Monday, February 15, 2010

Morning Must Reads -- Obama says Mirandize, Cheney says waterboard

Just kill 'em all and let God sort it out. Seriously, send them to allah.

Wall Street Journal -- Cheney Attacks Obama on National Security
Former vice president and wraith of liberal nightmares Dick Cheney took a unusually sympathetic tone in his drubbing of the Obama administration’s national security policy on Sunday.

He praised President Obama for a second escalation in Afghanistan and spoke frequently of the difficulty of making security decisions.

The Cheney message: It’s not Obama’s fault that he doesn’t know how to protect the country, but his super-slow learning curve is a huge problem for the rest of us.

Vice President Biden, sent forth to rebut Cheney from his perch as head of the U.S. delegation in Vancouver, just seemed sort of goofy.

Presented with Biden’s assertion that success in Iraq is one of the main accomplishments of the Obama administration, Cheney just laughed it off and said Biden should thank George Bush.
Biden also said that a military trial for KSM is possible, an announcement that will make big headaches for the administration.

Also – Cheney thinks waterboarding rocks. Cheney said he would have fake-drowned the underwear bomber in a stent-assisted heartbeat. So would I, and I have the stent.

“Mr. Cheney said interrogators should have had the option to use the ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ his administration approved—including the use of simulated drowning, or ‘water-boarding.’ He called himself ‘a big supporter of water-boarding,’ which critics say amounts to torture.

‘Now, President Obama has taken [those techniques] off the table,’ Mr. Cheney said. ‘He announced when he came in last year that they would never use anything other than the U.S. Army Manual which doesn't include those techniques. I think that's a mistake.’”

USA Today -- Roadside bombs taking bigger toll in Afghanistan
The allied battle for the former Taliban stronghold of Marja in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan is saw brief spurts of intense fighting, but seems to have found only limited resistance in the end – not a decisive battle with a concentrated enemy force. The attack, though, did result in the deaths of 15 civilians, mostly women and children, from an errant rocket.

The great danger to U.S. troops in Afghanistan is not direct confrontations with the Taliban, but in random bombing attacks. And as the U.S. presence exceeds 100,000, the casualties will mount.

Writer Tom Vanden Brook tells us the sad news.
“Winter weather failed to deter insurgents from stepping up roadside bomb attacks in Afghanistan, as both blasts and casualties among U.S. and allied troops in January more than doubled from a year earlier, Pentagon data show.
Coalition troops found 727 bombs in January compared with 276 in the same month of 2009. Blasts killed 32 U.S. and allied troops and wounded 137 others, compared with 14 deaths and 64 injuries in January 2009, according to the data. These bombs are the top killer of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.”

New York Times -- After 9/11 Trial Plan, Holder Hones Political Ear
The biggest headache for the White House today and the foreseeable future are the now clearly naïve promises the president and his team made to try the worst of the worlds’ terrorists in U.S. civilian court.

Complicating the situation is Attorney General Eric Holder, who seems to function as the liberal conscience of the administration.

Writers Jodi Kantor and Charlie Savage talked to Holder about how he helped get the president stuck in this bog and how he means to get out. The answer is the same as Obama’s on health care – do better with the messaging but don’t change the message.

Holder leaves out the possibility that people understand the situation but just think bringing KSM to NYC is a foolish idea or that getting a public defender for a foreigner who tries to blow up a plane is a little dainty, even for this administration. The president still seems ok with the plan, but it will be interesting to see how Holder functions in an administration that now operates in a state of high anxiety.

“Last fall, White House officials emphasized that the trial venue was the attorney general’s choice alone. That is no longer clearly the case. Asked who would make the decision, Mr. Holder gave a long pause and exhaled audibly. ‘I think that I make the final call,’ he said, ‘but if the president is not happy with that final call, he has the ability to reverse it.’”

The Hill -- Kyl: Dems have already decided how to force health bill through
If the GOP doesn’t find a way to attend the health summit 10 days hence it will be bad for the party as they will look unwilling to negotiate. But, if President Obama can’t find a way to get them there, it will be another major disaster for him on the question of whether he is able to govern.

It’s more difficult for Obama because the things that the GOP is asking for — a new plan, not a modification of an old one and for Democrats to agree to abide by the Senate rules and not try to use a procedural end-around of budget reconciliation to pass the bill — are not unreasonable sounding to voters but are very hard to convince Democrats in Congress to do.

For Speaker Pelosi and others in the House, giving up on a big bold initiative in favor of a compromise plan would be a bitter pill after watching the bungling process in the Senate.

They’re open to passing something pretty close to the Senate Democrats’ plan, but a bipartisan plan, perhaps without an insurance mandate, would be a bitter defeat. But Reid knows that reconciliation isn’t just politically unpopular because it smacks of cheating the system, its also devilishly difficult. It’s like trying to get an elephant to tap dance. Sure, it’s possible. But nobody wants to sit in the orchestra pit. Reconciliation presents a huge risk because it means breaking up the bill into individual pieces and moving each one with 51-vote majorities, but on each point the Senate parliamentarian gets to say whether it is an appropriate subject for reconciliation or not. It could take weeks and would be hugely controversial.

And with so many Democratic senators looking to get some open water between themselves and the administration and this plan, the maneuver would be subject to lots of intra-party attacks.

Writer Taylor Rushing looks at the CW on the Republican side, as told by Sen. Jon Kyl:
“He quoted a recent Wall Street Journal article that asserted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has ‘set the stage’ for using reconciliation to pass the bill. That controversial legislative tactic could allow the bill to pass the Senate with 51 votes instead of 60 as usually required to break a filibuster.

‘What that means is they’ve devised the process by which they can jam the bill through that the president has supported in the past, without Republican ideas in it,’ Kyl told CNN host Candy Crowley.”

Washington Post -- White House revamps communications strategy
The new White House communications strategy? Get back to the magic of 2008.
The administration is touting the new way they will be selling the presidents’ initiatives to the public – a direct, high-profile push by the boss on issues like health care, global warming (!), and the deficit.

In further evidence that the arrival of David Plouffe as a senior adviser is going to cause headaches, the administration is now bragging about a communications strategy that takes a caustic tone with critics and keeps Obama in constant campaign mode.

Sure, they did those things for all of 2009, but the problem, Obamites say, is that they didn’t do it hard enough. The strategy was good, they just didn’t push it hard enough. No one yet seems to have realized that a campaign has one goal. A presidency has many goals.

As evidence of the tin ear of the communications team, writer Michael Shear tells us that the administration thinks it’s winning the message war on the underpants bomber.
“White House advisers promise a quicker, more aggressive response to GOP attacks on the president and his policies. They noted that Obama and his top White House advisers have pushed back hard against Republican accusations that the FBI mishandled the interrogation of the man accused of trying to bomb an airliner on Christmas Day -- and as Biden did on Sunday.”

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