Written by Jeannette Di Louie, Assistant EditorMonday, May 18, 2009
- A coalition of liberal groups started the week out by filing petitions to disbar 12 Bush administration attorneys — including former attorney generals John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales and Michael Chertoff - due to their involvement in allowing harsh interrogation techniques of suspected terrorists. The direct request listed their crime as “moral turpitude” and the misuse of “their license to practice law to provide legal cover for the war crime of torture.”
- President Obama tried to work out differences with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu face-to-face. But considering the main focuses of their meeting, that might not happen as soon as he would like. Urging Netanyahu to stop Jewish settlements and make peace with Palestine, Obama failed to sway the prime minister’s stance that Israel can’t and won’t negotiate with anybody who denies its right to exist.
- Obama received more direct criticism from Gov. Jim Gibbons of Nevada, after the president said no to a requested meeting during an official trip to Las Vegas. “I am deeply disappointed at the hypocrisy shown by this administration,” Gibbons declared publicly. “President Obama is coming to Las Vegas later this month for a political fundraiser, but he will not help the struggling families in Las Vegas and Nevada who are out of work because of his reckless comments. This is politics, pure and simple. President Obama stood for change, but all he has done is brought negative economic change to Nevada.”
- The president got another big no from a much more surprising source on Tuesday… Senate Democrats, who removed all mention of financing for the closure of the already controversial Guantanamo Bay detention facility from the $91 billion war-spending request currently in the process of being approved. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid stated repeatedly that his larger party opposes the release or transfer of the detainees to U.S. soil.
- Also facing restrictions are U.S. banks. Though nine of the nineteen banks were given a clean-enough bill of health from Treasury Secretary Timothy Geither and his TARP program, all nineteen of the institutions covered in the stress tests will have to follow further guidelines, including a potential 2nd stress test. In addition, banks still will not be able to pay back their dues until the government says they can.
- A broke California doesn’t make news anymore these days. What does is when Californians rise up en masse to protest budget measures including higher taxes. The electorate left state officials with little choice but to make cuts, since it rejected all of the proposals except for lawmakers forgoing pay raises during deficit years.
- Some international news that had the U.S. press buzzing was Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad claiming that he and his have test-fired a new advanced missile with an approximate range of 1,200 miles. With that capability, Iran could successfully target Israel, southeastern Europe and U.S. bases in the Middle East, and doesn’t bode well for President Obama’s renewed offer to meet with Iranian leaders or his attempts to convince Israel not to take military action against Iran.
- Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner made bold assertions that the U.S. financial system is “starting to heal,” citing how major banks had raised $56 billion since the stress tests showed ten of them needed more capital to successfully navigate a prolonged downturn.
- Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is still in hot water among Republican lawmaker after she first changed her story repeatedly whether she was or was not informed about the harsh interrogation tactics used on terrorist detainees, and then accused the CIA of lying to Congress. Now, rival lawmakers are asking her to put her money where her mouth is, with an investigation into the accusation. Though FBI Director Robert Mueller has said he can’t launch any investigation without proper channels being crossed, more Republicans are stepping forward to press for him to do just that.
- And in the most shocking story of the day, though it didn’t officially make national news until the following morning, four men were arrested in the act of setting explosives to blow up two Jewish synagogues. They allegedly planned to target U.S. military planes next. The official charges for 55 year-old James Cromitie, 28 year-old David Williams, 32 year-old Onta Williams and Laguerre Payen, were conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction within the United States and conspiracy to acquire and use anti-aircraft missiles.
- The Justice Department announced that terror suspect Ahmed Ghailani would be the first of the Guantanamo Bay detainees to face terrorism charges in a U.S. civilian court. Attorney General Eric Holder was quoted as saying, “By prosecuting [him] in federal court, we will ensure that he finally answers for his alleged role in the bombing of our embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.”
- Former Vice President Dick Cheney went head-to-head with President Obama on Thursday, delivering a speech defending the Bush administration’s use of advanced interrogation techniques which his political opposition including Obama have labeled torture. Right after the sitting president delivered an address at the National Archives arguing that waterboarding and similar interrogation practices “did not advance our war and counter-terrorism efforts” but “undermined them” instead, Cheney took his turn in a different part of town moments after Obama’s conclusion. Pointing out Obama’s call for government transparency, Cheney then called attention to his withholding key information concerning who was actually waterboarded and the information gained from doing so.
- The president wrapped up the week by signing a unanimously-passed bill - from both the House and Senate - granting the Pentagon new power to rein in wasteful spending. “Every penny we waste on this effort because of contracts or cost overruns is not only an affront to American taxpayers, it’s an affront to our military,” Obama declared.
- And Vice President Joe Biden visited Lebanon to once again pledge support for the government ahead of key parliamentary elections… elections that could result in the pro-Western majority falling in favor of the Iranian-backed militant group Hezbollah. The White House said the purpose of the visit was “to reinforce the United States’ support for an independent and sovereign Lebanon,” but some in that country said the real reason was to intimidate and coerce the upcoming results into favoring American wishes.
All in all, a short week but a busy one filled with more than one tense moment and plenty of talkback from both major political sides. Still, hopefully political catfights can all be put aside in favor of a more pleasant national favorite … BBQ and an extended weekend.
Have a pleasant and restful Memorial Day, and I’ll see you back on Tuesday.
Jeannette Di Louie
Disclosure: No positions