As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Iglesiasgate: Where There's Smoke, There's Rove

With the attention shifting to the White House's role in the firing of 8 US Attorneys, you knew it was just a matter of time before this was revealed:

Presidential advisor Karl Rove and at least one other member of the White House political team were urged by the New Mexico Republican party chairman to fire the state's U.S. attorney because of dissatisfaction with his job performance including his failure to indict Democrats in a voter fraud investigation in the battleground election state.

In an interview Saturday with McClatchy Newspapers, Chairman Allen Weh said he complained in 2005 about then-U.S. Attorney David Iglesias to a White House liaison who worked for Rove and asked that he be removed. Weh said he followed up with Rove personally in late 2006 during a visit to the White House...

Weh recalled asking Rove at a White House holiday event in December: "Is anything ever going to happen to that guy?" What Weh didn't know was that the firings of Iglesias and the others had already been approved.

Weh said Rove told him: "'He's gone.' I probably said something close to 'Hallelujah.'"

Weh's admission doesn't really reveal much, but it's a leaping-off point. He appealed to one of Rove's underlings and Rove told him it was taken care of. That doesn't prove Rove's involvement; he could have seen an internal memo. But it's something that the relevant Congressional committees can question.

This will be the first test for the new White House counsel, former Watergate and Iran-Contra-era White House lawyer Fred Fielding, a war consigliere if there ever was one. The Judiciary Committees are going to want documents, and it'll be Fielding's job to stonewall. Congressional Democrats have been determined throughout this scandal to get to the bottom of the story. They're actually being more aggressive than ever before, obviously because they have the ability to subpoena and move the investigations in the desired direction.

Rove has had nine lives throughout his career, but this might be life #10. He's at the core of every dirty trick that this White House has ever perpetrated. Using the levers of the executive branch, in this case the Justice Department and the US Attorney position, for purely political reasons, to investigate and indict Democrats, is not going to be tolerated by anyone. We already knew that the replacement for the fired US Attorney for Arkansas was Rove's top oppo research guy. So he clearly was involved at some level. We don't know how much.

But I suspect we will. Nobody has any reason to cover for him anymore.

P.S. Yes, I think Alberto Gonzales may be on his way out. He's been terrible.

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Astroturfing on the Campaign Trail

(bumped - Welcome Kevin Drum readers! I have no idea why typing "firefightersforrudy" into the Firefox browser automatically redirects you to my site, but I'm going to ride the wave while it lasts. Let's get the word out about this astroturfing!)

Greg Sargent has been very skeptical of this "Firefighters for Rudy" group that has magically appeared in the wake of the negative press surrounding the IAFF's very public slamming of Giuliani and how he treated firefighters in the wake of 9-11.

Public condemnation from the nation's biggest firefighter's union is the most damaging thing that could ever happen to Giuliani's candidacy; it strikes him at his very strength. So he rebutted it with a letter from "Firefighters for Rudy," led by an executive director named "Tim Brown."

Tim Brown works for the Giuliani campaign. Furthermore, they appear to have been formed... today.

Here is Sargent's initial report about "Firefighters for Rudy."

This morning, in what may be a sign that it recognizes the danger of the story, the Rudy camp struck back. It emailed out to reporters a letter it had sent to "Americas firefighters." It was written by one Lee Ielpi, who is described as a retired firefighter and who took the union to task for criticizing Rudy.

"There is no one who respects firefighters and first responders more than Rudy Giuliani," Ielpi writes. "Those of us who have worked with him know that Rudy Giuliani has always been a steadfast and unrelenting supporter of firefighters and first responders."

Intriguingly, the letter was sent out by Tim Brown, who is described as the Executive Director of a group called "Firefighters for Rudy."

This, of course, raises a few questions that we will be seeking answers to. Has "Firefighters for Rudy" been in existence for longer than 24 hours, or did it spring Athena-like from that great Rudy forehead at around the time that the Rudy campaign heard that the bad stories were being put together? How many members does "Firefighters for Rudy" have? Etc.

If you Google "Firefighters for Rudy," you only get back articles that were written today. There's a Firefighters 4 Rudy Yahoo! Group with three members. The domain is claimed by "Tim Brown," but nothing's on it.

Sargent kept doing some digging:

The idea, obviously, was that this "group" of firefighters is countering the fire union's claims. So all we want to know is the following: When was this group formed? And how many members does it have? A Google search turned up nothing at all illuminating. So we left detailed questions about the group's formation and membership with the Giuliani campaign's communications director about it. No answer yet.

Also intriguing: For some reason, even though the group's executive director, Tim Brown, is offered as a contact on the release, when you call the number offered you get directed to the Rudy campaign press office. When you ask for Brown, you're directed to a press officer.

Sargent then finds a report in "Firefighting News" that lists executive director Tim Brown as an aide to Giuliani.

It's pretty clear at this point that what we have is an astroturf group hastily assembled by the Giuliani campaign to counteract the IAFF story. And Sargent pretty much confirms that with this hilarious phone call:

We just reached Tim Brown, the executive director of Firefighters for Rudy, by calling the phone number accompanying this info about registration of the domain name, which notes that the name was taken out in August of 2006. It sounded like the guy's cell phone.

At any rate, when we asked Brown if he was the executive director of Firefighters for Rudy, he said that he was. When we asked if he was an aide on the campaign, he paused for awhile before saying, "yeah." When we asked him what his title on the campaign was, he said -- you guessed it -- "executive director of Firefighters for Rudy."

So we then posed the question of how many members it has. At that point, he said he was going to have "other folks" get back to us.

Now, Brown is a retired New York firefighter. But "Firefighters for Rudy" doesn't exist. Or at least it didn't until needed to help Giuliani defend himself against his own record. It's interesting, too, that the domain was taken out in August, as if they knew that one day, they would be needed to spring into action. It just happened to quickly for them to build the cover needed to distance the campaign from this fake grassroots organization.

UPDATE: Unbelievable. AP writes a story that cites Tim Brown as the head of "Firefighters for Rudy." Not that he's a Giuliani campaign aide - just that he's the head of "Firefighters for Rudy."

I'm officially the head of "Low-Level Bloggers For Truth In Citation Of Sources," then. (call a blogger ethics panel)

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Anger Building

If this is true I'm going to hurt myself punching my fist into something.

A rumor I heard - troops in some areas of Iraq are having food rations cut, having to sign for ammo on a per-round basis, and are being told it is because the Democrats in Congress have cut off the funding for the troops.

This is exactly the kind of thing the Republicans would do. These people will be coming back to the US one day, and they will be angry at the Democrats and Volvo-driving liberals who "betrayed them." Bush started a war and lost it, and The Party is setting up to blame liberals and Democrats for the loss.

This would be, if true, an outright lie to our troops to deliberately underequip them and depress morale. Nothing would be more disgusting than to damage the troops and then blame it on the Democrats. No funding decisions have been made by this Congress yet. Nothing. I know that the idiots who supported this war are desperate to assign blame elsewhere, but could they be this conniving, to plant a seed in the mind of the soldiers, who would then relay it to their families and out into the larger world, perpetuating the myth that Democrats solely exist to hate the troops, a myth that was rebutted by a retired Army Maj. Gen. just last night:

“We are in the midst of recovering right now from a constitutional crisis where you had the executive trump the other branches of government,” Eaton said. “Thank god” Congress changed hands in November, he said, giving us “a chance to unsort and figure out how to get out from under this.”

Eaton lamented that so many service members believe that conservatives “are good for the military.” “That is rarely the case. And we have got to get a message through to every soldier, every family member, every friend of soldier,” that the Bush administration and its allies in Congress have “absolutely been the worst thing that’s happened to the United States Army and the United States Marine Corps.”

I'm furious about this right now, and am extremely desirous to get to the bottom of it.

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Weekend Quick Hits

Maybe if I get these out of the way, I can go about and put some sun on my face:

• Glenn Greenwald has a good column today about the FBI National Security Letter abuse and how it speaks to a larger pattern of lawbreaking in the Bush Administration. Once again, the White House only admits wrongdoing when trapped; and even then they claim it was inadvertent, or the result of a few bad apples, or whatever. That's about as believable as Planet Unicorn.

• Today's the day of the security summit in Baghdad. Iran and the United States in the same room!!! It trickled out this week that Iran may have stopped their nuclear program, but the Administration stifled that talk rapidly. Now will they shut down all camera access to the summit like they're doing to the military tribunals at Gitmo?

• These secular progressives are trying to take away Easter, AGAIN! Will these heathens never stop their Godless ways? Why are they so afraid of the piety inherent in the Easter Bunny and chocolate eggs and marshmallow Peeps?

