Looking to avoid another contentious fight after the recent Hoyer-Murtha melee, Speaker-elect Pelosi sidesteps both Jane Harman and Alcee Hastings for the House Intelligence Committee head. “Harman, a moderate, strong-on-defense ‘Blue Dog’ Democrat, had angered liberals with her reluctance to challenge the Bush administration’s use of intelligence. Hastings, an African American, was strongly backed by the Congressional Black Caucus but was ardently opposed by the Blue Dogs, who said his removal from the bench disqualifies him from such a sensitive post.” As with Hoyer and Murtha, Hastings’ questionable ethics record is more of a concern to me than Harman’s moderation, but a third choice is fine with me. Update: Pelosi chooses Silvestre Reyes for the post.
Due to its huge cast and multiplicity of stories, Bobby defies a full summation. Nevertheless, the film follows countless recognizable actors as they go about their lives at the Ambassador Hotel on June 4, 1968, the day before RFK was shot by disgruntled Palestinian Sirhan Sirhan. Among them are elder statesmen (Anthony Hopkins, Harry Belafonte), former A-listers turned B-listers (Emilio Estevez, Christian Slater), aging starlets (Sharon Stone, Demi Moore), TV standbys (Helen Hunt, David Krumholtz), likable character actors (William H. Macy, Freddy Rodriguez), strikingly attractive newcomers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Svetlana Metkina), and Frodo (playing, for all intent and purposes, Frodo.) Almost all of the performances are solid and likable (with the notable exception of Ashton Kutcher as a drug dealer — it’s unbelievable how a guy who’s made his living playing a stoner for years is so thoroughly implausible at it — he’s like a kid in a school play.) But there’s a lot of unnecessary overlap or what comes across as extraneous filler in these tales. Two separate stories (Wood and Lindsay Lohan’s quickie marriage, Shia La Boeuf and Brian Geraghty’s day off) cover basically the same ground about Vietnam. Hopkins, Belafonte, Moore, and Stone all talk about the indignities of growing old, while Stone, Macy, Moore, Estevez, Hunt, and Martin Sheen all lament failing marriages…but to what purpose? What, really, does all this have to do with RFK? I get it — it’s about shared humanity. But Bobby tries to do too much in the time given, and would’ve been more effective, I think, if it’d had been pared down some.
The most resonant parts of Bobby are the storylines involving Kennedy campaign workers (Joshua Jackson, Nick Cannon) and, most notably, the simmering racial tension among the kitchen staff (Freddy Rodriguez, Jacob Vargas, Lawrence Fishburne). The latter tale is particularly interesting — despite Slater being stuck as a cartoon “racist but a real person too” barely this side of Matt Dillon in Crash — since it highlights the concerns and aspirations of Latino immigrants, who are often completely neglected in movies dwelling on race in America (even in otherwise sterling shows like The Wire.) But, even here, it’s ultimately played too broadly: What we’re left with are “life is a blueberry cobbler” metaphors and monologues about King Arthur that’ll just make you wince. The problems with the movie can be summed up by the footage used of Bobby at the Ambassador Hotel — obviously powerful stuff. Unfortunately, it’s overlaid with Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence,” which even without the obvious Graduate overtones is entirely too broad a pick — It detracts from rather than enhances the already potent archival footage.
Still, I don’t want to suggest that I’m completely hating on Bobby. For all its ham-handedness, I enjoyed the experience, and I sat there with a smile on my face through most of the film. And I do applaud Estevez’s obviously strong admiration for Senator Kennedy. I was recently on a date where discussion arose as to whether things would’ve been different if Bobby had lived. She thought not, or rather that it’d be impossible to tell. I’m more inclined to agree with Michael Sandel, who wrote that: “Had he lived, he might have set progressive politics on a new, more successful course. In the decades since his death, the Democratic Party has failed to recover the moral energy and bold public purpose to which RFK gave voice.” Regardless, as with Dr. King, we shouldn’t even have to ask this question. Both men who were continuing to grow and develop, Dr. King and Bobby were tragically ripped from us before their time, a back-to-back blow in an already miserable year that felled progressive ambition in America for decades. I have to think that our nation would be a brighter, happier, and more compassionate place in the years since if we could have continued to benefit from their leadership and counsel.
