Pelosi & Obama praise George W. Bush. For real.

Mark the date: It might be the one day you hear some Democrats saying nice things about former President George W. Bush.

The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum was dedicated today in Dallas.

From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

“Today, we take the opportunity to honor our 43rd President, George W. Bush, for his service to our country. No matter whether you agreed with his policies, there was never any doubt that he was a leader of conviction, dedication to duty, and faith in American ideals.

“Committed to taking concrete steps on energy independence, President Bush bucked the partisan divide to work with Democrats in setting higher fuel economy standards that reduce our dependence on foreign oil and ensure a stronger and cleaner future for our country. While many events may distinguish his presidency, his devotion to combatting the scourge of HIV/AIDS will certainly define his legacy. Thanks to his commitment to work with Congress in establishing PEPFAR, we are saving millions of lives around the world and working toward the day when we completely eliminate new HIV infections among children.

“I hope the George W. Bush Library long stands as a true tribute to his passion, patriotism, and presidency.”

Read the remarks President Obama delivered at the dedication ceremony, after the jump:
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Activists again urge disbarment for Yoo, Haynes

Two Bay Area lawyers who played roles in the Bush Administration’s legal justifications for torture should be disbarred, according to papers filed Friday in Washington, D.C.

John YooDisbar Torture Lawyers, a group of non-governmental organizations with more than a million members, filed complaints with the District of Columbia Bar’s Board on Professional Responsibility against John Yoo, now a professor at the University of California, Berkeley’s Boalt Hall Law School, and William Haynes, now chief corporate counsel at San Ramon-based Chevron Corp. The group also filed a complaint against former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

The group filed the complaints in Washington because that’s where the targets were practicing at the time of their alleged violations. Yoo served in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel; Haynes served as the Defense Department’s general counsel. Both helped provide a legal framework for fear- and pain-inducing techniques for interrogating suspected terrorist detainees.

“The evidence is overwhelming that Yoo, Haynes, and Gonzales violated their oath by advocating and allowing torture against U.S. detainees,” attorney and group spokesman Kevin Zeese said in a news release. “Just as a lawyer cannot ethically advise a police officer to torture a criminal defendant, a government lawyer cannot ethically advise a government employee to torture a detainee. In both cases, the lawyers would be in violation of the law, and would be subject to disbarment. We strongly urge the Department of Justice to release its own OPR investigation into the conduct of these and other attorneys who provided cover for the wholesale use of torture by our government. We are hopeful that the investigation supports our call for disbarment.”

William Haynes The group filed similar petitions against Yoo and Haynes with the state bars of Pennsylvania and California, respectively, earlier this year.

Also, the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild in March filed a complaint against Haynes with the State Bar of California; after the State Bar closed that case, the NLG said it would pursue the case to the state Supreme Court, but the court rejected the petition in October.

Meanwhile, protestors yet again will urge Cal to fire Yoo today, staging protests at noon on Sproul Plaza and at 3 p.m. – just before one of Yoo’s scheduled classes – at the law school.

UPDATE @ 1:30 P.M. TUESDAY: A Chevron spokesman has just fronted me a letter that William T. Coleman Jr., a prominent Washington, D.C. attorney, wrote to the National Lawyers Guild in March – an impassioned defense of Haynes. “I know first-hand that Jim Haynes is a superb lawyer of the highest integrity, and believe that he discharged his responsibilities while General Counsel of the Defense Department in accordance with his oath of his office and the highest ethical standards,” wrote Coleman, who served as Secretary of Transportation under President Gerald Ford. “We should all be grateful that we had such courageous, committed, knowledgeable and superior people including Jim Haynes, not only willing to serve in these times of peril, but having the love of just laws would always act within the law, even though their mission was to prevent many more attacking terrorist actions on American citizens in the United States and elsewhere in the world.”


Karl Rove in SF: Back into the lions’ den?

Former White House insider Karl Rove will speak about President Barack Obama’s “growing political challenges and the nation’s longing for conservative principles” in addressing the inaugural event of the San Francisco Bay Committee for Heritage next Thursday, Sept. 24 at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in San Francisco.

The press release that went out today says the 7 p.m. dinner, following a 6 p.m. reception, already is sold out.

Rove was President George W. Bush’s deputy chief of staff and senior adviser from 2001 to 2007; seen by many as the architect of Bush’s election victories and political machinations, Rove now contributes to the Fox News Channel and writes columns for the Wall Street Journal and Newsweek. Some progressives have tagged him as a war criminal, and one protestor tried to “arrest” him at a San Francisco appearance last October. If there’s not a slew of ‘em on the sidewalk outside that hotel next Thursday night, I’ll eat my hat.

The press release describes the committee as “a group of business and civic leaders in northern California who support the conservative public policy research of The Heritage Foundation, the leading Washington think tank.” It’s chaired by Seligman Investments Portfolio Manager Paul Wick, and is one of a dozen such Heritage-affiliated groups that has sprung up across the nation. Basic American Foods Chairman William J. “Jerry” Hume of San Francisco; Teranetics CEO Nersi Nazari of Atherton; and former U.S. Ambassador to France Howard Leach of San Francisco are listed as honorary chairmen.


Miller will probe pension agency’s ex-chief

House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Martinez, is opening a committee investigation into “very serious questions” of whether a Bush Administration pension agency chief got too cozy with the Wall Street contractors from which he was taking bids on lucrative contracts.

Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. – a federal corporation created by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, with the secretaries of Labor, Commerce and Treasury as its board of directors – protects the pensions of nearly 44 million American workers and retirees in more than 29,000 private single-employer and multiemployer defined benefit pension plans. Charles E.F. Millard – earlier, a managing director at Lehman Brothers and Prudential Securities as well as a Republican New York City Councilman and a member of Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s administration – served as PBGC’s director from December 2007 through Jan. 20 of this year.

According to a PBGC Inspector General report issued earlier this week, PBGC executives in February 2008 gave the board a proposal to revise the corporation’s investment policy, moving billions of dollars out of fixed-income treasury securities and into marketable equities, real estate and private equity – basically, from investing in the government to investing in Wall Street.

The board unanimously approved the policy, and PBGC set about reinvesting its $48.4 billion portfolio, seeking bids from “strategic partners” on Wall Street who could manage parts of the fortune. Contracts awarded in October called for the purchase of nearly $2.5 billion in real estate and private equity; total fees for the three strategic partnership contracts, over a ten-year period, could top $100 million.

But Millard interposed himself in the bidding process, the report says:

“Phone records and emails show that the former Director was communicating directly with some bidders at the same time that he was actively evaluating their Strategic Partnership proposals, a clear violation of the prohibition of contact with potential offerors. Further, the former Director took an unprecedented role in the procurement process, to include serving on Technical Evaluation Panels (TEP) to formally assess some of the same Wall Street firms with whom he was in frequent contact; at a minimum, this violated the principle of separation of duties. However, it should be noted that our audit did not identify evidence of criminal activity on the part of any bidders.”

“The former Director was advised that his actions could cast doubt on the intergrity of the procurement process, but he did not heed these warnings.”

Millard denies he was manipulating the contracts in order to land a job with one of the contractors, the report says – but e-mails show a senior official at Goldman Sachs, which won a contract to invest $700 million of PBGC’s money, was actively helping Millard find a job.

Should be quite an investigation.


DiFi skips Judiciary’s ‘truth commission’ hearing

The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing this morning on “Getting to the Truth Through a Nonpartisan Commission of Inquiry,” taking testimony from constitutional experts and legal scholars on what the focus and scope would be for a proposed “truth commission” to probe the Bush Administration’s national security and executive power policies. (View the hearing’s archived, two-hour Webcast here.)

“There are some who resist any effort to look back at all, while others are fixated on prosecution, even if it takes all of the next eight years, or more, and further divides this country,” chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said in his opening statement. “Over the last month, I have suggested a middle ground to get to the truth of what went on during the last several years, in a way that invites cooperation. I believe that that might best be accomplished though a nonpartisan commission of inquiry. I would like to see this done in a manner removed from partisan politics. Such a commission of inquiry would shed light on what mistakes were made so that we can learn from these errors and not repeat them.”

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., sits on the Judiciary Committee but didn’t attend this hearing and “hasn’t seen a proposal for a truth commission,” so she won’t comment, spokesman Gil Duran said today. He did note, however, that Feinstein — who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee — issued a statement last Friday saying her panel “will conduct a review of the CIA’s detention and interrogation practices, and we will have a brief statement to issue on that subject in the near future.”


Bush commutes sentences for Ramos, Compean

This just in… In his final day in office, President George W. Bush today issued commutations to a pair of former Border Patrol agents serving prison sentences for the shooting of an unarmed drug dealer on the border in early 2005. This case had become a rallying point for conservatives and those who favor a sharp crackdown on illegal immigration across the U.S. border. Here’s the release:

WASHINGTON – On Jan. 19, 2009, President George W. Bush granted commutations of sentence to two individuals:

Jose Alonso Compean – El Paso, Texas

  • Offense: Assault with a dangerous weapon, and aiding and abetting, 18 USC § 7, 113 and 2; assault with serious bodily injury, and aiding and abetting, 18 USC § 7, 113 and 2; discharge of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, 18 USC § 924; deprivation of rights under color of law, 18 USC § 242.
  • Sentence: Nov. 12, 2008; Western District of Texas; 12 years in prison, three years of supervised release following the prison term, $2,000 fine.
  • Terms of commutation: Prison sentence to expire on March 20, 2009, leaving intact and in effect the three year term of supervised release with all its conditions and the fine.
  • Ignacio Ramos, a/k/a Ignacio Ramos Jr. – El Paso, Texas

  • Offense: Assault with a dangerous weapon, and aiding and abetting, 18 USC § 7, 113 and 2; assault with serious bodily injury, and aiding and abetting, 18 USC § 7, 113 and 2; discharge of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence, 18 USC § 924; deprivation of rights under color of law, 18 USC § 242.
  • Sentence: Nov. 13, 2008; Western District of Texas; 11 years and one day in prison, three years of supervised release following the prison term, $2,000 fine.
  • Terms of commutation: Prison sentence to expire on March 20, 2009, leaving intact and in effect the three year term of supervised release with all its conditions and the fine.
  • UPDATE @ 10:12 A.M. MONDAY: I must note that while the case did indeed become a cause celebre for many conservatives, the government’s prosecution of these two men garnered criticism from a wide range of people across the political spectrum. After the Senate Judiciary Committee probed the case in 2007, U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., co-signed a letter urging President Bush to take the action he took today.