with maintaining the line between church and state. And I believe that, for the most part, we can facilitate the excellent work that’s done by faith-based institutions when it comes to substance abuse treatment or prison ministries…. I think much of this work can be done in a way that doesn’t conflict with church and state. I think George Bush is less concerned about that.

My general criteria is that if a congregation or a church or synagogue or a mosque or a temple wants to provide social services and use government funds, then they should be able to structure it in a way that all people are able to access those services and that we’re not seeing government dollars used to proselytize.

That, by the way, is a view based not just on my concern about the state or the apparatus of the state being captured by a particular religious faith, but it’s also because I want the church protected from the state. And I don’t think that we promote the incredible richness of our religious life and our religious institutions when the government starts getting too deeply entangled in their business. That’s part of the reason why you don’t have as rich a set of religious institutions and faith life in Europe. Part of that has to do with the fact that, traditionally, it was an extension of the state. And so there is less experimentation, less vitality, less responsiveness to the yearnings of people. It became a rigid institution that no longer served people’s needs. Religious freedom in this country, I think, is precisely what makes religion so vital.

Steve Benen considers this a good answer:

The problem with Bush’s faith-based initiative wasn’t that the government would subsidize social-service work from religious groups. The truth is, that’s been going on for years — Catholic Charities, for example, was contracting with the government for taxpayer-financed projects for years, long before Bush came onto the scene.

Rather, the problem with Bush’s approach is that he identified safeguards in the system, and eliminated them. It led to an initiative in which made it easy for religious groups to proselytize with public funds.

Obama’s approach — which I’d like to hear him emphasize a little more often — would seem to return to the model that was in place before Bush took office: faith-based groups are eligible to compete for government contracts, as they have been for years, but only while “maintaining” the separation of church and state, and while preventing ministries from proselytizing while performing a state-sponsored public service.

And in the bigger picture, Obama’s general approach to religious liberty was very much in line with what I wanted to hear. Indeed, he characterized church-state separation in a way that might appeal more to religious conservatives — arguing that the constitutional principle isn’t hostile towards the faithful, but rather, helps maintain the integrity of religious institutions by leaving them free of government interference. (Mark Kleiman had a good item about this a while back.)

Bush Lied, People Died

That’s what this study shows.

A study by two nonprofit journalism organizations found that President Bush and top administration officials issued hundreds of false statements about the national security threat from Iraq in the two years following the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The study concluded that the statements “were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses.”

The study was posted Tuesday on the Web site of the Center for Public Integrity, which worked with the Fund for Independence in Journalism.

White House spokesman Scott Stanzel did not comment on the merits of the study Tuesday night but reiterated the administration’s position that the world community viewed Iraq’s leader, Saddam Hussein, as a threat.

“The actions taken in 2003 were based on the collective judgment of intelligence agencies around the world,” Stanzel said.

The study counted 935 false statements in the two-year period. It found that in speeches, briefings, interviews and other venues, Bush and administration officials stated unequivocally on at least 532 occasions that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or was trying to produce or obtain them or had links to al-Qaida or both.

“It is now beyond dispute that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction or have meaningful ties to al-Qaida,” according to Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith of the Fund for Independence in Journalism staff members, writing an overview of the study. “In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003.”

Named in the study along with Bush were top officials of the administration during the period studied: Vice President Dick Cheney, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and White House press secretaries Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan.

Bush led with 259 false statements, 231 about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 28 about Iraq’s links to al-Qaida, the study found. That was second only to Powell’s 244 false statements about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and 10 about Iraq and al-Qaida.