Since we cannot, we can only honor their examples and remember their words. In the end, Bobby could’ve been a much worse movie than it in fact is, and I still would give it credit for reminding us of Senator Kennedy’s essential creed: “But we can perhaps remember — even if only for a time –that those who live with us are our brothers; that they share with us the same short moment of life; that they seek — as we do — nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can.”
The wreckage of the midterms behind him, disgraced GOP operative Jack Abramoff heads to prison today to begin a 5-year, 10-month stint in the Big House…but, not — according to ABC News — before dropping dirt on Karl Rove and “dozens of members of Congress and staff” including “six to eight seriously corrupt Democratic senators.” Sounds like the Ballad of Casino Jack might keep on keepin’ on right through the next cycle…Let’s hope the Dem Congress are much more vigilant about rooting out the corruption in their midst than were their predecessors.
“This was a big deal. Certainly, it was the end of George W. Bush’s radical experiment in partisan governance. It might have been even bigger than that: the end of the conservative pendulum swing that began with Ronald Reagan’s revolution.” Despite starting off well here, TIME’s Joe Klein reads the 2006 election as a call to centrism. Hmm. Well, maybe…I suppose we’re still parsing the results. Nevertheless, I’ll confess to being somewhat irritated by TIME’s “centrist” cover after last week’s historic rout of the Republicans, so I went ahead and ginned up my own, one I find more fitting for recent events (and, of course, that is more apropos for this blog.) Procrastination, thy name is Photoshop.
“‘My job is not to be a prognosticator,’ he said. ‘My job is not to go out there and wring my hands and say, “We’re going to lose.” I’m looking at the data and seeing if I can figure out, Where can we be? I told the President, “I don’t know where this is going to end up. But I see our way clear to Republican control.”‘” Um, you do? It’s the Election 2006 post-mortem y’all have been waiting for: Karl Rove discusses the results of the midterms, and while he correctly cites the war and the GOP’s considerable corruption problem, he still doesn’t seem to get the big picture. Fine with me…Rove, just keep doin’ what you’re doin’. It worked splendidly. Update: More here.
Word is it was in the works back in August…still, add RNC Chair Ken Mehlman to the list of Dubyaites soon-to-be out of a job. Good riddance.
“‘They did this to protect themselves, but they couldn’t protect us?’ another Republican aide said yesterday.” According to Patrick O’Connor of The Hill, many GOP officials are absolutely livid about the timing of the Rumsfeld resignation. “For them to toss Rumsfeld one day after the election was a slap in the face to everyone who worked hard to protect the majority.” Meanwhile, the rest of us have to figure out how to trust this president when even he admits he openly lied to everyone about Rumsfeld’s fate (not that he was garnering a lot of confidence these days anyway.)
“A source close to Allen also told CNN that the senator ‘has no intention of dragging this out.’” It’s (semi)-official: AP and Reuters declare Webb the winner in Virginia, thus yielding a Democratic Senate. Excellent! “[A] Webb aide told CNN that he plans a formal news conference Thursday morning to declare victory.” Update: Now, it’s really official: Allen will concede this afternoon.
Remember when Boehner and the GOP banked on their widespread corruption not playing on Election Day? Well, they chose poorly. Among the many seats lost by the GOP last night were those of Abramoff flunkies Conrad Burns, Richard Pombo, and Bob Ney, notorious friend-of-pages Mark Foley, the recently-FBI-implicated Curt Weldon, mistress-beater Don Sherwood, and the fatcat architect of it all, Boss DeLay. (Surviving the corruption purge: the Foley-connected Tom Reynolds, Duke Cunningham‘s replacement, Brian Bilbray, and — though a runoff hopefully won’t shake his way — corrupt Dem William Jefferson.)
And another GOP scalp (chalk this one up to Foleygate): Dennis Hastert — who’s inexplicably the longest-serving Republican Speaker in US history (Joe Cannon is 2nd) — is leaving the Republican congressional leadership. Current contenders for his position include former Majority Leader John Boehner, Mike Pence, Eric Cantor, and Joe Barton.
