Monday, July 30, 2007

John Kerry on The Hill Blog: Insurance For Kids Will Not Fall Victim to Politics

The battle over SCHIP was in the news on Monday with Paul Krugman noting that "denying basic health care to children whose parents lack the means to pay for it, simply because you’re afraid that success in insuring children might put big government in a good light, is just morally wrong."

And the public understands that. According to a recent Georgetown University poll, 9 in 10 Americans — including 83 percent of self-identified Republicans — support an expansion of the children’s health insurance program.

There is, it seems, more basic decency in the hearts of Americans than is dreamt of in Mr. Bush’s philosophy.

John Kerry, a longtime champion for healthcare for kids had a post on The Hill Blog on Monday about the battle over State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP):

The fact that nine million children in our country live without health care is unacceptable. When it comes to family values, it’s time for Congress to start putting its money where its mouth is. We all know that members of Congress love to talk the talk about children, their health, and raising our kids right. Well, this week I’m going to challenge them to do just that when I bring my amendment to the floor of the Senate to fully fund the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) at $50 billion. This will bring coverage to approximately half of the nine million uninsured children in American today.

You would think it would be common sense to give some of the nation’s poorest kids healthcare. Not to this White House. President Bush spoke loud and clear when he said last week that he will block care for these kids with a stroke of his veto pen. Not only is he against expanding SCHIP – he doesn’t even want to retain the children who are currently enrolled. That’s wrong, and this Democratic Congress will make sure that insurance for kids will not fall victim to political games.

As a self-employed single mother who hasn't been able to afford healthcare insurance for the past couple of years, thanks to the not so booming BushCo economy, I have been a longtime supporter of John Kerry's Kids First Act. It is unacceptable that so many children are without healthcare in this country. It's time to amke healthcare for all children in America a reality.

The WaPo's editorial chimes in on the SCHIP debate asking, "Do House Republicans really want to be arguing for taking away health insurance from children who now have it?"

Cross posted from The Democratic Daily.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Kerry Challenges Bush, Republican Allies to Stop Obstructionism

The big news from the Senate today was the subpoena for Karl Rove issued by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). The Hill reports, "Leahy issued the subpoenas, one to Rove and one to White House aide Scott Jennings, after consulting with Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), the committee’s ranking member."

The Bush-Cheney White House continues to place great strains on our constitutional system of checks and balances,” Leahy added. “Not since the darkest days of the Nixon administration have we seen efforts to corrupt federal law enforcement for partisan political gain and such efforts to avoid accountability.”

John Kerry spoke on the Senate floor today on the subject of the obstructionism from the Bush Administration and the Republican party, highlighting the accomplishments of the new Democratic Majority in the 110th Congress.

Below are Kerry’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

Mr. President, last November, was one of those rarest moments in the short history of our country and our democracy. Any political science student taking a freshman lecture course will hear how hard it is to remove entrenched congressional majorities. They know the statistics about how hard it is to defeat incumbents around here. It doesn’t happen often.

But sometimes it does happen. Just six times in our 230-year history has one party lost both houses of Congress. 2006 was the first time the Republican Party failed to win a single House, Senate, or Gubernatorial office previously held by a Democrat.

We Democrats have been there. In 1994, Democrats woke up to a landslide defeat some people thought would never come. It wasn’t always easy, it wasn’t always collegial, but we listened, and we learned – and together we reached across the aisle to balance the budget and reform welfare. We wrestled with why we’d lost and we wrestled with what we had to do to come together not just as a Party but as a country.

Evidently, some people still haven’t wrestled with what happened last November 7th.

Last November Americans were angry. They saw our young men and women in uniform paying the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq for a failed policy stuck on auto-pilot. They saw the number of Americans without health insurance skyrocket to 45 million—with more hardworking Americans joining them every day. They saw record-high oil prices and global climate change a reality denied and deferred, and no serious national effort to address them. They saw staggering corruption and no accountability for the way the peoples’ house had been turned into a refuge for the special interests.

