Worst Obama nominee ever?

The U.S. Senate is about to get bogged down in a debate over whether Chuck Hagel is pro-Israel enough to be President Barack Obama’s secretary of defense. An amusing sideshow will feature Republicans appalled by Hagel’s anti-gay remark about a 1998 nominee of President Bill Clinton. After much time is wasted, senators will confirm Hagel to run the Pentagon.

Meanwhile, there is likely to be little debate over Obama’s most appalling nominee yet: John Brennan to head the Central Intelligence Agency. I don’t have much to add to concerns the American Civil Liberties Union and Glenn Greenwald raised yesterday. It’s bad enough that the Obama administration is still doing renditions, spying on Americans without a warrant, and escalating its use of drone strikes that kill many civilians. The president is promoting his top terrorism adviser, who’s deeply associated with those policies, and it’s not even a controversial appointment. The Senate should have a real debate about this policy but won’t. Greenwald noted, “the reason Obama needs a new CIA chief is because David Petraeus was forced to resign. Here we see the ethos and morality of imperial Washington: past support for torture and rendition does not disqualify one for a top national security position; only an extramarital affair can do that.”

Any comments about Obama’s cabinet appointments are welcome in this thread. UPDATE: Senator Chuck Grassley commented on Hagel’s nomination today but did not say whether he plans to vote for or against confirming him.

Apparently Brennan denies having supported torture as U.S. policy, but he is on record backing “coercive methods” of interrogation.

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Osama Bin Laden dead

President Barack Obama announced minutes ago that Osama Bin Laden, the leader of the Al Qaeda movement, is dead following a “targeted” U.S. operation in the city of Abbottabad, Pakistan. Speaking on national television late Sunday night, Obama said that shortly after taking office, he had instructed the CIA to make capturing Bin Laden a top priority. He was briefed on a possible lead to Bin Laden last August, and last week he decided that the U.S. had “enough intelligence to take action.” Today Obama authorized a “targeted operation,” in which Bin Laden was killed in a firefight. The U.S. has custody of his body, according to the president, and there were no American casualties. Obama emphasized that the U.S. is not at war with Islam, saying Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader and was a “mass murderer” of Muslims. Obama credited Pakistan’s counter-terrorism efforts with helping locate Bin Laden and said he had contacted Pakistani leaders, who agreed that the death of Bin Laden is good for both countries.

I will update this post as more news and Iowa reaction become available. Official statements from Representatives Leonard Boswell (IA-03) and Bruce Braley (IA-01) are after the jump. Former President George W. Bush issued a statement congratulating Obama and the members of the U.S. intelligence community who made today’s events possible.

Meanwhile, use this thread to discuss the political implications of Bin Laden’s death. Al Qaeda isn’t going to disappear overnight, nor is the U.S. likely to end its military presence in Afghanistan sooner. I don’t know enough about U.S.-Pakistani relations to have a sense of the likely impact.

The UK newspaper Daily Mail published an article yesterday on how Bin Laden escaped elite British and American troops near Tora Bora, Afghanistan, in December 2001.

Comments about other U.S. military interventions are also welcome in this thread. Yesterday in Tripoli, a NATO air strike killed the youngest son and three grandchildren of Col. Moammar Qaddafi. The Libyan leader and his wife were reportedly not harmed. Some GOP senators have said regime change should become the explicit U.S. policy goal in Libya.

UPDATE: Likely Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney released a statement congratulating “our intelligence community, our military and the president.”

SECOND UPDATE: Representative Tom Latham (IA-04) via Twitter: “On this night of historic news may God bless the victims of 9/11 and may God continue to bless the United States and freedom’s cause.” Kind of a strange tweet from Senator Chuck Grassley: “Pres bush was right when he said there aren’t enuf caves for Osama bin Laden to hide. That we wld get him. We got him”

THIRD UPDATE: The State Department has issued a worldwide travel alert for American citizens due “to the enhanced potential for anti-American violence given counterterrorism activity in Pakistan.”

FOURTH UPDATE: An administration official briefing journalists after Obama’s speech said the U.S. did not inform Pakistani authorities about this mission in advance. Official says four people were killed in raid in addition to Bin Laden: one of Bin Laden’s sons, two other male associates and a woman who allegedly was being used as a shield. The large compound where Bin Laden was found was reportedly built about five years ago, but U.S. officials do not know how long Bin Laden had been living there.

