United States Performed Experiments On Detainees

Physicians for Human Rights charges that there were violations of medical ethics during the torture of detainees under the Bush administration, with victims used for experimentation:

Medical professionals who were involved in the Central Intelligence Agency’s interrogations of terrorism suspects engaged in forms of human research and experimentation in violation of medical ethics and domestic and international law, according to a new report from a human rights organization.

Doctors, psychologists and other professionals assigned to monitor the C.I.A.’s use of waterboarding, sleep deprivation and other “enhanced” interrogation techniques gathered and collected data on the impact of the interrogations on the detainees in order to refine those techniques and ensure that they stayed within the limits established by the Bush administration’s lawyers, the report found. But, by doing so, the medical professionals turned the detainees into research subjects, according to the report, which is scheduled to be published on Monday by Physicians for Human Rights.

The data collected by medical professionals from the interrogations of detainees allowed the C.I.A. to judge the emotional and physical impact of the techniques, helping the agency to “calibrate the level of pain experienced by detainees during interrogation, ostensibly to keep it from crossing the administration’s legal threshold of what it claimed constituted torture,” the report said. That meant that the medical professionals crossed the line from treating the detainees as patients to treating them as research subjects, the report asserted.

These practices likely violate both domestic and international prohibitions against involuntary human experimentation, including those  based on the  Nuremberg Code.

More at Truthout and The American Prospect.

Libertarians Right to Object To Characterization of Republicans As Against Government

In several recent speeches, including at Carnegie Mellon University and at The University of Michigan, Barack Obama framed his arguments as a debate over the needs for government actions versus the anti-government Republicans. This is a fair characterization if we are to look at the rhetoric of the Republicans, but not their actual policies. Reason has legitimate reason to complain that the Republicans do not share their libertarian beliefs.

I have pointed out in several previous posts how the Republicans, despite their rhetoric, are really the party of big government. Reason provides some additional arguments to back this up:

Keep in mind, the president is talking specifically here not about libertarian freakazoids who want to privatize their own grandmothers, but about governing Republicans. You know, the gang who, “during the first half of 2001 and all of the 2003-07 period maintained full control of both the White House and Congress,” during which time they “increased total spending by more than 20 percent, an average of 5 percent a year,” jacking up “both nondefense spending and mandatory programs enormously.” How in the hell can you spend so much money on “more tax breaks for the wealthy and fewer rules for corporations”? Which one of those two answers (the only ones the GOP has, remember) best describes No Child Left Behind, Sarbanes-Oxley, or Medicare Part D? If Bush was really all about “fewer rules for corporations,” how was it that he managed to be “the biggest regulator since Nixon“? (And do click on those links, they are filled with things like facts and numbers.)

Republicans promote big government at least as much as the Democrats. The difference is that Republican big government tends to be less competent in areas where we want government. Republican big government tends to stress different priorities such as invading other countries, torture, redistributing wealth to the ultra-wealthy, or imposing the views of the religious right upon others.

American Influence Improves Due To “Obama Effect”

International opinion regarding the United States has rebounded sharply since the Bush years according to a recent BBC survey.It is especially notable that American “soft power” has increased while Chinese influence has been “in neutral.”

For the first time since the annual poll began in 2005, America’s influence in the world is now seen as more positive than negative.

The improved scores for the US coincided with Barack Obama becoming president, a BBC correspondent notes.

As in 2009, Germany is viewed most favourably while Iran and Pakistan are seen as the most negative influences…

“People around the world today view the United States more positively than at any time since the second Iraq war,” said Doug Miller, chairman of international polling firm GlobeScan, which carried out the poll with the Program on International Policy Attitudes (Pipa) at the University of Maryland.

“While still well below that of countries like Germany and the UK, the global standing of the US is clearly on the rise again.”

Pipa director Steven Kull noted: “After a year, it appears the ‘Obama effect’ is real.

“Its influence on people’s views worldwide, though, is to soften the negative aspects of the United States’ image, while positive aspects are not yet coming into strong focus.”

He added: “While China’s image is stuck in neutral, America has motored past it in the global soft-power competition.”

Of the full list of 28 countries surveyed this year, the US is viewed positively in 19 (20 including the US itself), while six lean negative and two are divided.

Compared with 2009, positive views of the US jumped 21% in Germany, 18 in Russia, 14 in Portugal and 13 in Chile – though Russia and Germany continued to have a negative view of the US overall.