• If you have a spare three hours and are an obsessive, this is a nice inside report from the Libby jury room.

You forgot Georgia!

• Good to hear that William Jefferson's appointment to the Homeland Security Committee may be on permanent hold. Pelosi eventually does the right thing in most cases.

• Jane Harman is authoring a bill to restore habeas corpus. That primary challenge was the best thing that ever happened to her.

• Violent crime is way up over the last two years, aligning perfectly with both the repeal of the assault weapons ban, de-funding of the COPS program and the rise in national poverty rates until Bush. This is almost a complete reversal of declines in violent crime under Clinton. President Bush: less safe at home, less safe abroad. It's OK though, because Gov. Schwarzenegger said gangs are just a nuisance like soccer fans. He really said that, check the link.

• I was extremely remiss in not acknowledging the passing of the great Arthur Schlesinger. A giant in the field of history, and maybe the last of the public intellectuals.

• Quote of the week: "Before this is over, you might see calls for his impeachment." That was conservative Republican Chuck Hagel.

• America, Fuck Yeah. The AP decides not to write about Paris Hilton for a week and the news everywhere is "AP Not Writing About Paris Hilton For A Week!"

I think my brain just died a little bit.



No More Cosby Show

This was a LOOONNNGG time coming. Rita Cosby, symbol of the dark ages of MSNBC, takes her "bowels of hell" voice and goes home.

Since they already cancelled her show, they don't have to replace her with anyone. And really, how could you replace a force of nature like Cosby? Although missing white women everywhere did just shed a tear. Along with remote camera operators in Arbua.

Atta J. Turk posts so we never forget:

Olbermann-for-Cosby is a trade right up there with Frank Robinson-for-Milt Pappas.

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Friday, March 09, 2007

Friday Night In Memoriam

Brad Delp dead at 55. Believe it or not, the very first CD I ever bought was Boston's first album.

Pour a little of the 40 onto the lawn for Delp.

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The Continuing Saga

Bill Bradley (no links) makes a mockery of himself today by swallowing the "Firefighters for Rudy" canard whole, and then claiming that the Fox News Democratic Presidential debate is "not yet dead" (it's only a flesh wound), then when confronted with the avalanche of information that it is, you know, over, says "It's done, but not done done."

'Cuz he's got all that super-special-inside-secret-information that you need to run a multi-mega-media empire on the Pajamas "Ali Khamenei is Dead!" Media site.

But don't worry, he's also rocking the contacts on the really important stuff:

Bill Bradley :

My research says there are big changes coming to fictional Las Vegas, Carole ...

Mar 9, 2007 12:04 PM

Bill Bradley: your one-stop shopping for the most up-to-the-minute inside dope on "Las Vegas," NBC's version of "Becker" and "Arli$$" (A show that you've seen on the schedule for five years and can't believe it still exists).

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Netroots Victory

The Nevada Democratic Party couldn't take the pressure and cancelled a Democratic Presidential primary debate scheduled to broadcast on Fox News.

Democratic activists have protested that Fox is not a suitable partner for the event. Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards announced Wednesday that he would not participate in the debate, citing Fox's conservative ties as a factor. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has said publicly that he would attend the debate; no other Democratic candidate has formally responded to an invitation. Civic Action claims to have collected more than 260,000 signatures on a petition that calls the cable network a "mouthpiece for the Republican Party, not a legitimate news channel."

Big win for the online community here. Fox News should simply not be legitimized as a news outlet. They're a propaganda operation with the occasional crappy comedy show thrown in for good measure. The right will probably have a caniption fit on this one, but the Democrats are smart to have cancelled this. It's just another example of how the progressive movement is asserting itself within the party.

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Iglesiasgate: White House in Full Backpedal

The central legislative shift that enabled the Justice Department to hire and fire US Attorneys without Congressional oversight was a provision tucked into the back of the re-authorized Patriot Act at the last minute. This allowed DoJ to hire interim replacements for the purged prosecutors indefinitely. Well, with the criticism of this purge at a fever pitch, the administration is beating a fast retreat away from that legislation and away from the policy as a whole.

Slapped even by GOP allies, the Bush administration is beating an abrupt retreat on eight federal prosecutors it fired and then publicly pilloried....

The Justice Department is shifting from offense to accommodation.

"In hindsight, we should have provided the U.S. attorneys with specific reasons that led to their dismissal that would have helped to avoid the rampant misinformation and wild speculation that currently exits," Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said Friday. "We will continue to work with Congress to reach an accommodation on providing additional information."

It was a striking reversal for an administration noted for standing its ground even in the face of overwhelming opposition.

The Attorney General has even given the go-ahead to change that provision of the Patriot Act and restore Congressional oversight for US Attorneys. I would guess that Gonzales got into a meeting with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, realized exactly how fucked he was, knew that he couldn't stay on the job any longer unless he changed his tune, and came out of it sounding like the Great Conciliator.

It's important to note that none of this would be coming to light under a Republican Congress. There would be grumbling from some circles, but the GOP leadership would dismiss it as politics, and would sweep the whole thing under the rug. Elections have consequences, and in this case, the consequences were great indeed.

The White House was attempting to turn the US Attorney into a political position and an arm of the RNC. In some cases they succeeded in doing so, as Paul Krugman notes.

The bigger scandal, however, almost surely involves prosecutors still in office. The Gonzales Eight were fired because they wouldn’t go along with the Bush administration’s politicization of justice. But statistical evidence suggests that many other prosecutors decided to protect their jobs or further their careers by doing what the administration wanted them to do: harass Democrats while turning a blind eye to Republican malfeasance.

Donald Shields and John Cragan, two professors of communication, have compiled a database of investigations and/or indictments of candidates and elected officials by U.S. attorneys since the Bush administration came to power. Of the 375 cases they identified, 10 involved independents, 67 involved Republicans, and 298 involved Democrats. The main source of this partisan tilt was a huge disparity in investigations of local politicians, in which Democrats were seven times as likely as Republicans to face Justice Department scrutiny.

The executive branch has been refigured under this President and turned into an instrument used by a political party to get back at their enemies. Parties have their own infrastructure. They don't need their own branch of government as well.

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Frank Russo - Blogging Pioneer

Frank Russo won his battle with the California Correspondent's Association and became the first blogger to receive full credentialing to all Legislative events in California. This is fantastic, to have a great progressive writer who actually likes to cover the goings-on in Sacramento be given the tools and the means to do so. This is good news for all of us who cover California politics. Congratulations, Frank.

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How The Bush Administration Follows The Law

There are a bunch of reports out in this past week that show the reckless disregard for the laws of the United States displayed by the Bush Administration. Consider this:

• The inspector general for the Justice Department has found that the FBI has misused the Patriot Act by failing to comply with internal regulations in an astonishing 10% of all "national security letters," which allow them to obtain personal telephone, email and bank records of suspected terrorists.

• The Bush Administration deliberately removed 3 citizens from a 2004 re-election event in Denver as part of White House policy, despite the fact that the three had tickets to the event, did nothing to disrupt it and were solely removed for having an anti-Bush bumper sticker.

• FEMA will have to sell 40,000 trailer homes, which never reached families in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, for 40 cents on the dollar, and many of the others have rotted away and sunk into the mud in various storage sites.

• The head of the US General Services Administration is under investigation for cronyism, giving jobs to favored friends and using the agency to help Republican candidates.

• Internal memos at the Federal Fish and Wildlife Service demand that officials not talk about climate change or the endagered habitat of polar bears.

• Secret CIA interrogations were held at a former Soviet site in Poland, and US and British officials asked the Polish government to keep it quiet, according to secret memos. In addition, Human Rights Watch has found that scores of detainees are missing and unaccounted for at either CIA prisons or Guantanamo.

This is all in the space of ONE WEEK, and it includes corruption, cronyism, politicizing federal services and organizations, ripping off the American taxpayers, breaking statutes and regulations governing conduct, impinging on American's civil liberties, disappearing prisoners, crushing dissent, and violating maybe every single Amendment in the Bill of Rights.

Just a snapshot. And as they say, a fish rots from the head down. Here's Glenn Greenwald at Salon:

That the FBI is abusing its NSL power is entirely unsurprising (more on that below), but the real story here -- and it is quite significant -- has not even been mentioned by any of these news reports. The only person (that I've seen) to have noted the most significant aspect of these revelations is Silent Patriot at Crooks & Liars, who very astutely recalls that the NSL reporting requirements imposed by Congress were precisely the provisions which President Bush expressly proclaimed he could ignore when he issued a "signing statement" as part of the enactment of the Patriot Act's renewal into law. Put another way, the law which the FBI has now been found to be violating is the very law which George Bush publicly declared he has the power to ignore [...]

