Guantanamo Detainee Ahmed Ghailani Convicted, Conservatives Enraged

November 18, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Our guest blogger is Ken Gude, Managing Director of the National Security and International Policy Program at American Progress.

A courtroom sketch of Ahmed Ghailani

Ahmed Ghailani has been convicted in federal criminal court for his role in the 1998 Embassy bombings in East Africa. The judge in the case will sentence Ghailani to a minimum of 20 years and a maximum of life in prison, guaranteeing a very long sentence for the first Guantanamo detainee to be prosecuted in civilian court.

Naturally, this has made conservatives very angry. They prefer that all terrorism suspects be prosecuted in military commissions, presumably because they believe the sentences delivered in federal criminal court are too long, and they want Guantanamo detainees to be released sooner.

Rep. Peter King (R-NY) called it “a tragic wake-up call to the Obama Administration to immediately abandon its ill-advised plan to try Guantánamo terrorists” in federal courts. “We must treat them as wartime enemies and try them in military commissions at Guantánamo,” Rep. King said. Liz Cheney’s group Keep America Safe railed that “bad ideas have dangerous consequences… We urge the president: End this reckless experiment. Reverse course. Use the military commissions at Guantanamo that Congress has authorized.”

Ghailani and several other co-conspirators were indicted for their roles in the bombings in 1998. Four were convicted in federal criminal court in 2001. Ghailani remained at large until he was captured in Pakistan in 2004, but rather than bringing him to the United States to stand trial like the others, he was put in a secret CIA-run prison for two years and tortured. In 2006, he was transferred to Guantanamo, where he was held until his June 2009 move to New York to stand trial.

The choices the Bush administration made to hold Ghailani in a secret prison, torture him, and delay any trial had several negative effects on the prosecution’s case. Two key witnesses that had participated in the earlier trial have died since 2004. None of the statements Ghailani made while in custody were admissible at trial, and an additional witness was ruled ineligible because of the conditions of Ghailani’s “enhanced interrogation” at secret CIA prisons. Yet despite all of the problems caused by the Bush administration’s decisions, Ghailani was convicted in a fair and transparent system of justice, and will be sentenced by the judge to serve at least 20 years, and probably more, in federal prison.

Understand, the military commissions King and Cheney so favor have held just four trials in their nine years of existence. Two of the defendants have reached guilty pleas, one defendant presented a defense at trial, and another boycotted his trial and was convicted without his involvement. Of the four, two have already been released and have been living freely in their home countries for the last two years, and one was convicted of murder and will serve a maximum of eight years. Only the defendant who offered no defense received a long sentence — life.

The clear and unambiguous record of the military commissions is that they deliver shorter sentences than civilian courts. In fact, the minimum sentence that Ghailani can receive is longer than the combined sentences of the three military commissions defendants who participated in their trial. Yet this is the trial system that conservatives demand. The only conclusion is that they want these Guantanamo detainees to be released quickly.

Wonk Room

Conservatives and Racism, Take MXLVI

November 18, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Adam Serwer correctly observes, “it’s wrong to suggest that opposition to Obama’s agenda is ‘race-based,’ because that suggests conservatives would feel differently if Obama weren’t president. I think the GOP’s general positions on the issues would be the same if Hillary Clinton were president.”

He goes on, however, to assert, “What’s clear, though, is that conservatives deploy racially tinged rhetoric against liberal policy priorities and Democratic politicians, and that Obama being president has a lot to do with these arguments being used. Rush Limbaugh wouldn’t be comparing him to gang members if he weren’t black. With Clinton, Limbaugh’s sexism, rather than his racism, would be amplified.”

Now, I haven’t listened to more than a few minutes of Limbaugh’s show over the last several years.  And, while he’s decidedly not a bigot (Clarence Thomas presided over one of his many marriages!) he has occasionally crossed the line on some of his parody bits.   But comparing Obama to a gang member doesn’t make much sense.  The link goes to an Andrew Sullivan post that I saw yesterday, noting that the image above image above appears on Rush Limbaugh’s Web site and commenting, “Is any American more adept at exploiting racial dog whistles?”

