“‘I look around,’ Mr. Lott said, ‘and think, “Am I the only one who thinks this is stupid?”‘” Hearings into Katrina, foreign affairs, and other matters of state are postponed as the Senate commits to a day of stunt votes by both parties, mainly because Catkiller Frist had more pressing business — a fundraiser, of course — the prior evening. “Senator Ted Stevens, Republican of Alaska, said, ‘It’s sort of arrogant of us, isn’t it, scheduling them and then not keeping our appointments?’“
This just about drives me up the wall. Threatening to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory yet again, Minority Leader Harry Reid loses his nerve and apologizes to Senate Republicans for daring to insinuate they’ve been on the make. “The release [since edited down], titled, ‘Republicans cannot be trusted to end the culture of corruption,’ triggered sharp complaints from GOP officials, who said it violated Senate decorum and brought campaign-style mudslinging into the Capitol.” Aw, shucks. Really? As the WP pointed out: “As partisan attacks go, the statement was hardly the most scathing seen on Capitol Hill lately.“
If anything, the problem with this release is that it used a blunderbuss when it should’ve used a stiletto — It’s clear somebody on Reid’s staff just spent a day cutting-and-pasting old DNC talking points. The George Allen noose anecdote or Inhofe-on-Global-Warming, for example — both are reprehensible, but both have nothing to do with Abramoff-style corruption. (While I’m at it, the line “I thought I’d seen the last of corruption when I helped clean up Las Vegas thirty years ago” is an unbelievable groaner. I know you faced down car bombs and all, but really, Vegas is hardly a beacon of purity nowadays.)
That being said, these charges, however off-topic, are true and in the public record, so what’s the problem? And when was the last time you heard Senate Republicans apologize for anything? Catkiller Frist owes us at least two sorrys by this point, and that’s right off the top of my head. For Pete’s sake, Sen. Reid, you’re supposed to be our leader. Start acting like it. At the very least, don’t even bother posting tough-minded press releases if you feel you’re going to have to disavow them within 48 hours. If you don’t want to get your hands dirty, then pass the reins to someone else.
Wary of increasing public opposition to the Iraq war and spurred to action by a Democratic amendment advocating a specific timetable for withdrawal, Senate Republicans craft legislation calling for an Iraq exit strategy. “On the Iraq resolutions, the Democratic and Republican proposals say that ’2006 should be a period of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty, with Iraqi security forces taking the lead for the security of a free and sovereign Iraq, thereby creating the conditions for the phased redeployment of United States forces from Iraq’…The White House is also directed ‘to explain to Congress and the American people its strategy for the successful completion of the mission in Iraq.’” Unfortunately, with the exception of quarterly reports to Congress on the war effort, the language of the proposal is not binding. Update: It passes, 98-0 (Lamar Alexander and Governor Corzine didn’t vote.)
“Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist says he is more concerned about the leak of information regarding secret CIA detention centers than activity in the prisons themselves…’I am not concerned about what goes on [in the prisons] and I’m not going to comment about the nature of that,’ Frist replied.” Unbelievable. The same guy who blew a gasket over a closed-door Senate session last week couldn’t care less what goes on behind closed doors in secret, illegal CIA gulags. (I guess he figures it couldn’t be much worse than your average day at the Frist family animal shelter.)
Republicans…they never stop surprising me. The nation discovers that, contrary to our most basic principles, the CIA has a series of secret, illegal gulags around the world, and how do GOP leaders respond? They want to know who told the press. (Mind you, this is after stonewalling investigations into prewar intelligence and the Plamegate leak for many a year.)