The Bush administration has created vast and permanent data bases to collect and store evidence revealing the private activities of millions of American citizens. When the FBI obtains information essentially in secret -- with no judicial oversight -- that information is stored in those data bases. This is all being done by the executive branch with no safeguards and no oversight, and the little oversight that Congress has required has been defiantly and publicly brushed aside by the President, who sees legal requirements as nothing more than suggestions or options which he will recognize only if he chooses to. That is the constitutional crisis that we have endured under virtually the entire Bush presidency -- the crisis which, for the most part, our mainstream political and media elite have collectively decided not to acknowledge.

The story here is not merely that the FBI is breaking the law and abusing these powers. That has long been predicted and, to some degree, even documented. The story is that the FBI is ignoring the very legal obligations which George Bush vowed were not obligations at all, but mere suggestions to be accepted only if he willed it. It is yet another vivid example proving that the President's ideology of lawlessness exists not merely in theory, but as the governing doctrine under which the executive branch has acted, time and again and as deliberately as possible, in violation of whatever laws it deems inconvenient.

The biggest question for a new President in 2008 is whether or not they will sanction this culture of lawlessness, or if they will disavow the concept of the unitary executive and the ability to nullify American law through signing statements. Only then will we have a return to the American system of government as we know it. All of these examples of Administration lawbreaking can be traced back to the fact that the chief executive holds the law in contempt, and views it as subservient to his objectives and policies. Until we change that mindset, we can hardly be said to be living in a democracy.

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Friday Random Ten

I've got the music in me...

Yeh Yeh - They Might Be Giants
How I Could Just Kill A Man - Rage Against The Machine
Top Of My Game - Robert Pollard
Down To This - Soul Coughing
Bring Me Down - Kanye West feat. Brandy
Untitled - Interpol
My Man - They Might Be Giants
Dance To The Music - Sly & The Family Stone
Soun Tha Mi Primer Amor - Kinky
They'll Need A Crane - They Might Be Giants

I'm a bit of a They Might Be Giants fan.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

A Lot of People Are Watching Bad Comedy

The 1/2 Hour News Hour is getting numbers comparable to The Daily Show in its first two shows, about 1.4 million viewers, and increasing above its lead-in. That's better than both Colbert and Olbermann. They're going to pick it up for 13 episodes as a once-weekly show.

Well, nobody ever lost money underestimating the intelligence of the American public, right?

Of course, we'll see if they can make it last beyond the curiosity-seeking. At some point, you have to be entertaining. I do hear that they're actually going to hire a writing staff, which could, you know, help.

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The Senate Steps Up

Another bombshell:

In the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid unveiled a proposal to begin withdrawing soldiers from Iraq within four months and it sets a goal of pulling all combat troops out by March 31, 2008.

Reid moved to start a debate on that measure next week but was thwarted, at least for now, by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, who said more time was needed to look at the Democrats' ideas.

"The president's strategy in Iraq is not working and Congress must decide whether to follow his failed policies or whether to change course," Reid told reporters.

This move by the Senate, which is a unified position shared by the whole delegation sans Holy Joe Lieberman, makes the House proposal calling for withdrawal by fall 2008 the go-slow approach.

Things don't move that fast in our democracy. The ship of state is designed to move slowly and deliberately. So while I was concerned that the Democrats had given up on forcing debate on Iraq, I knew that eventually they would come around. Now they've essentially embraced Kerry-Feingold, which was put forth a year ago. It took that long to make it politically comfortable for them. I wish that wasn't true, it led to an unecessary loss of life, but now that the Democrats are where the public is on the war, we need to all pitch in to make this a reality.

3 cheers for this from Kos.

In any case, this is the sort of threat from the White House that has cracked Democratic resolve in the past, promoting them to try and find "common ground" with an administration that has no interest whatsoever in introducing accountability in its war conduct.

Hopefully this marks the end of those games. Let Bush veto it. The Democrats won the Senate and House on a platform of putting the brakes on this war. It's what a vast majority of the American people want. In fact, Congress is the last place in this country that still thinks there's a "debate" on Iraq. Outside of the bubble and pockets of dead-enders in the wingnutosphere, the debate over Iraq is over. Everyone wants out.

If Bush wants to veto legislation that the vast majority of Americans want, and if Republicans want to aid and abet that move, then let them. It'll provide the sort of stark contrast between the two parties voters need to make their ballot box choices.

One party wants to save our troops and reunite them with their families, the other party wants to keep them in harm's way.

Every Republican in the House and Senate has a choice to make. They'll have to pick a side. And choosing the President's side will have disastrous consequences for the next decade.

As for the veto, if it's attached to a supplemental appropriation, Bush will be denying himself the funds to continue the war. He'll be de-funding the troops in the field. If he signs the bill he'll try and find a way to continue the war past the withdrawal, whether through signing statement or simply refusing to withdraw. If he vetoes he'll try and find a way to keep funding the troops, probably through some off-the-books illegal budgeting. Either way, it'll provoke a Constitutional showdown.

Bring it on.

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The End of Giuliani Time

This is astonishing.

Many people consider Rudy Giuliani "America's Mayor," and many of our members who don't yet know the real story, may also have a positive view of him. This letter is intended to make all of our members aware of the egregious acts Mayor Giuliani committed against our members, our fallen on 9/11, and our New York City union officers following that horrific day [...]

The disrespect that he exhibited to our 343 fallen FDNY brothers, their families and our New York City IAFF leadership in the wake of that tragic day has not been forgiven or forgotten.

In November 2001, our members were continuing the painful, but necessary, task of searching Ground Zero for the remains of our fallen brothers and the thousands of innocent citizens that were killed, because precious few of those who died in the terrorist attacks had been recovered at that point.

Prior to November 2001, 101 bodies or remains of fire fighters had been recovered. And those on the horrible pile at Ground Zero believed they had just found a spot in the rubble where they would find countless more that could be given proper burial.

Nevertheless, Giuliani, with the full support of his Fire Commissioner Thomas Von Essen, decided on November 2, 2001, to sharply reduce the number of those who could search for remains at any one time. There had been as many as 300 fire fighters at a time involved in search and recovery, but Giuliani cut that number to no more than 25 who could be there at once.

In conjunction with the cut in fire fighters allowed to search, Giuliani also made a conscious decision to institute a "scoop-and-dump" operation to expedite the clean-up of Ground Zero in lieu of the more time-consuming, but respectful, process of removing debris piece by piece in hope of uncovering more remains.

Mayor Giuliani's actions meant that fire fighters and citizens who perished would either remain buried at Ground Zero forever, with no closure for families, or be removed like garbage and deposited at the Fresh Kills Landfill.

One group of people that you don't mess with in this country... firefighters. Ask Arnold in 2005. The IAFF supported Kerry early in 2004, but they weren't out in front. If Giuliani is the nominee, expect them to be in the headlines for months. It's more advantageous to the firefighter's union, or really any interest group, to be opposing a candidate than to be supporting one. Sadly, negative campaigning works.

I wasn't sure they'd speak out this vocally and this early. Firefighters are unimpeachable. Giuliani is done.

See also here. When your wife and kids no longer speak to you... you've got a long road.

UPDATE: Yes, Giuliani takes the wingnuts back to the glory days of 2002 when they were arrogant, authoritarian and on top of the world. But firefighters attacking him for his callousness will hit him right at his strength. He's running to be President of 9-11. If his performance on that day is tarnished, he's got nothing.

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Bush Vows to De-Fund Troops In The Field

We have the first White House reaction to the Democrats' latest plan to require the fully funded withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq by next fall at the latest. Dan Bartlett said they would veto it - and since it's attached to a funding bill for the war, they're essentially saying that they would de-fund troops in harm's way instead of acquiescing to public opinion on the war.

It's essential that our Democratic leaders put the White House in this box.

Here are the quotes from Bartlett:

Senior White House adviser Dan Bartlett, accompanying Bush on a flight to Latin America, told reporters, "It's safe to say it's a nonstarter fot the president." [...]

Talking to reporters aboard Air Force One, Bartlett called it "a political compromise in the Democratic caucus of the House aimed at bringing comity to their internal politics, not reflective of the conditions on the ground in Iraq."

"It would unnecessarily handcuff our generals on the ground, he said. "Obviously, the administration would vehemently oppose and ultimately veto any legislation that looks like what was described today."

