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Hullabaloo


Tuesday, August 02, 2005

 
What Went Right In Ohio

Well, waddaya know? Schmidt pulls it out with a four point squeaker in a district that hasn't given a Democrat more than 30 percent in 20 years. And all it took was a little last minute massaging of the count in her home district.

Too bad Karl's so busy these days. The party would probably really like his input on where that permanent majority thing he's been working on stands.

Seriously, I think this really is a bellwether. There is no way in hell that Hackett should have come within 15 points of Schmidt and the fact that he came so close says that something is seriously going wrong with the GOP brand, regardless of how appealing Hackett is as a candidate or how fucked up the Ohio GOP is.

The polls show a spike in Democratic party ID and the GOP is looking more fat and corrupt than the Democrats were after almost half a century in power. We may just be seeing the beginning of our 1994.

Don't ever think it can't happen. Much larger swings than we need have happened a bunch of times. I have a feeling that this 50/50 stasis is about to break --- and this election makes me think it's going to break our way. I hope the powers that be take the time to really study what went right in Ohio.

And I hope our man Hackett decides to run again. He's got the shinin'.



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They Love Controversy

Talk Left points to a discussion regarding whether bloggers should stay with Blog-ads or go with the new Pajamas Media. It's using a different business model and apparently targeting larger mainstream advertisers.

My only question is how these mainstream advertisers are going to react when they find out they are affiliating themselves with a very controversial racist blog like Little Green Footballs? I suspect we'll find out.

It would certainly be a problem for me.



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Divining The Will Of The Voters

I'm looking at the return for Hackett at 9:49 and it's at 50/50. This is a very red district and the fact that Hackett is even in spitting distance is amazing.

But man, I'm getting tired of these squeakers, aren't you?


I suspect the GOP machine has kept a few votes "in reserve" if you know what I mean. It's Ohio, after all.

Update:

Ok. This is getting fricking ridiculous. Hackett's down by 800 votes and for some unknown reason they are holding back the tally for 91 precincts in Jean Schmidt's home county. Seems they are having some "problems" counting the vote. Can ya believe it?


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Talk Puke

I guess these Marines and soldiers in Iraq had better check their foxholes and humvees and ask whether their buddies hold the proper political beliefs. Those who are Democrats are all cowards and liars, evidently.

I heard Senator Tom Harkin talk the other day about his still unsuccessful attempts to get Armed Forces Radio to provide some balance in their programming. Perhaps he might have better luck next time if he's armed with a transcript of that drug addled gasbag's characterization of Marine major Paul Hackett as a "staff puke." If there's anyone left in the GOP caucus with a conscience (and that's highly doubtful) it might just make a difference.

And honorable marines out there should tell that flatulent fuckhead to shut his vomitous pie-hole, regardless of their politics. Chickenshit chickenhawks like Rush Limbaugh are telling them that they are required to be Republicans or their service will be deemed open season for any asshole who disagreees with their politics. Max Cleland, John Kerry, now Major Paul Hackett. This pattern is becoming quite obvious.

The military is Republican, godddamit. And remember that when you come home, you'd better toe the line. If you don't the Republican party will portray you as a "puke," no matter what you did. Word to the wise. Forget about freedom. Just vote GOP. That's what you are fighting for.



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Novakula's Tea Bag

The Howler notes something important about Novak's column yesterday in which he wrote:

I have previously said that I never would have written those sentences if Harlow, then-CIA Director George Tenet or anybody else from the agency had told me that Valerie Plame Wilson's disclosure would endanger herself or anybody.


You have to assume by this statement that he must have talked to Tenet before he ran the story, right? Perhaps this is common knwledge and I've just missed it, but this is the first I've heard of this. Novak just slinging around Tenet's name in that context is a little bit bizarre to say the least.

Somerby thinks that there's a good chance that Tenet was the source Novak refered to as "not a partisan gunslinger," and I think that's certainly a possibility. (According to joe Wilson, Novak told him that his original source was with the CIA.) In fact, Tenet was one of the few members of the Bush administration who could even conceivably be characterized that way. Somerby speculates that Tenet being a "hail fellow well met" sort who knew the names of agents and remembered birthdays and such that he might have been the one who knew Valerie Wilson by her maiden name and told it to Novak.

This is intriguing since just a couple of weeks ago the papers were all reporting that a "source who had been briefed on the matter" and others were saying that Karl Rove and Lewis Libby had been working closely with Tenet on the official mea culpa:

"People who have been briefed on the case said the White House officials said Karl Rove and I. Lewis Libby Jr., were helping to prepare what became the administration's primary response to criticism that a flawed phrase about the nuclear materials in Africa had been included in Mr. Bush's State of the Union address six months earlier. They had exchanged e-mail correspondence and drafts of a proposed statement by George Tenet, then the director of central intelligence, to explain how the disputed wording had gotten into the address. Mr. Rove, the president's political strategist, and Mr. Libby, the chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, coordinated their efforts with Stephen Hadley, then the deputy national security adviser, who was in turn consulting with Mr. Tenet.

[...]

The work done by Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby on the Tenet statement during this intense period has not been previously disclosed. People who have been briefed on the case discussed this critical time period and the events surrounding it to demonstrate that Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby were not involved in an orchestrated scheme to discredit Mr. Wilson or disclose the undercover status of his wife, Valerie Wilson, but were intent on clarifying the use of intelligence in the president's address. Those people who have been briefed requested anonymity because prosecutors have asked them not to discuss matters under investigation.


We all wondered why that odd bit of information was revealed by the Rove forces. It was interesting, of course, as all these tid-bits are, but during that flood of friendly Rove-camp leaking, this always struck me a strange. How was this supposed to exonerate Rove? Somehow, we were supposed to believe that Tenet and Hadley and Rove and Libby were working together coordinating a Tenet's response. But, so what? Why would that have prevented Rove and Libby from leaking about Plame? Can't they walk and chew gum at the same time?

