Jul 29 2010

Punting the Pundits

Punting the Punditsis an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Is this what the American people really voted for? More war?

Robert Scheer at Truthdig

Thank God for the Whistle-Blowers

What WikiLeaks did was brilliant journalism, and the bleating critics from the president on down are revealing just how low a regard they have for the truth. As with Richard Nixon’s rage against the publication of the Pentagon Papers, our leaders are troubled not by the prospect of these revelations endangering troops but rather endangering their own political careers. It is our president who unnecessarily sacrifices the lives of our soldiers and not those in the press who let the public in on the folly of the mission itself.

What the documents exposed is the depth of chicanery that surrounds the Afghanistan occupation at every turn because we have stumbled into a regional quagmire of such dark and immense proportions that any attempt to connect this failed misadventure with a recognizable U.S. national security interest is doomed. What is revealed on page after page is that none of the local actors, be they labeled friend or foe, give a whit about our president’s agenda. They are focused on prizes, passions and causes that are obsessively homegrown.

Gaius Publius at AMERICAblog

Ellsberg: Obama ‘has indicted more people for leaks than all previous presidents together’

Daniel Ellsberg is asked to comment on a clip of press secretary Robert Gibbs complaining about the leaks:


KING: Daniel, do you understand why Mr. Gibbs, representing the president, is so upset?

   ELLSBERG: Well, he’s very upset in part because he’s working for a president who has indicted more people now for leaks than all previous presidents put together. And two of those people — Thomas Drake and Shamai Leibowitz — have been indicted for acts that were undertaken under Bush, which [the] George W. Bush administration chose not to indict.

   So this is an administration that’s more concerned about preventing transparency, I would say, than its predecessor which I’m very sorry to hear. As somebody who voted for Obama and expect to vote for him again, despite all this.

Yikes. That’s all – yikes. (Video of the Ellsberg intervew is available here.)

Don’t worry, Mr. Dionne, the Democrats will not fail to cave to Republican demands.

E. J. Dionne Jr.: The Politics of Stupidity Strike Again

Can a nation remain a superpower if its internal politics are incorrigibly stupid?

Start with taxes. In every other serious democracy, conservative political parties feel at least some obligation to match their tax policies with their spending plans. David Cameron, the new Conservative prime minister in Britain, is a leading example.

He recently offered a rather brutal budget that includes severe cutbacks. I have doubts about some of them, but at least Cameron cared enough about reducing his country’s deficit that alongside the cuts, he also proposed an increase in the value-added tax from 17.5 percent to 20 percent. Imagine: a fiscal conservative who really is a fiscal conservative.

That could never happen here because the fairy tale of supply-side economics insists that taxes are always too high, especially on the rich.

This is why Democrats will be fools if they don’t try to turn the Republicans’ refusal to raise taxes on families earning more than $250,000 a year into an election issue. If Democrats go into a headlong retreat on this, they will have no standing to govern.


Nicholas D. Kristof: 1 Soldier or 20 Schools?

The war in Afghanistan will consume more money this year alone than we spent on the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War and the Spanish-American War – combined.

A recent report  from the Congressional Research Service finds that the war on terror, including Afghanistan and Iraq, has been, by far, the costliest war in American history aside from World War II. It adjusted costs of all previous wars for inflation.

Those historical comparisons should be a wake-up call to President Obama, underscoring how our military strategy is not only a mess – as the recent leaked documents from Afghanistan suggested – but also more broadly reflects a gross misallocation of resources. One legacy of the 9/11 attacks was a distortion of American policy: By the standards of history and cost-effectiveness, we are hugely overinvested in military tools and underinvested in education and diplomacy.

It was reflexive for liberals to rail at President George W. Bush for jingoism. But it is President Obama who is now requesting 6.1 percent more in military spending than the peak of military spending under Mr. Bush. And it is Mr. Obama who has tripled the number of American troops in Afghanistan since he took office. (A bill providing $37 billion to continue financing America’s two wars was approved by the House on Tuesday and is awaiting his signature.)

Wrong, Stephen, Obama sank his agenda by playing to the Republicans and corporations so he could look bipartisan. It wouldn’t have mattered if he put the climate first.

Stephen Stromberg: What sank the Senate’s climate bill

Who killed the climate bill? Democrats who supported climate legislation in the House feel betrayed, The Post reports; after they approved a controversial cap-and-trade bill, Democratic leaders failed even to hold a vote on similar legislation in the Senate, and GOP challengers are on the attack. A few environmentalists blame lawmakers who led the effort for compromising some good policy out of the legislation.

But the real answer is simpler: Too many senators have little, if any, incentives to pass climate policy that’s rational in the long term and good for the country as a whole. Also to blame is President Obama’s policy agenda, which prioritized health care.

At this point with the revelations from Wikileaks, they would have to prosecute themselves.

Roger Shuler: Is Obama DOJ Engaged in a Coverup?

Until last week, the best that could be said of the U.S. Department of Justice under Barack Obama was, well . . . nothing. That’s because the DOJ, under Attorney General Eric Holder, had pretty much done . . . nothing.

But things changed last week with reports that the DOJ had found no criminal charges were warranted against Bush administration officials for the firings of nine U.S. attorneys.

The news came in the form of a letter from DOJ official Ronald Welch to House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-MI). In those six pages, the Obama DOJ moved into dark territory. No longer was it just ignoring possible criminal acts by Bush officials; it was engaging in active deceit of the American public.

On top of that, we now know that the “investigation” was handled by a special prosecutor with ties to evidence suppression in an earlier criminal case. What, if anything, will the Obama DOJ do about this latest news, which comes courtesy of some splendid reporting by Andrew Kreig, of the Justice Integrity Project?

Scott Horton, of Harper’s, called the findings a whitewash–and he was being charitable. I would call it a coverup. Our unsolicited advice for Conyers: Don’t just quietly accept this steaming pile of horse feces.

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