Wednesday, June 2, 2010
The Hartford Courant
May 29, 2010
If President Barack Obama makes good on his promise to get rid of the odious policy that bars gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the military, Joe Lieberman will deserve some of the credit. He is among a handful of lawmakers taking the lead in the attempt to get Congress to repeal the statutory underpinning of the 17-year-old "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
The House voted for repeal Thursday night, and the full Senate soon will take up the issue.
"Don't ask, don't tell" has been responsible for cashiering about 13,000 servicemen and women who were ably serving their country. It has been an awful squandering of talent that the nation desperately needs.
The president, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, want to repeal the policy. The brakes have rightly been applied to enforcement of the discriminatory policy: Soldiers rumored to be gay by third parties won't be hounded out of the military.
Even if Congress approves, repeal legislation will not become effective until the Pentagon completes its study (in December) of the impact of allowing homosexuals to serve openly — something allowed in most allied militaries. Then Mr. Obama and the military must certify that repeal won't threaten military "readiness, cohesion, effectiveness, recruiting and retention."
Mr. Lieberman was one of the key lawmakers who put together the repeal proposal with the White House. For that he should be thanked by all fair-minded Americans.
Passage in the Senate is not a cinch. Republican leaders threaten to oppose repeal — holding hostage the careers of patriotic gay Americans for cynical political reasons. Nor is Pentagon acceptance of repeal guaranteed. But the repeal deal brings closer the day when the discriminatory policy is banished and gay and lesbian soldiers who lay their lives on the line for their country are no longer treated like second-class citizens.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
It's taken a few decades too long, but officials have made real progress of late in overturning the nonsensical rule that bars gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the nation's armed services. No small amount of credit belongs with Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman.
For almost a decade, the nation has been fighting at least one war on the other side of the world. Whatever the merits of those engagements, they require personnel at a time when the armed forces have struggled to attract recruits. The idea that qualified, determined people were prevented from serving for no valid reason is baffling.
The Obama administration, to its credit, is following through on a campaign promise to do away with a 17-year-old compromise, the so-called "don't ask, don't tell" policy. This allowed people to serve but required their dismissal if their homosexuality became public.
Lieberman has long been a leader in this fight, and his persistence has helped ensure the wrongheaded policy does not stand. Democratic leaders in Congress said they may raise the matter as soon as this week, and the president has vowed to support the policy shift.
Arguments against changing the rule are based on the same discredited notions of compromised morale and diminished unit cohesion that were raised in opposition to integrating the armed forces and allowing women to serve. These hang-ups are not shared, in general, by the people who matter most -- the men and women who serve our country today.
It's an outdated, unfair policy. It's time to scrap it.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
SENS. JOHN F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) have provided Congress with an opportunity. Their climate bill, released last week, is imperfect. But it offers a start, very much in the right direction. Contrary to popular wisdom, acting on global warming is not going to get easier after this year's election. Legislators should seize this moment.
The burning of oil, natural gas and coal for industry, transportation and modern life generally gives off gases that get trapped in the atmosphere, keeping heat in and warming the Earth. The consequences of this human-induced influence on global climate are difficult to predict with precision but are likely to be disruptive, possibly catastrophically. Scientists are clear enough on this to make it obvious that people should begin to reduce their dependence on these carbon-based fuels. Every big country will have to play a role -- but many won't get started unless the United States gets serious.
The most rational action, as we've said before, would be to put a gradually rising tax on carbon emissions and let the market find the cheapest alternatives. The Kerry-Lieberman bill doesn't go that route. But it does, through a system of tradable emission permits, create a gradually rising price on carbon emissions that, if properly administered, could have a similar effect. This is crucial, because left to their own devices, legislators will merely subsidize some of the most expensive alternatives to carbon-burning: new nuclear plants (Republicans), solar plants (Democrats), carbon sequestration (coal-state legislators of both parties). If the market is allowed to work, on the other hand, cheaper and more efficient methods -- conservation, converting the dirtiest coal plants to natural gas -- will probably be used while the rising price of carbon spurs research into currently more expensive solutions, with time bringing down the price of at least some of them.
The longer Congress waits to pass a comprehensive climate bill, the less time America will have to cut its emissions -- and the more expensive the process will be. According to the International Energy Agency, every year the world fails to seriously deal with climate change raises the price tag by $500 billion -- a lot of which, no doubt, Americans will be on the hook for. And then there's the politics. The House already has passed a climate bill. President Obama has said he supports action this year. And the next Congress, possibly with a sizable caucus of newly elected climate-change skeptics, could make any sensible environmentalist nostalgic for 2010.
There's a lot we would change about Kerry-Lieberman, starting with the way it would hand out valuable emissions permits. The legislation can and should improve via amendment. But the bottom line is that Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) should get the process started now.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Pickens: Kerry-Lieberman bill recognizes economic and national security threat of OPEC oil dependence
Boone Pickens, energy expert and creator of the Pickens Plan to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, released the following statement regarding energy legislation unveiled today by Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.)
“Senators Kerry and Lieberman are to be commended for a plan that recognizes the economic and national security threat of our ever-increasing dependence on foreign oil, particularly OPEC oil. Achieving energy security is not easy and I applaud their focus on a broad energy package that includes replacing foreign oil/diesel/gasoline with cleaner, abundant domestic natural gas in America’s heavy duty vehicle fleets. I look forward to working with them in the coming weeks to focus attention on that aspect of their legislation. More than 1.6 million Americans have signed on to my campaign to solve the foreign oil crisis, and I’m going to see to it that this objective is achieved as the legislative process evolves. Using natural gas as a transportation fuel is a non-partisan issue. The time to act is now.”
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
“To create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country. It means making tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development. It means continued investment in advanced biofuels and clean coal technologies. And, yes, it means passing a comprehensive energy and climate bill with incentives that will finally make clean energy the profitable kind of energy in America. I am grateful to the House for passing such a bill last year. And this year I'm eager to help advance the bipartisan effort in the Senate.”
- President Barack Obama
“Senators Kerry and Lieberman are to be commended for a plan that recognizes the economic and national security threat of our ever-increasing dependence on foreign oil, particularly OPEC oil. Achieving energy security is not easy and I applaud their focus on a broad energy package that includes replacing foreign oil/diesel/gasoline with cleaner, abundant domestic natural gas in America’s heavy duty fleets. I look forward to working with them in the coming weeks to focus attention on that aspect of their legislation. Using natural gas as a transportation fuel is a non-partisan issue. The time to act is now.”
- T. Boone Pickens
Energy expert and creator of the Pickens Plan
“Passage of comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation will allow the U.S. to be a worldwide leader in the next great global industry, green technologies. This pragmatic framework is crucial to the success of American entrepreneurship and will ensure a cleaner, stronger and more secure future for us all.”
Partner at venture capital firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
- Ralph Izzo
Chairman, President and CEO of PSEG
“This framework puts America on a clear pathway to create a vibrant, innovative clean energy economy to lead the next great global industrial revolution. NRG’s planned construction of new nuclear generation would employ 6,000 workers and drive billions of dollars in additional American business spend. When this bill becomes law, it will call forth thousands more clean energy projects, right here at home.”
- David Crane
President and CEO of NRG Energy, Inc.
“The catastrophic event in the Gulf Coast is a tragedy that serves as a reminder that we need to accelerate our transition to a clean energy economy. This framework will allow companies to continue to develop and bring to scale innovative, low carbon technologies to ensure our country’s energy security.”
- Jonathan Wolfson
CEO and co-founder of Solazyme, Inc.
