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Friday, September 29, 2006

Guess Nethercutt Beat the Wrong Foley

Sure seems like House Republicans picked the wrong guy to head up the House Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus (Note: those links were broken when I tried them, too.)

So let's tally it up:
  1. Cunningham -- in jail for bribery.
  2. Delay -- resigned after indictment (and bad-looking polls).
  3. Ney -- hasn't resigned....has just plead guilty to bribery charges.
  4. Foley -- resigned after revelations suggesting that he isn't the right guy to head up the House Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus.
I honestly don't remember -- did this many Dems bite the bullet (or jail bars, or whatever) when the House banking scandal + Rosty stuff went down?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Speaking of Derisive Humor....

Check this one out.

A Few Good Men

So House Speaker Denny Hastert thinks that terrorists would be "coddled" if the 160 Democrats who voted against the odious bill setting up "trials" for detainees got their way. Leaving aside the quite serious notion that the legislation, in fact, essentially guts the Constitution, one wonders what Hastert has to say about the seven members of his own party who bucked what had to have been unrelenting pressure and hit the "no" button on Wednesday: Roscoe Bartlett, Wayne Gilchrest, Walter Jones, Steven LaTourette, Jim Leach, Ron Paul and Jerry Moran.

With the exception of Gilchrest, the Civil Liberties Seven are nobody's liberals: Bartlett, for example, voted against the extension of the Voting Rights Act earlier this year, and Walter Jones' claim to fame was, until fairly recently, his absurd crusade to serve "Freedom Vanilla" frozen yogurt in the Capitol cafeterias in retaliation for France's refusal to join us in the invasion of Iraq. Even Gilchrest, who has a laudable record of opposing oil drilling in Alaska and the wholesale slashing of social welfare programs, usually sides with the GOP.

But this was apparently too much even for them. According to the Baltimore Sun, a spokeswoman for Bartlett -- who voted against the renewal of the Patriot Act on the grounds that it infringed on the privacy of Americans -- is worried about "unintended consequences" of the detainee bill. Gilchrest, a former Marine and a decorated Vietnam veteran, told the paper that the legislation "fogs the issue" of whether the U.S. would abide by the Geneva Conventions.

Too bad the Republican senators who won so much praise for their "brave" stance against the administration weren't able to muster that kind of courage.

More than offsetting the Republican defectors were the 34 Democrats who voted for the bill. Some of them -- including Senate candidates Harold Ford and Sherrod Brown -- are engaged in tough campaign battles this fall. But what excuse does, say, Florida's Allen Boyd have? He doesn't even have an opponent in November.

Of course, Boyd and his 33 brethren deserve credit for at least showing up for work on Wednesday. Twelve representatives skipped the vote, including Democrat Jim Davis of Florida, who's running for governor. Nothing says "vote for me" like missing the chance to weigh in on one of the most important issues Congress has tackled this year.

Update: The Senate, that bastion of sensibility and restraint, has just defeated Arlen Specter's amendment to restore habeas corpus rights to detainees. The vote was 49-51, with Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson the only Democrat who voted with the Republicans (as did, incidentally, John McCain, Lindsey Graham and John Warner, the spines that were so stiff only a week ago apparently transformed into jelly). Republican Sens. Sununu, Chafee, Smith and Specter voted for the amendment.

Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, to whom I often refer affectionately as "the girls from Maine," dented their own reputations as mavericks: Collins voted against Specter's amendment, and Snowe, for some reason, didn't vote.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Life of the Party

spacegirl draws my attention to this brilliant ad by the DSCC, poking fun at Republican Michael Steele, who is the Republican candidate for the US Senate from Maryland. Republican Steele has gone out of his way to obscure his membership in the Republican party (see this post, for example). Meanwhile, Republican Steele has been running a commercial in which he highlights his love for puppies to fend off ads he forecasts will attack him for his Republican stands in favor of Republican positions.

Of course, as spacegirl likes to remind me, Republican Steele was chairman of the Republican Party of Maryland. He also likes to do fundraisers with Republican President Bush and Republican President Bush's Republican adviser Karl Rove.

It's nice to see the DSCC using humor and smiling derision to ridicule an opponent (one who richly deserves it, if only for pretending not to be whom he is) -- a tactic that Republicans use very effectively and Democrats rarely do.

