A new minority staff report by the Senate Finance Committee concludes that “[f]ive conservative nonprofit organizations, including one run by prominent Republican Grover Norquist, ‘appear to have perpetrated a fraud’ on taxpayers by selling their clout to lobbyist Jack Abramoff.” Among the organizations called out are Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform and the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy (sheah), an outfit created by Norquist and former Dubya Interior Secretary Gail Norton, whose office was already waist-deep in ill-gotten Casino Jack loot. (In fact, Abramoff’s point person in Norton’s office was CREA’s president, Italia Federici.)
Update: In related news, Abramoff flunky Bob Ney pleaded guilty today to conspiracy and making false statements (without, mind you, resigning his seat in Congress.) While he didn’t speak with reporters, Ney’s written statement noted that the “treatment and counseling I have started have been very helpful, but I know that I am not done yet and that I have more work to do to deal with my alcohol dependency.” Ok, one more time, people. Alcoholism means you drink too much. It does not mean that you bilk the public, indulge in bribes, or send teenagers dirty IMs.
“‘If you want to look at why the Republican Party is down in the dumps and why the president’s numbers are down in the dumps,’ Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said this afternoon, ‘it’s that the American people are beginning to understand that when they talk about tax cuts, they’re not talking about helping middle-class people. They’re talking about helping the wealthiest corporations and individuals among us.’” True, that. And, since Dubya signed the dividend tax giveaway extension into law this afternoon, the Dems now have another potent issue in their arsenal through November. “‘Today’s really a good day to be a millionaire, but it’s a bad day if you want to be a millionaire,’ Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) said at a news conference minutes after Bush signed the bill.”
As a follow-up to a story last month, three GOP political operatives are found guilty of violating communications law for clogging NH phone banks in 2002. (Among them is James Tobin, the guy who called the White House 22 times during the misdeed, and who will now serve 10 months for his role in the scheme.) “[T]he case has drawn complaints even from Republicans. By covering Tobin’s legal fees, ‘the GOP appears to sanction and institutionalize corruption within the party,’ Craig Shirley, of Shirley & Banister Public Affairs, recently wrote in a commentary.”
“‘There is a growing feeling among conservatives that the only way to cure the problem is for Republicans to lose the Congressional elections this fall,’ said Richard Viguerie, a conservative direct-mail pioneer.” More trouble for the GOP: The Christian Right looks ready to desert the party in 2006 unless “Congress does more to oppose same-sex marriage, obscenity and abortion.” “‘I can’t tell you how much anger there is at the Republican leadership,’ Mr. Viguerie said. ‘I have never seen anything like it.’” And November’s perfect storm blows stronger…
Even more Snoopgate fallout: As last week’s bombshell story in USA Today makes the covers of the major newsweekies, two ABC reporters say their calls to sources are being monitored. “A senior federal law enforcement official tells ABC News the government is tracking the phone numbers we call in an effort to root out confidential sources. ‘It’s time for you to get some new cell phones, quick,’ the source told us in an in-person conversation.”
“‘Republicans ‘are in such desperate shape,’ he said, ‘We don’t want to give them anything to grab on to.’” A spokesman for Nancy Pelosi says impeachment is currently off the table in the planning for a Democratic House.
“‘The point is the preponderance of these revenues will go to upper-income people, people who make a million dollars or more,’ Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) said yesterday. ‘It’s a question of priorities.‘” Nevertheless, as expected, House and Senate GOP leaders strike a deal to extend Dubya’s tax breaks for the wealthy to 2010, with the House passing their end 244-185 today. Well, this tax gambit may help the GOP with their base among the “haves and have-mores,” I guess, but I really don’t see how this will stop the GOP’s 14-point freefall across the rest of the country. Update: The Senate follows suit, 54-44.
“Many of us are disturbed by the calls for investigations or even impeachment as the defining vision for our party for what we would do if we get back into office.” Concerned about the desire for possible investigations of Dubya (as well as calls for withdrawal from Iraq) among the party’s grassroots and left-wing, the Democratic hawks of the DLC make a case for running on national security issues. I dunno..at first glance, it sounds like the same-old stale brand of warmed-over protective camouflage that the DLC’s been pushing on us for years…first you’d have to convince me that calling Dubya out for his multiple civil liberties violations and breaches of the public trust, as well as putting the brakes on our badly mismanaged foray into Iraq, aren’t national security issues.