Meanwhile, negative opinions of the US declined by 23% in Spain, 14 in France and 10 in the UK, with the result that all three lean towards a positive view of the country.

Such an improvement  in American influence was anticipated by Obama supporters and Andrew Sullivan points out that, “One argument many of us made in favor of the election of Barack Obama was that he would instantly help the US recover from its nadir of global reputation in the Bush-Cheney pre-emptive war-and-torture era.”

An American Cry For Help

Keith Olbermann’s Special Comment, An American Cry For Help. Video above and full text under the fold.
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Schwarzenegger, Powell, and Petraeus Defend Obama on Stimulus And Terrorism

The Sunday interview shows a few cases of Republicans breaking from the party line and supporting Barack Obama’s policies. Arnold Schwarzenegger along with Democrat Ed Rendell discussed how the stimulus was successful, including at creating private sector jobs, on This Week. They also agreed that the Republicans won the spin war in discrediting this successful program, with Schwarzenegger calling his fellow Republicans hypocrites:

“I find it interesting that you have a lot of the Republicans running around and pushing back on stimulus money and saying this doesn’t create any new jobs, and then they go out and do photo-ops and they’re posing with the big check and they say, ‘Isn’t this great! Look the kind of money I provide here for the state! And this is great money to create jobs, and this has created 10,000 new jobs, and this has created 20,000 new jobs,’” Schwarzenegger said on ABC’s “This Week.” “It doesn’t match up.”

Asked by “This Week” host Terry Moran if that amounted to hypocrisy, Schwarzenegger responded: “Exactly.”

On Face the Nation Colin Powell disagreed with Dick Cheney’s claims that we are less safe under Obama:

Claims that the United States is less safe under President Obama are not credible, former Secretary of State Colin Powell said on “Face the Nation” Sunday.

He also challenged criticism by some (including former Vice President Dick Cheney, who say that by not using extreme interrogation techniques such as waterboarding on terror suspects the United States is more vulnerable.

“The point is made, ‘We don’t waterboard anymore or use extreme interrogation techniques.’ Most of those extreme interrogation techniques and waterboarding were done away with in the Bush administration,” Powell said. “They’ve been made officially done away with in this current administration.”

Gen. David Petraeus disagreed with Dick Cheney regarding torture and  closing Guantanamo on Meet the Press:

Appearing on Meet the Press, the general made a compelling case against torturing terrorist detainees, saying he found it far more pragmatic and beneficial to stick to methods authorized by the army field manual.

“I have always been on the record, in fact, since 2003, with the concept of living our values. And I think that whenever we’ve perhaps taken expedient measures, they’ve turned around and bitten us in the backside. We decided early on, in the 101st airborne division, we just said, we decided to obey the Geneva Conventions…

“In the cases where that is not true [where torture takes place or international human rights groups aren’t granted access to detention sites] we end up paying a price for it, ultimately,” he added. “Abu Ghraib and other situations like that are non biodegradable. They don’t go away. The enemy continues to beat you with them like a stick…. Beyond that, frankly, we have found that the use of interrogation methods in the army field manual that was given the force of law by Congress, that that works.”

Petraeus wasn’t done there. In another contrast with former Vice President Cheney — as well as the vast majority of congressional Republicans — he reiterated his support for closing Gitmo, albeit without a date-specific time frame.

“I’ve been on the record on that for well over a year, saying it should be closed,” he said. “But it should be done in a responsible matter. So I’m not seized with the issue that it won’t be done by a certain date. In fact, I think it is prudent to insure that as we move forward with that, the remaining detainees are relocated and so forth… is really thought through and done in a very pragmatic and sensible manner.”

Dick Cheney Asks To Be Prosecuted For Violation of Federal Law

Many people have already pointed out that Dick Cheney’s discussion of his role in promoting water boarding on Sunday is essentially a confession to war crimes. Scott Horton questions if he wants to be prosecuted:

“I was a big supporter of waterboarding,” Cheney said in an appearance on ABC’s This Week on Sunday. He went on to explain that Justice Department lawyers had been instructed to write legal opinions to cover the use of this and other torture techniques after the White House had settled on them.