To be fair, not all GOP Senators are with them on this. Said Gang of 14 member Lindsey Graham (R-SC): “Talk about not seeing the forest for the trees. The real story is those jails…I’d like to know why we’ve got secret prisons and what oversight precautions we have.” And Trent Lott (R-MS) believes that a Republican is likely responsible for the leak, after hearing about the prisons from Mr. Torture himself, Big Time Dick Cheney. “‘Every word that was said in there went right to the newspaper,’ Lott said. ‘We can’t keep our mouths shut.‘” But, perhaps Catkiller knows this, and suspects one of his probable primary opponents? (LA Times story via Quiddity.) Update: Wheels within wheels…Was the leak investigation letter accidentally leaked? Regardless, Pat Roberts has put the kibosh on a congressional investigation…for now.
“‘I think really for our viewers it should be understood that I put this into a blind trust,’ Frist replied [in January 2003.] ‘So as far as I know, I own no HCA stock.’…Two weeks before that interview, M. Kirk Scobey Jr., a Frist trustee, informed the senator in writing that one of his trusts had received HCA stock valued at between $15,000 and $50,000.” Fifteen trustee letters obtained by the Post, describing sales and purchases of HCA stock, indicate Frist’s been lying about his “blind” trust for years. Poor Catkiller…I bet Iowa suddenly seems a million miles away…
“Even a criminal like myself is shocked that millions are not able to get health insurance and cannot pay for basic surgery. Who are these power brokers that allow the pigpen to become wormy and filthy? I demand your very lives, but I am not such an imbecile as to institutionalize suffering and poverty. You have my assurance that this shall change swiftly.” Three years to go and the 2008 slate is already filling up. For the Dems: Hillary, Biden, Bayh, Warner, and Feingold. For the GOP: Frist, McCain, and Brownback. And, although Chris Walken first seemed to have the Indy vote locked up (let’s face it, Cthulhu‘s missed His shot), word is the inimitable General Zod is now coming on strong. Hmmm. I could definitely see him pulling a Stockdale at some point in the debate. (By way of LinkMachineGo.)
“We are Americans, and we hold ourselves to humane standards of treatment of people no matter how evil or terrible they may be. To do otherwise undermines our security, but it also undermines our greatness as a nation.” Behind Sen. John McCain, who knows as well as anyone why we must set limits on our interrogation policies, the Senate votes 90-9 to rebuke the White House and constrain future interrogation abuses at Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, and around the world. For his part, Catkiller Frist earlier tried to smother the amendment, but ultimately ended up voting for it. Wouldn’t want a vote for torture on our 2008 transcript now, would we?
Sorry, Catkiller, no help there. New SEC Chairman Christopher Cox recuses himself from the probe into Bill Frist’s suspicious stock dump, leaving four commissioners — two Dems and two GOP — to head the inquiry. Update: A blind trust? Not hardly. “Documents on file with the Senate show the trustees for Frist and his immediate family wrote the senator nearly two dozen times between 2001 and July 2005. The documents list assets going into the account and assets sold. Some assets have a dollar range of the investment’s value and some list the number of shares.”
By way of Looka, did Catkiller Frist pull a Martha? “Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a potential presidential candidate in 2008, sold all his stock in his family’s hospital corporation about two weeks before it issued a disappointing earnings report and the price fell nearly 15 percent…To keep the trust blind, Frist was not allowed to know how much HCA stock he owned…but he was allowed to ask for all of it to be sold.” Update: The Post has more: “The notion that you have a blind trust but you can tell your trustee when to sell stock in it just doesn’t make any sense. It means you have a seeing eye trust and not a blind trust. It’s ridiculous.” Update 2: The SEC steps in, and subpoenas start flying.
“‘The entire fiscal landscape has been transformed in the last week…The entire Republican agenda of tax cuts, Social Security reform and big spending on pet Republican projects is over. Events do eventually have an impact on Capitol Hill.’” The Congressional GOP confront the realization that they’ll likely be forced to postpone their ill-advised tax cut dreams in light of Katrina. Nevertheless, Catkiller Frist is undeterred, and still plans to attempt a repeal of the estate tax when Congress convenes next week…cause, y’know, the nation’s millionaires are suffering. Update: Frist backs down (for now.) AP and the NYT has more.