My reaction to the image was, Meh.     Sully then highlights some key words in the accompanying text:

This guy is an utter wrecking ball all by himself on the world stage to the point now of getting embarrassing.  This presidency of Obama’s, it doesn’t take much to irritate the left. Try this:  “Barack Obama’s presidency is graffiti on the walls of American history.” That’s what his administration is.  No more than graffiti on the walls of American history.  We have a juvenile delinquent for a president who has ruined so much public and private property, not even his gang is making much of an effort here to protect him.  It’s an utter disaster.

Now, this kind of tripe is why I got tired of Limbaugh’s shtick.   It’s just not very illuminating.   But there’s nothing racist about it.   Reading the transcription of the linked “Obama’s Administration is Graffiti on the Walls of American History” bit reveals pretty standard talking points, some of which Obama’s Democratic opponents were using way back in 2008.

  • Obama’s constant apologizing for America diminishes the country and makes him look weak overseas
  • The liberal media helped get Obama elected by hiding his mistakes and covering up for the fact that he didn’t have the experience to be president
  • Obama really hates America because he studied under Jeremiah Wright
  • Obama is a cipher who no one really knows
  • Obama is an elitist
  • Democrats are finally wising up to all the above and desperately trying to find an alternative for 2012

The fact that these charges are not only tired but contradictory makes the diatribe rather hollow.  But it’s clearly not racist.  In this context, “graffiti” simply stands for the idea that Obama is a disgrace, “juvenile delinquent” means he’s a wet-behind-the-ears amateur in over his head, and”gang” a benign term for his acolytes.

Indeed, I use “gang” in that manner all the time.  It’s identical in connotation to his repeated description of the Politico staff as a “bunch.”

Outside the Beltway

Conservatives slip below 40% in two polls

November 17, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 


Conservatives Put GOP Leadership On Notice

November 17, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

A large number of conservative leaders are laying their cards on the table for the estbalishment GOP to see. They are serious about making the GOP a conservative party.
American Thinker Blog

Social Conservatives Respond To Tea Party Call For Truce On Social Issues

November 16, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

At least one group of social conservatives isn’t taking yesterday’s call by Tea Party grounds and the gay conservative group GOProud for Congress to concentrate on social issues very well at all:

A key social conservative group is striking back at a fledgling alliance between a gay right wing organization and 15 leaders of local Tea Party chapters across the country who urged Republican leaders Monday to avoid social issues.

Citing a memo sent last week to Republican leadership, Concerned Women for America (CWA) CEO Penny Nance argued that social conservatives’ priorities for the next Congress could be easily embraced by those focused on spending issues.

“I’d like to know which one — support for the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, eliminating taxpayer dollars from funding embryonic stem cell research, or defunding Planned Parenthood — the signers of the GOProud letter have a problem with,” Nance said in a statement.

Nance also said “Americans voted overwhelmingly for both social and fiscal conservatives,” citing “a net 52-seat pro-life gain in the House of Representatives, an unprecedented statement that voters reject taxpayer-funded abortion and want a more conservative, pro-life legislature moving forward.”

The response from Aaron Gardner is slightly less charitable:

First, I am a limited-government conservative and GOProud doesn’t speak on my behalf. Second, I don’t take kindly to being told to stuff my issues by a demographic that represents only 3% of the total electorate – two thirds of which voted Democrat. Third, and this brings us to the bold portion above, if the Republicans and SoCons didn’t achieve a mandate then what the heck makes you think you did?

Gardner appears to be directing this comment at GOProud while ignoring the fact that the letter also came from Tea Party groups, and that fiscal conservatism is the central philosophy of the Tea Party movement. There may have been social conservatives elected two weeks ago, but the vast majority of them didn’t campaign on their social conservatism at all, and exit polls make clear that social issues of any kind were far at the end of the list of the issues that voters said they cared most about when they voted. Therefore, it’s quite obvious that fiscal conservatism has a far stronger claim over the incoming Republicans than any social issue.

Not every social conservative is rejecting the message of yesterday’s letter, though, at least not completely.  Melissa Clouthier at Liberty Pundits argues that the division between social and fiscal conservatives is needless:

My concern over all the shrill rhetoric flying around on all sides is that significant progress toward a saner, smaller, more fiscally sound government will be stalled over arguments that simply don’t need to happen.