FIFTH UPDATE: Added Representative Dave Loebsack’s (IA-02) statement after the jump.

MONDAY UPDATE: The large compound where Bin Laden was reportedly killed is very close to a Pakistani military academy, raising “suspicions that Pakistan has played a double game, and perhaps even knowingly harbored the Qaeda leader.”

U.S. officials said they buried Bin Laden at sea last night in accordance with Islamic law, after flying his body to Afghanistan to confirm his identity. Burial at sea will prevent any gravesite from becoming a shrine for the Al Qaeda leader’s followers, but the quick disposal of the body may prompt questions about whether he is really dead.

Marc Ambinder reports on “The Secret Team That Killed bin Laden.”

After the jump I’ve added Latham’s full statement, comments from Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds and a interesting stream of comments from an Abbottabad resident who started tweeting after hearing a helicopter at 1 am Sunday (“a rare event”). Still no statements released by Senators Tom Harkin or Chuck Grassley or Representative Steve King (IA-05).

FINAL UPDATE: I never did find a press release from Steve King regarding Bin Laden’s reported death, but he seems to have given most of the credit to U.S. policies sanctioning torture of terror suspects. On May 2, King posted these two Twitter updates:

Wonder what President Obama thinks of water boarding now?

ObL “Sealed” into eternal damnation. Intel from KSM in Gitmo:-) “It feels like the entire country won the World Series,” Bill Hemmer-FOX.

I don’t know why King would be quick to assume torture led to Bin Laden’s capture. Interrogating Khalid Sheikh Mohammed didn’t stop the trail for Bin Laden from growing cold. If this New York Times article “Behind the Hunt for Bin Laden” is accurate, Pakistani agents working for the CIA produced the key lead in the search for the Al Qaeda leader last summer.

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Weekend open thread: Nightmare in Japan

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? The footage coming out of Japan the last couple of days has been horrifying. At least 10,000 people are now estimated to have died in the 9.0 earthquake near Sendai and subsequent tsunami. Hundreds of aftershocks, some of them quite powerful, threaten to destroy structures the first earthquake weakened. Power outages will occur because several of Japan’s nuclear reactors have been shut down. Radiation is leaking from the 40-year-old Fukushima nuclear plant, where one of the buildings exploded on Saturday and a meltdown seems to have occurred.  Authorities are distributing iodine to protect people nearby against some adverse health effects from radiation exposure. The nightmare scenario is northerly winds blowing a radioactive cloud toward Tokyo. Although Japanese nuclear plants have more containment features than Soviet reactors like the one destroyed in the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, people are comparing the two catastrophic events. Chris Meyers and Kim Kyung-hoon reported for Reuters,

However, experts said Japan should not expect a repeat of Chernobyl. They said pictures of mist above the plant suggested only small amounts of radiation had been expelled as part of measures to ensure its stability, far from the radioactive clouds Chernobyl spewed out 25 years ago.

Japan’s nuclear safety agency said it was rating the incident a 4 on the 1 to 7 International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES), less serious than 1979’s Three Mile Island, which was rated a 5, and Chernobyl at 7. […]

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters the nuclear reaction facility was surrounded by a steel storage machine, which was itself surrounded by a concrete building.

“This concrete building collapsed. We learnt that the storage machine inside did not explode,” he said.

Saturday morning I was disgusted by MSNBC’s coverage of the nuclear plant explosion. The only “expert” they interviewed to discuss the meltdown risk was from the Nuclear Energy Institute. He spent almost all his air time talking about how the radiation leak was very short-term, affecting a small area, and anyway we’re all exposed to radiation every day just by virtue of living on planet earth. I’m sure General Electric (major shareholder in NBC communications) wouldn’t want viewers to get too worried about nuclear power. GE built the Fukushima facility.

This disaster reveals one of the major hidden costs of nuclear power:

The liability costs associated with cleaning up after the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant will ultimately be borne by the Japanese government instead of the private insurance market, according to experts from the insurance industry.