"Comprehensive energy and climate policy that includes a clear market based price signal for carbon that rewards innovation is key for companies across the country to accelerate our transition to a sustainable clean energy infrastructure and market. The leadership of these Senators is critical to our success in bringing to bear investments in new technologies that will create new American jobs."
- Martin Lagod
Managing Director and co-Founder of Firelake Capital Management LLC.
“The substantive structure provided by Senators Kerry and Lieberman will allow the US Senate to begin the discussion around a long term energy policy – one that strengthens our country by reducing our dependence on foreign oil, creating new American jobs, and supporting energy intensive industries in a smooth transition to the clean energy economy of the future.”
- Jack Oswald
CEO of SynGest Inc.
“We cannot afford further delay in adopting a national policy that addresses our many energy-related challenges. We call on members of Congress to work together constructively across the aisle to pass this prudent and carefully balanced legislation this year. There have been few instances in our nation’s history when legislators have the opportunity to leave a lasting legacy-- to have the appendage ’statesman’ added to their names by appreciative future generations. This is one of those rare occasions.”
- Rob Sisson
President, Republicans for Environmental Protection
"I am proud of what my Senator from Massachusetts is doing today. This legislation holds one of the keys to meaningfully accelerate the transition to clean energy solutions for transportation and the grid, which will increase our energy security and reduce our dependence on foreign oil. From the perspective of a leading U.S.-based advanced battery company that is creating thousands of new U.S. jobs for the 21st Century, this legislation points the way to put America back in control of its energy future. All those who understand this imperative need to let their voices be heard now in support of Senator Kerry's and Lieberman’s tireless efforts."
- David Vieau
President and CEO, A123Systems
“The American Power Act is essential to strengthening our national security. Military leaders of every stripe have confirmed that America’s dependence on hostile nations for oil puts money in the pockets of our most dangerous enemies. This tri-partisan bill will defund terror and make the world a safer place for our troops. America’s military leadership – at the Defense Department, the CIA, and the National Intelligence Council – have all identified climate change and oil dependence as security threats. Now is the time for politicians in Washington to follow their lead.”
“Exelon commends Senators Kerry and Lieberman for their leadership in crafting federal climate legislation to address the nation’s energy security, jobs and environmental goals. We are pleased that the draft bill announced today by Senators Kerry and Lieberman proposes a system for putting a price on carbon, which will use market forces to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the lowest possible cost, as well as a firm price collar to protect consumers. As the nation’s largest nuclear operator, Exelon also appreciates that the senators have recognized nuclear power as a low-emission source of baseload electricity with an important role to play in the country’s transition to a low-carbon economy.”
- John W. Rowe
Chairman & CEO, Exelon
“The ‘American Power Act’ represents an important step toward a strong national energy policy, and GE applauds Senators Kerry and Lieberman for their leadership on an issue that is critical to the future of our nation and our economy. National energy policy must drive the accelerated deployment of new technologies in the United States if America is to compete and win in the global race for clean energy technology leadership. China and Europe have already enacted robust clean energy policies that are powering technology investment and job creation. It’s time for America to do the same. GE supports the process Senator Kerry and Lieberman have initiated today. We stand ready to work with them and Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle on the substance and details of final legislation.”
- Statement from General Electric
“National policy – including an effective price on carbon and a strong, nationwide clean energy standard – is needed to drive increased investment, which in turn creates new technologies and jobs.”
- Jeff Immelt
Chairman and CEO, General Electric
"Today’s action by Senators John Kerry (Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (Conn.) jumpstarts the Senate debate over America’s energy future. Their unwavering leadership has been critical to the progress made thus far. Every day the Senate fails to pass comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation we put our economy, our national security and our environment at greater risk. Inaction is too costly, and the challenge is too urgent. The Gulf Coast oil catastrophe is yet another reminder that the United States must reduce its dependence on oil to protect our security, economy and environment. The millions of Americans we represent demand a Senate vote on comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation. President Obama and leaders of both parties in Congress must provide the leadership necessary to develop a clean energy and climate solution that becomes law this year.”
- Statement from Alliance for Climate Protection, Audubon, Center for American Progress Action Fund, Climate Solutions, Defenders of Wildlife, ENE (Environment Northeast), Environment America, Environmental Defense Fund, Environmental Law and Policy Center, Fresh Energy, Green For All, League of Conservation Voters, National Tribal Environmental Council, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Oxfam America, Sierra Club, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, The Wilderness Society, Union of Concerned Scientists, World Wildlife Fund
“The nuclear-related provisions of this legislation provide a solid platform for the expansion of nuclear energy to meet our electricity needs, create thousands of jobs and help achieve the desired reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. All mainstream analyses of the climate change issue show that reducing carbon emissions will require a portfolio of technologies, that nuclear energy must be part of the portfolio, and that major expansion of nuclear energy is essential. I applaud Senators Kerry and Lieberman for their collaborative work on this legislation and for seeking input from a variety of interested parties to craft this proposal. While he is not a part of today’s announcement, Senator Graham’s committed work to advance this issue cannot be overlooked and we thank him for his efforts. We believe there is solid consensus on the need for, and the value of, the nuclear energy provisions in this proposal.”
- Marvin Fertel
President and CEO, Nuclear Energy Institute
"If businesses have a clear price signal, they will respond by creating innovative new solutions to our climate and energy problems. I applaud the effort to put a price on carbon this year. It is time for our country to be a leader in the new, low-carbon economy."
- Jeffrey Swartz
President and CEO, The Timberland Company
“Smart, bold and comprehensive climate and energy legislation will reduce our dependence on oil, increase our nation’s security and create jobs. What’s more, it will ensure that we remain competitive in the clean technology revolution taking place around the world. We must not miss this opportunity to help unlock a clean and prosperous future for America.”
- Amy Davidsen
US Executive Director, The Climate Group
"Nike has long advocated for Congress to pass a comprehensive climate and energy policy because we believe it's a pathway to environmental progress, economic growth and stimulating innovation. Business needs certainty and a level playing field to help spur green jobs and unlock innovation essential to creating technology and infrastructure solutions for a sustainable future. We applaud Senators Kerry and Lieberman for their leadership and introduction of this important legislation and stand ready to support along with our BICEP coalition members.”
- Hannah Jones
Vice President of Sustainable Business and Innovation, Nike
“Operation Free is very encouraged by today’s announcement. Our massive transfer of wealth to gulf nations to pay for oil is a destabilizing force, enriching some of our most dangerous enemies there and around the world. Taking a strong stance on carbon pollution could deprive Iran, one of the world’s most aggressive and unpredictable nations, of up to $100 million a day. Given their record of hostility to us and our allies, we can’t afford to allow them even one more dime.”
- Jonathan Murray
Operation Free Campaign Director and former US Marine
“Many in the national security community are standing squarely behind this legislation because the connection between our safety and energy could not be more clear. Controlling our energy future means a safer America, a stronger military, and a robust and growing economy here at home. America can and must lead by example in this, one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century.”
- Jonathan Powers
COO of the Truman National Security Project
"This isn't an environmental issue, this is a security issue. Our strategic interests, and therefore our national security and the safety of Americans, are threatened by climate change and our continuing dependence on oil. Military leaders know this isn't about polar bears and ice caps, it's about international stability and national security.”
- Lt. General John G. Castellaw
US Army, Retired
“We make a profound strategic error if we underestimate the impact that climate has on regional and international stability. Some of our most worrisome trouble spots around the world are dangerous because of a combination of climate problems and social unrest – Somalia, Nigeria, and Yemen are strong examples. Congress must pass this legislation to make the world a safer place.”