Read On here...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Overhaul Urged in Care for Soldiers… Kerry Says Dole –Shalala Commission Report Requires Immediate Action

A new report by a presidential commission that examined the care given to wounded U.S. service members was released on Wednesday. The report "recommended "fundamental changes" aimed at simplifying the military's convoluted health-care bureaucracy and overhauling the veterans disability system for the first time in more than half a century."
The panel issued six broad recommendations intended to transform a troubled system for military health care and veterans' assistance that has left some injured soldiers languishing for years and resulted in inequitable and inconsistent disability benefits.

In the wake of the report, Senator John Kerry announced that he will work tirelessly to immediately bring the recommendations of the President’s Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors to the Senate floor for a vote.

Kerry also strongly criticized Bush, who upon receiving the report this morning said only that findings were “very interesting” while his spokesman said there were no plans to take immediate action on the report.
“Congress needs to act on these recommendations immediately and we cannot tolerate White House foot dragging on yet another bipartisan commission’s findings,” Kerry said. “The White House stonewalled the advice of the 9/11 Commission and the Iraq Study Group, and we’re less safe because of their inaction. That pattern must not be repeated when it comes to helping America’s veterans. The crisis at Walter Reed was a tragic reminder that the government failed to plan for a new generation of veterans, and there is no excuse for waiting to get them the help they need. The important recommendations in this report must be turned into an improved reality for our hard-working military and I intend to work tirelessly with my colleagues to make sure that happens.”

The nine-member Commission, headed by Fmr. Sen. Bob Dole and Fmr. Sec. of Health and Human Services, Donna Shalala, was established by Executive Order to “conduct a comprehensive review of the care America is providing our wounded servicemen and women returning from the battlefield.” Members of the commission met with Bush at the White House "to brief him on their findings and to press him for quick action. "We left there feeling the ball's in their court now," Dole said."

The Commission Recommendations Include:

  • Implement comprehensive Recovery Plans

  • Restructure disability and compensations systems

  • Improve care for people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI)

  • Strengthen support for families

  • Transfer patient information across systems

  • Support Walter Reed until closure

Other reactions to the report are available here.

Cross posted from The Democratic Daily.

Public Opinion Moving in Kerry’s Direction

How maddening is it to know that you were right on an issue, and you were way ahead of the curve and then to sit back and watch the public catch up to you? If you were John Kerry, right about now, you'd be taking it in stride, and keeping on doing what you feel is right in your gut. And that's what Kerry is doing... while pulic opinion is finally catching up to him on Iraq and a few other issues. Last week after the latest Iraq vote, Paul Kane noted on Capitol Briefing:
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.): Few people might have realized this, but Levin-Reed -- setting a timetable for withdrawing troops -- was essentially the same amendment Kerry offered in June 2006. Back then, it got 13 votes. Now, 53. Of course, the 2004 Democratic nominee wasn't given his due, relegated to speaking shortly after 5 a.m. Wednesday.

Who made the correlation before the vote that Levin-Reed was essentially Kerry-Feingold? No one, perhaps. But Kerry knew. Now, I can't say how many times it has been said here on The Dem Daily, that Kerry was right, but I know it's numerous and plentiful. In Tuesday's Boston Globe, Globe Columnist, Peter S. Canellos lays out neatly what I have known for sometime, sadly... "Dividends of Kerry's views come too late for '08."
In June 2006, when Senator John F. Kerry joined his colleague Russell Feingold in pushing for a phased withdrawal from Iraq, the bill drew a paltry 13 votes. Most Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, felt a deadline was irresponsible.

Last week, the same bill got 52 senators, a majority, voting to break a filibuster and force an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. Clinton was among them.

The vote failed because 60 votes are required to break a filibuster, but it nonetheless affirmed the growing impatience of Congress with the Iraq war. It also vindicated Kerry's strategy in plotting his second presidential race: Move to the left of Clinton, thereby winning over liberals. Show more passion than in 2004, and a deeper commitment to Democratic principles. Most of all: Exert leadership on Iraq.