The US Troop Readiness, Veteran's Health and Iraq Accountability Act is attached to a supplemental funding request for Iraq and Afghanistan. The legislation is being offered by the Congress, the body that controls wartime spending for the US government, and Congress is willing to pass it with conditions based on their Constitutional responsibility. Anyone who votes no or vetoes this legislation is de-funding the troops in a time of war. That's the god's-honest truth.

Bottom line.

Put that in your letters to the editor. Write it in your blog posts. Send emails to every political reporter in the country. The President is threatening to deny badly needed funds to US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Two can play at this rhetorical game.

UPDATE: Why are conservatives never scared by this kind of implication? Do they know that the media is in the tank for them? Have they manufactured this "Republicans love the troops" bias so much that they think it's impenetrable? Do they play the Democrats for sissies? Whatever the case, they're probably correct. But Democrats have a clear shot to make them pay.

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Pardon Me

With Scooter Libby convicted, the chatter now moves to whether or not he'll receive a Presidential pardon. This is firm ground for conservatives, since they don't have to argue the facts of the case and the obvious mountain of evidence that Libby lied to the grand jury. All they have to do is claim that Libby was the fall guy and he's such a good man and he never even leaked Plame's name to Novak and this is a travesty of justice. Look, they even got a juror to fall for it:

One of the 11 jurors who convicted Mr. Libby said in an interview with MSNBC on Wednesday that she would favor a pardon. The juror, Ann Redington, explained her thinking by saying “it kind of bothers me” that no one was charged with the alleged crime initially under investigation — exposing the identity of a covert C.I.A. officer — and that Mr. Libby “got caught up in the investigation as opposed to in the actual crime that was supposedly committed.”

But Christy at FDL has the right idea here. Scooter Libby committed a crime, and whether you're naughty or nice doesn't nullify that.

Here is what I know: sometimes, even seemingly decent people commit crimes. And when they do, they ought to be punished in the same way that everyone else is — because they have committed crimes. Perhaps it is the prosecutor in me saying this but, honestly, you commit a crime for which you are convicted, then you are sentenced, and you carry out your sentence and pay the penalty for your criminal conduct. Period. End of story. There is a very simple way to not have to deal with prison: do not commit a crime.

Libby made a series of bad choices: he lied, repeatedly, to the FBI, to the Grand Jury under oath, all to cover up for the Vice President of the United States and for his own poor choices. For those poor choices of his own making, he was convicted by a unanimous vote of a jury of his peers, and he should pay the penalty for this. No one, no matter their station in life, no matter their connections or political affiliation — no one — should be allowed to repeatedly and manipulatively lie to a grand jury under oath or to criminal investigators without consequences. It is wrong, whomever may be doing it, and Libby is no exception to the rule of law.

The spin on this from the right is very powerful. It's full of deceit and excuse-making and lots of other nonsense. But Christy's two paragraphs are as clear as a bell. You do the crime, you do the time.

And the thing is, Bush would have to waive specific Justice Department guidelines to pardon Libby before the end of his term. There's typically a waiting period of at least 5 years from the conviction. Bush could easily do that (it's not like he pays a lot of attention to guidelines), but if you read Sidney Blumenthal's column today, you get the sense that Bush may use this guideline thing as an excuse to throw Libby overboard. There's an internecine battle in the White House between the Rove crew and the Cheney crew, and Rove was ready to stick the knife in Cheney and Libby if asked.

Did something change in the defense after its opening statement about Rove (Libby "will not be sacrificed so Karl Rove can be protected") that led to its refusal to follow up during the trial? Did the prosecutor have new information that has not yet been made public about Libby and Cheney? If so, that evidence would have been irrelevant to the precise charges against Libby but might have come into play if Libby and Cheney testified. Their appearances might have made them vulnerable to additional perjury and obstruction charges if they were found to have lied on the stand. But who might have proved that?

The missing piece in the extensive evidence and testimony that detailed the administration's concerted attack on Wilson, orchestrated by Cheney, is the conversations among Libby, Cheney — and Rove. Rove had made a deal with Fitzgerald. Rove changed his testimony, escaped prosecution and went back for a fifth time before the grand jury. Fitzgerald owned Rove.

Only if Libby and Cheney appeared could Fitzgerald cross-examine them about their discussions with Rove, which presumably Rove had already testified about before the grand jury. Rove was the hostile witness against Cheney whom the prosecution had waiting in the wings, the witness who was never called. If Libby had come to the stand in his own defense, and summoned Cheney as well, Fitzgerald might have been prompted to call Rove from the deep to impeach Libby's and Cheney's credibility and reveal new incriminating information about them. Instead, Libby remained silent, Cheney flew off to Afghanistan and Rove never appeared. Rove was the missing witness for the prosecution.

That's fascinating, and with Cheney off on his own while Rove has been continuing to sit at the President's side, I think the pardon brigade is kind of desperate. How else to explain this:

UPDATE: Uh-oh, Waxman's on the case.

Chairman Henry A. Waxman has announced that the House Commitee on Oversight and Government Reform will be holding hearings looking into the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame, beginning on March the 16th.

Plame herself is going to testify. Wow. This is what needs to be done. The obstruction by Scooter Libby derailed the investigation. Congress must pick up where Patrick Fitzgerald left off.

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Iglesiasgate: Lawyers and Angry Colleagues

This fired US Attorneys story is really starting to percolate. The biggest news yesterday is that Sen. Domenici hired himself a lawyer, one with a scintillating track record:

(Lee) Blalack, a partner in O'Melveny & Myers LLP's Washington office, is an experienced defense lawyer. As attorney for Cunningham, who is serving a sentence of more than eight years, Blalack dealt with one of the federal prosecutors who was later ousted, Carol S. Lam of San Diego.

Why don't you add Ted Wells and the attorney for the BTK Killer while you're at it?

Clearly Domenici knows that he's in trouble. His second release of a statement responding to David Iglesias' claims was just gobbledygook, with lines like "I still do not know what he is talking about." But it's transparently obvious what Domenici was doing by pressuring Iglesias to indict Democrats in New Mexico, because the same thing was going on all over the country. In Washington state, there is now physical evidence in the form of a letter from a pro-GOP lobbying group to Rep. Doc Hastings, asking him to goad the US Attorney John McKay into investigating alleged voter fraud in the state gubernatorial race (won in a recount by Democrat Christine Gregoire) or recommend to the Justice Department that they fire McKay. The letter was dated July 2005. By late 2006 this is exactly what happened; McKay was fired.

Attorney General Abu Gonzales tried lamely to defend his decision-making, but again lied that all the firings were based on performance issues when they were transparently political. Here's Josh Marshall, who's been at the forefront of this story:

Let's be clear. The DOJ needn't establish a lengthy or any paper trail to justify firing a US Attorney. Maybe they didn't like the way she prosecuted gun crimes. Or maybe her bosses at Main Justice just didn't like how she went about her job. Maybe they just plain didn't like her. That's fine. And while it would be irregular to fire a US Attorney in the middle of a president's term for no evident wrongdoing, it would not in itself be improper. None of the USAs, as they're called, are irreplaceable. And they do serve at the president's pleasure.

The issue here is different. There is a clear and growing body of evidence that at least three of these firees were canned for not allowing politics to dictate their prosecution of political corruption cases. Or, to put it more bluntly, for not indicting enough Democrats or indicting too many Republicans. Which is to say they were fired for not perverting justice.

In the face of that evidence the administration has come up with a series of changing and often contradicatory alternative explanations, which range from the frivolous to the ridiculous.

The administration isn't at war with the fired attorneys or Congress. They're at war with the obvious.

The heat is getting to members of Congress. While House Minority Whip Roy Blunt defended Heather Wilson, who also called and pressured Iglesias to indict Democrats in New Mexico to save her job, other Republicans are very upset:

(Republican Senator from Nevada Jon) Ensign was particularly irate over the firing of Bogden, an independent who Ensign picked in 2001 to oversee federal crime prosecutions in Nevada. Bogden, a prosecutor in the Northern Nevada office of the U.S. attorney, was nominated by President Bush and confirmed by the Senate in October 2001.

In December, the Justice Department fired Bogden over Ensign's objections. Ensign said last month he was told the dismissal was for "performance reasons."

Justice officials initially told Congress that was the reason. But Tuesday, Deputy Attorney General William Moschella told a House subcommittee "no particular deficiencies" in Bogden's performance existed....

Ensign said Wednesday he was decidedly unhappy.

"What the Justice Department testified yesterday is inconsistent with what they told me," Ensign said. "I can't even tell you how upset I am at the Justice Department."

The Justice Department is spinning and lying, to individual Senators and to Congress in open hearings. This scandal is now beyond their control. And it's still a crime to lie to Congress, last time I checked. If Michael Barone can figure this out, anybody can.

