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Real Clear Politics is reporting via The Fix that Senator Arlen Spector is set to leap from the closet and officially switch from Republican to Democrat, giving them the vaunted “magic” 60 if Al Fraken is EVER allowed to take his senate seat and giving Mitch McConnell the second most thankless job in America.

Then again this whole thing is likely the result of several factors: GOP voters in his district are pissed about his support for Obama’s budget and his role in the “Gang of 3” that allowed its passage, the party itself hates its moderates and covers this thinly out of sheer necessity, and h’e facing a rather difficult primary challenge. Whether he’ll do any better as a democrat remains to be seen, but in the meantime, welcome aboard.

Reactions from the GOP are ranging from Sam Brownback’s “stunned” to Michael Steele’s blatant sour grapes. Olympia Snowe claims to be “devastated“, but going by the article I can’t tell if she means Spector’s switch or the attitudes in the party that lead to it.

In his own words:

I have been a Republican since 1966. I have been working extremely hard for the Party, for its candidates and for the ideals of a Republican Party whose tent is big enough to welcome diverse points of view. While I have been comfortable being a Republican, my Party has not defined who I am. I have taken each issue one at a time and have exercised independent judgment to do what I thought was best for Pennsylvania and the nation.

Since my election in 1980, as part of the Reagan Big Tent, the Republican Party has moved far to the right. Last year, more than 200,000 Republicans in Pennsylvania changed their registration to become Democrats. I now find my political philosophy more in line with Democrats than Republicans.

When I supported the stimulus package, I knew that it would not be popular with the Republican Party. But, I saw the stimulus as necessary to lessen the risk of a far more serious recession than we are now experiencing.

Since then, I have traveled the State, talked to Republican leaders and office-holders and my supporters and I have carefully examined public opinion. It has become clear to me that the stimulus vote caused a schism which makes our differences irreconcilable. On this state of the record, I am unwilling to have my twenty-nine year Senate record judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate. I have not represented the Republican Party. I have represented the people of Pennsylvania.

I have decided to run for re-election in 2010 in the Democratic primary.

I am ready, willing and anxious to take on all comers and have my candidacy for re-election determined in a general election.

I deeply regret that I will be disappointing many friends and supporters. I can understand their disappointment. I am also disappointed that so many in the Party I have worked for for more than four decades do not want me to be their candidate. It is very painful on both sides. I thank especially Senators McConnell and Cornyn for their forbearance.

I am not making this decision because there are no important and interesting opportunities outside the Senate. I take on this complicated run for re-election because I am deeply concerned about the future of our country and I believe I have a significant contribution to make on many of the key issues of the day, especially medical research. NIH funding has saved or lengthened thousands of lives, including mine, and much more needs to be done. And my seniority is very important to continue to bring important projects vital to Pennsylvania’s economy.

I am taking this action now because there are fewer than thirteen months to the 2010 Pennsylvania Primary and there is much to be done in preparation for that election. Upon request, I will return campaign contributions contributed during this cycle.

While each member of the Senate caucuses with his Party, what each of us hopes to accomplish is distinct from his party affiliation. The American people do not care which Party solves the problems confronting our nation. And no Senator, no matter how loyal he is to his Party, should or would put party loyalty above his duty to the state and nation.

My change in party affiliation does not mean that I will be a party-line voter any more for the Democrats that I have been for the Republicans. Unlike Senator Jeffords’ switch which changed party control, I will not be an automatic 60th vote for cloture. For example, my position on Employees Free Choice (Card Check) will not change.

Whatever my party affiliation, I will continue to be guided by President Kennedy’s statement that sometimes Party asks too much. When it does, I will continue my independent voting and follow my conscience on what I think is best for Pennsylvania and America.

In related news, the “Magic 60” is still pretty much meaningless.

As much as I continue to insist that the legenary 100 Days are just another construct the 24 hour newsmedia uses to simulate a horse race in the absence of an actual campaign, I remain powerless to ignore it. And so I give you this rather good article from the Politico on the little century about a week from its conclusion (and the inevitable orgy of analysis from all corners of the Newscloud).