Then, on the 27th, the WaPo prints this and we are reminded that this has always been a battle between the white house and the CIA and it seems to be escalating as Rove comes under closer public scrutiny in the leak probe:

Prosecutors have questioned former CIA director George J. Tenet and deputy director John E. McLaughlin, former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow, State Department officials, and even a stranger who approached columnist Robert D. Novak on the street.

In doing so, special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has asked not only about how CIA operative Valerie Plame's name was leaked but also how the administration went about shifting responsibility from the White House to the CIA for having included 16 words in the 2003 State of the Union address about Iraqi efforts to acquire uranium from Africa, an assertion that was later disputed.

A former senior CIA official said yesterday that Tenet's statement was drafted within the agency and was shown only to Hadley on July 10 to get White House input. Only a few minor changes were accepted before it was released on July 11, this former official said. He took issue with a New York Times report last week that said Rove and Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, had a role in Tenet's statement.


If I had to guess, Novak's seemingly innocuous mention of Tenet yesterday wasn't an accident. Tenet is being fingered as the source quite deliberately. It's another salvo aimed at laying the blame for this whole mess (and I mean the WHOLE mess --- wmd's and all) at the CIA's feet:

Behind the scenes, the White House responded with twin attacks: one on Wilson and the other on the CIA, which it wanted to take the blame for allowing the 16 words to remain in Bush's speech. As part of this effort, then-deputy national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley spoke with Tenet during the week about clearing up CIA responsibility for the 16 words, even though both knew the agency did not think Iraq was seeking uranium from Niger, according to a person familiar with the conversation. Tenet was interviewed by prosecutors, but it is not clear whether he appeared before the grand jury, a former CIA official said.


Obviously, this article is informed by CIA sources who are enacting their own damage control. But it's pretty clear to me on whose side Novak is coming down.

Somerby chastises me a little bit for assuming that Novak was carrying water for the White House when it's possible his source was actually George Tenet. It's true that Novak's original column was fairly measured. It often is. But Novak's appearances on CNN leave absolutely no doubt as to his loyalty to the Republican party and his willingness to carry water for the Bush administration. When a journalist appears regularly on television to openly advocate for one political party or a specific administration I think he gives up any right to claim journalistic objectivity or even journalistic integrity in a situation like this.

For instance, here's one we can all appreciate Speaking of Al Gore at the Democratic convention last summer Novak said:

They [Democrats] just pray he doesn't go into one of his rants where he's screaming and yelling and can't control himself. They shouldn't feed him too much Coke before the uh-- Coca-Cola before tonight.


Any journalist who says things like that can be fairly assumed to be "sympathetic" to white house spin, I think.

We know that Karl Rove, and very likely, Scooter Libby, were passing the "wife" information around, whether Tenet was the original source (and whether he was involved in the smear) or not. Rove has admitted that he spoke with Novak. And, finally, we also know that Robert Novak is the only one of several journalists reportedly approached who ran with that information. I do not think it is all that unreasonable for me to characterize Novak as doing Rove's bidding in this. As I wrote yesterday, there really was no legitimate reason to report that Wilson's wife was involved if what they were trying to do was say that Wilson's mission was low level.

The man who likes to call Hillary Clinton "Madame Defarge" and a "very mean lady" who has "done very bad things" is just the guy I'd go to if I wanted to create a little smear about a henpecked little wimp and his overbearing spy of a wife who just wanted him to get a damned job.

Certainly, Novak's statements subsequent to the leak have been just as dicey as Sommerby has documented Wilson's of being. And I would suggest that they are far more worthy of condemnation since Novak is supposed to be a journalist.

In his original column revealing Plame's name, he wrote this about Wilson:

That's where Joe Wilson came in. His first public notice had come in 1991 after 15 years as a Foreign Service officer when, as U.S. charge in Baghdad, he risked his life to shelter in the embassy some 800 Americans from Saddam Hussein's wrath. My partner Rowland Evans reported from the Iraqi capital in our column that Wilson showed "the stuff of heroism." President George H.W. Bush the next year named him ambassador to Gabon, and President Bill Clinton put him in charge of African affairs at the National Security Council until his retirement in 1998.

[...]

During the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, Wilson had taken a measured public position -- viewing weapons of mass destruction as a danger but considering military action as a last resort. He has seemed much more critical of the administration since revealing his role in Niger. In the Washington Post July 6, he talked about the Bush team "misrepresenting the facts," asking: "What else are they lying about?"


Here is his characterization of Wilson a few months later when he spoke with Wolf Blitzer:

BLITZER: Joining me now for an exclusive conversation, the veteran journalist, is my colleague, Bob Novak. Bob, thanks very much for joining us. Let's talk about this. What made you decide to go out, first of all, and write about former Ambassador Joe Wilson?

NOVAK: Former Ambassador Wilson broke the secrecy that a retired diplomat, unknown, had gone to Niger in the year 2002 to investigate whether the Iraqis tried to buy yellow cake, uranium from Niger.

BLITZER: You mean when he wrote that op-ed page article in The New York Times?

NOVAK: New York Times ... That was on a Sunday morning. On Monday, I began to report on something that I thought was very curious. Why was it that Ambassador Wilson, who had no particular experience in weapons of mass destruction, and was a sharp critic of the Iraqi policy of President Bush and, also, had been a high-ranking official in the Clinton White House, who had contributed politically to Democrats -- some Republicans, but mostly Democrats -- why was he being selected?

I asked this question to a senior Bush administration official, and he said that he believed that the assignment was suggested by an employee at the CIA in the counterproliferation office who happened to be Ambassador Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame. I then called another senior official of the Bush administration, and he said, Oh, you know about that? And he confirmed that that was an accurate story. I then called the CIA. They said that, to their knowledge, he did not -- that the mission was not suggested by Ambassador Wilson's wife -- but that she had been asked by her colleagues in the counterproliferation office to contact her husband. So she was involved.


Novak seems to be trying to make a case that he's the one who asked how Wilson got selected for the mission, not that anyone offered it up to him. In that same interview, he furiously denies that he ever told Newsday, "I didn't dig it out. They gave it to me." His characterization of Wilson is quite dramatically at odds with the way he wrote of him in the original column.