Even in early voting, it seems, the shadiness is rampant: Looka collects a few dismaying articles about the voting machines tending to prefer Republicans this year, regardless of what voters may want. (Sound familiar?) How hard can it be, people? In twelve-odd-years of using them, I’ve never had an ATM screw up or misreport a transaction. If we can do it for twenty dollar bills, we can do it for the franchise.
“Historically, the major parties in America have yoked together the most disparate groups for long periods. The New Deal Democrats were a party of Northern liberals and Southern segregationists. But once Lyndon Johnson committed the Democrats to civil rights for African Americans, the white South up and left — a process that took 40 years to complete but that left the Democrats struggling to assemble congressional and presidential majorities and that converted the Republicans into a party where Southern values were dominant. Now the non-Southern bastions of Republicanism may themselves up and leave the GOP, seeing it as no longer theirs.” The American Prospect‘s Harold Meyerson sees potential for a realignment of northern moderates come Tuesday. Well, let’s hope. Chafee looks like toast (and he’s acting like it, too), but there are still a lot of undecideds — between 15 and 20% — in that Rhode Island race. And, lest we forget, our very own president, much as he’d like us to think otherwise, is a scion of the North as well.
Breaking news: Rush Limbaugh is a fat junkie asshole. But you might’ve already known that.
“‘The Democrats are going to gain somewhere between four and seven seats,’ said Stuart Rothenberg, author of an independent newsletter that tracks campaigns nationwide.” The WaPo surveys recent trends in the battle for the Senate, concluding that a Dem takeover is still eminently possible, if not yet probable. “Of the battlegrounds of Tennessee, Virginia and Missouri, [Rothenberg] said, ‘They need two of the three, and they have a pretty good chance’ of winning them.“
Another GOP scandal? Oh, why not. This time, the culprit is California Republican longshot Tam Nguyen, who apparently was the mastermind behind 14,000 letters sent to scare immigrants from the polls. “Written in Spanish, the letters advise recently registered voters that it is a crime for those in the country illegally to vote in a federal election, which is true. They also say, falsely, that immigrants may not vote and could be jailed or deported for doing so, that the federal government has a new computer system to verify voter names, and that anti-immigration organizations can access the records.” Nguyen has said he’ll stay in the race against Democratic congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, even though his own party is disavowing him.
“By himself, Cunningham had no authority to or ability to award a contract to MZM…[He] needed to secure the cooperation, or at least the non-interference, of many people: the appropriators and authorizers in Congress…the various Department of Defense (DOD) officials responsible for execution of the money…and officials of the agencies for which the contracts were to be performed. This was a lot of people to persuade, cajole, deceive, pressure, intimidate, bribe or otherwise influence to do what they wanted.” A new report by the House Intelligence Committee delves into Randy “Duke” Cunningham’s bribery operation on the Hill (or at least, it does what it can given that the GOP, acting sketchy as usual, refused to subpoena Cunningham. Can we please get a little oversight up in here?)
“Lame Duck” Dubya and his man behind the curtain, Karl Rove, may be “inexplicably upbeat,” but John McCain is apparently contemplating suicide. Meanwhile, Dems Carville and Greenberg suggest breaking out the party credit cards, while the bellwether state of Ohio sours on the GOP completely. Only 20 days left until Election 2006…
“‘Everyone would appreciate it if you would contact Ken only and not others here at the WH,’ reads one message to Abramoff from Bush advisor Karl Rove’s assistant Susan Ralston, ‘because they just forward it to him anyway.‘” Salon‘s Mark Benjamin takes a gander at Casino Jack’s man in the White House, Republican Party chair Ken Mehlman. “More than once, Abramoff asks for a favor, Mehlman fulfills the request, and then one of Abramoff’s wealthy Indian tribe clients sends a political donation to a GOP cause.“
Another week, another GOP scandal. This time, it involves Pennsylvania congressman Curt Weldon, whom the FBI is now investigating for lobbying improprieties involving the business of his daughter and political ally Charles Sexton. “The investigation focuses on Weldon’s support of the Russian-managed Itera International Energy Corp., one of the world’s largest oil and gas firms, while that company paid fees to Solutions North America, the company that Karen Weldon and Sexton operate.” And, if that weren’t enough, the House Page Board is now looking into veteran congressman Jim Kolbe for a camping trip he took with former pages in 1996, adding further to the increasing number of once-safe GOP seats now in contention in three weeks. Update: More on the Weldon investigation and Kolbe allegations.
