Chicago Sun-Times
The scoop from Washington

Sweet Column: Durbin at Guantanamo/Rahm Emanuel vs Howard Dean

| 12 Comments

The Pentagon took an extra security precaution for Monday's trip to the Guantanamo detention center by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), a strong critic of the prison: It made sure Durbin brought along a Republican.

Durbin toured the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay with Sen. George Allen (R-Va.).


The Defense Department worked with Durbin's office for more than a month to make sure the day trip was not just a quick in and out. Some congressional delegations observe only part of the extensive prison operation. Durbin, who has a top secret plus clearance, signed up to see it all. The Pentagon wanted a second set of eyes with him -- to see the situation, if need be, through another set of lenses. Or to put it another way -- if Durbin returned comparing Gitmo to a gulag, the military wanted someone who could provide a rebuttal about treatment of detainees.

Just over a year ago, in June, 2005, the usually verbally adroit Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, stumbled badly -- the worst political error of his career -- when discussing the conditions for prisoners in Guantanamo. From the floor of the Senate, he compared the treatment to "Nazis, Soviets in their gulags or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others -- that had no concern for human beings."

Durbin's words drew rebukes from his friends and provided grist for his foes. He provided material for all sorts of commentators at Fox News. However poorly inmates were treated, Durbin was wrong to compare the U.S. military to the Nazi genocide, the Stalinist regime and the Pol Pot murders. He ended up apologizing from the Senate floor.

Durbin understood that his day trip would serve to resurrect the low-point episode. But the situation has changed over the past year. The Supreme Court just said the Bush White House had to stop special military trials for detainees. It said the administration violated the Geneva Conventions and U.S. law. Bush is being urged to shutter Guantanamo from a variety of quarters.

Durbin toured everywhere, even to areas not mapped out in advance. He visited the camp where inmates recently committed suicide. He talked to interrogators and observed a prisoner being interrogated.

Durbin was accompanied by Adm. Harry Harris, the base commander. Durbin told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that the tour was eye-opening: "We were given access to the entire camp facility. I think it was one of the first tours that saw everything, and I want to salute Adm. Harris, who I think is doing a great job with the soldiers and sailors at Guantanamo (under) very trying conditions.''

Durbin observed the interrogation via a camera, so the prisoners did not know anyone was watching. "It was much different than you might imagine. A relationship had been developed between the interrogator and the translator. The interrogator sat down, opened a bag, handed the detainee a Subway sandwich. He lit up and started eating the sandwich and started talking. It was a much different circumstance than most people would imagine.''

Though Durbin was impressed with the operation, it did not change his opinion that Guantanamo ought to be closed down. Durbin told Blitzer, "I understand the powerful negative image of Guantanamo around the world. And I do believe we should close down that facility over a few months' period of time.''

Emanuel vs. Dean

Tense. That's a word to describe the relation between Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean and Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), the boss of the Dems' House political operation.

Emanuel is pressuring Dean to keep a pot of money around to spend on his highest priority House races. Dean is willing to fork over some cash to Emanuel, but does not want to give him a blank check. This matter has been played out in the insider political press since May.

Dean has made a deal with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who runs the Democrats' Senate political organization and has cordial relations with the Democratic Governors Association and the Democratic Legislative campaign committee.

After some negotiation, Dean has made an offer to Emanuel to help support the November candidates. No surprise, Emanuel wants more.

Talks continue. "We are just in a perpetual state of working out the details," Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Bill Burton told me.

Emanuel needs to pick up 15 seats for the Democrats to grab control of the House. Win or lose, Emanuel will not seek a second term as DCCC chair. As expected.


Copyright © The Sun-Times Company
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

12 Comments

Re: Emanuel vs. Dean

It may be worth noting that Mr. Emanuel is asking Dr. Dean for more money for congressional races after spending/directing over half-a-million dollars to undermine a Dean-supported, grassroots democratic congressional candidate in the 6th District primary.

Just a thought.

Yep your right John Laesch is in Washington DCCC is now seeing that Hastert in the 14th is in deep do do. They look like they are going to fund him. Dean claimed that district was safe not no more

To Austin Mayor....Perhaps it is worth noting that christine cegalis, who I did vote for 2 years ago, did not get my vote this time because of one big reason: To win. She lost the last election and I was proud to help Tammy Duckworth get the nod. We cannot afford to have someone like Pete Roskam get the 6th.