I would imagine that this discrepancy is something that Patrick Fitzgerald wondered about and why he was checking phone records after the Novak column came out. It reeks of cover up.

I realize that this does not demonstrate absolutely that Novak was carrying water for the administration when he revealed her name, but it certainly does show that he was carrying water for them after the fact. This entire line of bullshit about Wilson being a partisan is White House damage control chapter and verse.

I want to make clear that I'm not picking on Bob Somerby here. In the midst of that minor criticism, he also positively linked to my piece on Novak from yesterday, which I appreciate. He made a reasonable point, I think, that I was making an assertion that was not grounded in specific evidence. My response here is to demonstrate that I think it's a reasonable assertion based upon observing Robert Novak's career, his other public statements and the fact that he is, quite demonstrably, a douchebag for liberty.



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The Insider's Insider

I'm sure you've all heard by now that Patrick Fitzgerald is still interviewing people for the Grand Jury and that he called Rove assistants Susan Ralston and Izzy hernandez just last Friday.

Republican establishment groupies, The Note, which broke this story says this:

We should Note that Ralston and Hernandez are two of the nicest people in Washington and their being called to appear is a necessary reminder of the Caputoean phenomenon from the Clinton Era, which some have forgotten. When there are special prosecutors, a lot of kind, innocent people can get caught up in the investigation, often saddling them with huge legal bills and emotional stress.


That might be true, Perhaps these two are innocents. However, Susan Ralston's name has the unfortunate propensity to pop up in conjunction with some serious GOP scumbags:

When Rove got to the White House in 2001, he hired as his personal assistant one Susan Ralston, who previously was Jack Abramoff's personal assistant and was recommended by Abramoff for the job. Since then Ralston has become an insider's insider. "She's a remarkably gifted leader, playing a vital role," Rove told the National Journal in its June 18, 2005 issue.

According to the Washington Monthly (June 1, 2004), Grover Norquist "had a deal with Susan Ralston, who until recently was the assistant to Karl Rove. An unnamed Republican lobbyist recently told Salon.com: "Susan took a message for Rove, and then called Grover to ask if she should put the caller through to Rove. If Grover didn't approve, your call didn't go through."

"How did Norquist attain such influence over Ralston? Flowers every Friday? Redskins tickets?" the magazine wrote. "The answer, actually, is what the White House ethics lawyers call a 'preexisting relationship.' Ralston had formerly worked for lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a close friend of Norquist's and a top fundraiser for House majority whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas)."


I have no idea what Fitzgerald's looking at but it has something to do with Karl Rove. As Talk Left points out:

The two witnesses could be providing evidence that corroborates Rove's version. It's interesting, but not quite up to being a "dot" yet.




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Rearing His Head

I was busy yesterday and didn't get a chance to follow up, but I wondered about the item in Robert Novak's column yesterday in which he claimed that the Kerry campaign discarded Wilson after the SSCI report claimed Wilson's statements had no basis in fact. I had no recollection of that happening, particularly since the bipartisan SSCI report said no such thing --- that "no basis in fact" statement came from the "additional views" of partisan tools Orrin Hatch, Pat Roberts and Kit Bond. (It's quite telling that the committee couldn't even get all the republicans to sign on to that little smear.)

Robert Parry gets to the bottom of this and lo and behold, it all comes back to our favorite little GOP man-ho, JD Guckert:

The other part of Novak’s attack on Wilson – about his supposed repudiation by Sen. John Kerry’s Democratic campaign – can be traced back to a story by Talon News’ former White House correspondent Jeff Gannon, whose real name is James Guckert.

On July 27, 2004, just over a year ago, a Talon News story under Gannon’s byline reported that Wilson “has apparently been jettisoned from the Kerry campaign.” The article based its assumption on the fact that “all traces” of Wilson “had disappeared from the Kerry Web site.”

The Talon News article reported that “Wilson had appeared on a Web site www.restorehonesty.com where he restated his criticism of the Bush administration. The link now goes directly to the main page of www.johnkerry.com and no reference to Wilson can be found on the entire site.”

A Web Redesign

But Peter Daou, who headed the Kerry campaign’s online rapid response, said the disappearance of Wilson’s link – along with many other Web pages – resulted from a redesign of Kerry’s Web site at the start of the general election campaign, not a repudiation of Wilson.

“I wasn’t aware of any directive from senior Kerry staff to ‘discard’ Joe Wilson or do anything to Joe Wilson for that matter,” said Daou, who now publishes the “Daou Report” at Salon.com. “It just got lost in the redesign of the Web site, as did dozens and dozens of other pages.”


I don't want to hear any more speculation that Robert Novak has anything but the highest journalistic standards. Nobody has more credibility than the Bulldog.

The Talon article was scrubbed of course. But the freepers kept a copy on their site. Perhaps old Bob hangs out there --- many Republican whores do. Here it is in its entirety:

Kerry Dumps Joe Wilson From Campaign Team
Talon News ^ | 7/27/2004 | Jeff Gannon

Posted on 07/27/2004 7:22:20 AM PDT by ConservativeMajority

WASHINGTON (Talon News) -- Last week, the presidential campaign of Democratic candidate Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) very publicly distanced itself from former National Security Advisor Samuel "Sandy" Berger after it became known that Berger was under investigation for removing highly classified documents from the National Archives.

Talon News reported that Kerry's anti-terror policy was removed from the candidate's web site immediately following Berger's dismissal as a campaign advisor. But in the last few days, another advisor has apparently been jettisoned from the Kerry campaign. All traces of former Ambassador Joe Wilson, the central figure in the controversy of faulty intelligence about Iraq and uranium has disappeared from the Kerry web site. Wilson had appeared on a web site www.restorehonesty.com where he restated his criticism of the Bush administration. The link now goes directly to the main page of www.johnkerry.com and no reference to Wilson can be found on the entire site.

Wilson was discredited by a Senate Intelligence Committee report that contradicted Wilson's public statements about how he was selected for a sensitive mission to Niger in 2002 and the results of his report about Saddam Hussein's attempt to purchase uranium in Africa. Wilson represented his investigation as proof that President Bush misled the United States in making the case for the invasion of Iraq. An investigation into British intelligence confirms that Bush's claim was "well founded."