- Major General Paul Monroe
US Army, Retired
“By opting for renewable energy over fossil-based sources, customers currently have the power to reduce their carbon footprint and overall impact on the environment. We look forward to continuing to work with Senators Kerry and Lieberman to ensure that this bill preserves the ability of individuals, companies, and government agencies to make meaningful choices about their electricity supply.”
- Jay Carlis
President, the Renewable Energy Markets Association
“Senators Kerry and Lieberman are to be commended for their leadership in introducing meaningful climate change legislation, and, in doing so, helping the United States take a major step forward in solving the biggest challenge of our time. With vital assistance from Senator Graham, Senators Kerry and Lieberman have provided the Senate with an excellent proposal for a comprehensive legislative package that will reduce our country’s greenhouse gas emissions. Entergy supports the bill’s market-based approach, which will put a price on carbon dioxide. This is the most effective and efficient way of achieving reduction of greenhouse gasses and spurring innovation and investment into new carbon-reducing technologies.”
- J. Wayne Leonard
Chairman and CEO, Entergy Corporation
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Senators Joe Lieberman and Scott Brown today introduced the Terrorist Expatriation Act today.
The Terrorist Expatriation Act would bring existing federal law up to date by adding another item to the list of acts for which a U.S. national would lose his/her nationality: providing material support or resources to a Foreign Terrorist Organization, as designated by the Secretary of State, or actively engaging in hostilities against the United States or its allies.
Below is a bill summary:
Background: An existing federal statute, 8 U.S.C. § 1481, identifies seven categories of acts for which U.S. citizens lose their citizenship if they voluntarily perform one of those acts “with the intention of relinquishing United States nationality.” The list includes acts such as:
• Serving in the armed forces of a “foreign state” if such armed forces are engaged in hostilities against the United States;
• Formally renouncing nationality whenever the United States is in a state of war; or
• Committing treason against the United States.
The Terrorist Expatriation Act would simply add another category to the list of acts for which a U.S. national would lose his nationality, namely: providing material support or resources to a Foreign Terrorist Organization, as designated by the Secretary of State, or actively engaging in hostilities against the United States or its allies.
Purpose: The Terrorist Expatriation Act brings existing federal law up to date for the war on terror that the United States is currently fighting against terrorists at home and abroad. Al Qaeda and other foreign terrorist organizations (FTOs) are not covered by the existing expatriation law because they are not “foreign states.”
When the existing statute was enacted decades ago, Congress could not have anticipated enemies like the ones we are fighting today. Nonetheless, U.S. nationals who join al-Qaeda and other FTOs, declare America to be enemy soil, and take up arms with the goal of killing Americans should forfeit their rights to American citizenship or other nationality status, just as they would if they had joined the armed forces of any nation with whom the United States was at war.
This Act will provide another important tool for our military and intelligence communities to use against homegrown terrorists who travel abroad and join groups intent on attacking our homeland and Americans and our allies throughout the world. Under this Act, those individuals will not subsequently be able to use their American passports to travel back to the United States or elsewhere in the world to commit acts of terror.
How the Existing Statute Works: Under the existing federal statute, to which this provision would be added, the State Department must make an administrative determination that an individual has lost his or her U.S. nationality. The Secretary of State must approve a certificate of loss of nationality, and a copy of the certificate must also be provided to the Attorney General. There is also a review process within the State Department, and an individual may also challenge the State Department’s decision in federal district court. The burden of proof, by a preponderance of evidence, would be on the party asserting that loss of citizenship has occurred. This statutory scheme has been upheld, including the burden of proof, by the United States Supreme Court in a 1980 decision, Vance v. Terrazas. In1986, Congress amended the existing statute to codify the Supreme Court’s holding that an expatriating act must be committed with the intent of relinquishing citizenship status for loss of citizenship to occur. This bill does not alter that requirement in any way.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
The New York Times | Op-Ed Columnist
May 5, 2010
There is only one meaningful response to the horrific oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and that is for America to stop messing around when it comes to designing its energy and environmental future. The only meaningful response to this man-made disaster is a man-made energy bill that would finally put in place an American clean-energy infrastructure that would set our country on a real, long-term path to ending our addiction to oil.
That is so obviously the right thing for our environment, the right thing for our national security, the right thing for our economic security and the right thing to promote innovation. But it means that we have to stop messing around with idiotic “drill, baby, drill” nostrums, feel-good Earth Day concerts and the paralyzing notion that the American people are not prepared to do anything serious to change our energy mix.
This oil spill is to the environment what the subprime mortgage mess was to the markets — both a wake-up call and an opportunity to galvanize a constituency for radical change that overcomes the powerful lobbies and vested interests that want to keep us addicted to oil.
If President Obama wants to seize this moment, it is there for the taking. We have one of the worst environmental disasters in American history on our hands. We have a public deeply troubled by what they’ve seen already — and they’ve probably seen only the first reel of this gulf horror show. And we have a bipartisan climate/energy/jobs bill ready to be introduced in the Senate — produced by Senators John Kerry, Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham — that would set a price on carbon and begin to shift us to a system of cleaner fuels, greater energy efficiency and unlock an avalanche of private capital to the clean energy market.
American industry is ready to act and is basically saying to Washington: “Every major country in the world, starting with China, is putting in clear, long-term market rules to stimulate clean energy — except America. Just give us some clear rules, and we’ll do the rest.”
The Kerry-Lieberman-Graham bill is an important step in that direction. It is far from perfect. It includes support for more off-shore drilling, nuclear power and concessions to coal companies. In light of the spill, we need to make this bill better. At a minimum, we need much tighter safeguards on off-shore drilling. There is going to be a lot of pressure to go even further, but we need to remember that even if we halted all off-shore drilling, all we would be doing is moving the production to other areas outside the U.S., probably with even weaker environmental laws.
Somehow a compromise has to be found to move forward on this bill — or one like it. But even before the gulf oil spill, this bill was in limbo because the White House and Senate Democrats broke a promise to Senator Graham, the lone Republican supporting this effort, not to introduce a controversial immigration bill before energy. At the same time, President Obama has kept his support low-key, fearing that if he loudly endorses a price on carbon, Republicans will be screaming “carbon tax” and “gasoline tax” in the 2010 midterm elections.
Bottom line: This bill has no chance to pass unless President Obama gets behind it with all his power, mobilizes the public and rounds up the votes. He has to lead from the front, not the rear. Responding to this oil spill could well become the most important leadership test of the Obama presidency. The president has always had the right instincts on energy, but he is going to have to decide just how much he wants to rise to this occasion — whether to generate just an emergency response that over months ends the spill or a systemic response that over time ends our addiction. Needless to say, it would be a lot easier for the president to lead if more than one Republican in the Senate was ready to lift a finger to help him.
Our dependence on crude oil is not just a national-security or climate problem. Some 40 percent of America’s fish catch comes out of the gulf, whose states also depend heavily on coastal tourism. In addition, the Chandeleur Islands off the Louisiana coast are part of the Breton National Wildlife Refuge. It was created by Teddy Roosevelt and is one of our richest cornucopias of biodiversity.
As the energy consultant David Rothkopf likes to say, sometimes a problem reaches a point of acuity where there are just two choices left: bold action or permanent crisis. This is such a moment for our energy system and environment.
If we settle for just an incremental response to this crisis — a “Hey, that’s our democracy. What more can you expect?” — we’ll be sorry. You can’t fool Mother Nature. She knows when we’re just messing around. Mother Nature operates by her own iron laws. And if we violate them, there is no lobby or big donor to get us off the hook. No, what’s gone will be gone. What’s ruined will be ruined. What’s extinct will be extinct — and later, when we’re finally ready to stop messing around, it will be too late.
