the blog of DC Drinking Liberally

January 21, 2008

A Pardon a Day Keeps the Impeachment Away


And other maxims of the right.

After seeing There Will be Blood, a few of us huddled in Georgetown’s Alamo Grill for a meal of chips, and well… mostly chips. I’d really hate to see how slow the kitchen is on a busy night.

At any rate, in a typically wide-ranging conversation someone touched on the subject of presidential pardons. Would Bush issue pardons for political cronies? Given that’s one of those questions that answer themselves, more generally, would Bush issue a blanket pardon for the entire Executive branch?

Personally, I find the area of presidential pardons to be very interesting. This wikipedia article is a starting point. (Though, given the controversial nature of the subject matter, it really needs to be taken with a grain of salt.)

One thing that the article mentions, supported by Bob Woodward’s Shadow, is that accepting a pardon implies an admission of guilt. See also this NYT article on Ford’s defense of his pardoning of Nixon:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 28 — President Gerald R. Ford was never one for second-guessing, but for many years after leaving office in 1977, he carried in his wallet a scrap of a 1915 Supreme Court ruling. A pardon, the excerpt said, “carries an imputation of guilt,” and acceptance of a pardon is “a confession of it.”

Note that Bush didn’t pardon Scooter Libby. To do so would jeopardize Libby’s defense in Joe Wilson’s civil suit. Instead, he commuted Libby’s sentence.

Note also that Carter’s blanket amnesty for draft evaders was really a pardon (see here). Here, there was not a disagreement over whether draft evaders had broken the law- they clearly had. And, it could be that the argument would be similar for a potential blanket pardon of Bushies: it’s not really a crime to break an unjust law. That is, of course, a rhetorical defense and not a legal defense.

I’d say there’s an unexplored question over how blanket a blanket pardon can be. I think we can all agree that Bush couldn’t issue an executive pardon for all Republicans until the end of time. But, he may be able to issue a blanket pardon for his favorite 12,500 people in his administration. (See this 1974 Time Magazine article. 12,500 was the minimum number that Carter’s pardon applied to.)

Now, getting back to our conversation in the Alamo Grill we all agreed that a President Kucinich would challenge such a pardon. Would a President Obama or Clinton? It seems to me a worthwhile question to ask these candidates while we still have their attention.

January 18, 2008

Shelby Steele on Obama


This has come up in a few DL conversations, so I wanted to pass along the link.

From last Friday’s Bill Moyers Journal, Shelby Steele gives some historical background on the race politics involved in the Obama campaign. He used two terms I hadn’t heard before in this context: bargainers and challengers. Here’s how he defines those terms: (transcript)

SHELBY STEELE: Well, the black American identity, certainly black American politics are grounded in what I call challenging. It’s basically, they look at white America and say we’re going to presume that you’re a racist until you prove otherwise. The whole concept is you keep whites on the hook. You keep the leverage. You keep the pressure. Here’s a guy who’s what I call a bargainer who’s giving whites the benefit of the doubt.

BILL MOYERS: Give me a simple definition of what you call a bargainer. And a simple definition of what you call a challenger.

SHELBY STEELE: A bargainer is a black who enters the American, the white American mainstream by saying to whites in effect, in some code form, I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt. I’m not going to rub the shame of American history in your face if you will not hold my race against me. Whites then respond with enormous gratitude. And bargainers are usually extremely popular people. Oprah Winfrey, Bill Cosby, Sidney Poitier back in the Sixties and so forth. Because they give whites this benefit of the doubt. That you can be with these people and not feel that you’re going to be charged with racism at any instant. And so they tend to be very successful, very popular.

Challengers on the other hand say, I presume that you, this institution, this society, is racist until it proves otherwise by giving me some concrete form of racial preference.

BILL MOYERS: Affirmative action.

SHELBY STEELE: Affirmative action. Diversity programs. Opportunities of one kind or another. And so, there is a much more concrete bargaining on the case of challengers. And you go into any American institution today and they’re all used to dealing with challengers. They all have a whole system of things that they can give to challengers, who then will offer absolution.

January 11, 2008

Thursday Night Notes


As always, many good discussions from the back room of Timberlake’s. Before I forget there were a couple of links I wanted to pass on.

The first regards voter suppression. It’s ironic that while Republicans are trying to suppress votes among the elderly, handicapped, and students through voter ID laws, and through techniques such as caging, Jonah Goldberg of NRO writes a book called Liberal Fascism. Fortunately, the always delightful David Niewert, writing at the American Prospect gives us this thorough take-down of Goldberg’s “opus”:

Goldberg, who has no credentials beyond the right-wing nepotism that has enabled his career as a pundit, has drawn a kind of history in absurdly broad and comically wrongheaded strokes. It is not just history done badly, or mere revisionism. It’s a caricature of reality, like something from a comic-book alternative universe: Bizarro history.