The emerging scandal surrounding the dismissals of eight former U.S. attorney should signify to American voters the depth, breadth, and permeation of corruption in the Bush administration.

When a U.S. senator (to wit, Pete Domenici, a New Mexico Republican) feels free to call a prosecutor at home and hang up on him for resisting political pressure in the course of executing his prosecutorial duties, the line between politics and law enforcement has been so thoroughly violated that it no longer exists [...]

Domenici would not have made that call had either a Democrat or a law-abiding Republican been in the White House. He would not have had the temerity to throw his weight around to such an outrageous extent.

What's going on in Washington is not sufficiently removed from the routine doings of a tawdry Third World dictatorship to give any American comfort.

The only difference between this situation and the events of the past six years is that we know about this one. And that's because the Democrats have been dogged in their determination to find the truth. They're sure to keep digging, and the spin coming out of the DoJ is sure to keep them digging their own grave.

UPDATE: Justice Department officials are going to be subpoenaed and hauled into Congress. Pass the popcorn.

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CA Prisons: All (insert anyone's name but the Governor's) Fault

Gov. Schwarzenegger did a dog-and-pony show at a crumbling state prison yesterday, and had the temerity to BLAME THE LEGISLATURE for the problem. Apparently some other Austrian bodybuilder has been governor for four years.

Schwarzenegger is campaigning for an $11 billion reform and building package that he says will alleviate severe overcrowding at the state's 33 prisons and avoid a federal takeover. At the photo opportunity, the governor said "the Legislature has not really yet committed to really solving this problem."

State Senate leader Don Perata said about the governor's visit: "I am disappointed that the governor today blamed the Legislature for the state's prison crisis instead of offering ways to attack the problem. As the governor said, we need to show the court short-term solutions. But the governor's only short-term proposal has been ruled illegal. ... It's time to stop the antics and give the Legislature something to work with – not hyperbole or hastily crafted fixes. I am committed to working with the governor, but he must step up and show real leadership."

Being post-partisan is all about NOT showing real leadership. It's about "bringing people together" and making sure other people take the blame when things go awry. That's why he hasn't actually submitted a health care proposal. That's why he won't say whether or not he supports term limits or any specific redistricting plan. Post-partisanship is about makeing sure your ass is covered and you always have a scapegoat. And it certainly isn't about acting decisively to solve major crises like the one we have in our prisons. Good for Perata for speaking the truth here.

SEIU Local 1000, which includes the second-most correctional workers of any other union (about 14,000 employees), tore the Governor's plan to build his way out of this crisis to shreds today.

The report said the governor's $41 million plan to reduce inmate recidivism is dwarfed by his construction proposals. They seek to add 16,238 beds at existing prison sites, 5,000 to 7,000 beds in new community re-entry facilities, 45,000 county jail beds for state and local inmates, 10,000 additional prison hospital beds to satisfy the federal courts and 5,000 juvenile beds.

"You cannot solve this problem just by building another prison," said SEIU 1000 representation and organizing Vice President Marc Bautista of the state's prison overcrowding crisis. "Something else has to be done now, and sentencing reform and parole reform are the first steps. If you're successful, you won't have to build a new prison."

Bautista said the union favors building only the prison hospitals. The rest of the governor's construction plan, he said, is "excessive."

It's obvious that we lock too many people away, including nonviolent offenders who should be treated medically instead of thrown into the nightmare that is our state jails. The self-interested thing for the SEIU to argue would be the governor's plan, which means more jails and more employees. But they have the interests of the state at heart, and would like to see us safer and more humane. The governor has only one interest: post-partisanship, which really means himself.

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Fully Funded Withdrawal

This is the new buzzword of the Out of Iraq caucus in the House. The leadership has claimed that they are constrained by the 44 Blue Dog Democrts, but the truth is that there are more members in the Progressive Caucus, the largest caucus in the House. The leadership is constrained because the want to be constrained, particularly people like Steny Hoyer and Rahm Emanuel. Maybe they don't particularly want to see the war end. But Barbara Lee does:

By framing their discussion of the war in terms of winning and losing, the Bush administration seeks to portray critics of their policies as opposed to victory, or supportive of defeat.

The fact is that you cannot "win" an occupation, just as there is no way for the United States to "win" an Iraqi civil war.

The Bush administration understands this, just as they understand that there are no pretty or clean options for bringing a responsible end to our policy there. They are content to mouth the words of victory while they try to run out the clock, playing a cynical game of political "chicken," where whoever acts to bring a responsible end to their failed policy will be accused of having lost Iraq.

We are spending $8 billion a month occupying Iraq, with an average of 67 U.S. troops being killed and 500 being wounded. The cost to our security of having our military bogged down in Iraq indefinitely is unsustainable, and is not only sapping vital funds from efforts to fight global terrorism, but is strengthening jihadist recruitment efforts internationally. The longer we allow the administration to delay meaningful movement, and the longer we fail to extract ourselves from this quagmire, the more dangerous this failed foreign policy becomes to America and the rest of the world [...]

Fully funding withdrawal is not micromanagement, it is macromanagement - the Bush administration has so badly managed this effort that they have forced Congress to intervene.

Fully funding withdrawal is not cutting off funding - we are going to fully fund a rational alternative to the administration's attempt to run out the clock on their failed policy.

There is ample precedent of both Republican and Democratic Congresses acting to restrict or direct funds during wartime and the time has come to consider such action again.

We have a responsibility to challenge the administration's efforts to run out the clock, and by proposing to intervene by fully funding a policy that actually fulfills our nation's long term strategic security objectives, we force them to defend their track record on the war, which is a debate that Democrats win every time.

I excerpted a lot of that letter because it really sums it up. This is an occupation, and furthermore it's an occupation during a civil war in which the US military has no role other than policeman. The surge is woefully undermanned, to the extent that the Defense Department now wants to surge the surge with another 2,200 troops. That will not be the end, and it's already being revealed that the money and troop strength was lowballed by the President. This counterinsurency strategy will take 10 years and only has a small chance at success by the admission of the general carrying it out.

It looks like Progressive Caucus pressure has brought around the leadership to earmark all new money for Iraq in terms of a phased withdrawal.

In a direct challenge to President Bush, House Democrats are advancing legislation requiring the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq by the fall of next year.

Democratic officials who described the measure said the timetable would be accelerated — to the end of 2007 — if the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki does not meet goals for providing Iraq's security.

The conditions, described as tentative until presented to the Democratic rank and file Thursday, would be added to legislation providing nearly $100 billion the Bush administration has requested for fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

If the White House vetoes this, they don't get their $100 billion in funding. It's that simple. And it's that simple in the Senate as well, and Democrats should use the same tactics of "you don't support the troops in the field" if the Republicans act to block the funding. I don't realy know why it took so long to settle on this, but I'm gald it has. Now it's time to call every member of Congress and ask them where they stand.

I'm cautiously optimistic about where the Democrats are going with this debate.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

2008 Matters

I've been trying not to write about 2008 so much, because as much as we'd like George Bush to just go away he is still President for two more years, and while he'll be hard-pressed to get an agenda passed, he can still, you know, start illegal wars and stuff. Somebody has to keep their eyes on the guy in charge. Nevertheless, the early start to the race is fast becoming impossible to ignore, so here's a quick roundup:

• This Fox News "Democrat Party debate" story is interesting. It appears that nobody in the Democratic Party of Nevada really knew about it beforehand; it was an inside job between the party chair and (allegedly) Harry Reid. So. Fox News schedules a debate for Democrats. They handled it pretty horribly last time. They're clearly a propaganda outfit and not a news organization. So. The vast left-wing conspiracy is outraged. John Edwards sez he's not coming. The NV Dems try to stop the bleeding by allowing a token Air America host to participate on the debate panel, but Mark Green, Air America's new President, pretty much shut that down. This is going to get much worse for the NDP before it gets better unless they just pull the plug. It's a shame, too, because we need Nevada as part of a Western strategy in 2008, so anything that hurts the party like this is damaging. I would also say that, while there's no reason to give Fox News any credibility, people don't only have one channel on their television, and they did secure broadcast on major Fox affiliates in the state.

• I did think this was pretty good, and Obama's people had nothing to do with it.

If Barack would only embrace the open-source nature of new politics, he could cruise to victory. Really. He'd be able to raise as much as he wanted online, and he'd have the enthusiastic support of creative people like this.

• Chuck Hagel's close to announcing. He may talk a good game on the war, but he's as reliable a conservative as they come. Still, it'll be fun to see the right bash the hell out of him (and maybe build his popularity besides).