Pakistan’s deterioration has reached a terrifying new stage as the Taliban have begun expanding out from the Swat Valley and have seized control of the neighboring district of Buner, imposing Sharia there as well. What’s terrifying is that this now puts the Taliban within 60 miles of Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad. Initially international concern was focused on the use of the area by the Taliban as a launchpad for attacks into Afghanistan, since the Pakistanis refuse to let anyone, including themselves, do anything about the problem. This is because the ISI, Pakistan’s main intelligance agency has been harboring the Taliban in order to keep Afghanistan weak and possibly use them as a weapon against India. The main question now is what the response will be if/when the Taliban make it obvious they’re after the capital, and by extention control of all of Pakistan itself. Having failed in Afghanistan they apparantly feel compelled to impose Sharia law somewhere, and what a happy coincidence they’re already in a country with a pathetically weak government and nuclear weapons. And this is the crux of the matter, the nightmare of every other nation on Earth, esp India, the US, and China: the taliban taking control over Pakistan and its nukes. If this happens, expect India, already incredibly paranoid about anything to do with its archenemy, to do something incredibly stupid in the name of self-defense. And once that happens, we are all damned.

Senator McCain is apparantly demanding an apology after the white house issued a report saying veterans returning home from Iraq/Afghanistan could be vulnerable to right wing extremism. Ok, it’s a fair demand, the white house should clarify what they mean, and that process has begun. Quoth Janet Napolitano:

The report is not saying veterans are extremists, far from it. What it is saying is returning veterans are targets of right-wing extremist groups that are trying to recruit those to commit violent acts within the country. We want to do all we can to prevent that.

At the least they should make an addendum saying returning Peace Corps activists are vulnerable to left wing extremism.

I’d have left it at that, but then something in McCain’s statement struck me:

The last people on earth we need to worry about are our veterans.

The current rate of suicide and PTSD in the military, however, would like to disagree. I won’t go as far as the dark realms of DailyKos and HuffPo and attempt to deliberately misquote him as not giving a shit about veterans, esp since he himself is a vet. However his word choice is undeniably poor, esp given the demands placed on our soldiers. Rather than calling for an apology the soapbox might be better utilized bringing the focus back to helping veterans receive better medical treatment/transition back into their civilian lives upon returning home.

As we approach the end of the first 100 days of Obama’s presidency (an artificial construct if ever there was one; is the president being graded by semester?) the GOP is predictably lining up to slam his various efforts at governing. The economic route having not proven fruitful thanks to the farce that was the rollout of the GOP’s budget alternative, they’ve now turned to foriegn policy. Officials including Mitt Romney and dick cheney are calling Obama’s efforts so far a failure. Putting aside the fact that cheney’s credibility is a smoldering radioactive ruin and Romney is simply posturing for 2012, so far polls show good public support for Obama’s foreign policy efforts as well as a steady increase in the number of people who say the country is on the right track (though they’re still a slight minority). And as I’ve said before newt gingrich is apparantly the only man in america that thinks the president didn’t have a good handle on the pirate hostage situation.

Far be it from me to say these guys can’t criticize Obama, all I’m saying is that I and many Americans will fail to care until we hear it from people who don’t have an active stake in seeing the man fail, let alone people who would have called such criticism treason just 4 short years ago. Get back to us once your party actually does something worthwhile.

Undercutting my previous assumptions, Obama has stated that the door is open to prosecute former Bush officials for authorizing the use of torture, based on Eric Holder’s discretion. Depending on how such prosecutions are handled the results could range from providing a necessary sense of catharsis for the nation as well as sending the message that lawbreakers at every level of society/government are responsible for their actions, to degenerating into an utter farce. Given that nancy pelosi controls the house and basically wants to kill bush just to watch him die, I’m leaning towards the latter. In any case, it depends on how good a case Holder thinks he can bring but given the extent to which the right is already braying over the release of the memos if this goes forward they may well get violent.

Or this could all be an elaborate way of telling cheney to shut his goddamn mouth.

After taking some time to think about it, I beleive the administration’s decision not to prosecute CIA interrogators following the bush administration’s lead on torture during the Dark Time is twofold:

1: Obama has consistently stated his desire to move on from the bush years and not look back with a view toward retribution. The congressional hearings that would have to come with any prosecutions would inevitably involve dragging former administration officials back in for questioning, and in the current political climate this would degenerate into at best a circus, at worst a Star Chamber.