Section 2340A of the federal criminal code makes it an offense to torture or to conspire to torture. Violators are subject to jail terms or to death in appropriate cases, as where death results from the application of torture techniques. Prosecutors have argued that a criminal investigation into torture undertaken with the direction of the Bush White House would raise complex legal issues, and proof would be difficult. But what about cases in which an instigator openly and notoriously brags about his role in torture? Cheney told Jonathan Karl that he used his position within the National Security Council to advocate for the use of waterboarding and other torture techniques. Former CIA agent John Kiriakou and others have confirmed that when waterboarding was administered, it was only after receiving NSC clearance. Hence, Cheney was not speaking hypothetically but admitting his involvement in the process that led to decisions to waterboard in at least three cases.

What prosecutor can look away when a perpetrator mocks the law itself and revels in his role in violating it? Such cases cry out for prosecution. Dick Cheney wants to be prosecuted. And prosecutors should give him what he wants.

Whether or not Cheney wants to be prosecuted, he should be tried for his violation of the law. If the actions he described on television are allowed to go unpunished there is no reason for any future president or vice-president to fear repeating Dick Cheney’s crimes.

Arctic Melting Could Cost Trillions

Two false memes spread by global warming deniers is that 1) this is a prediction of future events as opposed to something which is already happening, and 2) this is a view held by people who are hostile to market economies. A study by the Pew Environment Group shows that melting of the arctic ice caps is already occurring, and already costing billions:

Arctic ice melting could cost global agriculture, real estate and insurance anywhere from $2.4 trillion to $24 trillion by 2050 in damage from rising sea levels, floods and heat waves, according to a report released on Friday

“Everybody around the world is going to bear these costs,” said Eban Goodstein, a resource economist at Bard College in New York state who co-authored the report, called “Arctic Treasure, Global Assets Melting Away.”

He said the report, reviewed by more than a dozen scientists and economists and funded by the Pew Environment Group, an arm of the Pew Charitable Trusts, provides a first attempt to monetize the cost of the loss of one of the world’s great weather makers.

“The Arctic is the planet’s air conditioner and it’s starting to break down,” he said.

The loss of Arctic Sea ice and snow cover is already costing the world about $61 billion to $371 billion annually from costs associated with heat waves, flooding and other factors, the report said.

The losses could grow as a warmer Arctic unlocks vast stores of methane in the permafrost. The gas has about 21 times the global warming impact of carbon dioxide.

Melting of Arctic sea ice is already triggering a feedback of more warming as dark water revealed by the receding ice absorbs more of the sun’s energy, he said. That could lead to more melting of glaciers on land and raise global sea levels.

It is necessary to respond to the effects of climate change which are already occurring. Contrary to the paranoid conspiracy theories popular among many in the anti-science right this view is not motivated by opposition to our industrialized society or market economies or a desire to control the world, but out of a realization that action is needed to preserve our economy.

It is consistent with human nature to deny climate change and avoid having to take action to solve difficult problems such as this. Conservatives and libertarians have the added motivation to deny climate change because it is a problem which can only be addressed by government and by international cooperation.

Conservatives prefer not to admit that any problems require government action for their solution and would prefer to deny that the problem exists. Conservatives might go along with some big government programs, primarily those involving invasion of other countries, torture, or imposing their religious codes upon others. They are far less likely to go along with big government programs which involve cooperation with other countries as opposed to invading them.

The State of the Union Address

Barack Obama needed a great speech and he delivered. (Transcript of State of the Union Address here.) As noted by both myself and others live blogging or otherwise commenting live, the speech started out slow, initially with no applause. He finally received applause with, “It is because of this spirit – this great decency and great strength – that I have never been more hopeful about America’s future than I am tonight.” He received further applause for expressing dislike for the bank bail-out, and more for speaking of getting the rest of the money back. Talk of cutting taxes was also received well.

Obama took advantage of the negative view of Wall Street and gained points for recognizing the importance of Main Street:

For these Americans and so many others, change has not come fast enough. Some are frustrated; some are angry. They don’t understand why it seems like bad behavior on Wall Street is rewarded but hard work on Main Street isn’t; or why Washington has been unable or unwilling to solve any of our problems. They are tired of the partisanship and the shouting and the pettiness. They know we can’t afford it. Not now.

Obama countered the misinformation from the right which has tea-baggers who had their taxes cut by Obama protesting against imaginary tax increases:

We cut taxes. We cut taxes for 95 percent of working families. (Applause.) We cut taxes for small businesses. We cut taxes for first-time homebuyers. We cut taxes for parents trying to care for their children. We cut taxes for 8 million Americans paying for college.