• Newt Gingrich is having a religious conversion. He's positioning himself just right for the nomination, it seems to me. There's a huge vaccuum with the lack of a credible conservative candidate, and some people still consider him an intellectual. He's actually the meanest, most divisive, most corrupt guy the Republicans have, but he taught a class somewhere, so that makes him brilliant. And he's the kind of guy who says things like New Orleans residents suffered from a failure of citizenship for not knowing how to get out of a hurricane. Nobody blames the victim like Newt. The conservatives will lap it up. He wouldn't surprise me at all as the nominee.

• Moving to the Senate in 2008, you know that the Republican chair of the campaign committee, Jon Ensign, isn't particularly enthused about his chances when he lists five Republican-held states as "trouble spots". Those states, by the way, are: Colorado (open seat), Maine (Collins), New Hampshire (Sununu), Oregon (Smith) and Minnesota (Coleman). He forgot New Mexico, given Pete Domenici's recent troubles. And North Carolina, where Elizabeth Dole is vulnerable, given the right candidate. On the Democratic side, pretty much everyone's safe except Tim Johnson (and South Dakota Republicans can't figure out how to run against a sick man given their penchant for slash-and-burn politics) and Mary Landrieu (who looked fairly safe in the most recent poll).

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Get Ready For Action

With the exception of the line "stopping the war will have to wait" I have to wholeheartedly endorse this Michael Tomasky article.

Whenever I hear a Democrat in Congress say something like, "We're not interested in the past; we're focused on the future," I shoot the nearest television. What this usually means is: "Our pollsters tell us that voters don't remember what happened last week, let alone three or four years ago, and that we just open ourselves up to attack for 'dwelling in the past.'"

This is exactly the kind of politics that lost them the last two very winnable presidential elections. Follow your polls, stay on safe ground, concede the other side's arguments before they've even made them; and for God's sakes, don't ever try to move public opinion, just try to meet it and placate it.

If they don't know by now how much this posture has cost them politically in the last seven years -- and how much it's cost the country in countless ways -- then majority status will be fundamentally wasted on them.

This is incredibly correct. We have one chance to get this right, or the same people that lied us into war and ran the White House like a criminal enterprise will rise again, years and years later, in an even worse incarnation. The American people have been lied to, repeatedly and totally. They need to know exactly how and why for a very simple reason: so that safeguards can be instituted to ensure something like this never happens again. Nobody thought there could be anything like Nixon after Nixon. They were right: it's worse.

Andrew Sullivan, who I don't quote often, writes here with great energy and vigor:

Something is rotten in the heart of Washington; and it lies in the vice-president's office. The salience of this case is obvious. What it is really about - what it has always been about - is whether this administration deliberately misled the American people about WMD intelligence before the war. The risks Cheney took to attack Wilson, the insane over-reaction that otherwise very smart men in this administration engaged in to rebut a relatively trivial issue: all this strongly implies the fact they were terrified that the full details of their pre-war WMD knowledge would come out. Fitzgerald could smell this. He was right to pursue it, and to prove that a brilliant, intelligent, sane man like Libby would risk jail to protect his bosses. What was he really trying to hide? We now need a Congressional investigation to find out more, to subpoena Cheney and, if he won't cooperate, consider impeaching him.

We cannot let a mechanism stay in place where the executive branch can manipulate intelligence, lie to everyone, create their own reality and send Americans off to die. This has been coming to a head for a long time and it has to stop. I'm glad that there is a new commission looking into the division of war powers. Indeed, there's a long-dormant War Powers Act that Congress seems averse to use. But this is a crisis point. The way in which the legislative branch has given up all foreign policy decision-making is appalling and has left us at the whim of a single executive. This doesn't work. There's too much power invested in one branch. And holding them accountable for their sins will go a long way to future Presidents not wanting to repeat the action.

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Union Yes

Airport baggage screeners will get collective bargaining rights under legislation now passed by the House and Senate. I'm glad to see labor reasserting itself around MEMBERSHIP issues, both in this action and the Employee Free Choice Act. The White House can veto either or both, but they'll essentially have to show contempt for working people and, in the case of the 9-11 legislation, value corporate profits over homeland security.

Matthew Yglesias wonders why Democrats are so responsive to union issues and not issues of Iraq, national security, foreign policy, stopping torture and domestic spying, etc. And he gives the answer:

Not that I begrudge the unions their influence, either. They won it fair and square -- with organizing, with money, with volunteers, with discipline, with clear requests, etc. As you see with any influential group, securing influence takes work. Sadly, there are virtually no institutions of any consequence organized around providing a progressive take on the substance -- as opposed to labor procedures -- of national security issues. And until that changes, you'll keep having what we have today; a Democratic Party with very clear ideas about whether or not airport screeners should be represented by unions, but very hazy ideas about how to deal with Iran.

That's absolutely true, but starting to change. I think what is doing with is very important and key. They've already spurred Jim Webb to action, as he introduced a bill restricting all funding for any strike on Iran without Congressional authorization. That's a good start, but as Yglesias says, it'll take years and a lot of money. Unions have manpower and moneypower, and they can provide infrastructure in practically all 50 states. There isn't going to really be anything like that in the foreign policy sphere, unless possibly you mobilize veteran's groups and provide them with all the support they need to be a political factor.

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"Mostly Free of Scandal"

I'll have to agree with Wonkette on this one: David Gergen is mentally retarded.

Gergen also said he expected political fallout from the (Libby) verdict.

"This is an administration that has been mostly free of scandal over the last six years and now they have the taint that they cannot erase," he said. "It has damaged this White House, and I think it's damaged the Republican prospects for 2008 in taking the White House and keeping it."

I'm now going to see if I can close my eyes and think of 25 individuals from this Administration who were either forced to resign, or were investigated, arrested and/or convicted, as a result of scandal.

Scooter "headed to jail" Libby
David "in jail right now" Safavian
Dusty "under indictment for bribery" Foggo
Claude "I stole stuff from Target" Allen
Steven "Abramoff bribery suspect" Griles
Bernard "didn't even get past the nominee stage" Kerik
Francis "Walter Reed is fine" Harvey
Gen. George "see Francis Harvey" Weightman
Thomas "Enron figure, also Secretary of the Army" White
Richard "faking information in a terrorism case" Convertino
Michael "Brownie" Brown
Porter "hookers at the Watergate" Goss
Larry "passing information to Israel" Franklin
Donald "secret trip to Taiwan" Keyser
Armstrong Williams (on the government's payroll, then you're a member of the Administration)
Maggie Gallagher
Thomas I will fire you if you tell anyone the true cost of the Medicare bill" Scully

OK, I got to 17. I think there are a lot more, though.

Mind you, there's a lot that isn't here because nobody was held acocuntable. Like Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, the secret energy task force, the Office for Special Plans, Jeff Gannon, falsifying intelligence in the run-up to war, aluminum tubes, Niger forgeries, "we found the weapons of mass destruction," Ken Mehlman's involvement in New Hampshire phone-jamming, the $8 billion dollars missing in Iraq, Colleen Rowley's story, Sibel Edmonds' story, firing US Attorneys for political reasons, illegal NSA wiretapping, Tom DeLay using the Homeland Security Department to track people, no-bid defense contracts, FEMA trailers rotting in the Arkansas mud, people in New Orleans rotting on their roofs and attics, torture memos, signing statements, forcing edits out of global warming papers, and 10,000 more.

And I didn't even get to the Republican Congress, where 21 members have been investigated in the past 2 years.

"Mostly free of scandal"? Mostly?

David Gergen, by the way, has served four Presidents and is seen by the Washington commentariat as something of an elder statesman. And a very serious person.

Serious enough to be put in a mental asylum.

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What's a California Issue?

Well, the Make Iowa And New Hampshire More Important In the 2008 Primary Act has passed both houses of the California legislature.  And it will be signed shortly.  Some people seem to think that this will "give California clout" in picking the Presidential nominees, although those people don't appear to be the legislators that passed it, as they're far more concerned with moving a term limits relaxation initiative into place so they can be re-elected.

But I want to address those who say, in a manner not unlike a four year-old demanding that everyone in the room look at the crayon drawing of a turkey that they traced with their hand, "Now the candidates have to pay attention to CALIFORNIA issues!"

Oh yeah, well... what are those?

Sure, there are a few issues that impact this state directly, but it's not like they're not deeply felt across the country as well.  Are there no other states with immigration problems?  Do Nevada and Arizona have all the water they need?  Does no other

state have a health care crisis?

