Cornyn on Possible Iran Attack and Filibuster

On Sunday, March 18, Sam Husseini spoke with Senatory John Cornyn (R-TX), outside of the studios of ABC News. Cornyn, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee among his other assignments, expressed the opinion that Iran represents “a very real threat” but that he did not anticipate the US to attack Iran unless something “no one of us expects happens.” On whether Bush should seek another authorization of force, Cornyn said “I think that would be the proper order of things.” When later asked about Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons in the region and how that might play into the dynamic that may fuel Iran alleged pursuit of the same, Cornyn refused to acknowledge Israel’s weapons and stated that “no comparison” could be drawn between Israel and Iran in part because Israel is a US ally.

Sam Husseini also inquired about the Republicans threat of a filibuster on legislation regulating the funding of the Iraq war in contrast to the Republicans decrying the possibility of Democrats filibustering Bush administration nominees. The Senator said he saw a difference between filibustering legislation and, as he saw it, unconstitutionally hindering a President’s nominations.

Appended is a transcript of the exchange.


Sam Husseini: Senator, on other issues, does the administration have the authority to attack Iran? And if it does, what will Congress do?

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX): Well the administration has made it clear that they are not going to attack Iran unless they — Iran — unless, something happens that no one of us expects to happen. Obviously, when there was a request to use force, the President has come to Congress and sought that authorization and I think that would be the proper order of things. But I think we should be, should recognize that Iran does represent a very real threat to stability in the Middle East. They’re defying the civilized world by seeking a nuclear weapon and the last thing we need is a state-sponsored international terrorism get a nuclear weapon that could be used to kill an awful lot of innocent people. So I think the matter is very serious.

SH: On the filibusters, there seems to be a discrepancy as to when the filibuster is used, its used when — its off the table when Bush wants to get a judicial nominee through but its on the table on other matters. So isn’t there a total double standard as to when the filibuster is used in the Senate?

JC: That’s a great question. And actually, there is a difference between legislation which is totally within the purview and authority of Congress to make rules in establishing how we pass legislation. I think the sixty vote rule is entirely appropriate there. There is a bipartisan support for that sixty vote requirement. Now on nominations, it implicates the power and authority of the separate branch of government, the Executive Branch, and I do think its sets an unconstitutionally high burden to require 60 votes to confirm a President’s nominees. So, I do think there is an important distinction to be made.

SH: Back to Iran, doesn’t Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons destabilize the region, especially since the U.S. government has never acknowledged its existence?

JC: I think there is no comparison between Israel and Iran and those who would draw a comparison ignore the fact that Israel is our ally and one of the most important points of democracy, and one of the most democratic nations in the entire Middle East. Iran is a state-sponsored international terrorism, sponsors Hezbollah and others that kill innocent civilians in pursuit of their agenda. To me, there is no comparison whatsoever.

SH: But, the U.S. government –

JC: I think that rather than allow a filibuster over here, perhaps another question –

SH: [laughs].

Barry Electric was the videographer for this stakeout.

[originally published on Washington Stakeout on March 19, 2007; posted on posthaven Nov. 13, 2015]

Feinstein on cluster bombs, demurring on Iraqi oil law

After her March 18 appearance on CBS’s Face The Nation, Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA), spoke with the press gaggle outside the studio. Sam Husseini, with The Washington Stakeout, asked her about stalled cluster bomb legislation she has proposed and then about the Iraqi oil law that the Bush administration has backed — she did not answer the latter question as she was being called away by an aide and said nothing again when asked as to why she couldn’t or wouldn’t comment on it.

Also outside the studios, activists with the group Code Pink gathered in opposition to funding of the war. They chanted under the banner of “Don’t buy Bush’s war.”

Continue reading for a transcript of the exchange.


Sam Husseini: Why do you think your legislation, your proposal, on cluster bombs has not gotten a great deal of support from your colleagues, at this point?

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA): There is a lot of misunderstanding about the legislation and cluster bombs. And its been interesting to me as to why it is so difficult. Cluster bombs have a forty percent, what’s called a dud rate, which means they don’t explode on first impact, but they rest in the field or in the school yard or the park or wherever the bomblet is, and then when some innocent civilian picks it up, child or adult, it explodes and generally blows off an arm or a leg. I think they are bad things in general, but in particular, I believe that they should have dud rate ratios of one percent. Internationally, this is the belief and this is our legislation. We’ve had a very difficult time with it. But we will be doing more in the future to move that along. You can be sure of that.

SH: Are you concerned about the Iraq oil law? The Iraq oil law that the Administration’s pushing through to privatize Iraqi oil?

[Feinstein shrugs]

Barry Electric was the videographer for this stakeout. This post was edited on March 20, 2006 for clarity.