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.
“‘Voters are tying both of these scandals together,’ said Paul A. Miller, president of the American League of Lobbyists, a lobbyist trade group in the capital. ‘First with Abramoff and now with Foley, corruption has risen to play a big role in this election. It disappoints me, but it’s happening.’” It disappoints you? As the lobbyists lament, it appears Foleygate has brought ethics in government back into focus as a central 2006 campaign issue, despite the GOP’s earlier banking on Casino Jack fading from memory. And, worse still for the Republicans, it seems the so-called “values vote” won’t save them this time ’round.
“Sen. John McCain has skidded his Straight Talk Express off the highway into a gopher’s ditch of slime.” As Dubya rejects bilateral talks with N. Korea, Slate‘s Fred Kaplan puts the lie to John McCain’s recent attempt to carry water for the Bushies on the Korean nuclear issue. “McCain’s version of history goes beyond ‘revisionism’ to outright falsification. It is the exact opposite of what really happened.“
One small piece of consolation in this increasingly dark, troubled world: A new post-Foley Gallup poll puts the GOP in an absolute freefall: “Democrats had a 23-point lead over Republicans in every group of people questioned — likely voters, registered voters and adults — on which party’s House candidate would get their vote. That’s double the lead Republicans had a month before they seized control of Congress in 1994 and the Democrats’ largest advantage among registered voters since 1978.” Moreover, two other polls by CBS News/New York Times and ABC News/Washington Post confirm that an electoral rout may now be in the making.
“The cut-and-run phrase is an effective political weapon…It is also a very dumb phrase…As one Republican congressman put it recently: ‘Reality has been suspended for a moment. Republicans cannot speak out publicly on this issue right now.‘” With even Republicans making dour assessments of Baghdad these days, Slate‘s John Dickerson makes the obvious points against Dubya for the “cut-and-run” garbage he indulged in last week.
“The social conservatives are frustrated with what’s going on…We have heard disappointment and disenchantment. The level of commitment isn’t as fierce as it ought to be.” Another Foleygate update: As another GOP staffer backs up Kirk Fordham’s account of telling Hastert about Foley in 2003, the NYT reports that the scandal has put at least five more GOP House seats in play, and gay Republicans begin to fear they’ll end up the scapegoats of it all. “I’m just waiting for someone in a position of authority to make this a gay issue.” Update: With new revelations from Representive Jim Kolbe (R-AZ), the Foley-clock moves back to 2000.
“As a former Abramoff assistant, Ralston played intermediary between the lobbyist and Rove. The congressional report found 66 Abramoff contacts with the White House, more than half of them with Ralston. In addition, Abramoff’s lobbying colleagues contacted Ralston 69 times.” The Casino Jack affair claims another White House victim in Rove deputy Susan Ralston, who, it was recently discovered in a House report, made the mistake of accepting Abramoff swag — choice tickets and such — without paying for it. Illegal, no doubt, but somehow I suspect her procuring courtside Wizard tix is the least of the Abramoff-related corruption going on in Karl’s outfit.
“If, after the Foley episode — a maraschino cherry atop the Democrats’ delectable sundae of Republican miseries — the Democrats cannot gain 13 seats, they should go into another line of work.” In the face of Foleygate, conservative columnist George Will concedes the midterm elections.
331 billion dollars? 2965 dead troops? Approximately 45,000 dead Iraqis? Don’t worry, folks. According to Dubya (in what some think is a veiled message to the fundies), it’s all “just a comma” in the history books. Well, my, that’s reassuring. Shucks, when you put it that way, all of American history — or the history of our solar system, for that matter — doesn’t amount to much in the great scheme of things. Ok, you’ve sold me…bombs away!
Iraq, Abramoff, torture, wiretapping, energy, the economy, Delay, Foley…In a perfect world, of course, the GOP would be dead in the water right now. But, as Bob Dylan famously noted, money doesn’t talk, it swears. And, with a month to go before the election, the GOP are rolling out their dough machine, and the loot is awash over everything. Some system.