Monday, May 3, 2010
Hartford, Conn. (WTNH) - A big push is being made to get the 'Coltsville' site in Hartford named a national park.
It is the site where Samuel Colt patented the first revolver in 1835. Now, after almost a decade of work the state's congressional delegation is ready to introduce legislation to make the 260 acre 'Coltsville' site a national historic site.
"When you think about the industrial revolution and where it all began, to think that Henry Ford came here to study the practices of manufacturing, to know that Pratt and Whitney apprenticed here," said Rep. John Larson of Hartford.
The site is not just the famous 'former' gun-making plant founded by Samuel Colt. It also includes buildings where workers were once housed, a church facility and a park. Lawmakers say designating these grounds as a National park would be a huge boost to the local economy and create jobs.
"We believe in this project, we believe in this part of Hartford, we believe in the developing going on here has natural significance to our country," advocated Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Hartford.
Larson says he expects legislation to pass the house by the end of the month to make Coltsville a National Park. From there,it's up to Chris Dodd and Joseph Lieberman to get it through the Senate.
See Video: http://www.wtnh.com/dpp/news/hartford_cty/Hartford-coltsville-could-become-a-national-park
Monday, April 26, 2010
By JOSEPH LIEBERMAN AND SUSAN COLLINS
On March 27, 1792, the 2nd U.S. Congress voted to investigate the U.S. Army's devastating loss during the Battle of Wabash (near Fort Recovery, Ind.) at the hands of Indian warriors. A special committee was empowered "to call for such persons, papers, and records, as may be necessary to assist their inquiries"—and the first Congressional oversight investigation was set in motion.
President George Washington's cabinet unanimously agreed the administration should "communicate such papers as the public good would permit, and ought to refuse those, the disclosure of which would injure the public." Congress began getting copies a few days later.
The investigation revealed embarrassing problems with the War Department's recruitment, training and supplies, among other things. But revealing the problems enabled the government to fix them. And that, in a nutshell, is why we have congressional investigations.
No administration should be the sole investigator or judge and jury of its own actions. The temptation to keep damaging information from Congress and the American people is too great.
The rampage at Fort Hood, Texas, on Nov. 5, 2009—after which U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan was charged with 13 counts of murder and 32 counts of attempted murder—has been reviewed by the administration and its group of handpicked outsiders, who were all formerly with either the Department of Defense or the Department of Justice. But the administration continues to withhold much of the crucial information from the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, of which we are chairman and ranking member.
This is just not good enough for the American people. There are too many questions that still demand answers. Whatever mistakes were made in the run-up to the Fort Hood shootings need to be uncovered, and an independent, bipartisan congressional investigation is the best way to do it.
We know through press reports, for example, that Hasan's associates and superiors in the Army had for years noticed signs of his growing Islamist radicalization. We also know through press reports that the FBI and Defense Department were aware of emails he exchanged with radical Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. With the rising threat of homegrown radicalization, it's critical to learn if signs were missed that could have led officials to avert the tragedy—so we can work to help prevent anything like it from happening again.
We first requested information on the incident in writing on Nov. 13. We followed that with three other written requests plus numerous follow-up conversations. The administration has refused to provide the key information we need to establish the facts of what happened and carry out our constitutional responsibility of oversight, and so on April 19 we subpoenaed it.
The administration has denied our request to interview the FBI and Defense Department agents who investigated Hasan's email exchange with Awlaki. It claims some of the agents will likely be witnesses at trial and that congressional interviews could compromise their independent recollections.
But we are not investigating the shooting and have no intention of jeopardizing the prosecution's case. There is recent precedent for Congress to interview agents who may be prosecution witnesses. The Congressional Joint Inquiry into 9/11 interviewed FBI agents who were involved in arresting the so-called 20th hijacker, Zacarias Moussaoui, even though they were potential witnesses in that case.
The administration has also denied our request to receive transcripts of the prosecution's interviews with Maj. Hasan's associates and superiors that were given to the Defense Department's internal review of the incident. There is no reason why the Defense Department should be able to provide those documents to its internal review—which is separate from the prosecution—and not share them with Congress.
We hope the administration will change course and follow the example of President Washington—who, by sharing information in the first congressional investigation, showed his faith in an open, democratic system.
Mr. Lieberman is an Independent Democratic senator from Connecticut. Ms. Collins is a Republican U.S. senator from Maine.
Monday, April 5, 2010
On April 4th, Senator Lieberman spoke with David Gregory on Meet the Press about Iraq and homeland security.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
New hope for the District's school voucher programThe Washington Post
Tuesday, March 16, 2010; A18
THE D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program may finally get the attention it is due on the floor of the Senate. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) plans to offer an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill that would continue federally funded vouchers for low-income students attending private schools in Washington. This could well be the program's last chance, so it is time to separate fact from fiction about this important initiative.
Mr. Lieberman's proposal would provide for another five years and -- unlike the disappointing "compromise" touted by the Obama administration -- would permit the enrollment of new students. With a vote possible as early as Tuesday, opposition groups are stepping up their attacks. The National Education Association claims the program "has yielded no evidence of positive academic impact on the students the program was designed to assist." Americans United for Separation of Church and State says vouchers have "taken money away from the D.C. public schools." Others, including the American Civil Liberties Union, say it's improper to use taxpayer dollars to fund the religious education of children.
To those who claim that the program hasn't helped targeted students, we offer the results of the rigorous scientific study that Congress insisted on when the pilot program was launched in 2004. "The D.C. voucher program has proven to be the most effective education policy evaluated by the federal government's official education research arm so far," wrote Patrick J. Wolf, principal investigator for the Education Department's study. He went on to say: "in my opinion, the bottom line is that the OSP lottery paid off for those students who won it. On average, participating low-income students are performing better in reading because the federal government decided to launch an experimental school choice program in the nation's capital."
Also not true is the charge that public schools have suffered a loss of resources. In fact, additional federal funds were directed to the city's traditional public and charter schools as part of the three-sector initiative establishing the voucher program. If, as critics claim, public schools are suffering, why has D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee emerged as one of the strongest advocates of continuing the voucher program? Unlike some members of Congress, she has a hard time consigning children to dismal futures.
Finally, charges about it being inappropriate to use public money for religious schools ignore the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled such scholarship programs to be constitutional in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris. Parents can choose to spend their scholarships in parochial schools or secular schools, just as older students do with federal Pell grants.
Perhaps the most important thing being overlooked is the experiences of the parents whose children have been able to go to better schools because vouchers afforded them the means to make that choice. Over and over, parents cite their satisfaction with schools that are safer, where students are more respectful and where teachers better meet their children's needs. Politicians like to say they want to do what is best for kids; here's their chance.
Friday, March 12, 2010
Let senators vote on D.C. school choice
March 12, 2010
More than 1,900 students in our nation's capitol have benefited from the Opportunity Scholarship Program that provided private school scholarships and a way to flee the chronically dysfunctional District of Columbia Public Schools system. The U.S. Department of Education under President Obama has acknowledged the program's success, with the authors of the department's most recent study concluding that students in the program "were performing at statistically higher levels in reading, equivalent to 3.1 months of additional learning."
Despite this record of success for the program, which was approved by Congress in 2004, Obama and the Democratic Congress have eliminated its funding, leaving these students and their parents with no alternative but to return to the failing DCPS.
Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., however, has been pushing the Senate for months to revive the program and restore hope to its participants. When he offered an amendment earlier this week to the Senate jobs bill, it appeared he would succeed. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., refused to allow the Senate to vote on Lieberman's amendment. It's not hard to figure out why: When Washington's biggest special interest group says jump, Reid and his fellow Senate Democrats ask how high.
That group, of course, is the National Education Association. When the Center for Responsive Politics added up all the campaign contribution data for the 2008 campaign, it turned out that the NEA topped the list, spending more than $57 million on federal and state races, 90 percent of which went to Democrats. So far in the 2010 election cycle, the NEA's pattern of heavily supporting Democrats continues, with 16 Senate Democrats facing re-election battles, including Reid, receiving contributions so far averaging more than $2,100 each.
The NEA has been on a mission for years to kill all traces of school choice programs. Why? Because nothing so threatens the monopoly grip of the heavily unionized public school system as offering an attractive alternative for students and parents. Lieberman's amendment would have done just that for the 1,900 participants in the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program.
As Lindsay Burke and Virginia Walden Ford said recently in National Review, the NEA's ardent opposition to school choice is rich with irony: "Too many of today's schools are failing African American and Hispanic students. In the 1950s, politicians stood at the door to keep African-American students out. Now, they are standing at the door to keep them in."
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Here are some myths and facts about the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provides scholarships to low-income students living in the District of Columbia.
• Myth: the OSP program has failed to improve academic achievement:
Fact: This is a false statement. The congressionally mandated IES study, using the most rigorous evaluation design, found statistically significant gains in reading for the target population – low income DC school children. According the Dr. Wolf, the principal investigator for the IES study, “the reading impact of the DC voucher program is the largest achievement impact yet reported.” and “..the DC voucher program has proven to be the most effective education policy evaluated by the federal government’s official education research arm so far.” Of the 11 rigorous experimental studies of education interventions sponsored by IES (the US Department of Education’s official research arm), only 3 have reported any statistically significant achievement gains and the reading gains from the OSP are the largest reported so far.
• Myth: Critics then say there were no gains for the target population, students from schools in need of improvement.
Fact: This is a false statement. The target population of the IES study was low-income DC students. The study found statistically significant achievement gains for those students. Students from schools in need of improvement were a subgroup designated under law to get priority in the award of scholarships. The evaluation showed that for this subgroup, as well as most of the other subgroups, the average reading and math scores were higher after 3 years, just not by a statistically significant amount. Researchers know that it is harder to find statistically significant differences among subgroups of students in a study because the subgroups are smaller than the overall group, so less evidence is available to push a gain over the statistical significance bar.
• Myth: The DC OSP program takes away money from public schools.
Fact: The OSP program has never diverted funds from public schools. From the beginning, the program has been part of a 3-prong initiative, begun under the leadership of DC Mayor Tony Williams, to provide new funds to DC public schools, DC public charter schools, and the OSP program. Initially, the three prongs were funded in equal amounts. In recent years, DC public and charter schools have received more funding that the OSP.
• Myth: The OSP program is being imposed on the District of Columbia.
Fact: The OSP program began under the leadership of Mayor Tony Williams. Mayor Fenty, DC Education Chancellor Michelle Rhee, and a majority of the DC Council have expressed support for continuation of the OSP program under the 3-sector initiative. It is also supported by parents in the District according to polls.
• Myth: The OSP program is not the solution to failing schools.
Fact: The OSP program has always been part of a 3-prong program to support DC public schools, charter schools and the OSP. The District per pupil expenditure for public school students is amongst the highest in the nation at $17,653 per student. Yet DC students in public schools score amongst the worst on national tests. The OSP (at less than half the per pupil cost) was never designed as the solution, but it was designed as part of the solution to deliver a quality education to disadvantaged District students while reform efforts continue. DC Education Chancellor Michelle Rhee has said it will take many years to turn around the troubled District schools, and in the mean time, many poor families are looking for a way to provide a quality education for their children. Our amendment specifies an intent to reauthorize the program at least until the DC public schools have made progress.
Monday, March 8, 2010
Congress shouldn't betray D.C. scholarship program
By Kelly Amis and Joseph E. Robert Jr.
Monday, March 8, 2010; A13
When President Obama signed a $450 billion spending bill in December, his signature effectively dismantled a small, successful education program benefiting low-income children in the nation's capital. This week, a bipartisan coalition led by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) is calling on Senate colleagues to restore it.
Unfortunately, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) may prevent the Senate from even voting on the measure. Who wants to vote against an effective program serving poor minority children?
Congress needed only to reauthorize the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program -- as the local community asked it to do and as the research should have compelled it to do -- but the members who mattered ignored the families outside their white marble offices, even rescinding scholarships to hundreds of hopeful students.
Obama could have stood up for these children, who only want the same opportunities that he had and that his daughters now have. Instead, his education secretary, Arne Duncan, proffered an argument that would be funny if it weren't so sad: Scholarships for poor students aren't worth supporting because not enough of them are given out.
Note to Duncan: You could give out more.
What's an education secretary in charge of $159 billion (and counting) to do?
Duncan had the temerity to admit that Opportunity Scholarship students "were safe and learning and doing well . . . [but] we can't be satisfied with saving 1 or 2 percent of children and letting 98 or 99 percent down." This is a false choice. But, were it fair, his answer would be to let down 100 percent instead?
Fortunately for the secretary, his children won't be in that 100 percent; he moved his family to Virginia. For the schools. He explained that he "didn't want to try to save the country's children and our educational system and jeopardize my own children's education."
Some say the scholarship program isn't needed because charter schools can fill the void. But charters and private school scholarships are not mutually exclusive reforms, and while the District's charter program is vibrant, it is far from providing all local students with an excellent education.
Indeed, charter schools are just part of the District's "three-sector strategy" toward education reform. This strategy, which we helped to design, presumes that all children deserve excellent schools and that every school effectively and appropriately educating students -- whether traditional, private or charter -- should be applauded and supported.
The strategy is working. The competition of new options created a landscape in which Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee could take steps only dreamed of by prior administrations: refining the downtown bureaucracy, closing near-empty schools and shifting the savings to academic programs, and holding teachers more accountable.
One might think that Rhee, as chancellor, would have supported ending the Opportunity Scholarships. Instead, she told Congress that it would be a challenge for public schools to reabsorb the students and provide them with an equivalent education.
With their support for the scholarships, Rhee and D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty put children's futures ahead of politics, just as former Mayor Tony Williams, former D.C. Council member Kevin Chavous and former School Board President Peggy Cooper Cafritz did when the program was created in 2004.
Unfortunately, congressional leaders -- especially Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.), Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) -- crumpled before teachers union threats, led by American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten, who declared everything open to negotiation "except vouchers."
The unions' antagonism toward private school scholarships (they've practically made "voucher" a dirty word) lies not only in their constant drumbeat that scholarships "steal" money from public schools; it's also the fear of losing members. If more students can access private schools, more teachers will eventually find jobs in that sector, and the unions won't have access to their often-compulsory dues.
And this might jeopardize the teachers unions' position as the single-largest contributor to federal-level political campaigns in America.
Norton's opposition to scholarships for local children might seem particularly confusing -- until you realize that her largest political donor is the AFT.
In a Charlie Rose interview, Weingarten referred to teachers as "powerless." As a group? Hardly. "Powerless" describes low-income students trapped in miserable schools.
Ending Opportunity Scholarships would be a tragedy for low-income parents everywhere because it says: Even when an education program works, the powers that be will tear it from the hands of children if it threatens their hold on the system.
We applaud Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and John Ensign (R-Nev.), who join Lieberman in working to restore the program. And we hope their colleagues -- and the administration -- will have the courage to stand up for local children, too.