[originally published on Washington Stakeout on March 19, 2007; posted on posthaven Nov. 13, 2015]

Two Nice People Have a Ridiculous Discussion

Stephen Colbert is an alleged Catholic and a funny comedian who says nothing he believes. Mara Vanderslice is a political consultant and presumed pacifist who invokes God and says nothing that would seriously scrutinize the Democratic party. So they talk about religion and politics -- without mentioning war or abortion. Unintentionally very funny. Video, prefixed by obnoxious ad is here.

[originally published at on March 6, 2007]

Luntz Tells Me He Hasn't Thought of My Polling Insight

Frank Luntz, the famous pollster, was at the National Press Club this evening, where I work. He opened up the floor for comments toward the beginning of his talk, so I chimed up. He called on me saying that I look like Allen Ginsberg, so I recited the beginning ofHowl. I'd never been told by anyone that I look like Ginsberg -- what was eerie is that I'd been talking to a friend about the poet just a few hours before, more on that in short order. I thanked Luntz for the compliment and gave him my crit of polling:

Pollsters as far as I can tell never actually ask people who they want to be president among the candidates. They ask people some variation of "if the election were held today, which of the following would you vote for". They don't ask "who among the candidates to you agree with the most?" or "who among the candidates to you most want to be president?"

And so they are not really opinion polls, they simply purported to try to predict the outcome of an election. The current method turns citizens into pundits. It marginalizes candidates in the primaries that seem to have little chance of winning in a general election and totally undermines third party candidates in the general election.

I outlined this in a piece in 2004: "Why Public Opinion Polls Aren't".

After a bit of back and forth, Luntz seemed to really get the point far more than any other pollster I've talked to. He said he'd consider incorporating it into his work. We'll see.

The funniest part of the evening came when Luntz asked people about what they'd "imagine" their life to be like -- what their "American dream" was. The first person's response was to leave the U.S. and go to Catalonia. More on the "American dream" down the line as well.

[originally published at on Feb. 26, 2007]

Rice Questioned on Pre-9/11 Statements that Iraq Had Not Rearmed

Outside the Capitol Hill studios of Fox News, Sam Husseini asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice about claims she made — as National Security Advisor with then Secretary of State Colin Powell in 2001 — that Saddam Hussein’s “military forces have not been rebuilt.” Claims made not too long before the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the United States in part on the asserted premise of Iraq being a military threat.

In February of 2001, Colin Powell said: “He has not developed any significant capabilities with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors.” In July of 2001, Condoleeza Rice is on the record as saying, “…we are able to keep arms from him [Saddam Hussein]. His military forces have not been rebuilt.”

Both of those statements are documented in a film by journalist John Pilger and a relevantclip from the film of these quotes is available on YouTube.

With no response to that line of questioning, Husseini queried Rice on a widely accepted fact that has not been officially acknowledged by the United States — Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons.

However, the Secretary of State stopped for no-one, and drove off into the morning snowstorm.


Sam Husseini: Madame Secretary, please. Please just a few short questions.

Condoleeza Rice: Sorry. Gotta Run.

SH: You can make time for the press.

CR: I just did.

SH: Well that was some other press. Madame Secretary in 2001 both you and Colin Powell said Saddam Hussein didn’t have weapons of mass destruction. You said his military forces have not been rebuilt. How do you reconcile that with your previous — with your statements — during the buildup of the war?

Secretary Rice, please? This is an important question. I don’t think you have been asked this question. How do you reconcile? — Does Israel have nuclear weapons? Can you answer that? It’s a very simple question. Secretary Gates said they did — implied it — during his confirmation hearings. Please. Please. They’re two very simple questions.

This article was originally posted on February 25, 2007. It was edited to add supporting material on February 27, 2007.

[originally published on Washington Stakeout on Feb. 25, 2007; posted on posthaven Nov. 13, 2015]

Edwards’ Mid-East policy doesn’t admit Israeli nukes

Leaving the studios of CBS, presidential candidate Senator John Edwards repeated his position that he was for direct engagement with Iran. That position is qualified by Edwards also insisting that “all options are on the table.”

In January, in a satellite broadcast to the Herzliya Conference in Israel Senator Edwards asserted a domino theory-like prediction, “once Iran goes nuclear, other countries in the Middle East will go nuclear, making Israel’s neighborhood much more volatile.”

Sam Husseini wondered if the region wasn’t already further destabilized by Israel’s own first possession of nuclear arms in the Middle East (excluding the United States’ own projection of force).

Husseini asked the senator if he would acknowledge Israel’s nuclear weapons and wondered if the lack of such acknowledgment also aggravated the situation. Edwards spoke around the question. Presumably an Edwards presidency would continue the US tradition of not openly acknowledging Israel’s nuclear arsenal.


Sam Husseini: Follow-up on Iran: You’ve said that they should be negotiating, but you’ve also said at the [Herzliya] Security Conference in Israel that all options should be on the table. Isn’t that an implied threat that violates international law? That’s part one.