Those liability costs, if they prove substantial, will place an added burden on the government as it copes with tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars in other expenses linked to the massive rebuilding effort that lies ahead.

This is an open thread.

UPDATE: Added YouTube clips from Ronald Reagan’s 1980 Labor Day address after the jump. Speaking about Polish workers, Reagan said, “Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost.” Reagan served six terms as president of the Screen Actors Guild in the 1940s and 1950s (when he was a Democrat). As Republican governor of California and president of the U.S., however, he did a lot of damage to the organized labor movement.

SECOND UPDATE: What a total disgrace. The Obama administration has forced State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley to resign because he said last week that the Defense Department’s treatment of accused Wikileaker Private Bradley Manning is “is ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid.” President Obama was asked about Crowley’s comments at Friday’s press conference and (disgracefully) defended the way Manning is being treated in custody.

THIRD UPDATE: Physicist Michio Kaku: “At present, it seems that Unit 1 has only suffered partial melting. The situation at Unit 1 is stable, but the situation with Unit 3 continues to worsen hour by hour. The danger is that a further secondary earthquake or pipe break could cause the sea water to flush out of the core, uncovering the uranium and initiating a full-scale meltdown. “

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Year in review: national politics in 2009 (part 1)

It took me a week longer than I anticipated, but I finally finished compiling links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage from last year. This post and part 2, coming later today, include stories on national politics, mostly relating to Congress and Barack Obama’s administration. Diaries reviewing Iowa politics in 2009 will come soon.

One thing struck me while compiling this post: on all of the House bills I covered here during 2009, Democrats Leonard Boswell, Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack voted the same way. That was a big change from 2007 and 2008, when Blue Dog Boswell voted with Republicans and against the majority of the Democratic caucus on many key bills.

No federal policy issue inspired more posts last year than health care reform. Rereading my earlier, guardedly hopeful pieces was depressing in light of the mess the health care reform bill has become. I was never optimistic about getting a strong public health insurance option through Congress, but I thought we had a chance to pass a very good bill. If I had anticipated the magnitude of the Democratic sellout on so many aspects of reform in addition to the public option, I wouldn’t have spent so many hours writing about this issue. I can’t say I wasn’t warned (and warned), though.

Links to stories from January through June 2009 are after the jump. Any thoughts about last year’s political events are welcome in this thread.

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A lot of Republicans owe Pelosi an apology

In May a chorus of Republicans inside and outside Congress made hay out of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s claim that the Central Intelligence Agency had not revealed its waterboarding policy during a 2002 briefing. Many demanded an investigation into the allegations. Minority leader John Boehner said of Pelosi,

“She made this claim and it’s her responsibility to either put forward evidence that they did in fact lie to her, which would be a crime, or she needs to retract her statements and apologize.”

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was among the Republican talking heads who demanded Pelosi’s resignation. According to Gingrich’s, Pelosi’s assertion was “stunning” and “dishonest.”

Representative Steve “10 Worst” King (IA-05) accused Pelosi of “actively undermining our national security” and called for suspending the speaker’s security clearance:

Speaker Pelosi has accused the CIA of committing a federal crime – lying to Congress. The CIA and other American defense and intelligence agencies cannot trust Nancy Pelosi with our national secrets, let alone our national security, until this matter is resolved. If true, there has been a serious violation of federal law. If false, American national security requires a new Speaker of the House. The severity of Speaker Pelosi’s accusations leaves no middle ground, and her security clearance should be suspended pending investigation.

Now we have learned that

The Central Intelligence Agency withheld information about a secret counterterrorism program from Congress for eight years on direct orders from former Vice President Dick Cheney, the agency’s director, Leon E. Panetta, has told the Senate and House intelligence committees, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said Saturday. […]

Mr. Panetta, who ended the program when he first learned of its existence from subordinates on June 23, briefed the two intelligence committees about it in separate closed sessions the next day.

So not only was Congress misled, CIA staff did not even inform Panetta about the program until four months after he was sworn in. Charles Lemos is absolutely right that it’s time for a special prosecutor to investigate this matter.

Republicans who trashed Pelosi in May and June owe her an apology, but like Rude Pundit, I’m not holding my breath. They’ve always been easygoing about Bush administration law-breaking while throwing fits about Democrats who criticized it.

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