Kelly Amis is founder of Loudspeaker Films and a former public school teacher. Joseph E. Robert Jr. is a D.C. education philanthropist.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Credit Lieberman on repeal effort
Published: 04:19 p.m., Tuesday, February 23, 2010
A ban on openly gay people serving in the armed forces is not only unfairly discriminatory -- it's bad for national security. It's long past time for it to end.
Records show nearly 13,000 people have been discharged under "don't ask, don't tell," the makeshift policy of the past 17 years that allows people to serve providing they keep their homosexuality a secret. The percentage of those 13,000 who might have made meaningful contributions to our national defense is impossible to know, but it's surely higher than zero.
That means security suffers for the sake of discrimination.
To his credit, Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman is pushing for a repeal that would allow people to serve without secrets or fear of reprisals. It's the right choice for our nation's future, and fellow senators should follow his lead.
Lieberman is not just any senator in this case -- with his strong pro-military reputation, his support could spur other moderates to join him. Lieberman taking the lead is an excellent indicator that a new policy may be in the offing.
Opponents of change say a new policy could have a negative impact on morale. Such concerns are not without merit, but similar worries were raised when the armed forces were racially integrated, and as the role of women in national defense increased over the years. Our military is strong, and can handle this change.
It's a time of great stress for our all-volunteer armed forces, with wars in distant nations taking a heavy toll. To unfairly limit the pool of willing and able citizens ready to fight for their nation is foolish and counterproductive.
Lieberman is taking a courageous stance, and deserves support. His colleagues are encouraged to follow his lead.
Monday, February 22, 2010
On 'ask,' Lieberman answers the call: An exclusive chat about Don't Ask, Don't Tell
New York Daily News
Monday, February 22nd 2010
WASHINGTON - Just when you thought Joe Lieberman couldn't frustrate and perplex liberals any further, he is going off to become chief sponsor of the most significant piece of socially progressive legislation that Congress will deal with this year.
Next week, the Connecticut senator will announce that he's taking the lead on repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the 1993 law that prohibits gay people from serving openly in the armed forces. Since implementation of the statute nearly 20 years ago, the military has discharged some 14,000 qualified men and women, many of them serving in critical jobs like Arabic and Persian translation.
It's an unconscionable policy, as it forces individuals willing to die for their country to lie to their comrades and lowers the overall quality of our fighting force.
In recent years, Lieberman has provided no end of frustration to the American left, which views him as a traitor for his outspoken support of the Iraq war, his decision to endorse Sen. John McCain for President in 2008 and his objections to some early provisions of the Senate health care bill. For his heresies, Lieberman has been demonized like few other contemporary political figures.
Now that he's taking such a public stand on a core liberal issue, will the left be able to get over its aversion to the iconoclast in their midst and recognize that Lieberman isn't just the ideal person to front for this effort - given his popularity with Republicans and the trust he has earned from senior military officials - but that he's genuinely sincere in his motivations?
The reasons why Lieberman, who was asked by the White House and gay rights groups to sponsor the legislation, would choose this battle are not hard to divine. Indeed, they strike at the heart of the political tradition of which he is the lonely standard-bearer: Social progressivism married with foreign policy hawkishness.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily News, Lieberman told me that his commitment to repealing DADT is twofold. First, allowing gays to serve openly fulfills the bedrock American promise of providing citizens with "an equal opportunity to do whatever job their talents and sense of purpose and motivations lead them to want to do - including military service." Second, and no less important for a lawmaker whose commitment to national security the Pentagon can't doubt, is that "When you artificially limit the pool of people who can enlist then you are diminishing military effectiveness."
Lieberman disputes the claim that allowing gay people to serve openly would cause havoc within the ranks. Indeed, to argue that belittles the maturity of our soldiers.
“My own experience as a member of the Armed Services Committee, visiting our troops on bases here in this country and abroad, particularly in war zones, the most remarkable quality you'll find is unit cohesion," he told me. "What matters is not the gender of the other person in your unit or the color or the religion or in this case the sexual orientation. It's whether that person is a good soldier you can depend on. And that's why I think it's going to work."
Like the Cold Warriors of yesteryear, who rightly said that America couldn't win the hearts and minds of people abroad as long as it discriminated against black citizens at home, Lieberman argues that allowing gays to serve is a core American value that will earn us international respect.
"I see this as an extension, the next step of the civil rights movement," he says.
And - this is me speaking - can one think of a better way for homosexual-hating, diversity-fearing Islamofascists to bite the dust than at the hands of openly gay American Marines?
Despite recent polling which shows overwhelming support for lifting the ban, Lieberman does not predict an easy fight. Even McCain, Lieberman's good friend and ally, is opposed, stating: "At a time when our armed forces are fighting and sacrificing on the battlefield, now is not the time to abandon the policy."
Sarah Palin echoed the line: "I don't think so right now. ... And I say that because there are other things to be worried about right now with the military."
That doesn't deter Lieberman, who has a reputation for stubbornness and who promises to "work as hard as I have on anything that's been important to me as a senator." It's probably wishful thinking given their habitual vituperation, but now that Joe Lieberman is spearheading one of their signature causes, perhaps liberals will come to appreciate the man they've loved to loathe.
Friday, February 12, 2010
Lieberman Discusses New Iran Sanctions Bill, Says Regime 'Has Sealed Its Fate'
RFE/RL: Senator Lieberman, you and Senator McCain are the chief authors of a new bill being introduced today in the Senate that would require President Obama to draw up a list of Iranian officials who have committed human rights abuses since the June election, and then impose punishments on them. What sort of penalties does the bill lay out and what do you hope the measure will accomplish?
Senator Joseph Lieberman: Today Senator McCain and I, joined by a broad group of colleagues in the Senate -- bipartisan, across the ideological spectrum -- are going to introduce targeted sanctions legislation, and this is different, this is not about Iran's nuclear weapons program. This is targeted at the individuals in the Iranian government who have perpetrated human rights abuses against the Iranian people.
And specifically, the bill will require President [Barack] Obama to draw up and then periodically update a list of individuals who have committed human rights abuses and then [it] imposes targeted sanctions on them. For instance, putting in place a visa ban on them or restricting their ability to conduct financial transactions. And also making the list of human rights abusers publicly available so that other governments, and just ordinary people around the world, including in Iran, can know exactly who these freedom-suppressing people are.
RFE/RL: So your hope for this legislation is to expose these people and the abuses they've committed and to punish them in ways that involve restricting their travel and so forth?
Lieberman: That is absolutely correct. And this is an expression, as I say, from a very broad group of senators, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, conservatives, liberals, [and] moderates. I think we're really speaking for the American people in crying out against the human rights abuses by the Iranian government and telling both the Iranian government and the people of Iran -- the protesters, the Green Movement -- ‘We see you, we hear you.’ In the case of the people of Iran, the protesters, we stand with you.
In the case of the government, which is suppressing the people's rights, [it's saying] we are going to take action against you because what you are doing in suppressing the rights of your people violates a series of international covenants that Iran has signed, including the covenant most particularly on civil and political rights.
RFE/RL: Today's anniversary in Iran has drawn thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators into the streets and, as we've seen before, members of the Revolutionary Guards and Basij Militia to try and brutally stop them. This is a scene the country has seen many times since the June election. How much longer do you see this continuing, and what signs, if any, do you see of the protest movement gaining ground?
Lieberman: I think the fate of the Iranian regime, the fanatical and repressive regime that has governed Iran now for 31 years with increasing brutality, its fate was sealed in the way it handled the people's protest after the unfair election last June.