Here's my suggestion for title of the next ad: "Republican Michael Steele: The Life of the Republican Party"

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Happy New Year, Felix

Well, it seems that Virginia Sen. George Allen won't be celebrating Rosh Hashana this weekend, despite his recent discovery that his mother's family was Jewish. The Washington Post actually interviewed Allen's mother for this piece, where she says that she kept her religion a secret because she was afraid her husband's family wouldn't stand for it:

Allen's mother said she first began concealing her Jewish roots after meeting her future husband, afraid that she would not be accepted by his parents and fearful that her religion could harm his budding coaching career, which started at Whittier College, a school in Southern California founded by Quakers.

"He didn't want me to tell his mother," she said of the elder George Allen. "At that time, that was a no-no, to marry outside the church." Allen died in 1990.

Now, Allen has defended himself during the "macaca" incident by repeatedly waxing rhapsodic about how in his house, the meritocracy of the football field reigned. And yet, his own parents kept his mother's Jewish heritage a secret out of fear of other people in the family. Maybe Allen Sr. really did blaze a new, more tolerant course in raising his own offspring, although young George's fascination with the Confederate flag would seem to run counter to that.

In reading this article, one thing struck me: Allen's Jewish grandfather, Felix Lumbroso, was imprisoned by the Nazis, a story that Allen often mentions on the campaign trail. Allen's own middle name is Felix, presumably after Lumbroso.

But unlike many other lawmakers -- who revel in using their full names, with middle initial and the occasional "Jr." in tow, Allen doesn't go by "George F. Allen." In fact, Allen insists that the "F." not be used, and will go so far as to have his staff call reporters and needle them about it. Admittedly, "Felix" is not the world's coolest name, and Allen hay have many reasons to leave it out of his political persona. But given the powerful nature of his grandfather's experience, one wonders why he wouldn't try to extend the old man's memory a place of honor.

What's depressing about the whole thing has nothing to do with politics, but rather with a family's reluctance to embrace a part of its history. Allen's mother obviously felt that being Jewish was something to hide. Is it any surprise, then, that her son feels the need to boast about her "great pork chops?"

The race card redux

The Washington Post reports that black Republican groups are prodding ex-U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume, a former NAACP chief who recently lost a close Senate primary in Maryland to a white candidate, to cross party lines and endorse GOP nominee Michael Steele. It's worth a try, right? But the article also mentions a particularly noxious ad, apparently produced by the National Black Republican Association. The article quotes the ad thusly:

The ad identifies Martin Luther King Jr. as a Republican and pins the founding of the Ku Klux Klan on Democrats.

One woman says: "Democrats passed those black codes and Jim Crow laws. Democrats started the Ku Klux Klan."

"The Klan?" her friend replies. "White hoods and sheets?"

First woman: "Democrats fought all civil rights legislation from the 1860s to the 1960s. Democrats released those vicious dogs and fire hoses on blacks."

Second woman: "Seriously?"

The ad says that "Democrats want to keep us poor while voting ONLY Democrat" and, "Democrats have bamboozled blacks."

Now, no self-respecting Democrat can ignore the fact that there were many in the party (especially the loathsome Southern "Dixiecrats") who did, in fact, spend years fighting against the civil rights movement (exhibit A: Robert Byrd, who still has some ground to cover in his rehabilitation). At the same time, however, no self-respecting Republican can possibly ignore the fact that the most hard-core bigots were welcomed into the GOP's big tent when they found Democrats too liberal for their liking (exhibit A: the 2000 presidential primary in South Carolina).

Steele (whose campaign web site notes on its home page that hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons has endorsed him but fails to mention that, hey, look, he's a REPUBLICAN) deserves credit for demanding that the ad be withdrawn. But it's disturbing to see a particularly nasty strain of racial politics infecting the Maryland Senate race less than two weeks after primary day.

This race is fascinating on a number of levels in addition to the unprecedented setup of a white Democrat against a Black Republican: Steele's opponent, Rep. Ben Cardin, is the scion of a legendary Baltimore Jewish political family, while Steele's base is in the fast-growing part of the state that's closer to Washington. There are plenty of legitimate issues here (minimum wage, anyone? GM's last few workers in suburban Baltimore might be interested in that), and judging from the series of debacles during the primary, it's anyone's guess whether the election itself will be cleanly held.