Kerry's strategy seems ready to pay dividends. Another of his bold moves -- leading the filibuster against confirming Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito -- now looks very smart to liberals, after Alito provided crucial votes to eviscerate liberal positions on school desegregation, late-term abortion, and campaign finance restrictions.

But Kerry, of course, isn't in a position to collect his dividends. His second presidential campaign never got off the ground.

In retrospect, Kerry's presidential hopes ended with his "botched joke" about soldiers in Iraq, made in the final days of the 2006 congressional campaign.

For those who don't remember, Kerry had been making some headway in showcasing his new fighting image by logging more miles than any national campaigner in 2006. He gave a speech that a focus group ranked as the best of all potential 2008 presidential contenders.

All this activity was important because most Democrats were dubious about another Kerry presidential run. In 2004, he had come within three points of President Bush in the popular vote and within one big state in the Electoral College, but that only made Democrats more fixated on ways he could have done better -- mostly by fighting harder against Bush and his surrogates.

In 2006, Kerry worked hard to show he had learned from his mistakes. Then, eight days before the midterm elections, he quipped that students who don't do well in school will end up in Iraq. He hadn't meant his joke to come out that way, and provided his text to prove it.

When Republicans began demanding an apology, Kerry thought he saw a chance to fire back. "This is a textbook Republican campaign strategy," Kerry fumed at a nationally televised press conference. "Try to change the topic. Try to make someone else the issue. . . . Well, everybody knows it's not working this time, and I'm not going to stand around and let it work."

Clearly, Kerry expected other Democrats to join him in turning the tables on the GOP. But he was no longer his party's nominee, and Democrats had no desire to climb out on a limb with him.

Clinton, in particular, fanned the flames by declaring, the day after Kerry's press conference, that his joke had been "inappropriate, and I believe we can't let it divert us from looking at the issues that are at stake for our country."

Kerry left the campaign trail like a pariah. Later, when he consulted supporters about making another run, many argued against it. He was old news.

But Kerry's instincts now seem prescient -- and worth noting because Clinton, now comfortably ensconced at the top of the Democratic polls, is behaving a lot more like Kerry in 2004 than Kerry in 2006.

The Kerry campaign's big inhibition in 2004 was the fear that taking aggressive stands against the Iraq war, and endorsing a whole new approach to the war on terrorism, would inevitably mark the candidate as a dove.

Clinton, as the first woman to mount a serious challenge for her party's nomination, seems to perceive the same political threat. She has distanced herself from the antiwar sentiments of her rival John Edwards in much the same language as Kerry moved away from his rival Howard Dean.

But Kerry came to understand that forcefulness in fighting terrorism isn't just shown by expressing willingness to use force; it can be demonstrated by the clarity of one's position and the courage with which one sticks by it.

Like Kerry in 2004, Clinton has become more and more critical of the Iraq war. But she's been wary about moving beyond public opinion. Kerry, for all his woes, did just that in 2006. And now public opinion is moving in his direction.

Yes, Kerry's instincts have frequently been "prescient." And Cannelos draws a good analogy to Clinton's unwillingness to step out on a limb. She stepped out on the limb when she put her ambitions first over the "botched joke," but now we all know she could learn a thing or two from the always gracious Junior Senator from Massachusetts who came to her defense last week when the GOP went after her.

And yet, there are some that do believe (contrary to the mocking views of others), that it's not too late for Kerry to jump into the race, though sadly, I don't think that he will. We can dream, we can wish and we can see from Cannelos analysis... what might have been.

Cross Posted at The Democratic Daily.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Kerry: Bush Will Relent on Iraq by September

In the wake of Harry Reid's announcement that he planned to force an around the clock debate on Iraq, Casey Ross posted on The Boston Herald Politics Blog on Monday night that "U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry on Monday predicted that U.S. troops will be pulled from Iraq by the early fall, saying President Bush is slowly wilting under pressure from Congress."
I believe that by September the president will announce that troops will be able to come back, and they’ll do it under one guise or another,” Kerry said during a rare visit to the State House on Monday.