It is likely that Kerry's handlers took advantage of the Berger affair to quietly break official contact with someone who has proved to be something of a loose cannon. The ambassador was known for his vitriolic rhetoric against members of the Bush administration, particularly political advisor Karl Rove. Last year he suggested that Rove be "frog-marched from the White House in handcuffs," over the alleged leak of his wife's identity.

The Kerry campaign did not respond to a Talon News inquiry about Wilson's departure.

Copyright © 2004 Talon News -- All rights reserved.


This really is worth some follow-up with the mainstream press, I think. All things being equal, Novak should be joining Dan Rather for a geriatric fuck-up cruise. It's amazing he's skated thus far.



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Monday, August 01, 2005

 
WTF

I think I'm just going to call this post my WTF post of the day.

First I read via Avedon and King of Zembla that the California National Guard doing surveillance on anti-war protesters may be a national strategy

A state senator frustrated with what he called "stonewalling" by the California National Guard said Tuesday he would launch contempt hearings against the state's military unit for failing to turn over documents.

-Sen. Joe Dunn, D-Garden Grove, sought the documents as part of his probe into the Guard's new controversial intelligence unit. After squaring off with a top Guard official and a lawyer for the unit Tuesday, Dunn also threatened to seek subpoenas against dozens of current and former top Guard officials.

The hearing was the first since the Times Sacramento Bureau reported the existence of the Information Synchronization, Knowledge Management and Intelligence Fusion program last month. Internal Guard e-mails show the unit had high-level interest in a small Mother's Day anti-war rally at the Capitol.

[...]

Before the hearing, the U.S. Army also dealt the committee a blow saying that a computer hard drive and a hand-held Blackberry used by the retiring California Guard colonel who oversaw the fledgling intelligence unit was federal property, and not subject to the subpoena.

The hard drive was erased the same day Dunn requested the Guard preserve all documents related to the unit.


WTF? So it really looks as if the California National Guard with the help of some members of the US Army was spying on anti-war protesters. This is nasty stuff. If it's happening all over the country, it's really nasty stuff.

One of the harshest questioners in the hearing was none other than Tom McClintock erstwhile GOP candidate for Governor. He's very right wing, but sometimes this civil liberties issue creates strange bedfellows. And needless to say, he hates Schwarzenneger with a passion. But then, these days, who doesn't?

For my second WTF, I find out that even prosecutors in the GITMO Kangaroo courts were appalled by the methods being used to find the "non-combatants" guilty. But, as with all these people who have expressed reservations, revulsion or concern about our handling of prisoners --- from the bad apples at Abu Ghraib, to reports of the "Biscuit" teams using psychological torture, to the dog handlers' testimony, to the FBI agents who were concerned about their legal culpability in inhumane treatment and rendition, to the highly placed members of JAG Corps worrying about complicity in war crimes, to the prosecutors at Guantanamo --- they are all mistaken or they are whiners and complainers.

Every day we are learning about people who complained about the legality and morality of our treatment of prisoners and each and every time the defense department whitewashes it. This is becoming unsustainable.

This latest story today about the prosecutors in Guantanamo complaining about the legality of the process discusses a "personality" clash even though the prosecutors who complained were discussing specific instances of unethical and illegal behavior. It sounds to me as if they had some legal Geoffrey Millers down there, whose tactics were as offensive as Miller's were.

And I suspect that the Colonel Borch mentioned in the article who calls these claims "monstrous lies" may be one of them. I wonder if when the dust settles we will find that Rumsfeld's Pentagon routinely put the most incompetent and the most gung-ho, quasi-psychotic officers in charge. It would certainly fit the pattern of refusing to listen to anything but their own hype.

My final WTF for the moment is from Josh Marshall, who quotes Michael Barone actually putting finger to keyboard and writing this:

"Richard Nixon, by obstructing investigation of the Watergate burglary, unwittingly colluded in the successful attempt to besmirch his administration. Less than two years after carrying 49 states, he was compelled to resign."


The intellectual contortions we are seeing on the right these days are quite magnificent. I'm just wondering when their heads will explode.



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Six Degrees Of Paul Hackett

Paul Hackett is asking the netroots to try out a new GOTV maneuver. It sounds like it might be worth a try, and I don't see how it could hurt. Experimentation is a good thing. And if the candidate calls, we should probably answer, particularly when it doesn't really take any effort to speak of.

Check it out. It will be fun to see if it has any impact.

They are also pushing to raise a few last minute bucks. Here's the link.


Update: I understand that some people are quite upset with the idea of sending out an e-mail to your friends asking them to send an e-mail to their friends in the hopes of spreading the word virally. Some consider this spam, but I'm of the opinion that sending a mass e-mail to people you know is not the same as sending out unsolicited messages to strangers. In fact, i do it all the time. But to each his own.

People should be aware that chain e-mails have become a primary tool of the Republicans and they used them to great effect during 2004. Read this article from Harper's about how they use them and the dishonesty and calumny they contained. (We are suggesting nothing like this.) Republicans are experts at direct mail and this is the hi-tech version of their vaunted mailing lists. Apparently they believe that it is quite effective and developed lists of people who would willingly start the chain. I don't think it was used to get out the vote so much as perpetuate whisper campaigns and bad information. It occurred mostly under the radar. I think we can be quite confident that they are refining this technique and will be using it to great effect going forward whether we learn to use it or not.

It just doesn't seem wrong to me to use the same method to simply ask your friends to pass on a GOTV message. It is slightly annoying but door knocking and phone calling strangers is far more intrusive and yet we do it all the time. It's one of the more annoying aspects of grassroots politics, but its absolutely essential. You have to try to get people to vote however you can.

But everyone has to do what they think is right. I know what the Republicans think is right. Do what has to be done to win and if that means annoying their friends with an e-mail, they do it.

Update II: I forgot to include this link which explains how chain e-mails can be used effectively and for good, written by Phil Agre, information expert and one of the clearest thinkers about the current political scene around.