Bucking the Dubya trend, Bill Frist comes out for expanded federal stem cell research. Evidently, Catkiller‘s 2008 gurus decided he should hype his M.D. and/or tack moderate — which is probably a mistake…the GOP moderates will likely stick with McCain, while the fundies may now look to Sam Brownback or some other winger freakshow as their primary hopeful. But, hey, the right thing is the right thing, even if it’s for the wrong reasons.
“The Senate put off until fall completing a $491 billion defense bill in order to act this week on the National Rifle Association’s top priority: shielding gun manufacturers and dealers from liability suits stemming from gun crimes.” Well, that sounds much more important than our troops overseas, doesn’t it? Looks like Catkiller Frist is shoring up the freakshow base for 2008 at the expense of the American people again. Where’s the outrage? Update: The bill passes 65-31.
“‘The constituencies are in tension with each other…His leadership of the Senate has faltered so far as he has tried to cultivate the constituency of Republican primary voters,’ Sandel said.” Responding to the recent Bolton switcheroo, the WP questions whether Bill Frist has the wherewithal for the presidency. Probably not. I mean, judgment-wise, he had already lost me with the whole murdering kittens thing, to say nothing of his goofy Schiavo diagnosis or his many prostrations before the fundies. But, hey, don’t fret, Senator…The bar for presidential judgment these days is pretty low.
Ambitious Dems Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. and Governor Mark Warner try to establish their presidential bona fides by joining in on the anti-Dean pileup. I wouldn’t have used Deans’s “white christian” line — We shouldn’t be in the business of reinforcing the GOP’s hold on white Christian voters, particularly when so much of the Republicans’ bellicose, intolerant, and avarice-fueled agenda is flagrantly anti-Christian in any real sense. Today’s GOP may talk the talk of Jesus, but their leaders continually prostrate themselves before the altar of Mammon. As any good Christian knows, you can’t serve them both.
All that being said, it’s highly dismaying to watch the Dems eat their own like this. Obviously, our lazy, cowed excuse for a national newsmedia is going to leap at every possible note of intemperance to emanate from Dr. Dean, because it’s an easy story that won’t tick off the White House and doesn’t involve much in the way of reporting. So every two-bit Democratic official that wants to start generating some media buzz and moderate cred for a 2008 bid is currently mouthing off to reporters about the former Governor of Vermont.
Do Republicans do this? Not hardly. I don’t remember GOP officials rushing to lambast Bill Frist for his “against people of faith” photo-op, or Tom DeLay for all the garbage that routinely comes out of his mouth, to say nothing of all the Limbaughs, Hannitys, Coulters, etc. But one Dem uses stronger rhetoric than usual to characterize the opposition and we fall over each other to condemn him in the name of electable statesmanship. It’s pathetic. Word to the wise, Dems: Let Dean be Dean — we didn’t pick him for his social nicety — and concentrate your rhetorical firepower on the opposing trench.
“Frist called her “a superb judge” who applies the law ‘without bias, without favor, with an even hand.’ Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), one of the 14 negotiators, called Brown “an extremely talented and qualified judge” who will ‘advance the cause of conservative judicial philosophy.’” As Janice Rogers Brown moves through the Senate, some Dems and left-leaning groups start rethinking the benefits of last month’s nuclear compromise.
“Frist had only eight years of Senate experience when he succeeded Lott, and some colleagues felt he was more Bush’s choice than the GOP caucus’s. He was bound to need more White House help than did up-through-the-ranks predecessors such as Lott and Dole, they said, but sometimes Bush seemed to dump tough problems at his door and walk away.” As right-wing Republicans hammers the GOP moderates who crafted the nuclear compromise, Charles Babington examines the political import of Catkiller’s lousy week. Meanwhile, Frist’s possible primary nemesis John McCain calls for a compromise on Bolton, in which the White House would release the info they’ve been holding in exchange for a vote.