Fed up with DCCC's Rahm [and his DSCC ilk-- ]thinking they can just HAVE any money being raised for rebuilding the Dem party (as Dean has committed to doing), and then intruding on congressional races all over the place, pressuring the grassroots and voters of any given district to only support the candidate of RAHM's choice!!? As if HE knows better than the people of the district who should be their candidate--even when there are multiple candidates in primary races! I got so many email and phone pitches from them and refused to give them a cent, after the way they muscled Hackett, Cegelis, and many others. Those inside-the-beltway top-down Lieberman-endorsing "centrists" can find their own damn money. Me, I'm giving my $$ to Dean's 50-state strategy and individual candidates whose positions I respect. Not because they "can win" (remember Kerry's big claim to be "electable?") but because it better be about the issues, or what's the point?

Mick,

If you read my post again, you will see that my point was not that the wrong candidate won. It was that Mr. Emanuel spent money like it was no issue in that primary against a Dean candidate, and now he is saying there isn't enough money left to compete in the general elections, and he is turning to Dr. Dean for more money. It doesn't strike me as suprising that he isn't getting everything he wants.

I ama Republican, and if the Dumacrat's dont win the house this year Rham (D-Tomszak) should be investigated. i love that D-Tomsczak ,lol. Also people dont even really focus on thiese races until summer is over. So relax and I will discuss this again in Sept. Also, I'd love if the dumacrats can win so can have a national gun ban like DC, and Minneapolis so we can be safe! And if we are really lucky they can make our neighborhoods nice like Austin is! Lets use Austin HS as the model, and made Rickie Daley emporer and just keep voting him inlike FDR was!

Ralph,

My wife and I had a disagreement about your apparent belief that I was, in fact, the mayor of Austin.

She thinks someone could be stupid enough to believe that, but I said you must be trying to make some kind of failed joke because no one could be that simple. I figured that you had to understand that I am merely using a pseudonym and that I have no relationship whatsoever with the Austin neighborhood -- or the city in Texas for that matter.

But after reading your most recent post -- with its numerous mispellings, grammatical mistakes and juvenile taunts -- I am now convinced that my wife is a much better judge of people than I am.

So I'll see if I can explain it in terms you will understand: So-Called "Austin Mayor" is no more responsible for the neighborhood or city of Austin than "Ralph A. Furley" is responsible for Jack living with Chrissy and Janet.

-- S.C.A.M.

DALE LOUD AND CLEAR ,VETRAN TO VETRAN. You DO NOT SPEAK for the MAJORITY of vetrans. Unlike you WE DONT WANT TO LIVE ON FOODSTAMPS! We support our troops, who are in the heat of the battle. This war on terror is WW3. We havent been attacked here since 9/11. We have killed atleast 100,000 islamofascists in Afghanistan and Iraq. Selfish and selfcentered welfareminded people like you , when you act like you speak for all vetrans makes the rest of us SICK!

Dean's 50-state strategy will come to fruition in 2008. It is not the DNC's job or responsibility to fund congressional races. The DNC is a national organization whose main purpose is national politics and national elections. Americans are free to donate to either the DCCC, the DSCC or the DNC as they see fit.

Dean's 50-state strategy is the only thing that can possibility revive the Dems electoral prospects in the South, an area of the country that before Dean, was completely ignored.

And what's by Dubya's obsession with talking about eating a pig while the middle east burns? Wotta embarassment he is...

The DNC is right and the DCCC is dead wrong. The DCCC and it's leadership don't have a good track record and need a check on their system of picking races. Didn't the DCCC Chair lose Congress for the first time in 40 years when he worked for Bill Clinton?

Austin is IKEY CARRUTHERS little fifdom isn't it? He runs the neighborhood, keeps the welfare and food stamps rollin in so peoples votes democratics! You were never, could never run anything ,because you are an insane communist! Rickey Daley control's your neighborhood with his puppet IKEY! Lets call Austin IKEYVILLE! Like wrigleyville only instead of yuppies , it's run by drugdealers and gangs, right?

Ralph,

Thanks for taking the time to confirm your mental status.

-- S.C.A.M.

Leave a comment

Get the Sweet widget

More widgets

Video

Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Stay in touch

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on July 13, 2006 8:14 AM.

Sweet Column: Novak breaks silence. was the previous entry in this blog.

Bush in Germany with Chancellor Merkel: On Iran, North Korea, Lebanon. is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.