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Removing All Doubt

You can see why Bob Novak's lawyers have told him to keep his mouth shut. Today he writes a column "defending" himself that opens up one big ole can of worms again.

Novak's original column opened with this paragraph:

The CIA's decision to send retired diplomat Joseph C. Wilson to Africa in February 2002 to investigate possible Iraqi purchases of uranium was made routinely at a low level without Director George Tenet's knowledge. Remarkably, this produced a political firestorm that has not yet subsided.


Had Novak left it at that there would have been no repercussions. But he went on to reveal that Wilson's wife was the one who suggested him for the mission. And we know that it was the "wife" part of this story that was being spread all over town, not the fact that the decision to send Wilson to Niger was made in the bowels of the CIA.

This would have been a fairly standard issue character assassination if it hadn't been for the fact that Plame was undercover. But she was, and the CIA told Novak that. Bill Harlow, former spokesman for the CIA, recently went on the record with the Washington Post and said that he had warned Novak off the story using the only language the CIA can use without revealing classified information. Novak claims in his column today that this simply wasn't good enough:

So, what was "wrong" with my column as Harlow claimed? There was nothing incorrect. He told the Post reporters he had "warned" me that if I "did write about it, her name should not be revealed." That is meaningless. Once it was determined that Wilson's wife suggested the mission, she could be identified as "Valerie Plame" by reading her husband's entry in "Who's Who in America."


Except he could have easily written the story without revealing that Wilson's wife allegedly sent him on the mission at all. It was a colorful detail that didn't mean anything unless you were Joe and Valerie Wilson and your careers and reputations were being destroyed. The substance of Novak's story was that Cheney knew nothing of the mission, not who sent Wilson. It appears to me that this is exactly how Harlow assumed Novak would handle it when he warned him not to use Plame's name if he wrote the story.

Why did Novak think Plame's alleged involvement was important in the first place? He certainly didn't spell it out in his column. He just dropped it out there. In fact, there has still not been, to this day, any satisfactory explanation from him or anyone else involved as to why it was so significant that Plame allegedly suggested her husband for the job. Other than casting aspersions on Wilson's manhood, creating the impression that he wasn't qualified or sending a message to critics, I can't conceive of any legitimate reasons why it would be considered worth reporting -- particularly since the CIA had not given him an unequivocal green light. Reporting her involvement can only be seen for what it was: character assasination and political retribution.

Novak knew what Rove and Libby wanted him to do and, alone among his peers, he ran with the petty little detail they were working hard to get into the papers. And now he has the nerve to get indignant when he gets called on it. Douchebag For Liberty doesn't even begin to describe it.



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Sunday, July 31, 2005

 
They're Good At It

It just occurred to me how offensively stupid it is for some Washington chickenhawk to be saying the GOP is going to "bury" an Iraq war veteran.

US Military Fatalities at 7/31/05: 1796

 
National Democrats Please Listen

If you want a message that will resonate with red staters --- maybe even some of those macho white working class Nascar males who pride themselves on their independence --- this is how you do it:

"I don't need Washington to tell me how to live my personal life or how to pray to my God," he said.


The Republicans spent multi-millions over the last 25 years selling the idea that the American people want the government "off their backs." We should piggy back our candidates right on the back of that marketing slogan and ride it to victory.

What the national Democratic party needs to recognise is that when many people heard the Republicans saying that, they thought that they were talking about literally getting the government "off their backs" not just lowering their taxes. Instead, the Republicans are creating a national government that seeks to intrude in the most personal of ways, interfering with people's religious and moral choices. That wasn't what the independent, individualistic western style libertarian signed on for. They are ours for the taking if we have the nerve to say what Paul Hackett said up there.

Combine that with some big ticket ideas like "guaranteed health insurance for all Americans" with a foreign policy narrative that refocuses the threats and policy prescription in the proper direction as Matt Yglesias talks about here, and we have the essence of a Democratic message that will resonate.




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Pull The Other One

Talk Left points to this post about a joint US Canadian raid day before yesterday in Canada to arrest a marijuana seed distributer on charges that his seeds are being used by Americans to break the law. Selling the seeds in not illegal in Canada, but the Americans persuaded the canadians that they should be able to reach across the border and arrest their citizens. The story is complex, but if you are interested in this subject I recommend you check it out.

I was struck by one quote by the US Attorney in Seattle under whose auspices this bust came about:

“The fact is, marijuana is a very dangerous drug,” Sullivan said. “People don't say that, but right now in America, there are more kids in treatment for addiction to marijuana than every other illegal drug combined."


Now, I can't say for sure, but I would bet a million dollars if I had it that this is flat out bullshit. Certainly, the "very dangerous" part is flat out bullshit. And I cannot believe that there are more kids in treatment for marijuana "addiction" than all other drugs combined. This is your government lying in your face. The kids know it and as a result they disregard all the warnings about drugs (like meth -- a very, very serious problem.)



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Back In Ohio

I don't know how many people are following the corruption scandals in Ohio, but they are doozies -- just flat out graft in the highest reaches of the Ohio Republican party. It's one reason why Paul Hackett may just have a chance to win. Combine that with the outrages documented in "What Went Wrong In Ohio" and the GOP is becoming so discredited as an institution that its brand is suffering.

Jean Schmidt has been running from the Ohio bigwigs implicated in the scandal as fast as her bandy little legs will carry her. But it appears that in these last couple of days her lies about knowing some of the major players are unravelling. Swing State project has the story.

In another display of the GOP's irony and history impaired lameness, the Washington Post reports today why the national GOP decided to throw a bunch of last minute money at Schmidt:

"He called the commander in chief a son-of-a-[expletive]," said NRCC spokesman Carl Forti. "We decided to bury him."


I suppose he took off his shoe and pounded on the table too.

In many ways, they really are "Red" states.



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How We CIA

Arthur has a must read post up dissecting Highpockets' tribalism and the meaning of plaid pants and cultural paranoia. (If you aren't checking in with his blog frequently you are missing some of the most consistently amazing cultural and political analysis in the blogosphere.) I'll leave that fascinating topic to him for now, but he does mention one thing in passing that I'd like to expound on a bit; the wingnuts and the CIA.