“‘This administration may be over,’ Lance Tarrance, a chief architect of the Republicans’ 1960s and ’70s Southern strategy, told a gathering of journalists and political wonks last week. ‘By and large, if you want to be tough about it, the relevancy of this administration on policy may be over.‘” Are we at the turn of the tide? As even committed conservatives and right-leaning observers start sticking a fork in the Dubya administration, newly confident Dems begin to prepare for a return of the House. Foremost in their plans is “a legislative blitz during their first week in power that would raise the minimum wage, roll back parts of the Republican prescription drug law, implement homeland security measures and reinstate lapsed budget deficit controls…a Democratic House would [also] launch a series of investigations of the Bush administration, beginning with the White House’s first-term energy task force and probably including the use of intelligence in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.”
As y’all have probably heard by now, controversial CIA chief Porter Goss was forced to quit his post yesterday, no doubt to much rejoicing at Langley. “As the normally mild-mannered Ivo Daalder, a former staff member at the National Security Council under Bill Clinton, put it, ‘Porter Goss was such an absolute disaster for the agency and our national security that his departure comes not a day too soon.’” Goss chalked up his abrupt dismissal as “just one of those mysteries,” but other reports suggest the real reason — bribes, poker, and prostitutes — is less mysterious than it is just plain unsavory. “‘It’s all about the Duke Cunningham scandal,’ a senior law enforcement official told the Daily News in reference to Goss’ resignation.” As for his replacement, Dubya has tapped former NSA chief Michael Hayden, which may mean the warrantless wiretaps may soon get another hearing in the Senate.
“‘It clearly shows some members live in a dream world of high-class living and fictional accounting. DeLay’s office was part of the public deception. It makes you wonder if there are more filings as fictional as this one is turning out to be,’ said Kent Cooper, the former chief of public disclosure for the Federal Election Commission.” Prosecutors disclose an e-mail trail indicating that Boss DeLay’s office knowingly filed false reports about Abramoff-paid boondoggles and were “concerned ‘if someone starts asking questions.’“
Looking for political cover in the wake of Dubaigate, the House passes a $7.4 billion port security bill 421-2, with money included for “new port security inspectors, nuclear weapons screening and the development of an automated system to pinpoint high-risk cargo. The 421 to 2 vote came just hours after the White House expressed strong misgivings over the cost and feasibility of the bill.“
Defying Dubya’s talk of a veto — in keeping with the Operation Offset line of thinking, he wants less spending to help mitigate his ridiculous tax giveaways — and Dennis Hastert’s declaration that it was “dead on arrival” in the House, the Senate passes an $109 billion emergency spending bill 77-21. “The Senate bill would provide $70.9 billion to the military to pay for personnel, operation and maintenance, and procurement costs, along with diplomatic efforts such as democracy-building programs. The Senate more than doubled a $58 million request for peacekeeping assistance in Sudan, providing $173 million. Bush requested $19.8 billion in hurricane-related assistance, and the Senate responded with $28.9 billion — adding projects large and small.”
“‘You talk about completely detached from reality, that’s this place,’ said Sen. Kent Conrad (N.D.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee.” Throwing caution to the wind despite their imploding poll numbers and the ballooning deficit, the White House and congressional Republicans craft a deal to extend Dubya’s dividend and capital gains tax breaks for the wealthy. Still, the “compromise measure falls well short of making Bush’s first-term tax cuts permanent. Instead, all of the major tax cuts passed in 2001 and 2003 would expire at the end of 2010.“
Update: The WP dissects the GOP’s tax gamesmanship: “If the deal wins congressional approval, every major tax cut passed in Bush’s first term will be set to expire on the same day five years from now. [Jan. 1, 2011.] At that moment, politicians would face a choice: Either allow taxes to rise suddenly and sharply on everyone who pays income taxes, is married, has children, holds stocks and bonds, or expects a large inheritance, or impose mounting budget deficits on the government far into the future, according to projections by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.”
“[F]or all their practical failures, conservatives have at least told a coherent political story, with deep historical roots, about what keeps America safe and what makes it great. Liberals, by contrast, have offered adjectives drawn from focus groups and policy proposals linked by no larger theme.” In keeping with the intellectual territory he staked out after the 2004 election, former TNR editor Peter Beinart makes the case for a return to Cold War liberalism in a NYT excerpt of his new book, The Good Fight (also discussed in the recent Atlantic Monthly.)