What's not needed in Maryland are puntrooskie plays from Lee Atwater's old game plan.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Speaking of choosing your principles, you pretty much have to read this.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Pick Your Principles to Suit Your Principal

For more on John Yoo's absurdithon in yesterday's NYT, see this post by Orin Kerr over at Volokh for another embarrasing example of John Yoo's unfamiliarity with history (this time it's the history of things Yoo himself wrote). See also this follow-up post of Kerr's. It's disappointing but truly breathtaking just how much of a shill the quotes Kerr has unearted show Yoo to be.

In a nutshell:
  • Clinton use aggressive interpretation of executive authority in foreign policy...bad!
  • Bush tear up statutes, sign them while promising to disregard them....GOOD!
It must be great to be able to choose your principles to suit your principal.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Yoo Say Tomato, I Say Constitution

Following on the heels of Ann Althouse's non-sequitur of a column on the Detroit NSA case (see this post by Glenn Greenwald for a debunking), today's NYT carries the amusingly named "How the Presidency Regained Its Balance. It will be entertaining to read the letters to the editor on this one (never mind the blogosphere) from the folks whose scholarship on con law and national security is a bit less, shall we way, creative than Yoo's.

I think my favorite part of Yoo's column is probably
the Hamdan decision was less a rebuke of the presidency than a sign of frustration with Congress's failure to update our laws to deal with the terrorist menace.
Where to even begin? By pointing out that the administration has repeatedly declined to even ask for Congress's advice on military tribunals, much less its permission or preferred rules? Maybe by pointing out, via Marty Lederman, that Hamdan was actually about the fact that
the Court held that Congress had, by statute, required that the commissions comply with the laws of war -- and held further that these commissions do not (for various reasons). [Emphasis added.]
It takes real chutzpah to say that when the Court rebukes a President for ignoring clear Congressional statute (i.e., obey Common Article 3), that rebuke is to Congress, and for being vague. It takes even more chutzpah to do so at a time when the President is calling senior senators (from his own party, which is largely beside the point) confused, and so on, because they won't agree to enact in statute essentially what he's been doing to violate existing statute.

The second contender for best bizarro-world line in Yoo's column is this one:
The judiciary...has shown far less deference to the executive in this war than in past conflicts.
That's a funny thing to say, since Hamdan is a reaffirmation of the category logic in Justice Jackson's concurring opinion in Youngstown, which of course was decided in 1952 (during the Korean conflict) and concerned President Truman's attempt to prevent strikes at steel factories due to his concerns over national security. So there we have it: the Court affirms reasoning from the Korean conflict -- Prez can't ignore duly enacted statutes regulating his conduct just because it's wartime -- and John Yoo sees a newly aggressive judiciary showing less deference today than in previous conflicts. Sigh.

One more contender for goofy line of the column:
The changes of the 1970's [regulating such things as by-fiat wiretapping of political opponents] occurred largely because we had no serious national security threats to United States soil, but plenty of paranoia in the wake of Richard Nixon's use of national security agencies to spy on political opponents.
Think about that one. "No serious national security threats to United States soil"....Does anyone else remember the Cold War? Either Yoo is forgetting about the Soviet Union and its various nuclear devices, or he is saying that these devices were never a serious threat. That doesn't fit so well with the Reagan-saved-us-by-standing-up-to-the-evil-empire stuff that seems so popular these days. Moreover, which is it? Was Nixon spying on political opponents (he was), or were these opponents paranoid for worrying that Nixon was spying on them? (I'll have to ask that member of my family who was wiretapped by the FBI for having the nerve to work on a congressional primary campaign in the early 1970s.) Generally speaking, I don't think it's paranoia when the feared event is actually true.

This column is really quite loopy -- a long exercise in counterfactual, historically false statements together with nearly or fully self-contradicting claims.

I really do wish that the NYT op-ed page would make a practice of either insisting on basic accuracy of factual claims or providing space for opposing, critical views when such a high-profile person publishes an op-ed on such an important topic. You know what's going to happen: lots of letters, a few short ones published, few people read them, and lots of folks who know little of the details of these issues but had the misfortune to read Yoo's column wind up totally misinformed. (Although, I have to say that the whole no-serious-threat may go a long way to making readers question Yoo's crediblity, as they should.)