I've been thinking a lot about how the Plame affair has brought up an interesting political contradiction: the right is now openly contemptuous of the CIA while the left is a vocal supporter. I think it's probably a good idea to clarify that bit so we don't get confused. The fact is that both sides have always been simultaneously vocal supporters and openly contemptuous of the CIA, but for entirely different reasons.

I usually don't speak for "the left" but for the purpose of this discussion I will use my views as a proxy for the lefty argument. I'm not generally a big fan of secretive government departments with no accountability. I always worry that they are up to things not sanctioned by the people and it has often turned out that they are. I have long been skeptical of the CIA because of the CIA's history of bad acts around the world that were not sanctioned or even known by more than a few people and were often, in hindsight, wrong --- like rendition, for instance. I don't believe that we should have a secret foreign policy operation that doesn't answer to the people. They tend to do bad shit that leaves the people holding the bag.

But I didn't just fall out of the back of Arnold's hummer, so I understand that a nation needs intelligence to protect itself and understand the world. I also understand that the way we obtain that information must be kept secret in order to protect the lives of those who are involved in getting it. I have never objected to the idea that we have spies around the world gathering information about what our enemies are up to. I also think that intelligence should, as much as possible, be objective and apolitical. Otherwise, we cannot accurately assess real threats. If the CIA (and the other intelligence agencies) only make objective analyses, the buck will stop at the president, where it always properly should.

Therefore, I see this Plame affair -- and the larger matter of the pre-war WMD threat assessment -- as a matter of compromised intelligence and an extension of the 30 year war the right has waged against what it thinks is the CIA's tepid threat analysis. Never mind that the right's hysterical analyses have always turned out to have been completely wrong.

But then accuracy was never the point because the right takes the opposite approach to the CIA's proper role. They have always been entirely in favor of the CIA working on behalf of any president who wanted to topple a left wing dictator or stage a coup without congressional knowledge. This is, in their view, the proper role of the CIA --- to covertly advance foreign policy on behalf of an executive (of whom they approve) and basically do illegal and immoral dirty work. But they have never valued the intelligence and analysis the CIA produced since it often challenged their preconcieved beliefs and as a result didn't validate their knee jerk impulse to invade, bomb, obliterate, topple somebody for reasons of ideology or geopolitical power. The CIA's intelligence often backed up the success of the containment policy that kept us from a major bloody hot war with the commies --- and for that they will never be trusted.(See Team B, and the Committee on the Present Danger parts I and II.)

Therefore, the right sees the Plame affair as another example of an inappropriately "independent" CIA refusing to accede to its boss's wishes. They believe that the CIA exists to provide the president with the documentation he needs to advance his foreign policy goals --- and if that includes lying to precipitate a war he feels is needed, then their job is to acquiesce. When you cut away the verbiage, what the right really believes is that the US is justified in invading and occupying any country it likes --- it's just some sissified, cowardly rule 'o law that prevents us from doing it. The CIA's job is to smooth the way for the president to do what he wants by keeping the citizen rubes and the allies in line with phony proof that we are following international and domestic laws. (This would be the Straussian method of governance --- too bad the wise ones who are running the world while keeping the rest of us entertained with religion and bread and circuses are so fucking lame.)

Back in the day, they used to just admit that they were engaging in Realpolitik, and as disgusting as that is, at least it was more honest than the current crop of neocons who insist that they are righteous and good by advancing democracy and vanquishing evil using undemocratic, illegal means. It makes me miss Kissinger. At least he didn't sing kumbaya while he was fucking over the wogs.

I have no idea where people who don't pay much attention to the political scene would come down on this. It may be that they think the government should have a branch that does illegal dirty work. But I suspect they would also think that the president should not be allowed to run a secret foreign policy or stage wars for inscrutable reasons. Indeed, I think most people would find it repugnant if they knew that there are people in government who think the president of the United States has a right to lie to them in order to commit their blood and treasure to a cause or plan that has nothing to do with the one that is stated.

Of course, that's exactly what happened with Iraq. The right's greatest challenge now is to get the public to believe that they were lied to for their own good.



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Saturday, July 30, 2005

 
Volunteer For Hackett

I just got this e-mail from Bob Brigham of Swing State Project:

Man, cellular laptop cards are great. I'm riding in Paul Hackett's motorcade and live-blogging over at Swing State Project.

The campaign has momentum and is peaking perfectly, but needs more people. It would be great if you could post a general call for the netroots to get down to Ohio 2nd district. People have been reading about this on the blogs and coming from all over, Philly, Michigan, Florida and a whole helluva lot of netroots people from Ohio. So far, over 7,000 people have donated. Let's see if we can get 1% to go volunteer for GOTV.

We need a few hundred more people
and every available Democratic volunteer in the area is already plugged in. Let's finish the job.

Ask people to call HQ at (513) 735-4310.


It's a long shot, but if Hackett could pull this out it might be considered the kind of bellweather that Harris Wofford was back in 1991. It could change the media dynamic considerably for '06.



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Testy, Testy

Wow. Anyone who hasn't seen this Jean Schmidt interview with David Gregory over at Crooks and Liars needs to check it out.

Let's just say that if the election turns on which candidate has the most winning personality, Hackett should win in a lanslide. Yikes.


Update: I hope the canvassers are armed with this information as they spread the word this week-end. It may be too late to make much of it, which is too bad. it would be a nice test case of the new libertarian red state Dem vs the religious extremist red state Republican paradigm:

...here's one fact her side is carefully guarding, knowing only about 10 percent of those registered will vote Tuesday: her extreme views. If voters from places like Mariemont, Anderson Township or Hyde Park knew fully what Schmidt believed, they might sit out the election or switch over for once to a Democrat, especially one like Hackett.

Here's the backup. During the campaign Schmidt is on leave as president of the Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati. Now, no one should begrudge her that commitment. It's personal and religious. But does that commitment affect her political judgment and fitness? Second District voters must decide that.