I couldn’t agree more with Beinart’s paragraph above, but I don’t think the lack of a sufficiently robust national security emphasis is really the defining element missing among today’s Dems. Are there really Democrats out there who don’t agree with Beinart’s three main assessments here, that (a) America faces a real enemy in Al Qaeda and other fundamentalist terror networks, (b) our foreign policy should be less hubristic and more attuned to both local contingency and international institutions, and (c) our national sense of self should emphasize our own fallibility at times? Beinart would probably target the MoveOn crowd, but as Eric Alterman noted in the last round of this back-and-forth, that’s just a DLC straw man, roughly akin to Joe Klein’s cadre of phantom lefty consultants in the last update.
Plus, I think there are two significant historical problems with the Cold War liberalism Beinart unreservedly espouses, which he fails to discuss here. For one, Cold War liberals could very easily be seen as best inattentive to and — at worst complicit in — the excesses of McCarthyism. If the enemy abroad becomes the central defining focus of your national narrative, then the enemy within is undoubtedly going to start eating at you as well. For another, (and as John Gaddis, among others, has pointed out) — for all its early sense of diplomatic complexity and limited, realistic goals — the Cold War liberalism Beinart promotes all too readily (d)evolved into the guiding rationale for wildly wrongheaded foreign policy interventions, most notably in Vietnam. (You’d think Beinart would pay more lip service to this issue, particularly as he himself made much the same mistake in shilling for the Iraq war in The New Republic.)
In short, I agree with Beinart’s assessment that the Dems lack a sense of usable past, but the problems with his argument can be encapsulated by his ideal of a what a good, hawkish, Cold War liberal Democrat should look like these days: That, if Beinart’s tenure at TNR is any indication, would be Joe Lieberman, a politician who’s not only been flagrantly cheerleading for the administration during the current war, but has exhibited little interest in today’s wartime civil liberties issues. Simply put, Joe Lieberman would hardly be my choice of template for the Democratic party. (Who would? That’s easy: Russ Feingold, who’s displayed a strong commitment to preserving both national security and civil liberties at home, while arguing for a more level-headed, less-in-your-face American foreign policy.)
“I believe that the government that governs best is a government that governs least, and by these standards we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq.” In a must-watch (or at least must-read) event, the inimitable Stephen Colbert took it to Dubya hard at last night’s White House Correspondent’s dinner, and Bush, according to press reports, was not amused. Great stuff throughout:
* “I believe in pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps. I believe it is possible — I saw this guy do it once in Cirque du Soleil. It was magical. And though I am a committed Christian, I believe that everyone has the right to their own religion, be it Hindu, Jewish or Muslim. I believe our infinite paths to accepting Jesus Christ as your personal savior.“
* “Now, I know there’s some polls out there saying this man has a 32% approval rating. But guys like us, we don’t pay attention to the polls. We know that polls are just a collection of statistics that reflect what people are thinking in ‘reality.’ And reality has a well-known liberal bias…Sir pay no attention to the people who say the glass is half empty, because 32% means it’s 2/3 empty. There’s still some liquid in that glass is my point, but I wouldn’t drink it. The last third is usually backwash.“
* “I stand by this man. I stand by this man because he stands for things. Not only for things, he stands on things. Things like aircraft carriers and rubble and recently flooded city squares. And that sends a strong message, that no matter what happens to America, she will always rebound with the most powerfully staged photo ops in the world.“
* “I’m sorry, but this reading initiative. I’ve never been a fan of books. I don’t trust them. They’re all fact, no heart. I mean, they’re elitist telling us what is or isn’t true, what did or didn’t happen. What’s Britannica to tell me the Panama Canal was built in 1914. If I want to say it was built in 1941, that’s my right as an American. I’m with the president, let history decide what did or did not happen. The greatest thing about this man is he’s steady. You know where he stands. He believes the same thing Wednesday, that he believed on Monday, no matter what happened Tuesday.“
* “But the rest of you, what are you thinking, reporting on N.S.A. wiretapping or secret prisons in Eastern Europe? Those things are secret for a very important reason, they’re superdepressing. And if that’s your goal, well, misery accomplished. Over the last five years you people were so good over tax cuts, W.M.D. intelligence, the effect of global warming. We Americans didn’t want to know, and you had the courtesy not to try to find out. Those were good times, as far as we knew.“
* “But, listen, let’s review the rules. Here’s how it works. The President makes decisions, he’s the decider. The Press Secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Put them through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know, fiction.“
* “I mean, nothing satisfies you. Everybody asks for personnel changes. So the White House has personnel changes. Then you write they’re just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. First of all, that is a terrible metaphor. This administration is not sinking. This administration is soaring. If anything, they are rearranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg.“
* “See who we’ve got here tonight. General Mowsly, Air Force Chief of Staff. General Peter Pace. They still support Rumsfeld. You guys aren’t retired yet, right? Right, they still support Rumsfeld.“
* “Jesse Jackson is here. I had him on the show. Very interesting and challenging interview. You can ask him anything, but he’s going to say what he wants at the pace that he wants. It’s like boxing a glacier. Enjoy that metaphor, because your grandchildren will have no idea what a glacier is.” (Note: YouTube has smaller clips, too.)