One last thing: read these remarks, delivered at Yale law school's commencement this past May by Dan M. Kahan, Deputy Dean and Elizabeth K. Dollard Professor of Law. John Yoo is the lawyer whom Kahan refers to as having tried
in cowardly fashion, to evade moral responsibility for their actions by insisting that law is nothing but a set of formally binding rules.
(At issue was his role in the now-infamous Torture Memo; note the hero of Kahan's story, who was himself no political liberal.)

Thursday, September 14, 2006


Picture a five-year-old with his eyes squinted shut and his fingers in his ears, yelling nonsense sounds at the top of his lungs in order to avoid having to see or listen to something he doesn't like.

In a nutshell, that's George W. Bush's interview with Rich Lowry columnists. See Brian Tamanaha's post over at Balkinization, which is where I saw the excerpt. [David Brooks also discusses this interview in today's NYT. Brooks also calls W "the most inner-directed man on the globe." Whatever.]

The lead quote, staggering in its LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-LA-ness, is "Let me just first tell you that I’ve never been more convinced that the decisions I made are the right decisions." But one that possibly bears more comment in this political season is Bush's statement that
when I get home — and home is Texas — I’m going to look in the mirror and say, ‘The same set of principles that were etched in my heart when I told the people in 2000 what I believe are still there.’ That may be — tactics are different, you adjust, you make different decisions. But the principles are inviolate.
Never mind the no-new-nation-building stuff from 2000. Just ask yourself this: Self, didn't 9/11 change everything? If so, then how can this man claim that he follows exactly the same principles he had in 2000?


That's how.

Monday, September 11, 2006


Does anyone else out there see the irony of ABC's plan to break into tonight's broadcast of "Path to 9/11", its fictional account of the path to 9/11, to air a speech by the Fictionalizer in Chief?
I know they're planning to have some commentary afterward....maybe they can include Jayson Blair on the panel.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Give 'Em Back Their Dad

For the record, I agree with Rick Santorum's kids: it's a lot more important that he focus on being their dad than on continuing to screw up our country.

I guess Santorum's campaign people decided that the softer approach was better than another frothy performance like he gave on MTP last weekend.

Update: I suppose this is as good a time as any to broadcast the lyrics of my Rick Santorum song (I'd hoped to spend Fall 2006 campaigning around PA, singing the song to anyone foolish enough to let me and my guitar up on stage, but life has intervened):

Rick Santorum
I deplore him
He's not a very tolerant guy

Stop the mania
He's mean enough to make babies cry

Rick Santorum
I abhor him

Rick Santorum
I deplore him

Rick Santorum
I deplore him
He's not a very tolerant guy

So in November
Please remember
To vote....for the other guy

Rick Santorum
I abhor him

Rick Santorum
I deplore him

(Repeat as music fades)

I am accepting additional verses, by the way.....

Friday, September 01, 2006

Earth to spacegirl

Where are you? Where?


Armitage, BAMBY and Schoolyard Taunts

Peter returns from his recent silence to write in a comment:
Still waiting for that post from Jonah discussing the bombshell that Armitage was the original leaker. But perhaps there's no time for eating a few portions of crow...
I've been wanting to post on this topic for days now but have been overwhelmed with the start of the new semester (Peter: you might notice that I haven't posted on anything since that story broke). Today being the day after I finished my teaching for the week, I can do so.

First, the revelation that Armitage was the first leaker certainly did surprise me (just as I'm sure it surprised essentially everyone else following the story -- although I look forward to Peter's sending me that old email in which he surmised that RA was the man). I had always wondered about Novak's "no partisan gunslinger" characterization, but I'd most recently assumed (I don't remember exactly what I thought a year+ ago) that that was a reference to someone like Marc Grossman (who may be a partisan gunslinger but isn't/wasn't known to me as one). It is worthwhile to note the reason that Armitage knew about Valerie Wilson's employ in the CIA: he read a memo that Marc Grossman put together.....at the request of the Office of the Vice President.

Second, I think Armitage is a coward, both for taking so long to confirm his role publicly and for refusing to do so himself.