Obama announced a jobs bill, which I’m sure surprised nobody. He discussed his education policies along with tax credits for college education. He promoted high speed rail. He discussed the need for acting on climate change, along with the need for developing new energy sources even if one does not accept the scientific evidence. (I was happy to see him refer to the scientific evidence for climate change. I wish that he could also make a political issue out of those who do not accept the scientific evidence for evolution.)

The big question for the past week was whether, after getting so close, Obama would give up on health care because people in Massachusetts who already have a similar program saw no point in backing one nationally. Obama made it clear that he planned to move ahead:

Our approach would preserve the right of Americans who have insurance to keep their doctor and their plan. It would reduce costs and premiums for millions of families and businesses. And according to the Congressional Budget Office -– the independent organization that both parties have cited as the official scorekeeper for Congress –- our approach would bring down the deficit by as much as $1 trillion over the next two decades.

Reducing the deficit was just one reason for backing health care reform. Obama pointed out that the problem arose under George Bush, and the economic conditions he inherited made it necessary to spend more:

At the beginning of the last decade, the year 2000, America had a budget surplus of over $200 billion. (Applause.) By the time I took office, we had a one-year deficit of over $1 trillion and projected deficits of $8 trillion over the next decade. Most of this was the result of not paying for two wars, two tax cuts, and an expensive prescription drug program. On top of that, the effects of the recession put a $3 trillion hole in our budget. All this was before I walked in the door. (Laughter and applause.)

Now — just stating the facts. Now, if we had taken office in ordinary times, I would have liked nothing more than to start bringing down the deficit. But we took office amid a crisis. And our efforts to prevent a second depression have added another $1 trillion to our national debt. That, too, is a fact.

Obama called for more action to reduce the deficit:

Starting in 2011, we are prepared to freeze government spending for three years. Spending related to our national security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will not be affected. But all other discretionary government programs will. Like any cash-strapped family, we will work within a budget to invest in what we need and sacrifice what we don’t. And if I have to enforce this discipline by veto, I will.

We will continue to go through the budget line by line to eliminate programs that we can’t afford and don’t work. We’ve already identified $20 billion in savings for next year. To help working families, we will extend our middle-class tax cuts. But at a time of record deficits, we will not continue tax cuts for oil companies, investment fund managers, and those making over $250,000 a year. We just can’t afford it.[…]

I’ve called for a bipartisan, Fiscal Commission, modeled on a proposal by Republican Judd Gregg and Democrat Kent Conrad. This can’t be one of those Washington gimmicks that lets us pretend we solved a problem. The Commission will have to provide a specific set of solutions by a certain deadline. Yesterday, the Senate blocked a bill that would have created this commission. So I will issue an executive order that will allow us to go forward, because I refuse to pass this problem on to another generation of Americans. And when the vote comes tomorrow, the Senate should restore the pay-as-you-go law that was a big reason why we had record surpluses in the 1990s.

Obama also called for earmark reform and for reducing the influence of lobbyists. He addressed why Washington does not work:

But what frustrates the American people is a Washington where every day is Election Day. We can’t wage a perpetual campaign where the only goal is to see who can get the most embarrassing headlines about the other side -– a belief that if you lose, I win. Neither party should delay or obstruct every single bill just because they can. The confirmation of –I’m speaking to both parties now. The confirmation of well-qualified public servants shouldn’t be held hostage to the pet projects or grudges of a few individual senators.

Washington may think that saying anything about the other side, no matter how false, no matter how malicious, is just part of the game. But it’s precisely such politics that has stopped either party from helping the American people. Worse yet, it’s sowing further division among our citizens, further distrust in our government.

So, no, I will not give up on trying to change the tone of our politics. I know it’s an election year. And after last week, it’s clear that campaign fever has come even earlier than usual. But we still need to govern.

To Democrats, I would remind you that we still have the largest majority in decades, and the people expect us to solve problems, not run for the hills.  And if the Republican leadership is going to insist that 60 votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town — a supermajority — then the responsibility to govern is now yours as well.  Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it’s not leadership. We were sent here to serve our citizens, not our ambitions.  So let’s show the American people that we can do it together.