In related news, federal authorities expand their probe into Casino Jack flunky and former House GOP higher-up Bob Ney. “Court papers filed in recent months show that prosecutors have lined up at least four cooperating witnesses against the Ohio congressman: Abramoff, former congressional aides Michael Scanlon and Tony C. Rudy, and businessman Adam Kidan. All have pleaded guilty to various conspiracy, fraud or public corruption charges.”
“Up until now, you have probably thought that when you saw Democrats dumping their traditional principles in order to run pallid, market-tested campaigns appealing to swing voters with rhetoric borrowed from the G.O.P., they were doing so because they had been listening to consultants, pollsters, focus groups and so on. Well — according to Mr. Klein, you have it precisely backwards. In Joe’s world, the consultants and the pollsters and even the money are all on the other side, forever driving the cowardly politicians to the partisan extremes. Consultants on the Democratic side seem always to turn out to be liberals in Mr. Klein’s telling, and liberalism itself is usually the sad result of a candidate listening to consultants.” By way of Ted at The Late Adopter, Thomas Frank of What’s the Matter with Kansas? eviscerates Joe Klein’s new book Politics Lost. I liked the TIME excerpt decently enough, but Frank pretty much takes the book apart here.
“Nobody’s happy with gasoline prices being where they are.” As GOP congressional leaders experience buyer’s remorse over the oil industry tax breaks they passed last year, Jacob Weisberg (who, it should be noted, could take the Metro to work if so desired) argues the virtues of more expensive gasoline: “To be sure, oil at $70 a barrel causes hardships for working people and delights some of the world’s worst dictators. But cheap gasoline imposes its own costs on society: greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution and its attendant health risks, traffic congestion, and accidents…Sustained high prices will bring about behavioral and political changes: energy conservation, public transportation, less exurban sprawl, and eventually the economic viability of alternative fuel sources such as biomass, fuel cells, wind, and solar power, which may one day undermine the power of the oil oligarchs. Are politicians too stupid to understand this, or just smart enough not to say it aloud?“
“‘The current debate over our national security by a series of retired generals — some critical, some supportive of the present leadership in the Department of Defense — is an important exercise of the right to freedom of speech,’ he said. ‘Another valued tenet is the right of the president to select the members of his own Cabinet.’” Senate Armed Service Committee chairman John Warner (R-VA) makes noise about holding Senate hearings on Rumsfeld. I’ll believe it when I see it.
“‘What Democrats want to do is gin up their turnout in the suburbs and divide Republicans, and right now they may do that’ said Jennifer E. Duffy, who tracks Senate races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. ‘This is the first real wedge issue Democrats have had with Republicans.‘” According to the NYT, congressional Dems think they may have a winner in November with the stem cell issue. And, also in election news, polls suggest the once-highly vulnerable Abramoff flunky Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT) may be shedding the taint of Casino Jack, while potentially beatable Sen. Mike DeWine (R-OH) looks to do the same with Donald Rumsfeld.
“[Y]ou have somebody being fired from the CIA for allegedly telling the truth, and you have no one fired from the White House for revealing a CIA agent in order to support a lie. That underscores what’s really wrong in Washington, D.C.” Following the recent dismissal of CIA historian and Africa specialist Mary McCarthy for telling the Post about our secret gulags, several Dems, including John Kerry and Rep. Jane Harman, question the Dubya double standard regarding leaks. Update: Was it not McCarthy after all?
“The policy was set. The war in Iraq was coming, and they were looking for intelligence to fit into the policy.” Retired CIA officer Tyler Drumhiller, formerly the highest ranking CIA officer in Europe, calls out the Dubya administration anew for their manipulation of intelligence during the lead-up to Iraq. “‘It just sticks in my craw every time I hear them say it’s an intelligence failure,’ Drumheller told CBS’ Ed Bradley. ‘This was a policy failure. I think, over time, people will look back on this and see this is going to be one of the great, I think, policy mistakes of all time.’“
Further dispatches from the GOP freefall: As the Republican Congress desperately tries to look busy, that bastion of the liberal media FOX News puts Dubya’s approval rating at a new low — 33%.