But go to her group's Web site, www.affirminglife.org/ index.asp, and click around through the many buttons and pages and you'll learn she and her cohorts abhor living wills. Huh? Isn't that the one lesson from the Republican exploitation of Terri Schiavo -- that we should immediately get willed up? She says no.

Her local Right to Life site to this day says Schiavo was executed. And that you shouldn't buy Levi jeans or anything Microsoft or Johnson & Johnson baby cream or read The New York Times. And they say no to the promise of embryonic stem cell research that could help our relatives and friends survive diseases and crippling paralysis.

Flat out, Schmidt is a political extremist. Of course, she thinks those fringe views put her in the 2nd District mainstream. I don't think so, not with the suburban masses or even the man farming a rural field while his wife packs lunches for the kids waiting for their long school bus ride.

No doubt Schmidt will turn out her Right to Life friends on Tuesday. They believe their numbers will be enough for at least a victory.

But the more mainstream voters come to realize she's a friend of Taft's and the leader of such a fringe group, they might conclude she's not Rob Portman, she's not like them. And putting in a Democrat, especially one who still wears the Marine uniform and has economic success but with colorful, earthy edges, could be the more comfortable choice.

It all comes down to what people know, when they know it and whether they'll care. We'll soon know.





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Friday, July 29, 2005

 
Swooning

I know that most of you have already seen this, but I wanted to post it anyway, just for posterity.

Armando at Kos caught this from Hindquarter and the Gang:

It must be very strange to be President Bush. A man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius, he can't get anyone to notice. He is like a great painter or musician who is ahead of his time, and who unveils one masterpiece after another to a reception that, when not bored, is hostile.



I've written a lot about "up-is-downism" and "epistemic relativism" and "bizarro world" trying to analyse the Republicans' alternate reality, wondering whether it comes from a full absorbtion into the field of public relations, a consciously created competing discourse or simple lying with a straight face. All of that is bullshit. It's a form of mass hysteria ---- along the lines of the Salem Witch trials or the audience at an NSynch NSync concert.



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Thursday, July 28, 2005

 
Oooh Daddy

Via Jesse at Pandagon,(who will give you the full hilarious run-down) I see that the Cornerites are all a twitter at the new Geena Davis show "Commander In Chief." They are having little giggle fits at the idea that a woman president would be, like, so cute when she's negotiating and baking cookies!

Here's little taste of the more serious side of the discussion from Jonah "Doughy Pant Load" Goldberg:


The idea that a female liberal president would be more "feminine" than Bill Clinton is absurd, laughable, factually untrue. Bill Clinton was weepy, huggy and at all times pain-feeling. He'd wax eloquent on the glories of talk and empathy. At the end of one marathon meeting which accomplished nothing, he stretched out in his chair and said "That was great" as if he was about to light a cigarette. Feminists declared him the first female president. He talked of security not in the sense of blowing up terrorists but of leaving no children behind...And, sad to say, it was so successful that George W. Bush and Karl Rove copied it with their treacly "compassionate conservatism." It took 9/11 to remind George W. Bush why Republicans are called the Daddy Party.


Actually, I'd heard about that all night meeting too, except I'd heard that at the end of it, he stretched out in his chair and said "that was great --- Monica."

And I believe he lit a cigar if I'm not mistaken.


I don't actually blame Jonah. With a mother like his it's hard to see how he could have come out unscathed. But this is just sad. The little guy wrote that whole thing without even realizing what he was revealing about his issues with women --- and why Republican males like him hated Bill Clinton.



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Hippie Spooks

Crooks and Liars is featuring a rather nutty exchange on Faux news in which it's posited that al Qaeda set up the poor Brazilian schmuck in the London subway in order to discredit the US and British governments. That's kooky, all right.

But there's a lot of that going around, I'm afraid. After quoting from Deborah Orrin's breathless scoop that Valerie Wilson went to a Springsteen fundraiser for Kerry, Orrin Judd speculates:

It's not beyond the realm of possibility that MoveOn, ActUp, and the rest of them are just CIA fronts.


For those of you who aren't following the latest line of thinking in wingnuttia, the whole Plame deal was an elaborate scheme by a cabal of evil CIA hippies who were trying to bring the president down. Just ask Senator Pat Roberts if you think I'm kidding.


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Simmering The Slime

Joe Conason has a nice piece here about how the right is preparing the ground to slime Pat Fitzgerald. Now that Senator Roberts has narrowed the scope of his interest in the Plame case, I think it's pretty clear that the little trial balloon about hearings (and my speculation about them granting immunity) was premature. The Dem Senators understood that better than I did --- they are keeping the heat on Roberts to hold hearings that he now quite clearly doesn't want to have. It really didn't make sense to pre-emptively slime Fitzgerald or haul Rove before the committee. They don't know what Fitzgerald has. And if I'm not mistaken, the special prosecutor, unlike the Independent Counsel, has no requirement to file a report if there is no indictment.

Therefore, if Fitzgerald doesn't indict, there is every reason to believe that all we'll ever find out is that ... no law was technically broken. The Republicans have wisely decided to back off at least until they know what they are dealing with. Why make him mad?

But if Fitzgerald does indict somebody --- and the spectre of a trial looms --- you can bet they'll be ready to try to bury him.


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Failing By Their Own Standards

While I have been engaging in the blogospheric pie fight over the liberal hawks' approach to national security to some extent, I do think it's important also to engage in a substantive response to the the DLC on this. Kevin links to a very good article at Democracy Arsenal that challenges the DLC's overreliance on the military to solve problems. This is a huge issue, particularly in light of the threats we actually face.

I was actually quite stunned to realize that they had signed on so fully to the idea that the GWOT or the G-SAVE or whatever, is a military challenge when quite clearly it is something else entirely. After all we've seen from 9/11 to Bali to Madrid to London --- and our our ineffectual and impotent performance in Iraq --- you would think that even hawks would have done some tweaking of the old superpower handbook.