It’s painful, but some social conservatives need to face the reality that while we’re winning the cultural war-more and more people are coming down on the pro-life side-most people still want abortion legal albeit limited, with informed parents, etc. Americans have a difficult time imposing their ideas on another and abortion has been framed as a civil right. There are many more hearts and minds to be won.

I’m not counseling giving up on winning hearts and minds. I’m suggesting that social conservatives be wiser. And by all accounts they are…going after the laws to enforce parental notification, for example. Crafting legislation requiring an ultrasound. Prosecuting abortion doctors for malpractice.

And, on the national level, going after funding. Even many pro-abortion folks believe in fiscal freedom-that their money shouldn’t be used to pay for someone else’s bad choices.

Unfortunately, in trying to bridge this divide I think Melissa just makes it more apparent.

For one thing, the concern about “social issues” extends to far more than just abortion. It includes questions of whether or not there should be laws punishing people for beating someone up because they’re gay, whether or not gays should be allowed to serve openly in the military, whether gays should be allowed to marry, and whether the state should be used to force someone’s religious beliefs on the rest of the public. For another, the libertarian wing of the Tea Party would likely object to some of the things Melissa lists above not because of how it impacts abortion but because, for example, the state should not have the power to force someone to undergo a medical procedure. This is why, in the long run, the prospects for detente between libertarians and social conservatives aren’t good as long as social conservatives want to use the power of the state to achieve their goals.

Nonetheless, as long as the focus is on spending and the size, scope, and power of the state, then the alliance is likely to hold. The moment social conservatives are tempted to ask Republicans to use their new-found power for other means, though, it is likely to fall apart.

Outside the Beltway

RNC conservatives back ‘scoring system’ to judge candidates for chairmanship

November 16, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Washington (CNN) – A bloc of conservatives on the Republican National Committee has recommended a “scoring system” to evaluate the clutch of the GOP insiders vying to replace RNC Chairman Michael Steele next year.

The 13-point “Leadership Criteria,” discussed Monday on a private conference call by the Republican National Conservative Caucus but provided to CNN by a GOP source, would rate potential candidates on a range of criteria, including their vision for the party, managerial experience and an adherence to conservative principles outlined in the Republican Party platform.

And in a nod to the emerging power of the Tea Party movement, RNC candidates would be rated on their willingness to “actively graft into the Party the Tea Party activist branches” that now make up “the freedom movement in this country” along with the social, fiscal and foreign policy wings of the GOP.

Steele has sent strong signals to advisers and committee members that he is gearing up for a second term at the RNC, which will elect a chairman at the committee’s Winter Meeting in Maryland next January.

Former Michigan GOP chairman Saul Anuzis is the only figure to have publicly announced a challenge to Steele, and he picked up a conservative stamp of approval Monday when Virginia committeeman Morton Blackwell endorsed his candidacy in a message to fellow RNC members.

Wisconsin GOP chairman Reince Priebus, a Steele loyalist, is being urged to run by both Steele allies and critics but is reluctant to make a move.

Along with Anuzis, Priebus will be at the Republican Governors Association meeting in San Diego along with Wisconsin governor-elect Scott Walker later this week, giving him a chance to meet with GOP heavyweights with a stake in the chairman’s race.

A surfeit of names have come up in discussions with RNC members about potential Steele challengers, but those thought to be seriously considering bids are ex-Missouri GOP chairwoman and former Luxembourg Ambassador Ann Wagner, former RNC official Maria Cino and Connecticut GOP chairman Chris Healy.

The 26-member conservative caucus that convened Monday includes several longtime RNC members who have clashed with Steele since he assumed his post in January 2009, and several of their criteria appear to have been drafted in response to Steele’s off-message media appearances and criticism over his handling of party finances.

According to the checklist, a candidate for the chairmanship should possess “a trustworthy character and winsome personality that he/she is capable of winning the confidence of donors to use their money wisely.”

RNC candidates should also have the “skills and professional presence to articulate the Republican message accurately, clearly and concisely without superseding it with divergent personal views.”

Steele came under fire from Republicans last year for suggesting that abortion is “an individual choice,” and more recently for calling the conflict in Afghanistan “a war of Obama’s choosing.”