“The campaign to prevent the Senate filibuster of the president’s judicial nominations was simply the latest and most public example of similar transformations in Congress and the executive branch stretching back a decade. The common theme is to consolidate influence in a small circle of Republicans and to marginalize dissenting voices that would try to impede a conservative agenda.” The WP offers a big-picture view of recent GOP attempts to centralize power in the executive.
Priscilla Owen may be through, but a number of papers note today how Monday’s compromise only sets the stage for an ugly battle over Dubya’s next Supreme Court pick, likely to be a conservative freakshow.
I already posted one of these in the comments yesterday, but in case you missed it: Salon and the major papers break down the impact of nuclear detente on the 2008 GOP primaries. I’m dismayed to hear purported maverick Chuck Hagel attack the compromise — between this transparent kowtowing to primary-voting fundies and his Yes vote for John Bolton, the Senator of Nebraska is seeming less and less worthy of moderate support.
On the eve of meltdown, the Senate center holds, producing a compromise that allows three Dubya judges — Priscilla Owen, Janice Brown, and William Pryor — through in return for a nuclear standdown. The Dems are heralding this as a victory, but, with Rehnquist in ill health, this may just postpone the conflict…
As Frist’s press secretary gets tang-tungled trying in vain to explain her boss’s support for a 2000 judicial filibuster, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), one of Catkiller‘s stooges (who also blamed courthouse violence on activist judges a few weeks ago), sets the nuclear gambit in motion with a call for cloture. This will come to a head Tuesday, unless the moderates can avert the cataclysm. “Throughout the past three days of debate, Democratic senators pointed repeatedly to the Senate’s approval of 208 of Bush’s judicial nominees. Instead of being satisfied with a 95 percent success rate, the highest for a president’s judicial nominees in the past two decades, Bush has shown that he wants to have everything his way, the Democrats charged. By comparison, Republicans blocked 69 of President Clinton’s judicial nominees during his two terms.”
As Frist’s nuclear countdown ticks off, Senate moderates attempt a compromise, Senate aides hone their maneuvering, and Senate freakshow Rick Santorum (R-PA) invokes Godwin’s Law in claiming that Dems were “the equivalent of Adolf Hitler in 1942 saying, ‘I’m in Paris. How dare you invade me?’” (C-SPAN link via Quiddity.)
Undeterred by the Dem’s last-minute attempt to let less-controversial judges pass through first, Bill Frist initiates the nuclear countdown in the Senate. “‘I don’t rise for party,’ said Senator Frist. ‘I rise for principle.’” That is to say, the principle of seeing all the right-wing fundies line up behind his 2008 presidential bid.
Nuclear negotiations break down between Reid and Frist, setting the stage for a cataclysmic Senate meltdown this week over Karl Rove’s pet judge, Priscilla Owen. (That is, unless the Ben Nelson-John McCain compromise — which seems a considerable capitulation by the Dems — gains currency with the GOP.) Can Catkiller really have the votes? Surely, there are more than three so-called “conservatives” in the Senate who would vote against this type of radical rule change. Or has the GOP sunk so low? Update: A few days old now, but ah well: Salon offers a handy nuclear primer.
“The Republicans’ hands aren’t clean on this either. What we did with Bill Clinton’s nominees — about 62 of them — we just didn’t give them votes in committee or we didn’t bring them up.” On ABC’s This Week, Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) pretty much announces he’s not voting for the nuclear option. “‘My goodness,’ Hagel said, ‘you’ve got 100 United States senators. Some of us might be moderately intelligent enough to figure this out. We would, I think, debase our system and fail our country if we don’t [work it out.]”
Despite a (somewhat dismaying but probably politically necessary) attempt by top Senate Dems to achieve a compromise on the question of judicial nominations, Catkiller Frist remains committed to go nuclear to preserve his presidential prospects. Two-thirds of the country think the nuclear option is a bad idea, but will that be enough to sway the moderate GOP?