I actually seriously want to know.  Why is there this stress on candidates having to pay lip service to random issues that they'll immediately drop for the general and the rest of their Presidency anyway.  When's the last time you heard the word "ethanol" after January of an election year?  How much talk of the farm bill is in the public discourse?

The only "California issues" I can think of are how to check runaway film production (which isn't a federal issue) and increasing H1-B visas for the hi-tech community.  But even those aren't statewide.

To me, the most important issue I would ask of any candidate is whether they will disavow the concept of the unitary executive and the pernicious use of signing statements to nullify Congressional law.  It may not be a California issue, but it's pretty damn important IMO.

I actually don't buy the premise at all.  Presidents should not pay attention to "California issues" above others, the same way they shouldn't play to the concerns of any 10% of the population above the majority.  Presidents must consider the whole country's well-being, not the narrow concerns of a few.  If you want legislators to pay attention to California, I've got news for you: there are a whole bunch of CALIFORNIA LEGISLATORS.  Expecting anything else is little more than narcissism.

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But Do You Get The Sash?

Obi-Wan Kenobi's cloak sells for $104,000.

Also, new White Stripes coming out.

I have delivered by recommended daily allowance of geekdom.

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Today Sucks

Not going to have much else for ya from here on out today. Peruse the links or the archives. Thanks.


Partial Victory for Antonio

Amidst an absurdly low turnout, LA Mayor and nominal 2010 gubernatorial front-runner Antonio Villaraigosa was not quite successful enough to tip the school board in his favor - at least not yet.

There were 4 open seats on the school board. Villaraigosa was fairly well assured to win 2. He needed 3 for a majority on the board. Here are the results:

In nearly complete returns, the mayor's favored candidates finished ahead in three races and trailed in the fourth. But two of those leads were not sizable enough to avoid a May runoff, meaning that, once again, Villaraigosa's school intervention plans could be put on hold [...]

The two big-money contests pitted an incumbent against a challenger favored by the mayor. In those races, Villaraigosa faced one loss and one runoff. The union-backed Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte won handily in her South Los Angeles race and Villaraigosa-favored Tamar Galatzan and incumbent Jon M. Lauritzen headed to a May showdown in the San Fernando Valley.

The mayor officially sat out the battle in District 1, which pitted incumbent LaMotte against charter school operator Johnathan Williams.

He "sat it out," most likely, because he didn't want to get sullied by Williams' defeat. But he pretty much did everything but endorse him. Williams outspent his oppoenent by 2-to-1 and still lost.

That the Galatzan-Lauritzen race is headed to a run-off is no surprise: the two had big money behind them, the challenger from the mayor and the incumbent from the teachers' union. Amazingly, the mayor was unable to put away the race in District 7, where Villaraigosa-endorsed Richard Vladovic will now go to a May runoff against retired principal and low-funded candidate Neal B. Kleiner. That's really surprising to me.

We'll now see a UTLA firewall strategy for May. Villaraigosa needs both seats to gain a school board majority. And he seems to know that it's a tall order, because he's being conciliatory again:

Villaraigosa had planned to oust at the ballot box any board members who resisted his schools agenda, but amid Tuesday night's uncertain outcome, he adopted a conciliatory tone. Earlier, he had called board President Marlene Canter, with whom he had refused to meet for months.

"I want to work with the school board," he said in an interview. "I'm reaching out…. I'm looking for a partnership that's focused on change and innovation. That's what it's been about from the beginning."

Riiiight. Why do I have trouble believing that one? Must be the two million dollars funneled to candidates battling incumbent school board members.

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The Race To Be The Least Worst Republican Candidate

I agree with Matthew Yglesias, it's hard to imagine ANY of these Republican candidates actually being the standard-bearer for their party. How could a bench get so thin in just a matter of a few years?

Giuliani's pro-choice and pro-gay views are fairly well-known at this point. To some extent, however, this only scratches the surface of his un-nominability. Compatible with both his record as a social liberal and his record as an authoritarian, Giuliani was a supporter of New York City's draconian gun laws. Moreover, he was an enthusiastic enforcer of these laws. The ugly truth is that the ex-mayor's record of tension with African-American New Yorkers is probably an asset in a GOP primary. But it's important to note that one major locus of these tensions was the Giuliani-era NYPD's affection for the combined NAACP/NRA nightmare of frequent, random, seemingly racially targeted stop-and-frisk searches of citizens not under suspicion of a specific crime in hopes of finding guns to confiscate [...]

What's more, people forget this, but the same factors likely to hinder Giuliani with the base won't help in a general election, either. This far out, you need to ignore the polls and think about how an actual campaign will play out. A thrice-married occasional cross-dresser with a penchant for seizing guns while turning a blind eye to illegal immigrants who also thinks cutting taxes on the rich is the be-all and end-all of economic policy isn't going to inspire anyone to wonder what's the matter with Kansas. Next to Giuliani, everyone looks like the candidate for values voters.

But none of the alternatives look any better. Mitt Romney is the most freakishly transparent liar I've ever witnessed. His party is desperately reliant on playing the Christian card on election day, but most traditionalist Christians deny that his religion counts as Christianity. He can't decide which state he's from, invested major resources in barely winning a Conservative Political Action Committee straw poll last weekend, and, for his trouble, managed to snag the endorsement of Ann Coulter at the same time she was calling John Edwards a "faggot."

Then there's McCain. To the kind of liberal who spent 2002 fantasizing about McCain beating Bush in '04 on the Democratic ticket, his pathetic decline is probably a sad story. To me, it's more like a funny one -- like when that guy slipped and fell down a flight of stairs and it all looked very painful but he was a huge jerk anyway. McCain is old. And sick. And obviously so. He has the misfortune of being both the most conservative candidate in the race and the one most hated by conservatives. His website makes it look like he's campaigning for Führer. Worst of all, George W. Bush's Iraq policy is so crazy that it's managed to ruin McCain's devilishly clever positioning on Iraq.

Quite a rogue's gallery, isn't it?

I mean, the lead authoritarian right now for the Republican nomination is a guy who has humiliated his ex-wife and kids so much that his own son won't campaign for him. And he's the one evangelicals LIKE the most, although Richard Land today basically called him unaceptable. McCain is so nervous that he's losing his grip on a nomination he considers his birthright that he rushed to announce on David Letterman without informing any of his advisers, which outraged some so much that they quit his campaign.

It's getting to the point where I half-expect the Republicans to nominate "None of the Above." Or Michael Savage, if the great patriot Jesus' General is successful.

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Lights are On, No One's Home

What a breathtaking day yesterday was, so much going on. But there was one thing I forgot to mention. In the wake of Ann Coulter's comments at CPAC (which are losting her advertisers), you would think it would register a mention that she appeared prominently at the beginning of Fox' 1/2 Hour News Hour show just two days later.

Of course, somebody would have had to have NOTICED that it was on.

And this is a fairly pathetic attempt at justification by my old friend Kurt Long, who clearly is so embarrassed by his performance that he changed his name for the show.

Dighton homey-gone-Hollywood Kurt Long doesn’t think his anchor gig on Fox News Channel’s “The 1/2 Hour News Hour” will torpedo his career.

“If Robert Downey Jr. can get busted for heroin, be found sleeping in a stranger’s bed and still be on the Academy Awards last week, how much could this hurt me,” laughed the co-anchor of FNC’s new right-wing news spoof.

So, ah, why hide behind the name “Kurt McNally” on the show????

“Is Kiefer Sutherland ‘hiding’ behind Jack Bauer on ‘24?’ ” said Long. “Being behind the desk on the show is just another acting gig for me. I’m not playing me (a la the left-leaning ‘Daily Show’ host Jon Stewart), I’m playing an anchorman who is oblivious to the jokes around him.”

Dude, friend, you're hiding. You're transparently hiding. There's no "mystery" to the vomitorium of comedy that is that show, no character to be projecting. You're not oblivious to the jokes, you're telling the jokes, and they're not funny. You're doing the devil's bidding, spitting out talking points that Republican operatives want in their audience's brain. You're mostly hiding from yourself.

And when the lede of a story is you claiming that your latest gig WON'T destroy your career, uh, it's destroyed your career.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Igleasiasgate: Feinstein Says "Sorry, DoJ"

The hearings on the fired US Attorneys today were riveting, and our own Senator Feinstein has been instrumental in beinging it about. Today, she brought out some ammo in making her case that these prosecutors were fired for expressly political reasons.

The Justice Department's alibi (today, at least) was that US Attorneys like Carol Lam were fired for performance-based issues, particularly their inability to speedily prosecute immigration and border cases as per Administration policy. But Feinstein had an ace in the hole: a letter from the Justice Department, claiming that nto only was Carol Lam an exceptional prosecutor, but that she was FULLY implementing Administration policy of prosecuting immigration cases.