On foreign policy, Obama discussed his successes in fighting terrorism, and plans for getting out of Afghanistan and Iraq:

Since the day I took office, we’ve renewed our focus on the terrorists who threaten our nation. We’ve made substantial investments in our homeland security and disrupted plots that threatened to take American lives. We are filling unacceptable gaps revealed by the failed Christmas attack, with better airline security and swifter action on our intelligence. We’ve prohibited torture and strengthened partnerships from the Pacific to South Asia to the Arabian Peninsula. And in the last year, hundreds of al Qaeda’s fighters and affiliates, including many senior leaders, have been captured or killed — far more than in 2008.

And in Afghanistan, we’re increasing our troops and training Afghan security forces so they can begin to take the lead in July of 2011, and our troops can begin to come home.  We will reward good governance, work to reduce corruption, and support the rights of all Afghans — men and women alike. (Applause.) We’re joined by allies and partners who have increased their own commitments, and who will come together tomorrow in London to reaffirm our common purpose. There will be difficult days ahead. But I am absolutely confident we will succeed.

As we take the fight to al Qaeda, we are responsibly leaving Iraq to its people. As a candidate, I promised that I would end this war, and that is what I am doing as President. We will have all of our combat troops out of Iraq by the end of this August.

He also discussed eliminating “don”t ask, don’t tell.”

This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It’s the right thing to do.

There were also several other items discussed and there is plenty of other commentary. The best one-liner came from Josh Marshall: “Nelson and Lieberman sitting together in axis of weasels.” The dumbest line from someone who was saying something favorable about Obama came from Chris Matthews:  “I forgot he was black tonight for an hour.”

The speech actually went on for over an hour, which is rare for State of the Union addresses. The only previous presidents to do this was Lyndon Johnson one time, and I believe Bill Clinton every time.

Obama made many arguments to counter the distortions from the Republicans and the misconceptions held by the Tea Party movement. Contrary to the conservative memes, he supports Main Street and small business, not Karl Marx. He has cut taxes and is determined to reduce the huge deficit he inherited after years of Republican fiscal irresponsibility. He advocates moderate plans to reform health care coverage, not a government take over of health care. This won’t change the mind of partisan Republicans and ignorant tea-baggers but it will help Obama retain the support of the independents who helped elect him.

Update: Obama did quite well when his statements were checked by the legitimate, non-partisan fact checkers. Incoming  links show a sure sign of intellectual dishonesty–utilizing right wing partisan “fact checkers” who evaluated Obama’s statements based upon their biases as opposed to the facts.

Differing Views of Freedom on The Left and Right

Liberals have one thing in common with tea baggers and other people on the right. We all talk about supporting liberty. What differs is what we mean by freedom. While liberals fight to restrict infringements upon liberty by the government many on the right are unable to distinguish between legitimate functions of government and infringements upon civil liberties. Conor Friedersdorf points out some examples, discussing with a case in which the Bush administration allegedly covered up the 2006 murders of three Guantanamo Bay detainees:

Beyond the fact that laws were broken and lives extinguished, the Gitmo Three may provide additional proof that the United States perpetrated extreme abuses of power in recent memory—a painful fact that we must acknowledge if we’re to prevent its recurrence.

And yet conservatives are so far content to ignore the story.

If I may address the skeptics on the right directly, it is penny wise and pound foolish to worry about creeping tyranny via government-run health care or gun control when we’re another terrorist attack away from popular support for an archipelago of secret prisons where anyone can be whisked away and tortured without any evidence against them. Look to Europe if you doubt whether government-run health care or black sites run by secret police are a more immediate threat to the liberty of innocents.

Do you think that I exaggerate?

Know that one of the Gitmo Three was arrested at age 17, held for some years without being charged, and scheduled for release at the time of his death due to the military’s conclusion that no evidence linked him to al Qaeda or the Taliban. We may never know exactly how he and his fellow detainees died: A conclusive, independent autopsy is impossible because their bodies were returned to their families with their throats missing.

Many (but fortunately not all) conservatives overlook such abuses, along with other infringements upon civil liberties which they see as part of the “war on terror.” They ignore such abuses while they distort measures to reform abuses by the insurance industry and provide private health insurance to those who cannot now obtain it as a government take over of health care. They speak of imaginary conspiracies to take away their guns and bibles while ignoring the infringements upon civil liberties which are actually occurring.