The senator was on Beacon Hill to tout government investments in renewable energy and small business, but he took time to address the intensifying battle over Iraq war policy.

He said senate Democrats do not have the 60 votes needed to force a withdrawal, but he believes Bush cannot hold out against opposition much longer. “My hope is the president is going to change his policy because he’s going to see that this thing’s moving against him.”

Kerry, of course has been a leader in the Senate fight to bring the troops home for the past couple of years. Last Thursday Kerry delivered a powerful speech on the Senate floor in the Iraq War, telling fellow members of the Senate, " If you know this policy is broken now, don’t wait until September – fix it now."

Meanwhile, the Bush Administration is still forcing the issue and General Pace said on Monday that "troop buildup" was possible. Sounds like more smoke and mirrors from the Bush administration for their failing mission in Iraq. As Dan Froomkin pointed out, Bush "has a tendency to celebrate his generals when they're providing him political cover -- then stick a knife in their backs when they're no longer of any use to him."

I won't be at all surprised if Kerry is right on this one, as he has been so many times in the past.

Cross posted from The Democratic Daily.

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Irony Alert:

Posted by Todd Mitchell
July 14th, 2007 @ 10:26 am

Rove Strategy Paper Found In Nixon Archive.

WASHINGTON, July 13 — The year was 1973, and Karl Rove was looking for help — from the Nixon White House. Tucked away inside 78,000 pages of documents from the Nixon administration, released by the National Archives earlier this week, is a little gem: a strategy memorandum from the man who would go on to become the architect of President Bush’s rise to political power.


[snicker] Also tucked in those 78,000 pages of Nixon documents released earlier in this week, John Kerry's name came up:

More at The Democratic Daily.

Friday, July 13, 2007

John Kerry: New Iraq Policy Can’t Wait Until September

In the wake of the newly released Iraq report, Bush is in a "race against time" in thebattle to preserve his long failing Iraq War policy. On Thursday, the House passsed a measure calling for troop withdrawal by the spring and in the Senate, Senator John Kerry spoke on the urgent need for the U.S. to shift the mission in Iraq to allow a redeployment of troops out of the country within a year. Kerry, who is co-sponsoring the Levin-Reed-Kerry withdrawal amendment, originally called for moving US troops out of Iraq more than a year ago.

Kerry's powerful floor statement as prepared for delivery on the Senate floor is below:

Today the President made a partial report on Iraq. While it is true there has been some tactical military success—no amount of spinning the military component can obscure the bottom line reality in Iraq today: That reality is clear: there has been no meaningful political progress, and in the long run, that is the only progress that counts. Unless and until Iraqis begin to resolve their fundamental political differences, any security gains will be temporary at best. Welcome, but temporary. Moving the goalposts, dressing up the failure to meet strict benchmarks as “progress”—these are rationalizations for failure, not plans for success.

Meanwhile, another report tells us that while we’ve been bogged down and distracted in Iraq, Al Qaeda has found safe haven in Pakistan and rebuilt its organization. Today, top intelligence officials tell us that Al Qaeda is better positioned to strike the West than they’ve been at any time since 9-11. And where’s our focus? On Iraq. Our continued presence in Iraq isn’t just a distraction from the fight against terrorists—it’s also Al Qaeda’s best fundraising and recruiting tool. We don’t have to wait until September to know that we need a new policy.

Two days ago, I heard some colleagues come to the floor and question why we’re having this debate now when the White House is going to report on his escalation in September.

I heard Sen. Sessions say “This is not the time to alter the policy we established about 2 months ago.” I heard Sen. Kyl say “we need to await the report in September before making judgments about what to do next.” I heard Sen. McCain ask, and these are his words, why “do we have to keep taking up the Iraq issue when we know full well that in September there will be a major debate on this issue?”

I have great respect for my colleagues, I particularly know how much my colleague the senior Senator from Arizona cares about American troops serving in Iraq.