John Edwards: Oh no, far from it. I think that this is a situation with Iran where the use of diplomacy and the smart use of diplomacy has a significant chance of success. There is no way to know, ultimately, whether it will be successful without doing it. But we need to do it in a very thoughtful and smart way. We need to engage our European allies and the European banking institutions so that we can put maximum economic pressure on the Iranians. And we need to do everything in our power to get the Russians and the Chinese to participate. That will be more difficult than the Europeans.

SH: You also said at that same conference: “once Iran goes nuclear other nations in the Middle East will go nuclear, making Israel’s neighborhood much more volatile.” Senator, doesn’t Israel have nuclear weapons? And doesn’t that create volatility and doesn’t it cause resentment, that’s part one. Doesn’t Israel’s possession cause volatility? And part two: doesn’t the U.S. cause resentment by not acknowledging it? The U.S. government has never acknowledged that Israel has a massive nuclear arsenal — which it does?

JE: What I believe, and what I believe most thoughtful people believe, is that Iran having a nuclear weapon and having a proliferation of nuclear weapons throughout the Middle East, because the odds are high that if Iran goes nuclear that the Saudis, will go nuclear, the Egyptians will go nuclear, the Jordanians may go nuclear, is not a good thing in the most volatile region of the world which is way we need to use a thoughtful diplomatic process to deal with this issue in Iran.

SH: But you are not acknowledging that Israel has nuclear weapons! Senator, you’re not acknowledging that Israel has nuclear weapons!

JE: Excuse me, I can’t hear him. I’m sorry. …

SH: Senator, in your answer You didn’t acknowledge that Israel has nuclear weapons, doesn’t that cause more resentment? Senator, its an empirical question, Senator.

[originally published on Washington Stakeout on Feb. 25, 2007; posted on posthaven Nov. 13, 2015]

Schwarzenegger dismisses single-payer healthcare

Dismissing the idea of a single payer health care system in his state, via the specter of an imagined inefficient government bureaucracy, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger spoke of a health care system where all citizens were “insured.” His vision seemed to keep firmly in place a private layer of industry between citizens and health care services that one might think could be obsoleted or diminished by an state mandated system.

As he left for his car, The Washington Stakeout’s Sam Husseini asked the governor if he believed there was “such a thing as a business bureaucracy,” to which Schwarzenegger responded “oh yeah” — but there was no opportunity to further explore the governor’s thoughts, or see what he knew about the examples and lessons learned in Canada.


Arnold Schwarzenegger: Any questions you have?

Sam Husseini: How about single-payer? Have you considered single-payer health care in California to really get the insurance companies out of the business to get a Canadian-style model?

AS: We have considered everything. When you get into the subject of fixing a broken health care system you think about everything. And its something that people have proposed, but we have put a good proposal together we believe very strongly that we want to do it through he private sector and not have government run bureaucracy in creating another big bureaucracy. I think the important thing in health care is that everyone is insured, number one. That everyone participates and is responsible. And that the insurance companies cover everyone and don’t pick and choose. …

SH: Is their such a thing as a business bureaucracy, governor?

AS: Oh yea.

SH: Ok. So have you met with Canadian officials?

[originally published on Washington Stakeout on Feb. 25, 2007; posted on posthaven Nov. 13, 2015]

Am I Wrong to Try to Expose the Ripoff of Iraq's Oil?

I've been asking questions about the ripoff of Iraq's oil. But The New York Times reports (Feb. 4, 2007):

Mr. Abdul Jabbar said he rushed to collapsed buildings trying to help the wounded but finding mainly hands, skulls and other body parts. At one point, he discovered the remains of a close friend, who was engaged to be married.

"How would you feel if you were in this position?" he said Sunday. "The government is supposed to protect us, but they are not doing their job. I watch the TV and see the announcements on the imminent implementation of the security plan. Where is it for God's sake?"

"I wish they would attack us with a nuclear bomb and kill us all," he added, "so we will rest and anybody who wants the oil -- which is the core of the problem -- can come and get it. We can not live this way anymore; we are dying slowly every day."

The truck exploded around dusk on Saturday at a market flush with crowded food stands. The crater from the blast was large enough to hold a sedan; the blast threw the truck's gnarled engine block than 100 yards away.

[originally published at on Feb. 8, 2007]

How Did Nader React to "A Stolen Election"?

Nader now (Video on Jon Stewart, Feb. 8, 2007):

"Republicans stole it from Gore. Gore won the election, he won it won it in Florida but it was stolen from him [applause]. You would think that these guys would go after the thieves instead of some little Green Party."

Nader then (Denver Post, Nov. 22, 2000):
Third-party presidential wannabe Ralph Nader has a simple solution to the stalemate in Florida: Toss a coin.

He's not being flip.

"It sounds kind of arbitrary. But I'm not joking," the Green Party candidate told The Denver Post on Tuesday. "There's really no other way to end this. At this point, no one's ever going to know who really won Florida."

[originally published at on Feb. 8, 2007]