Knowing full-well the Dems will filibuster, the GOP initiates Catkiller’s nuclear gambit by bringing forth two of Dubya’s most controversial judicial nominees, Janice Rogers Brown and Priscilla Richman Owen, to a vote. (The fact that both are women, and Brown is black, has of course absolutely no bearing on the Republicans’ political strategy.)
“‘I think Senator Frist has backed himself into a corner where I don’t see how he can avoid pulling the nuclear trigger,’ said Charlie Cook, editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.” According to the WP and various lookers-on, the Senate Majority Leader is “all but certain” to go nuclear on the question of judicial filibusters in the next few weeks, mainly so he can shore up his possible presidential candidacy with freak-show conservatives. In addition, his nascent 2008 bid also explains why Catkiller has chosen to appear on a forthcoming fundie telecast that claims Democrats are “against people of faith.” That’s a low blow even from you, Senator…How dare you? Update: Election 2008 maneuvering heats up among the GOP as Frist’s allies go after John McCain for his apostasy on the nuclear option.
“I believe we have a fair and independent judiciary today…I respect that.” The Hammer may have already mouthed off about federal judges in the Schiavo case, but, Catkiller Frist, like Vice-President Cheney, is savvy enough to realize that the GOP have stepped into serious trouble, and has thus decided he wants nothing doing. (Not a hard call. — Their PR misplay here has gotten so obvious that even Harry Reid is calling ‘em out.) Well, if the Republicans want to mitigate the damage, perhaps Cheney or Frist should have a word with Senator Jon Cornyn (R-TX), the latest conservative freakshow to go after federal judges. Update: The WP probes the GOP breach.
“In 22 minutes, Trey Parker and Matt Stone manage to hammer politicians, the media, religious hypocrisy and every other aspect of the madness that is the Schiavo case. How they were able to put this together so quickly is astounding — it’s more timely than ‘The Daily Show.’” Salon‘s Andrew Leonard sings the praises of the most recent South Park.
Articles worth reading on GOP involvement in the continuing Schiavo fiasco:
Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick: “This morning’s decision by Congress and President Bush — to authorize new federal legislation that will obliterate years of state court litigation, and justify re-inserting a feeding tube into Terri Schiavo, based on new and illusory federal constitutional claims — is not about law. It is congressional activism, plain and simple; legislative overreaching and hubris taken to absurd extremes.”
Salon‘s Eric Boehlert: “The Schiavo episode highlights not only how far to the right the GOP-controlled Congress has lunged — a 2003 Fox News poll found just 2 percent of Americans think the government should decide this type of right-to-die issue — but also how paralyzed the mainstream press has become in pointing out the obvious: that the GOP leadership often operates well outside the mainstream of America. The press’s timidity is important because publicizing the poll results might extend the debate from one that focuses exclusively on a complicated moral and ethical dilemma to one that also examines just how far a radical and powerful group of religious conservatives are willing to go to push their political beliefs on the public.“
I haven’t been following all the recent vagaries of this Schiavo fiasco either, but my feelings on the matter aren’t going to surprise anybody. With this blatantly unwarranted attempt to mint political capital from a terrible family tragedy, the Republicans in Congress are making a mockery of the American legal system, constitutional process and their own small-government, states-rights philosophy in one fell swoop. And for what? “In a memo distributed only to Republican senators, the Schiavo case was characterized as ‘a great political issue’ that could pay dividends with Christian conservatives, whose support is essential in midterm elections such as those coming up in 2006.” Naturally…we’ve all seen this Grand Old Party sell out more principle for less gain in the past.
“The congressional watchdog remains fast asleep, and we intend to wake him up.” As Catkiller Frist and the GOP threaten to go nuclear on the filibuster tip, Senate Dems announce they’ll be holding oversight hearings into matters such as “defense contract abuses” over the coming year. Well, at the very least, this news from our side of the aisle sounds more promising than Harry Reid’s recent thumbs up for Scalia.