And this is a tough struggle for the freedom fighters in Iran, as it has always been tough when people stand up and have the courage and principle to stand up against a repressive regime, but in the end, there is no doubt in my mind that the universal demand and yearning for freedom and justice is not going to be extinguished in Iran and ultimately will prevail, as it has prevailed in other places.
So when it happens, we don't know, but I think it is the moral and political obligation of the people of the United States and the people of every other civilized country to stand with the people of Iran when their universal human rights are being suppressed by their own government.
And [it's also our obligation] to say to the government as we negotiate -- or attempt to -- on nuclear weapons development in Iran: How can the rest of the world trust the Iranian regime if you lie to your own people? How can we trust you when you say to the world that you're not suppressing political dissent in your country when we know, because we see it with our own eyes, what you're doing, including now hanging people who are political protesters, jailing thousands who have done nothing more than to express their desire for the freedom that most of the rest of the people on earth enjoy.
I have tremendous regard for the people in Iran who are protesting their government's repression and brutality. There is nothing that separates the people of America from the people of Iran. What separates us only is the government in Iran. And hopefully that will change soon.
RFE/RL: An Iranian scholar in exile recently told a Congressional committee that while Iranians don't want the United States to interfere in their country's internal politics, at this particular moment in history, the desires of the international community and the desires of pro-democracy Iranians are the same, in that both have deep disagreements with the current regime. There's a debate in the White House and Congress, however, over what the United States can and should do to help the opposition Green Movement succeed. What do you think it should be doing?
Lieberman: Well, in the first place, it does seem to me that we have a principled responsibility as signatories to international treaties on civil and political rights to speak loudly when any other signatory to those treaties is violating the rights of its people, as Iran is today. We've done it with other countries and it's not interference. It's upholding the credibility and legitimacy of these international treaties.
Secondly...in my opinion the United States is defined still by its founding documents of 1776. This is a statement that [says] there is a self-evident truth that every human being is endowed by our Creator, by God, with these inalienable rights to life, and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and that our foreign policy is at its best when we are true to that founding principle. And it is powerfully so in the case of Iran.
So for instance, some of us [in Congress] have sponsored legislation that has provided a significant amount of money to make sure that the ability of the Green Movement in Iran to communicate with each other and the outside world through cell phones, Internet communications, Facebook, etc., is not suppressed by the government of Iran. To me that's not interference. That's standing by our national principles as Americans and it's also standing by the right of the people of Iran to determine their own destiny. That's not interference.
RFE/RL: Earlier this week President Obama announced that even though "the door is still open for negotiation," a new round of international sanctions is being prepared as punishment for Tehran's refusal to prove that its nuclear program is peaceful. The UN has already imposed three sets of sanctions on the Iranian regime. Do you think this one will work, and if so, why?
Lieberman: First let me say that I think President Obama was absolutely right to reach out to Iran and try to engage Iran, but in response to President Obama's extended hand, the regime in Iran has ultimately done nothing but give him a clenched first. It's been a lot of inconsistent comments -- one day seeming to be open to negotiations, the next day closing the fist again.
So I think President Obama's patience has grown thin now with the regime in Iran and he has, sadly, come to the conclusion that the only way to get the attention of [President Mahmud] Ahmadinejad and the others who have put Iran on this course to nuclear weapons development, suppression of its own people, is to impose economic sanctions. In other words, to begin to make the regime hurt.
It's unfortunate but the only way to make diplomacy work here is to put some teeth behind that diplomacy, and it's unfortunate because it's not our chosen course, nor of course is military action, but the consequences of just standing by and letting the regime in Iran go forward are horrific because it will strengthen the forces of extremism and terrorism in the Middle East, it will begin a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, it will end...any hope of peace between Israelis and Palestinians and a two-state solution. So unfortunately, this is the moment we're at and it's not the fault of the United States, it's the [failure of] Iran to take the opportunity that President Obama has given them.
RFE/RL: Is there a message you want to send to the people of Iran?
Lieberman: My message to the people of Iran who may be listening to this broadcast is first one of enormous admiration for the courage you are showing in the face of a government that is repressive and grows more brutal in response to your quest for freedom. Secondly, to say that the people of America stand with you and we hear you, we see you, we will do everything we can to give you the opportunity to determine your own destiny and not to have your destiny be stifled by an extremist government.
So please understand, as tough as the struggle is now, as many who have suffered and even been killed, ultimately your cause -- which is the universal timeless cause of freedom -- will prevail. There will be a new Iran. And I pray to God that it will come as soon as possible.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
Click here to see a video of Senators Lieberman and Collin at a press conference to discuss the importance of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program.
D.C. support needed to pressure Congress on school vouchersWashington Post
Thursday, February 4, 2010; A16
SENS. JOSEPH I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) haven't given up on their bid to save the federally funded voucher program that allows low-income families in the District to send their children to private schools. We would like to see them succeed, but it's clear that President Obama and the Democratic leadership in Congress have already written the epilogue to this worthy program. Their disregard for how vouchers have helped children is so complete that it seems that the best chance, perhaps the only chance, for the program's survival is for local officials to step in.The latest evidence of the administration washing its hands of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program is seen in the 2011 budget proposal it unveiled this week. It targets $9 million for the program but specifies that this will be "the final request" for federal funding. Administration officials say that the money, combined with unspent reserves, is sufficient to fulfill the president's promise that students currently in the program will be able to graduate from high school. That's disputed by the nonprofit that runs the program, which estimates that at least an additional $7 million is needed, along with a legislative commitment requiring the program's continuation for families currently enrolled. Adding to the uncertainty is the disappointing decision by the Washington Scholarship Fund to drop its administration of the program. No one -- not administration officials or those with the scholarship fund -- could tell us what will happen to the approximately 1,300 students if there is no one to handle their scholarships. Indeed, one has to wonder whether the administration is banking on the possibility that students will drop out of the program. What easier way to get rid of this pesky program that's so despised by the teachers unions and other traditional allies of the Democrats? It's troubling that an administration that supposedly prides itself on supporting "what works" is so willing to pull the plug on a program that, according to a rigorous scientific study, has proven to be effective.
The best solution, of course, is the one sought by a bipartisan coalition lead by Mr. Lieberman for Congress to reauthorize the program. He is set to announce plans Thursday to offer the reauthorization as an amendment to legislation moving in the Senate, and he's hoping for help from Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), majority whip and chairman of the subcommittee that funds the program. Mr. Durbin gave lip service to his possible support but has been content for Congress to let the program go down the tubes.Indeed, at one point, Mr. Durbin pretty much dared local officials to take over the program if they thought it was so important. The program is important to low-income families who see it as their children's only path to a good education. If the president and Congress won't see that, then we hope that Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and the D.C. Council will.
Thursday, January 28, 2010
Bloomberg Balks at 9/11 Trial, Dealing Blow to White House
The Obama administration on Wednesday lost its most prominent backer of the plan to try the self-described mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks in Lower Manhattan when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said the trial should not be held in New York City.
The mayor’s reversal was a political blow to the White House’s efforts to resolve a landmark terror case a few blocks from where Al Qaeda hijackers rammed planes into the World Trade Center, a trial that the president saw as an important demonstration of American justice.
Mr. Bloomberg said that a more secure location, like a military base, would be less disruptive and less costly. His remarks echoed growing opposition from Wall Street executives, the real estate industry and neighborhood groups, who have questioned the burdens that such a trial would bring to a heavily trafficked area of the city.
