Congressional Democrats Move Towards Setting Iraq Timeline
In an effort to override the long-term and high cost Iraq strategy of the Bush administration, Congressional Democrats have introduced legislation in both the House and Senate to force a withdrawal of troops by the Spring of 2008. The proposed legislation sets benchmarks for progress in establishing the self-reliance of the Iraqi government to be met on a specific schedule and verified by the administration and the military. The proposal also includes a prohibition on military action against Iran. It has been introduced as part of a supplemental spending bill along with a number of earmarks for pet Democrat projects which are expected to add at least $120 billion dollars in over-budget spending.
Objections to the bill have already been heard from prominent Republicans, some Democrats who want a faster withdrawal, representatives of the administration and military leaders including General David Petraeus who has recently suggested that resolving the situation in Iraq will take longer and require more troops than the Democrats are willing to support. Passage of the bill is problematic because of opposition for a variety of reasons from some Democrats and most Republicans. For more see stories in The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times.
President Bush Heads for a Hostile Latin America
President Bush has just started a seven-day tour through Latin America, promoting hemispheric free trade, and negotiating an ethanol alliance with Brazil. His visit is already mired in controversy as radical elements in many Latin American countries stage large protests against his policies. Never one to miss an opportunity to harass the United States, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is appearing at a rally in Buenos Aires, a stone's throw from Montivideo Uruguay where Bush will be appearing at the same time. Chavez has been working for months to encourage a rising tide of socialism throughout Latin America, using funds from his oil-enriched treasury to provide aid to the poor in neighboring countries and promoting the idea of 'Bolivarian' revolution. Bush's message of free trade and open markets has not been as well received as Chavez' money and populist message, even when accompanied by a promise of increased spending on foreign aid.
Bush appears to be popular with leaders of the major nations in the region, but much less so with socialists in the press and at protest rallies throughout the region. Some protests are expected to turn violent as they did during Bush's last visit to the region. Police in Brazil and Argentina are preparing for possible rioting. For more see stories in BBC News, The New York Times and The International Herald Tribune.
Libby Conviction Leaves More Questions than Answers
While I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby awaits sentencing on his four convictions for perjury and obstructing justice, speculation is running wild in the press about the entire prosecutorial process. An article today by Robert Novak, who was a central figure in the case, has led to a rash of second-guessing of prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, and calls for a Presidential pardon for Libby. Central to the controversy is the revelation that Fitzgerald was aware virtually from the beginning of the case that neither Libby nor any of the other White House figures accused in the press of being associated with the leak of Valerie Plame's identity, was actually the source of the leak, which instead originated with Undersecretary of State Richard Armitage.
Concern has been raised about why Fitzgerald would continue to pursue Libby when he was already aware of his innocence, and puzzlement is widespread over why Libby would perjure himself when he apparently had nothing to hide and no one to protect. Despite the appearance that Libby was a dupe singled out for unwarranted prosecution, a pardon may be unlikely because of President Bush's established reluctance of override the courts. For more see Novak Editorial, The Mobile Register and audio at NPR
Texas Legislature Moves to Shut Down Toll Road Mania
Riding a wave of overwhelming public protest, State Senator Robert Nichols, who had originally supported massive toll road development in Texas when he was on the state Transportation Commission, has taken the lead in efforts by the Texas Legislature to declare a two-year moratorium on the development of private toll roads, including the notorious Trans-Texas Corridor. The proposal has near universal support in the House and Senate and is expected to pass by early next week. In recent years toll road projects began popping up all over the state, encouraged by pro-toll Governor Rick Perry and his appointees to the Transportation Commission.
Concerns have been raised that many of these toll roads use existing, paid-for or fully funded roads, and that administration of and the profit from many of the toll roads was slated to go to private management companies based outside the United States. Concern has also been widespread over whether many of the roads are actually necessary and over the massive seizure of private property for use by the state or other private businesses. The proposed bill calls for a special commission to study the potential impact of building privately operated toll roads for profit in the state. Accompanying legislation would cap toll road rates and make it illegal to convert already existing freeways to tollways. For more see The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly and The Economics.Powered by Sidelines