According to Indiana National Committeeman Jim Bopp, a leader of the conservative caucus, the suggested criteria will be considered for approval on a conference call next Monday by members of the RNC Conservative Steering Committee, a larger coalition of conservatives on the 168-member committee.

Bopp said the steering committee will also consider holding a public candidates forum in Washington, D.C. on December 1, along with a series of private interviews between the candidates and conservative members on December 2.

Read the “scoring system” after the jump:

13 Leadership Criteria for RNC Chairman Candidate

A Candidate for the position of RNC Chair should have:

1. A positive attitude and vision for the growth and success of the Republican Party with practical ideas to achieve their goals. (Vision.)

2. Appreciation and support for the solid base branches of social, fiscal and foreign policy conservatives in the Republican Party; and actively graft into the Party the Tea Party

activist branches that with this base make up the freedom movement in this country. (Promote Unity)

3. A thorough comprehension of and solid support for the conservative principles expressed in the Party Platform. (Support Platform)

4. The highest ethical standard of behavior in the Judeo-Christian tradition as demonstrated by reputation both private and public. (Integrity)

5. Such a trustworthy character and winsome personality that he/she is capable of winning the confidence of donors to use their money wisely. (Fundraising ability.)

6. A high level of management and organizational experience preferably but not limited to successful private sector business. (Managerial ability.)

7. Skills and professional presence to articulate the Republican message accurately, clearly and concisely without superseding it with divergent personal views. (Good Spokesperson)

8. Respect for the primary process and will not promote or support or be linked to any presidential candidate prior to the nomination. (Fair-minded)

9. Limits on personal ambitions while serving the RNC and its members along with the humility to work to achieve the goals of the Party regardless of who gets the credit. (Servant leader)

10. The physical stamina, intellectual ability, and spiritual maturity to withstand the pressures of the position without being corrupted. (Well-balanced)

11. Respect for the autonomy of the states and respect for their committee members and chairs as partners in the political process to be encouraged and empowered for success. (Member Empowerment.)

12. A finely tuned understanding of the political process that positions him/her to stay above and ahead of the competition in terms of cutting edge strategy, long range planning, and ability to be flexible in the face of rapidly changing realities. (Political savvy)

13. The respect of the various leadership members of the Republican Party to secure a seat at the table when high level discussion takes place. (Respect)

Scoring System – Matching words with deeds and records

3 points-excellent ability

2 points-fulfills requirement

1 point-weakly fulfills requirement

0 points-unknown

-1 point-does not meet requirement

CNN Political Ticker

Coming Soon: A New Party Of Progressive Conservatives

November 15, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

A great blues lyric goes: “He was a good old wagon but he done broke down.” That’s a pretty good description of both the Democrats and Republicans today — two good old political parties that have both broken down to such an extent that neither any longer is configured to meet our country’s strained and painful domestic realities, or the challenges of our fast eroding position in the world.

We have a weak and vacillating Democratic President. We’ve had weak presidents before, however. The problem today is not one highly malleable chief executive, but a Democratic president whose behavior is a fair reflection of his party’s present state — a party devoid of coherent solutions much less a viable future vision. A fractured party divided between ‘liberals’ who haven’t had a fresh idea since the 1930s, and ‘moderates’ whose own one fresh idea was to fuse with Wall Street interests in the 1990s.

The Republican Party is even more broken and lost. It’s a party that once had a strong commitment to fiscal responsibility, but now taps its heels, eyes tightly shut, and hopes to pay the country’s debts by reducing taxes. A party that once fought against intrusions into individual rights that now panders to religious groups that want to take away rights that offend their own beliefs. A party that once had a restrained approach to foreign policy that now plays footsie with an ‘exceptonalist’ fringe that sees aggressive aberrations abroad as expressions of God’s will.

Thankfully, there are many within both of these outmoded, ideologically skewed parties that understand a need for real change, along with an even greater number of Americans who no longer have a Democratic or Republican party affiliation who feel the same way. Thus, while the pundit class is busily dissecting Democratic and Republican entrails in search of solutions to the nation’s problems, the times appear perfect for a new party that might actually provide them. A new party whose platform might be summed up in a name such as ‘Progressive Conservatives.’