“It’s going to cost an awful lot of money and disturb an awful lot of people,” Mr. Bloomberg said at a news conference in Brooklyn. “My hope is that the attorney general and the president decide to change their mind.“
Administration officials expressed chagrin at the mayor’s statements, which appeared to come as a surprise. But there was no immediate talk of revising the decision to hold criminal trials for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and his co-defendants in New York.
“Our federal courts have a long history of safely and securely handling international terrorism cases, and no district has a longer history than the Southern District of New York in Manhattan,” said Dean Boyd, a Justice Department spokesman.
Mr. Bloomberg’s comments came in response to a question about a unanimous vote by a Lower Manhattan community board urging that the trial be held elsewhere. He did not explicitly demand that the trial be moved.
Still, his forceful objections came at a difficult time for the administration, which announced in November that it would prosecute Mr. Mohammed and other Qaeda operatives in federal criminal court rather than before a military tribunal.
Congressional Republicans are threatening a financial maneuver to block the trials from being held in New York and are certain to seize on the mayor’s remarks. On Tuesday, six senators wrote to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and urged him to abandon the idea.
The letter, signed by Senators Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut; John McCain, Republican of Arizona; Blanche L. Lincoln, Democrat of Arkansas; Susan M. Collins, Republican of Maine; Jim Webb, Democrat of Virginia; and Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, read, in part, “You will be providing them one of the most visible platforms in the world to exalt their past acts and to rally others in support of further terrorism.”
David B. Rivkin, a former Justice Department and White House lawyer in Republican administrations who favors military commissions, said that while the mayor’s view had no legal force, it had enormous political significance.
“The administration is at a precarious point on this issue,” Mr. Rivkin said. If a quick solution is not found to the dispute over a trial site, he said, “this whole thing could come crashing down,” forcing the administration to reverse course and place Mr. Mohammed before a military commission at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
Mr. Bloomberg had steadfastly supported the location of the trial. When the news broke two months ago, he declared, “It is fitting that 9/11 suspects face justice near the World Trade Center site, where so many New Yorkers were murdered.”
But over the past few weeks, he has heard from scores of business and community leaders who urged him to reverse course. Real estate brokers argued that security restrictions would dampen the market for apartments in Chinatown and TriBeCa; small-business owners feared a severe drop-off in customers; and residents worried that they would be unable to use their local streets.
The Police Department has said that in preparation for the trial, the area around the courthouse would be flooded with uniformed police officers, in cars and on horseback, and surrounded by 2,000 interlocking metal barriers.
“I believe it would destroy the economy in Lower Manhattan,” said Steve Spinola, president of the Real Estate Board of New York, which represents property owners. He has urged the mayor’s office to speak out against holding the trial in the city.
The city estimated it would spend more than $200 million a year on security for the trial, making it one of the most expensive security operations it would ever take on.
City Hall aides said that the complex trial could drag on for years, eventually costing the city close to $1 billion in the middle of a deep recession, though most of that is expected to be shouldered by the federal government.
Raymond W. Kelly, the city’s police commissioner, while publicly supporting the mayor’s earlier position, has also expressed alarm over the impact of the trial on the Police Department, which has shrunk significantly since Mr. Bloomberg took office in 2002. Providing security for the court case, he has told city officials, would “suck the oxygen” from the department and leave it little flexibility to pursue new initiatives, according to people told of the conversations.
On Wednesday, Mr. Bloomberg said the city could ultimately handle hosting the trial, but said it would be better if it were held outside the city.
“Can we provide security? Yes. Could you provide security elsewhere? Yeah,” he said. “The suggestion of a military base is probably a reasonably good one.”
Mr. Bloomberg added, with a hint of sarcasm, “It would be great if the federal government could find a site that didn’t cost a billion dollars, which using downtown will.”
Monday, January 25, 2010
Friday, January 22, 2010
Thursday, January 21, 2010
Dems have only themselves to blame
By: John Fortier
January 21, 2010
Democrats owe Joe Lieberman an apology. Not that he should expect one.
He and other Senate moderates have been reviled by the left during the health care debate. But if someone had listened more carefully to them, Democrats might already have passed health care reform and incoming GOP Sen. Scott Brown would not be driving to Washington in his pickup truck.
Moderates were always the key to getting health care reform done. For many months, the path to passing health care was clear. Democrats would have to accept most of what Sens. Lieberman (I-Conn.), Bayh, Landrieu, Lincoln, Baucus, Conrad, Carper, both Nelsons and other moderate Senate Democrats wanted. And realistically, they should have secured the votes of moderate Republican Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, too.
Democrats had numerous chances to make a deal with moderates but continued to hold out in the belief that something more progressive might prevail.
The date that should stick in everyone’s head is Oct. 13, nearly two months before Democrat Martha Coakley won her primary in Massachusetts and when no one had even heard of Brown. Oct. 13 was the day the Senate Finance Committee voted 14-9 for a health care reform package. That vote won the support of a number of influential moderate Democrats and also Snowe. With only a small bit of tweaking, this approach might have brought on other Democratic moderates not on the committee and Collins, Snowe’s Maine colleague.
Democrats should have taken that deal and run. It would have given Democrats 80 percent of what they were looking for, and it would have been a major change of policy in a Democratic direction, at a time when health care reform still polled reasonably well.
But what followed was an endless set of negotiations to reflect more progressive concerns. Majority Leader Harry Reid’s decision to merge the Finance Committee’s bill with the more liberal Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee version fed liberal hopes for a robust public option. Even when the final Senate bill moved closer to Senate moderates’ preferences (although losing Snowe’s vote), the House, too, wanted to renegotiate the deal, to reflect its progressive priorities.
The result was three months of messy public debate within the Democratic Party.
To give President Barack Obama credit, in negotiations with congressional leaders, he has been the voice in favor of cutting a deal and accepting moderates’ wishes. He questioned Reid’s decision to fight for a more progressive bill rather than coalesce around the more moderate Finance Committee approach.
But Obama also deserves some blame. He did not put his foot down and insist on cutting a compromise deal early in the process. Nor did Speaker Nancy Pelosi or Majority Leader Reid. Whatever you think of President George W. Bush, he understood how to cut a deal. He had smaller congressional majorities but followed a formula of having the House pass a bill close to his priorities quickly and then negotiate one deal with a few key Senate moderates.
Even Democrats’ slow approach might have yielded a health care reform bill but for the fact that a special election in Massachusetts was scheduled for Jan. 19 and that the phenomenon that is Brown took advantage of the brewing discontent about health care, the economy and other issues.
The importance of his victory should not be underestimated. Even in Democratic Massachusetts, Brown tapped into voters’ worries that health care was too much change, too expensive and taking up legislative time that should have been dealing with more immediate economic problems.
Yet even after this political sea change, Democrats are still ignoring their moderate members. Many liberals continue to hold out for a more progressive approach through delaying seating Brown (not going to happen) or using reconciliation to pass a more comprehensive bill with only 51 votes in the Senate.
Even the more pragmatic president and Democratic leaders like Steny Hoyer favor the House passing the Senate’s version of health care, getting it done quickly and with a better deal than one could get with only 59 Democrats in the Senate.
But the Brown victory has shaken the political earth. What might have been acceptable ground for moderates to stand on a month ago has crumbled away.
Today, leaders will find that many moderate Democrats would rather drop health care reform altogether than be seen as shoving health care down the throats of an electorate that just sent a strong message to Washington in opposition.
Substantial health care reform is effectively dead — not because Republicans oppose it but because Democratic moderates will see the prospect of quick passage in the face of voter discontent as political suicide in the fall.
And Lieberman can say to his critics: “I told you so.”
John Fortier is a research fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.