The Department has used the fact that I wrote a letter on June 15 to the Attorney General concerning the San Diego region, and in that I asked some questions: What are the guidelines for the U.S. Attorney Southern District of California? How do these guidelines differ from other border sections nationwide? I asked about immigration cases.

Here is the response that I got under cover of August 23, in a letter signed by Will Moschella. And I ask that both these letters be added to the record.

“That office [referring to Mrs. Lam’s office], is presently committing fully half of its Assistant U.S. Attorneys to prosecute criminal immigration cases. Prosecutions for alien smuggling in the Southern District under USC sections 1234 are rising sharply in Fiscal Year 2006. As of March 2006, the halfway point in the fiscal year, there were 342 alien smuggling cases filed in that jurisdiction. This compares favorable with the 484 alien smuggling prosecutions brought there during the entirety of Fiscal Year 2005.”

The letter goes on to essentially say that Mrs. Lam is cooperating; that they have reviewed it and the Department is satisfied.

This is a big deal, as it pretty much invalidates the Justice Department's story. And it's refreshing to see Sen. Feinstein stick her neck out and wade into a controversial story. The information that came out of today's House and Senate hearings will be fodder for months, and Feinstein has been at the forefront of ensuring that this criminal enterprise being run out of the White House and the Justice Department is held accountable.

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The Adults Have An Important Scandal

While fired prosecutors alleged personal phone calls from Republican officials and members of Congress (one of them at home) pressuring them to investigate Democrats, while they outlined how they were purged from the Justice Department for political reasons, while the chief of staff to the Vice President was convicted of a felony for the first time in over a century, this is what the right has been busying themselves with - apparently Hillary used an accent.

Except there's so much less here than meets the eye.

The Drudge headline links to this audio of Hillary speaking yesterday. If you listen to it, the main thing you'll hear is Hillary speaking in a southern drawl, saying phrases that sound like her own words:

"I don't feel no ways tired..I come too far from where I started from...Nobody told me that the road would be easy...I don't believe he brought me this far to leave me." [...]

But as always, a simple fact-check shows this latest wingnut preoccupation to be highly dishonest. The audio clip Drudge linked to cherry-picked that quote and removed it completely from its context, which would have shown that Hillary wasn't adopting this accent or grammar or language as her own at all.

Rather, it turns out that Hillary was actually quoting the hymn lyrics of someone else -- while clearly and very openly imitating (not very well, it turns out) the cadences she thought the lyrics would traditionally have been delivered in. There was nothing phony about it at all.

SCANDAL: Hillary quotes a Southerner!!!

By the way practically every major news organization picked this up.

These are the people that came into Washington saying that the adults have taken over.

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Off The Deep End

Once you make someone in the party of personal responsibility personally responsible, they throw a fit.

Already the Fitzmas-related tantrum activities are beginning. Mark R. Levin whines. And whines more. K-Lo blubbers sarcastically. But David Frum’s, so far, are the loudest sobs to be heard through my whiskey tumbler held on the other side here of the WingNet wailing wall: ‘Perjury?! What about the Clenis???’

Meanwhile, I think the National Review had this puppy already written and ready to whip out at any opportunity. It's based on the same lies they've peddled throughout this three-year-plus escapade ("No underlying crime!" "It's Armitage's fault!" "Look over here!") without addressing the simple fact that Scooter Libby obstructed a federal investigation by lying. But this is my favorite part:

A good man has paid a very heavy price for the Left’s fevers, the media’s scandal-mongering, and President Bush’s failure to unify his own administration.

ROWR. When wingnuts attack... each other.

And don't forget to take note of these talking points, because when the US Attorney firing investigation comes to a head, they'll be sure to apply them there as well.

P.S.: The best part about the verdict is that now they can write the ending to the movie.

I'm seeing Jessica Lange as Jane Hamsher.

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The End of Rule By Intimidation

Today's news on so many fronts reveals a signature moment. Not only has the chief of staff to the Vice President of the United States been convicted, but a similarly explosive story is playing out in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Justice is reasserting itself on many fronts today, and the moral of the story is that you cannot rule by intimidation, fear and bullying without it eventually catching up to you.

Scooter Libby lied to the FBI and a federal grand jury because he believed he could get away with it. He was doing so at a time where the Bush Administration felt they controlled all the levers of government and could do their business with total impunity. Since they have a sincere belief that people only listen when threatened (just look at their foreign policy), their favored method of action was intimidation.

It was intimidation that was at the heart of revealing Valerie Plame's covert status. They were backing the media off of the truthfulness of Joe Wilson's story. They were backing other CIA agents or whistleblowers off any desgins they might have on coming forward, showing by inference that their lives would be ruined if they made such a decision. The brazen nature of this initimidation necessitated a coverup that led to the verdict you saw today.

And in the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning, the Bush Administration was revealed to have learned ABSOLUTELY NOTHING from that exercise. You need to read this email to get a full understanding of it. Essentially, the deputy Attorney General, Paul McNulty, threatened former US Attorney Bud Cummins with blackmail if he continued to criticize the Administration's efforts to purge him and his colleagues. That the Justice Department would threaten to put out damaging information about US Attorneys if they continued to speak out fits into this exact same pattern as outing Valerie Plame to get back at her husband. They've learned nothing from Scooter Libby, and they continue to operate in the same fashion. Attorney General Gonzales would only say that he could have rolled out the firings more smoothly. The only regret is that THEY HAVEN'T GOTTEN AWAY WITH IT.

In addition, yet another US Attorney has alleged that he received a phone call pressuring him to investigate a case that would benefit Republicans and damage Democrats. This time it was the chief of staff to Doc Hastings (R-WA), the former head of the HOUSE ETHICS COMMITTEE, calling US Attorney John McKay to look into allegations of voter fraud in the 2004 Washington gubernatorial race. There's video of the McKay allegation here.

March 6 is an important day in the history of this Administration. You cannot continue to run the US Government like the mob and not expect any consequences. The walls are starting to crumble and the highest reaches of the executive branch - the Vice President, the Attorney General, the President himself - are no longer protected. This is the day that truth started to win out, and the day that begins a long march toward restoring what's left of this democracy and taking the country back from the thugs that have criminally ruled it for the past six years.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum:

It's remarkable. The Bushies quietly got a shiny new Patriot Act power to fire and replace U.S. Attorneys without Senate approval, so they went ahead and used it. Then they got called on it. So how did they react?

Well, they could have just said it was for policy reasons: they wanted people who were on board with administration policies a little more heartily, and these folks didn't make the grade. So we replaced them.

What would have happened then? A little bit of grumbling, probably. Some complaints that Bush was politicizing the office, perhaps, but since the offices are political appointments in the first place that wouldn't have gone very far. And the fired official themselves, who are all Republican loyalists in the first place, would have packed their bags and gotten other jobs. They know how politics works.

But no. This administration is so dedicated to spin and deceit that they just couldn't leave it alone. They figured maybe they could avoid any criticism by claiming the firings were for performance-related reasons. That should shut everyone up! But of course it did just the opposite. The fired attorneys, who were originally willing to suck it up and accept their political fate, were unhappy over being called incompetent. Who wouldn't be? And so the whole thing unraveled. Now it's a case of U.S. Attorneys being fired because they were too zealous about prosecuting Republican corruption, and the Department of Justice is reduced to feebly arguing that it's just a coincidence that so many of the Pearl Harbor Eight were investigating corruption cases.

It's not enough that they use little tricks to aggrandize their power. They have to insult those who they kick out the door, and threaten their careers. That's why it's backfiring.

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Scooter Libby has been convicted on four counts of perjury, obstruction of justice and lying to the FBI. He could get as much as 30 years in prison.

For once in the past six years, actions have consequences. Now PardonWatch begins.

UPDATE: That's kind of interesting, Harry Reid gets right out in front of it:

I welcome the jury’s verdict. It’s about time someone in the Bush Administration has been held accountable for the campaign to manipulate intelligence and discredit war critics. Lewis Libby has been convicted of perjury, but his trial revealed deeper truths about Vice President Cheney’s role in this sordid affair. Now President Bush must pledge not to pardon Libby for his criminal conduct.

The pardon that Bush is going to have to give is to the Vice President. Because I don't think Patrick Fitzgerald is done. In his closing statement he said that "there is a cloud over the Vice Presidency."

The right is going crazy because they know that this culture of rule by intimidation is ending. In this sense Iglesiasgate and the Plame case are the same. People aren't going to be cowed into submission by this runaway Presidency anymore. The law will assert itself.

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