Goldberg responds:

Neiwert, what with all of his credentials and seriousness might want to explain how a dogmatic individualist can be a totalitarian, since totalitarian in the academic literature he so esteems defines totalitarianism as anti-individualism. Totalitarianism is about trying to define the lives of others through state power. Individualists might be bad or wrong or selfish, but they aren’t any of those things because, again, they’re frick’n individualists!


January 10, 2008

The Presidential Race by Beverage Choice


Karl Rove (emphasis mine):

Sen. Hillary Clinton won working-class neighborhoods and less-affluent rural areas. Sen. Barack Obama won the college towns and the gentrified neighborhoods of more affluent communities. Put another way, Mrs. Clinton won the beer drinkers, Mr. Obama the white wine crowd. And there are more beer drinkers than wine swillers in the Democratic Party.

What’s this obsession that Republicans have with beverage analogies (or for that matter the word “swillers”)? I’m sure you recall this golden oldie launched against the 2004 Dean campaign:

‘I think Howard Dean should take his tax-hiking, government expanding, latte-drinking, Volvo-driving, New York Times reading …’ at this stage his wife leaps into finish off the mantra ‘… body-piercing, Hollywood loving, left-wing freak show back to Vermont where it belongs.’

Rove’s message, I gather, is that Dean and Obama are elitist, while Clinton is regular people. You can tell that by the beverage of choice of their supporters.

I for one, happen to be an elitist beer drinker. Take that, Karl Rove. I’m sure that on a given DL happy hour we have plenty of salt-of-the-earth latte swillers.

Maybe our next straw poll should try to correlate beer/wine/latte drinkers with Clinton/Obama/Edwards supporters?

December 7, 2007

Links from Thursday Night


I did this once before and thought it might be good to make a tradition of it. Here are some links from the discussion at DCDL last night:

If you want to share other links from last night’s discussions, leave a comment.

December 4, 2007

Art Brodsky at DC Drinking Liberally


This Thursday, December 6, DC Drinking Liberally is pleased to have as our final guest speaker of the year Art Brodsky, communications director of Public Knowledge. The event will be at the usual time and place: 6:30-9pm in the back room of Timberlake’s (1726 Connecticut Ave NW, Dupont Circle Metro). We’ll start off with happy hour from about 6:30 to 7, followed Art’s talk and Q&A from about 7 to 7:45, and then we’ll probably hang around until 9 or so.

You may have seen Art’s posts on TPMCafe or the Huffington Post on net neutrality, telecom policy, and copyright — for example, this post on Comcast and net neutrality or this post on Verizon and the FCC.


October 9, 2007

Tom Schaller at DCDL


On Thursday, Oct 25, the DC Chapter of Drinking Liberally is pleased to host Tom Schaller, author of Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South, and co-author of Devolution and Black State Legislators: Challenges and Choices in the Twenty-First Century.

We’ll be in our usual spot in the back room of Timberlake’s, 1726 Connecticut Ave NW (Dupont Circle Metro). Just for this evening, we’ll have a slight adjustment in our usual speaker night schedule:

6:30-8 Happy Hour.
8- 8:45 Talk, Q&A.
8:45-? People hang out.

To whet your appetite, here’s a recent Paul Krugman column quoting Prof. Schaller: (NYT)

And yes, Southern white exceptionalism is about race, much more than it is about moral values, religion, support for the military or other explanations sometimes offered. There’s a large statistical literature on the subject, whose conclusion is summed up by the political scientist Thomas F. Schaller in his book ‘’Whistling Past Dixie'’: ‘’Despite the best efforts of Republican spinmeisters to depict American conservatism as a nonracial phenomenon, the partisan impact of racial attitudes in the South is stronger today than in the past.'’

Republican politicians, who understand quite well that the G.O.P.’s national success since the 1970s owes everything to the partisan switch of Southern whites, have tacitly acknowledged this reality. Since the days of Gerald Ford, just about every Republican presidential campaign has included some symbolic gesture of approval for good old-fashioned racism.

More on Tom Schaller:

October 5, 2007

DC4D Endorses Obama


In case you didn’t hear it from Keith or Kim Thursday evening, DC for Democracy endorsed Barack Obama at its October meetup on Wednesday. We weren’t sure at all that we would endorse anyone, but Obama just broke the threshold. John Edwards came in second with about half as many votes. Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Dennis Kucinich and Bill Richardson received a smattering of votes as well. Mike Gravel got a single second choice vote. Chris Dodd had a bad night. I didn’t vote for him myself, of course, but he is a good guy, and deserves more attention than he’s been getting.

Using a modified form of Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) which allowed members to vote for up to 2 candidates (first choice and second choice) , Obama won 69% of the vote Wednesday. (Members also had the option of voting for No Endorsement.) Looking at first choice votes cast, Barack Obama received more than twice as many votes as the next candidate.