When Megan McArdle discussed this case she even felt it necessary to respond to the inevitable complaints of a “liberal sellout” which she anticipated from her conservative readers:

My conservative readers are no doubt winding up to tell me I’m a liberal sellout.  But I don’t think it’s particularly bleeding heart to think that we shouldn’t have to fake suicides to cover up for abusing prisoners.  In fact, I think that’s the stance of a hard core believer in law and order.

Brown Defeats Coakley, Benefiting From Mindless Rage

Tonight can be seen as an example of what happens when a candidate runs a poor campaign which takes the voters for granted, along with evidence of how poor a memory many people have. News is still coming in and the final margin of victory is not yet certain, but there is no longer any doubt that Brown will defeat Coakley for the Massachusetts Senate seat.

If this was a purely local election it would be hard to be concerned about Coakley losing after the type of campaign she ran. Despite this, the national ramifications cannot be ignored. This is a failure for Democrats–but more for their ability to get out their message than of their policies. Republicans have been successful in distorting the Democratic policies and in blaming Democrats for the conditions which directly arose from their mismanagement of government.

Democrats should hardly be surprised that this would happen. We’ve seen the right wing noise machine in operation for many years and Democrats will continue to have bad nights like tonight until they learn to counter this and control their own message.

In some case the policies define the message. It was a tremendous mistake for Obama to give in and support a health care reform plan which contained an individual mandate. This reinforced every stereotype which the Republicans wanted to hit the Democrats with. Instead of remembering that it was the Republicans who are the big bad government which restricted civil liberties, wrecked the economy, and engaged in torture, the Democrats can be portrayed, (even if this is a distortion) as the big bad government who will put you in jail if you don’t buy their health care plan.

One irony of this race is that Brown had supported a health care plan similar to the national plan he opposes when in the Massachusetts legislature. This is far less surprising when we keep in mind that Republican strategy is purely based upon blocking all Democratic proposals to deny them victory, regardless of how much this harms the country. Brown’s flip-flop here is entirely consistent with the overall Republicans strategy.

Brown ran as a moderate Republican but his success is being seen by some as a sign of the success of the tea party movement. The tea baggers are the ultimate example of mindless rage being turned in the wrong direction. Tea baggers show their support for fiscal responsibility by backing the party which ran up the deficit and fought two wars of the book, along with trying to block health care reform bill which is our best shot at getting health care costs under control. Andrew Sullivan has explained why this is no libertarian rebellion:

The rage is adolescent. It did not exist when the Republicans were in power and exploded government during years of economic growth. Fox News backed Bush to the hilt through it all, as he added mounds of unfunded entitlements to the next generation’s debt, and then brought Beck in as soon as Obama inherited the mess. Scott Brown, moreover, has no plans to cut the debt or control government: none. He is running in defense of every cent in Medicare. He wants to increase the deficit by more tax cuts. He favors an all-powerful executive branch that can suspend habeas corpus and torture people. He has no intention of cutting defense. His position on the uninsured is: get your own states to help. His position on soaring healthcare costs is: stop the first attempt to control them.

We hear Karl Rove lamenting big government! We hear Dick Cheney worrying about deficits! The cynicism here is gob-smacking. And the libertarian right is just happy to go along.

There is, moreover, the incredible lie that somehow all the debt that lies ahead was created by Obama in twelve months, in a recession, when austerity would be fatal. This was a lie propagated mercilessly by the FNC/RNC and by partisan bloggers like Glenn Reynolds. And it has stuck, as Obama has pressed for centrist reform between the screamers on the left and the haters on the right.

I’m sorry but this is not an anti-government vote. It’s a hissy fit because reality has finally hit and the conservative bromides of the 1980s work as poorly as the liberal bromides of the 1970s. If Brown were urging big, structural cuts in entitlements, if he were proposing junking health insurance reform because he has a plan to balance the budget in five years, if he were pledging to vote against the wars for the deficit’s sake, if he were proposing ways to restrain private healthcare costs and Medicare’s GOP-passed Medicare D – whose fiscal impact makes the current reform look like a tightwad’s – it would be one thing. But he isn’t and they aren’t.

They merely want to kill a reform presidency. They have no alternative. They have no policy that could restrain health insurance costs and the desperate plight of the uninsured. They have no plans for tackling climate change, when they can bring themselves to admit it exists. They have no plans to win or end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that Obama himself isn’t trying. They have no idea how to balance the budget – except more tax cuts!