There actually was a party of that name in Canada until 2003, but it isn’t the model for this new grouping. The U.S. newcomer would more closely resemble (though differ in some important ways) the current coalition of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in the U.K., two previously opposed parties that came together to advance real change.

The basic goals of a future Progressive Conservative Party on these shores are easy to state: To bring about needed deficit reduction through an austerity shared by all income groups; to invest in the young and the future (through education and alternative energy infrastructure) even though it brings some pain to past generations (entitlement program caps and cutbacks); to generate the potential for economy-animating spending via tax changes that spread income more reasonably and fairly; to revamp Wall Street so it refocuses on its traditional role of allocating capital to growing the economy, not using OPM (other people’s money, our money) to puff up its own compensation; to reorient our international policies in ways that recognize our economic limitations.

New third parties in this country are supposed to be short-lived, and have a worth that’s only related to how they change the priorities of the two major existing parties. That’s usually true. But not always. On rare occasions crises bring about more dramatic party arrangements.

The Whigs couldn’t address the issue of slavery in the 1850s. The new Republican Party came forward to do so. The Whigs broke up and disappeared. The Republicans became the party that would confront the Democrats for the next 150 years.

America is ready for real change today. Neither major political party can bring it about. Both are too focused on satisfying their own internal cliques and supporting interests. That’s very clear. So another entity must come into being to do the job.

Watch for some variant of an American Progressive Conservatives Party. It will be coming to a local voting station near your home very soon.

More from this writer at

The Moderate Voice

Liberals and conservatives agree: Obama Asia trip a total failure

November 15, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Not a bug; a feature.
American Thinker Blog

Gay conservatives and tea party join forces

November 14, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Tonight’s story, from Ben and me:

A gay conservative group and some Tea Party leaders are campaigning to keep social issues off the Republican agenda.

In a letter to be released Monday, the group GOProud and leaders from groups like the Tea Party Patriots and the New American Patriots, will urge Republicans in the House and Senate to keep their focus on shrinking the government.

[…] As of Sunday evening, the letter had 17 signatories. They include tea party organizers, conservative activists and media personalities from across the country, including radio host Tammy Bruce, bloggers Bruce Carroll, Dan Blatt and Doug Welch, and various local coordinators for the Tea Party Patriots and other tea party groups.

"When they were out in the Boston Harbor, they weren’t arguing about who was gay or who was having an abortion," said Ralph King, a letter signatory who is a Tea Party Patriots national leadership council member, as well as an Ohio co-coordinator.

King said he signed onto the letter because GOProud seemed to be genuine in pushing for fiscal conservatism and limited government.

"Am I going to be the best man at a same sex-marriage wedding? That’s not something I necessarily believe in," said King. "I look at myself as pretty socially conservative. But that’s not what we push through the Tea Party Patriots."

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Ben Smith’s Blog

Unity message from conservatives

November 12, 2010 · Posted in The Capitol · Comment 

Baltimore, Maryland (CNN) – Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey used a Friday news conference for FreedomWorks, his leading conservative grassroots organization, to speak out against talk of friction between Tea Party members and the Republican Party leadership heading into the next Congress.

“For everybody in the press who thinks they’ve discovered a conflict, I’m sorry you missed the boat. The conflict is on the other side of the aisle,” Armey said at the press conference following a two-day FreedomWorks retreat.

He said there is “no conflict,” and instead said Republicans are united around one issue.

“To make this new Republican majority the most responsive majority to the will and the needs of the American people than that which we will have seen in our lifetime,” Armey said.

The FreedomWorks retreat included discussions of how newly elected Republican members of Congress can advance the agenda of the Tea Party movement once they’re sworn in.

About twenty-five newly elected members attended the closed meetings, including Congressman-elect Tim Scott of South Carolina, one of two Republican African Americans that will serve in the next Congress, and Senator-elect Mike Lee of Utah who was the only Senator-elect in attendance.

FreedomWorks is a nonprofit conservative organization based in the nation’s capital. It helped train volunteer activists and has provided much of the organization behind the Tea Party movement. It also endorsed and helped get out the vote efforts for many Tea Party backed candidates this past election cycle.

– CNN’s Paul Steinhauser and Gabriella Schwarz contributed to this report

CNN Political Ticker

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