But these questions from the other side of the aisle astonish me. Why now? Why this debate now? Why do we have to, as Sen. McCain asked, “keep taking up the Iraq issue?”

The answer is simple—and compelling: Because American soldiers are dying now. Because the escalation is a failure, now – and we know it. Because when a policy isn’t working, you don’t wait for some artificial timeline to fix it. You fix it now.

Read on here: John Kerry: New Iraq Policy Can’t Wait Until September

Monday, July 09, 2007

Kerry Bill Would Prevent President from Misusing Signing Statements

With the White House in "Panic Mode" over the GOP revolt on Bush's Iraq War, Senator John Kerry gave them a little more cause earlier today when he announced that he will co-sponsor legislation aimed at preventing the President from writing so-called “signing statements” when he signs bills – a little known measure that allows the White House to effectively circumvent Congress.

Under the new bill, the president could not issue a signing statement if it substantially altered the original legislation. Kerry is co-sponsoring the legislation with Republican Senator Arlen Specter of PA. The measure could be voted on as early as this month if it is added as an amendment to the defense spending bill.
“The Bush Administration’s abuse of signing statements is clearly unconstitutional and renders the Constitution’s system of checks and balances null and void,” Kerry said. “With these statements, the President has effectively subverted the law and the legislative process without actually ever using a veto. No administration should be allowed to cherry-pick legislation this way. I look forward to working with my colleagues on this legislation and I want to again thank the Boston Globe for shining a bright light on this abuse.”

Reporter Charlie Savage of the Boston Globe first reported on Bush's signing statements on April 30, 2006. There's more here.

Cross posted from The Democratic Daily.

Bush Denies Congress Access to Aides - Kerry Says White House Stonewalling is a Disservice to Democracy

Today Bush invoked executive privilege again to deny the requests from Congress for "testimony from two former aides about the firings of federal prosecutors."
The White House, however, did offer again to make former counsel Harriet Miers and one-time political director Sara Taylor available for private, off-the-record interviews.

In a letter to the heads of the House and Senate Judiciary panels, White House counsel Fred Fielding insisted that Bush was acting in good faith and refused lawmakers' demand that the president explain the basis for invoking the privilege.

"You may be assured that the president's assertion here comports with prior practices in similar contexts, and that it has been appropriately documented," the letter said.

In response to the White House announcement that the President’s lawyers will block Congress from hearing testimony from two aides suspected of playing a role in the US Attorney’s purge, John Kerry issued the following statement today:
“I hope President Bush will rethink his refusal to cooperate with Congress and have his aides come clean on the firings of U.S. Attorneys,” Kerry said. “Attempting to prevent the Senate from investigating only prolongs the toxicity and further isolates a White House in bunker mode, at a time when bipartisan cooperation on big issues is desperately needed. From Day One, the President has invoked the Cheney playbook and tried to draw a vast circle of secrecy around his Administration. His refusal to allow aides to answer questions openly and honestly is another reminder of not just how little this White House respects the legislative branch, but how stubbornly committed they are to avoiding transparency and thwarting the public’s right to know.”

Cross Posted from The Democratic Daily.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Iraq and The Road Home

Bring Them Home. The WaPo's Foreign Service reported on Saturday that "Suicide attacks across Iraq killed at least 144 people and injured scores in an 18-hour period, including a massive truck bombing in a northern Shiite village that ripped through a crowded market, burying dozens in the rubble of shops and mud houses," and 8 U.S troops died. 8 more to die in a war based on lies. It is time... Long past time, actually, to begin to prepare our troops for "The Road Home."

Well over a year ago, John Kerry pegged it, Iraq was in a civil war. The N.Y. Times in their Sunday editorial has now come to that conclusion, and they are calling for the Bush Administration to end the Iraq War: "It is time for the United States to leave Iraq, without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit."

Better, late then never the N.Y. Times claims that "Like many Americans, we have put off that conclusion, waiting for a sign that President Bush was seriously trying to dig the United States out of the disaster he created by invading Iraq without sufficient cause, in the face of global opposition, and without a plan to stabilize the country afterward."