Third, Armitage's role changes very little of my view about what I wrote in the post where Peter provides his latest comment. The only part that bears further comment is this:
Rove is every bit the scoundrel folks like me have been saying he is. He lied to the American people about his role in blowing Valerie Wilson's cover. Hell, he actually was willing to blow her cover (so much for the supposed national security focus of this administration).
Is it improper to refer to Rove's "role in blowing Valerie Wilson's cover"? Absolutely not. He was, indeed, willing to blow her cover: he confirmed her employment at the CIA to Novak (and then of course there was Matt Cooper and who knows who else). The fact that Rove was "only" a confirming source doesn't really matter on this point, particularly since Novak hadn't yet published the column (and it's worth noting that the CIA's press guy had refused to confirm the story and implored Novak not to print this info).

So to conclude, if Peter wants me to "eat[] a few portions of crow" because I didn't think Armitage was the leaker, then pass me a fork and a plate with a few portions of crow on it. He might then consider finding a way to do likewise when (a) he makes statements that are known to be false at the time he makes them and (b) someone points out that fact. See, for instance, the comments thread to this post, where Peter writes that "Wilson said that the Bush administration relied in part on his findings as a justification for war". As I note in my succeeding comment, that claim is simply false, something up to which Peter has yet to own.

Anyway, I guess I can always make fun of him because my portions of crow are bigger than his.

Glad we've moved this issue forward.

Update: Peter writes in the comments below that
I thought it was a central conceit ... that the Bush Administration was despicable in part because it actively sought to destroy the career of Wilson's wife as punishment for his writing the op-ed piece. And with Armitage being the original leaker, that theory is blown to smithereens (as no one, not even Jonah, will argue that Armitage is in the same camp as Rove et al).
I think that this is the one part of his comment(s) that I haven't really addressed before. Since this claim has been pushed by folks on the right beside Peter and allowed to get some traction by some reporters, editors and commentators, I want to provide a simple analogy to illustrate just how ridiculous an abuse of logic it is. So here goes:
Fact A: I go out drinking, as does Peter, though he goes out with some other people. We each drink a fifth of Bourbon.

Fact B: Peter drives home, drunk. He doesn't mean to drive drunk -- he's just too drunk to realize how drunk he is. He plows his car into a lightpole, somehow managing to drive away before the cops or any witnesses can place him at the scene.

Fact C: I drive home drunk, too. Not only do I realize I'm driving home drunk, I brag to all my friends about how drunk I am and what a great driver I am, even drunk. I even show some of my friends a briefing book I've prepared to illustrate what an effective drunk driver I am. Anyway, after Peter drives away but before anyone else happens by, I coincidentally plow my car into the same lightpole. This time, a cop drives by and arrests me for drunk driving.

Fact D: In the middle of my trial for drunk driving, in which trial the prosecutor makes a big point of establishing my gleeful intent to drive drunk, Peter allows it to be known through his lawyer (because journalists have found out and published the fact) that he was drunk and hit the lightpole before I did.

Fact E: My lawyer thunders to the jury that I must be innocent of drunk driving, since Peter was drunk and hit the pole. My lawyer goes on the O'Reilly Factor, Rush Limbaugh, and Fox News Sunday and denounces the prosecutor for charging me with hitting the lightpole, since now everyone knows that Peter hit the lightpole and he didn't even mean to hit it!

(As a side note, the NYT largely ignores the story for days and then prints a story citing criticism of the prosecutor by people who think I should be allowed an exception to drunk driving laws, on the grounds that my skill in driving drunk is really important to national security since it keeps in line critics who fear getting hit when I tear by them, Conrad Burns/Bill Janklow-style. The NYT article off-handedly quotes expert observers who suggest that it is likely that my trial will hinge on whether I drove drunk and hit a pole.)
Replace Peter's failure to realize how drunk he was with Armitage's casual discussion of sensitive information, my gleeful intent to drive drunk with Rove, Libby et al's (indisputed) intent to discredit Wilson together with their contacts with reporters, and Peter's argument with the stuff in Fact E, and you have the exact same logical argument: if one guy does something for reason X, no one else can do it for reason Y -- plus, since lots of people think reason X isn't that bad, reason Y can't be bad either.

It's really quite surprising to me that any serious person would seriously make this very unserious argument.

Update 2: Just to clarify: I do not mean to suggest that Scooter Libby is on trial for the "underlying offense" of blowing Valerie Wilson's cover. I used the trial part of my analogy above for dramatic effect, though I certainly didn't need to. In any case, Scooter Libby is on trial only for the reason that the GOP Congress impeached President Clinton. Just to be clear about how minor the charges are and all.