Before making our endorsement this year, DC for Democracy sent a questionnaire to all of the 8 major Democratic candidates. Responses received were then compiled with independent research on each of them, culminating in DC for Democracy’s first-ever Candidate Endorsement Guide (available in a series of issue-specific pdf files).

Now that we’ve endorsed, DC for Democracy will be working with DC for Obama (which succeeded in outraising all of the other Obama groups across the country this past quarter). Following some local canvassing later this month, we will be taking our operation to Las Vegas, Nevada in November for the Veterans Day holiday. (Nevada has the second primary in the country this year on January 19.)


Ombudsman, DC for Democracy

October 2, 2007

Anti-War-Pro-War-Anti-War Dems


Iraq is likely to remain a defining issue of the presidential race, given the waste of lives, resources and national security brought by Bush’s war. While all the Democratic candidates believe Bush’s current strategy is mistaken and that we must at least begin to bring our troops home, there are some significant differences between them. There is a serious debate about who has the best plan going forward, but for right now let’s look at the candidates on the issue of the invasion itself.

It’s worth recalling some history from the 2004 presidential campaign. Bush and his operatives worked hard to develop the myth that Kerry had supported Bush’s decision to invade — and Kerry’s lack of clarity on the topic of Iraq didn’t help.

It’s a fair bet that we will see some of this again (depending on the candidate, of course), and we should be ready.

When it comes to Iraq, candidates should not be judged on a single vote or a single timely statement. The continuum of views includes at least the following options:
1. Supported the invasion all along
2. Supported the Authorization for Use of Military Force against Iraq (AUMF) and then invasion “after diplomacy failed”
3. Supported the AUMF but opposed invasion
4. Opposed both the AUMF and the invasion

So who falls into which category? Well, first of all, none of our candidates fall under #1 — I don’t think. A number of Dems who were willing to support the AUMF but never bought into the idea of invasion fall under #3, such as Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle. Straightforward opponents of Bush’s entire foreign policy toward Saddam Hussein fall under #4.

And #2 — this is for those who supported the AUMF but almost certainly opposed the invasion of Iraq in 2002, but then somehow changed their minds in January, February or March 2003. I still remember Bush’s response to reporters who asked about ongoing weapons inspections in those final months, the lack of evidence of WMDs, whether that would influence his decision: “I’m sick of playing games!,” he barked back angrily. But anyway…. The candidates who fall under #2 today include proponents of a slower troop drawdown alongside proponents of a full, rapid withdrawal. All these candidates fall into a single category: They are the Anti-War-Pro-War-Anti-War Dems.

The AUMF was passed on October 10-11, 2002.
The invasion began on March 19-20, 2003.

So, that’s it. Here are the candidates, in their own words and votes (contradictory statements over time in bold):

10/10/02: Supported AUMF (passed 77-23)
10/10/02: Opposed Durbin Amendment requiring finding of “an imminent threat posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction'’ (failed 30-70)
10/10/02: Opposed Levin Amendment requiring explicit UN Security Council or Congressional authorization for military force against Iraq (failed 24-75)


I will vote for [the AUMF] because we should be compelling Iraq to make good on its obligations to the United Nations. Because while Iraq’s illegal weapons of mass destruction program do not—do not—pose an imminent threat to our national security, in my view, they will, if left unfettered. And because a strong vote in Congress, as I said, increases the prospect for a tough, new U.N. resolution on weapons of mass destruction, it is likely to get weapons inspectors in, which, in turn, decreases the prospects of war, in my view. (Floor statement)


So what should we do? … The option I would choose in this circumstance, even if we do not get world support, is to act. … [I]f Saddam does not give up those weapons of mass destruction and the Security Council does not call for the use of force, I think we have little option but to act with a larger group of willing nations, if possible, and alone if we must. (Floor statement)

Biden later explained:

Those of us who understand the value of international institutions and rules must also understand that when rules and institutions are flouted, they must be defended, and by force if necessary. That was, in my view, the underlying rationale to go to war in Iraq…. (Floor statement)


My colleagues will remember that, at the time, we voted to give the President a strong hand to play at the U.N. to get the world to speak with one voice to Saddam: let the inspectors back in and disarm or be disarmed. We thought that would make war less likely. But in the 5 months between our vote and the invasion of Iraq, the ideologues took over. The President went to war unnecessarily, without letting the weapons inspectors finish their work, without a real coalition, without enough troops, without the right equipment, and without a plan to secure the peace. (Floor statement)

10/10/02: Supported AUMF (passed 77-23)
10/10/02: Opposed Durbin Amendment requiring finding of “an imminent threat posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction'’ (failed 30-70)
10/10/02: Opposed Levin Amendment requiring explicit UN Security Council or Congressional authorization for military force against Iraq (failed 24-75)


In the 4 years since the inspectors, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapons stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al-Qaida members…. If we were to attack Iraq now, alone or with few allies, it would set a precedent that could come back to haunt us. … So Mr. President, for all its appeal, a unilateral attack, while it cannot be ruled out, on the present facts is not a good option. (Floor statement)


There is a very easy way to prevent anyone from being put into harm’s way, and that is for Saddam Hussein to disarm. And I have absolutely no belief that he will. (Address to Code Pink delegation. Full YouTube video available here.)