At first, the Times editorial board notes they "believed that after destroying Iraq’s government, army, police and economic structures, the United States was obliged to try to accomplish some of the goals Mr. Bush claimed to be pursuing, chiefly building a stable, unified Iraq." But then, "became clear that the president had neither the vision nor the means to do that" and so they "argued against setting a withdrawal date while there was still some chance to mitigate the chaos that would most likely follow."

Now the N.Y. Times admits, "Continuing to sacrifice the lives and limbs of American soldiers is wrong."

The war is sapping the strength of the nation’s alliances and its military forces. It is a dangerous diversion from the life-and-death struggle against terrorists. It is an increasing burden on American taxpayers, and it is a betrayal of a world that needs the wise application of American power and principles.

A majority of Americans reached these conclusions months ago. Even in politically polarized Washington, positions on the war no longer divide entirely on party lines. When Congress returns this week, extricating American troops from the war should be at the top of its agenda.

That conversation must be candid and focused. Americans must be clear that Iraq, and the region around it, could be even bloodier and more chaotic after Americans leave. There could be reprisals against those who worked with American forces, further ethnic cleansing, even genocide. Potentially destabilizing refugee flows could hit Jordan and Syria. Iran and Turkey could be tempted to make power grabs. Perhaps most important, the invasion has created a new stronghold from which terrorist activity could proliferate.

The administration, the Democratic-controlled Congress, the United Nations and America’s allies must try to mitigate those outcomes — and they may fail. But Americans must be equally honest about the fact that keeping troops in Iraq will only make things worse. The nation needs a serious discussion, now, about how to accomplish a withdrawal and meet some of the big challenges that will arise.

The time to end this war is now. The time to bring our troops home is now. It's long, far too long over due. The tyranny that the Bush Administration has used to squelch the debate over and over must end too:

President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have used demagoguery and fear to quell Americans’ demands for an end to this war. They say withdrawing will create bloodshed and chaos and encourage terrorists. Actually, all of that has already happened — the result of this unnecessary invasion and the incompetent management of this war.

We, America face "a choice" and now that the N.Y. Times editorial board seems to get that "We can go on allowing Mr. Bush to drag out this war without end or purpose. Or we can insist that American troops are withdrawn as quickly and safely as we can manage — with as much effort as possible to stop the chaos from spreading."

Bring Them Home. Bring Them Home. Because we have long been at the precipice and now there are those who ask, "Who Will Be Last Soldier to Die for Iraq Mistake?"

There is no solace in being right on this issue. There is no solace in knowing long before the N.Y. Times and Republicans with a change of heart, have stepped up to the plate that ending this war based on lies was long over due. The solace will come when we bring our troops home and begin to repair the damage done to this nation by our rogue leaders. Let our troops begin on the long and arduous Road Home.

Cross posted from The Democratic Daily.

Monday, July 02, 2007

John Kerry on Bush’s Decision to Commute Libby’s Sentence

The outrage over Bush's decision to commute Scooter Libby's sentence is beyond palpable at this point. There's a huge firestrom brewing in the blogosphere, as I noted below and the Washington crowd is weighing in.

Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) just weighed in with the following statement on Bush’s decision to commute Scooter Libby’s prison sentence:

President Bush's eleventh hour commutation of Scooter Libby’s sentence makes a mockery of the justice system and betrays the idea that all Americans are expected to be held accountable for their actions, even close friends of Vice President Cheney,” Senator Kerry said. “It's a tragedy that with young Americans paying the ultimate price in Iraq for this administration's mistakes, this White House continues to avoid accountability and reward deceit for their friends and supporters.”

Bloomberg reports, "Republicans approved of Bush's decision." No small surprise...

"I am very happy for Scooter Libby,'' said former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson, a potential Republican presidential candidate who had urged a pardon. "This will allow a good American, who has done a lot for his country, to resume his life.'' Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani said that Bush "came to a reasonable decision and I believe the decision was correct.''