2: Prosecuting agents now after they were told what they were doing was legal under bush sends the message that intelligance agents are only safe as long as the administration that gave them their orders is in power and that they can and will be victimized based on the shifting of the political winds, thus destroying what little morale the CIA has left along with their recruiting ability.

While I’m revisiting old subjects, Newt Gingrich continues to be an idiot.

Nancy Pelosi continues to be repugnant: after spending every waking moment since 2006 railing against the ethical lapses of the GOP and their efforts to resist democratic efforts to investigate same, now couched in a comfortable majority she’s looking into doing the exact same thing. Apparantly having found “because they’re republicans” is not a satisfactory reason to resist calls for an investigation into some democrats’ involvement with a defense lobbying (there’s that word again) organization currently mired in a corruption investigation, she’s asking house members for better excuses. If this breaks the congressional leadership is concerned this could balloon into the equivalent of the Abramoff Scandals that swept the ranks of the GOP not terribly long ago. Sensing the potential blood in the water the GOP is of course rallying for investigations into the matter, but whatever partisan motivations they may have for this it doesn’t invalidate that necessity of their calls. If the dems rose to power on the wings of their message of good, clean, transparent government then they need to be held to account. Abrogating these promises within the first 4 months after Bush’s ouster is the very height of hypocrisy, and one of the many reasons I’m starting to be tempted to actively call for Pelosi’s ouster. I understand she’s embittered after 8 years of famine and pestilence, but she’s done an excellent job of discrediting her leadership in the past 6 months and the time may have come for us to have a speaker that can speak without half of the house chamber covering their ears and groaning in agony.

 

-We’re all in this Together

During the campaign Obama was often lambasted by John McCain for his stances on foreign policy. Specifically his plans to immediately talk with many of America’s traditional enemies without preconditions was seen as dangerous and naive, as the mere fact of even talking with the American president is the equivalent of the direct blessing of god for many “disadvantaged” nations [/sarcasm]. But so far Obama’s diplomatic overtures seem to be bearing fruit: as his European tour showed he’s managed to convince most of our allies to be our allies again, and now our adversaries are lining up to get their share. Iran, Venezuela, and Cuba have all stated in the past week that they’d be open to improved relations with the US, with Raul Castro even going so far as to say that “everything is on the table” in regards to negotiations on the embargo. For those unaware, the mere statement of such a thing is abosolutely unheard of from either Castro, and the fact that Raul has not yet been denounced is itself a tacit nod of approval from Fidel.

However, it’s not all sunshine. Iran is warming from a combination of Obama’s own overtures and the fact that Mahmoud Ahmadinijad is facing extremely tough reelection prospects and may be seeking to soften his image somewhat in order to counteract years of anti-US bluster that have seen further sanctions and no sign of his promised economic improvements. With oil still nowhere near it’s legendary highs of last year the Iranian economy remains squarely in the toilet and so he needs reengagement with the US in order to be able to hang is hat on something. Not wishing to reward him, don’t expect the Obama administration to make any actual moves on this matter until after the elections in June. As for Chavez, despite expectations that Venezuela would be one of many countries (more like all of them) that would experience improved relations with the US following bush’s exit, but alas Chavez remains as fiery as ever before. He remains extremely resentful over what he beleives was US involvement in his brief ouster in 2002, but the challenge for him now is how to effectively hate on a US President now that the rest of the world no longer shares the same sentiment. This will be especially tough since Obama has now embarked on a tour of Latin America, in hopes of cutting a diplomatic swath there as he did in Europe.

I’ll concede that talking is one thing, and results quite another. It’s an improvement by itself that many leaders are actually willing to talk about the US without relfexively sneering, although certain leaders remain quite insane. But then what Kim Jong-Il was after was never food for his own fat ass his people, or even respect from the international community. All he ever wanted was Madeleine Albright’s love.

In breaking news, Holder declared that CIA interrogators who went 24 on suspects will not be prosecuted, ensuring that a wave of liberal anger and disappointment shall wash o’er the evening newscasts.

As much as I do share in that disappointment, the fact remains that the legal guidance the CIA agents in question recieved at the time, however misguided, was that this was all ok. To come after them now would fall under the “ex post facto” clause. That said, the administration needs to send a message that going forward there’s going to be greater accountability in order to control/prevent the use of such practices. While they’ve done a good job of making statements to this effect, at this point putting these words into action would be appreciated.