10/10/02: Supported AUMF (passed 77-23)
10/10/02: Supported Durbin Amendment requiring finding of “an imminent threat posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction'’ (failed 30-70)
10/10/02: Opposed Levin Amendment requiring explicit UN Security Council or Congressional authorization for military force against Iraq (failed 24-75)


If the President is going to order American men and women into battle he has to make a compelling case as to why all the other options have been exhausted and why the threat is so compelling that the US must act without the support of our key allies. (Floor statement)


I have never doubted for one moment that Saddam Hussein has chemical and biological weapons and has sought to acquire nuclear weapons. For me the issue has always been how best to address that threat. I don’t really believe that the Secretary [(Colin Powell)] addressed that question during his remarks. Seemingly, the Bush Administration has decided that the only way to do so is to invade Iraq, regardless of the potential consequences of such a decision. (Floor statement)


This morning U.N. Weapons Inspections chief, Mr. [Hans] Blix… reported that the inspections are making progress, that today inspectors are getting a lot more done than they did in the 1990s. We should listen to Mr. Blix and give his remarks serious consideration as we decide the next steps. (Floor statement)

10/10/02: Cosponsored AUMF (passed 77-23)
10/10/02: Opposed Durbin Amendment requiring finding of “an imminent threat posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction'’ (failed 30-70)
10/10/02: Opposed Levin Amendment requiring explicit UN Security Council or Congressional authorization for military force against Iraq (failed 24-75)


I believe that the risks of inaction are far greater than the risks of action. Saddam Hussein’s regime represents a grave threat to America and our allies, including our vital ally, Israel. For more than two decades, Saddam Hussein has sought weapons of mass destruction through every available means. … After 11 years of watching Hussein play shell-games with his weapons programs, there is little reason to believe he has any intention to comply with an even tougher resolution. (Floor statement)

2003 (pre-invasion):

This man has to be disarmed. If he doesn’t do something to start disarming, then yes, we have to disarm him, and we should be willing to do so militarily. (Chris Matthews College Hardball Tour, Central University, North Carolina. Video footage available here)

No definitive public statements from 2002-2003, but little doubt that he vehemently opposed the invasion.

Opposed AUMF (passed House 296-133) (61% of House Democrats opposed the AUMF)

Little doubt about where Kucinich stood.


I don’t oppose war in all circumstances. When I look over this crowd today, I know there is no shortage of patriots or patriotism. What I do oppose is a dumb war. (Address to Chicago anti-war rally. Video footage available here — it really is, keep watching)


[O]nly one more deadline, only one more chance for Saddam Hussein is going to be allowable. So I think the administration is wise in pursuing this course that says OK, total disarmament in two weeks and that’s it. (Interview, CNN. Transcript available here)

Richardson later explained:

We can also win by sending another strong message, and that is that we are, as Democrats, capable in maintaining and defending our country. We have to be able to use force when diplomacy fails and when our national security is threatened. (Keynote address to 2003 Democratic Leadership Council conference — available here)

From the introduction by the DLC’s Will Marshall that day:

I should say that Governor Richardson embodies a Democratic tradition of muscular internationalism. … He backed a war to oust the Saddam regime. (Ibid)

Email from the Richardson campaign:

Just like before their reckless invasion of Iraq, President Bush and Vice President Cheney have been rattling sabers about Iran’s nuclear program….

DC for Democracy will be holding its vote on endorsement this Wednesday, October 3. Having sent its own questionnaire to each of the 8 Democratic candidates, DC for Democracy members took the time to develop their own Candidate Endorsement Guide based on the candidates’ responses to our questionnaire and on whatever other information was available elsewhere. If you’re a DC4D member, we hope to see you Wednesday.

September 25, 2007

Art Levine on Unionbusting


DCDL’s journalist in residence, Art Levine, went undercover at a seminar for business owners wanting to learn how to fight union organizing among their employees and wrote an article about the experience for In These Times. See Art’s blog post for more, including his radio interview with Thom Hartmann on Air America Radio yesterday.


DCDL is a blog by Washington, DC-area members of Drinking Liberally. Opinions expressed are the writers’, not those of Drinking Liberally, which provides no funding or other support for this blog.

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