But they haven't. And they even went a step further, indicating that criticising the methods that the Bush administration has employed thus far is naive (or vaguely anti-American) when it seems to me that it is vital to publicly reject their approach in order to repair the damage. The Bush administration has employed some catastrophically bad tactics and methods that have destroyed our credibility and our moral authority --- two things that are essential in repelling terrorism, attracting allies and keeping foreign enemies from overreaching. And in squandering those things the Bush administration has created recruiting propaganda for the terrorists and probably ruined any chance the liberal hawks might have had to test their Wilsonian experiment in exporting democracy.

First, the Bush administration continues to this day to tell the entire world that our intelligence services are completely untrustworthy. By invading a country without provocation, failing to find the WMD which would have justified the preemption doctrine, failing to prepare for the post war and then blaming the CIA and the state departments for that failure, they are saying to the world that the greatest military power the world has ever known is entirely incompetent. It leads enemies to overreach and it leads friends to be wary of letting us take the lead.

The only thing that can set this right is to publicly hold the Bush administration accountable for its politicising of the war for its own ends. To hush it up is to make us less safe, not more.

Second, by using torture and humiliation tactics we have shown the Muslim world that we are uncivilized. This is not just a matter, as Will Marshall said, of us not being grown-ups and undertanding that bad apples will blow off steam. It is clear that these things were ordered at the highest levels. And, as it has been reported today in even greater detail than before, there was a huge amount of dissension within the military about using these tactics for a variety of reasons. The primary concern for them is that it puts our own troops in danger, both morally and physically.

Marshall says that we have no credibility on torture unless we also condemn the acts of the barbaric insurgency in Iraq. This is precisely the opposite of the truth. Civilized people take for granted that anyone who blows up innocent people is barbaric. It does not have to be individually condemned. The behavior of the insurgency is not our responsiblity. The tactics and methods of the US Military are. It is incumbent upon us to take specific note of our own people who do barbaric things and show the world that we condemn it in the harshest possible terms. We cannot hope to export our democratic freedoms and demonstrate their benefits unless we hold ourselves to this higher standard --- and exporting our democratic freedoms is what these liberal hawks so fervently believe we must do.

So, they are defeating their own stated purpose of keeping the country safe by allowing the Bush administration to get away with exploding the myth that US intelligence is virtually omnipotent and possibly emboldening would be enemies.

They are defeating their own stated purpose of defending the military, by refusing to stand with those within it who objected to the way the Bush administration ignored its rules and regulations.

They are defeating their own stated purpose of spreading democracy by refusing to demonstrate our system's higher moral and ethical standards to people who are skeptical of our power.

If we are looking to the DLC for smart thinking on national security, we'd better look elsewhere. In all these ways the policies of the DLC hawks have already failed even by their own standards.


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Point Break

Atrios points today to this article in the Village Voice by Rick Perlstein which I encourage you to read. It's short and to the point. I think Perlstein has really gotten to the heart of why the Democratic party is having such a difficult problem getting through to people; we're not staying true true to our long term vision.

However, I'd like to draw your attention to an interview this week with Perlstein in this week's In These Times in which he discusses his book "the Stockticker and the SuperJumbo" which is only 8 bucks and is filled with interesting insights not just from him but other writers and thinkers in response to his ideas. You get a very real sense of the outlines of the debate within the party.

I'd like to discuss one thing in particular that Perlstein notes in the book and the interview and which I touched upon in my post earlier this week about Will Marshall and the DLC. I took issue with Marshall's point that liberals had been traumatized by the "protest politics" of the 60's to such an extent that they could not rationally deal with national security --- particularly the military. He characterized this as a feature of the grassroots liberal activists which I disagreed with because the "Move-On" left is quite a diverse group and it's certainly intergenerational. I do not believe that the grassroots were traumatized by the protest politics of the 60's --- although I'm sure there are some among us who were. We are a large group.

However, there is one group of Democrats who most certainly were traumatized by the protest politics of the 60's. Unfortunately, contrary to what Marshall set forth in his piece, the Democrats who are still carrying around that baggage are now the leaders of the Democratic party --- and particularly the leaders of the DLC. Indeed, their entire political careers have been forged in response to their early radicalism and subsequent political losses in 1972 and beyond.

The rest of us have indeed "moved on," going with the flow of changing political tides and reassessing our priorities as most people do as they go through life. But the people who came of age as political leaders in 1972 through the Reagan losses have been forever chastened by their youthful enthusiasm and as a result have an emotional aversion to bold, confrontational politics. Perlstein says:

The trauma of the generation of people who are running the Democratic Party was being blindsided by the political failures of left-of-center boldness. If you look at a lot of the most resonant and stalwart centrists and Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) Democrats, for a lot of them, their political coming-of-age was being blindsided by conservatism. For Bill Clinton, it was losing the governorship in 1980. For Joe Lieberman, it was losing a congressional race in 1980. For Evan Bayh, the chair of the DLC, it was seeing his dad lose his Senate seat to Dan Quayle in 1980. But the formative traumas of my generation of Democrats—and I’m 35—have been the failures of left-of-center timidity. So there really is a structural generational battle among Democrats. People of a certain age are terrified that the electorate is going to associate them with the excesses of the ’60s, but most voters are too young to remember that stuff. The Republicans keep trying to paint the Democrats as the party of the hippies and punks who burn the flag.


I'm a baby boomer myself, although I'm 10 years younger than the vanguard leaders of the 60's, and I certainly understood the tremendous frustration that we felt as Reaganism exploded across the 80's. I was deeply demoralized for a long time and I supported the DLC's attempt to reposition the party away from sectarian social issues to a more mainstream middle class economic focus. What I didn't count on was that while we settled into our grown-up middle aged persona, the right wing was going to have a doozy of a mid-life crisis and hurl themselves into true radicalism. It was a failure of imagination of epic proportions on my part.

But when they impeached the president on trumped up charges, I learned. And I realized that as you fight the political battles of the day, all you have to hang on to are the core beliefs that brought you into the arena in the first place.

As Perlstein demonstrates in his book, the key to long term political success is to have big things you stand for over the long haul. People understand different political realitites. Life happens. But they want to know what you care deeply about and what you want to accomplish even when you haven't a chance in hell of actually accomplishing it any time soon. Perlstein calls it laying down "markers:"

It’s a gambling term. A marker basically is a commitment to pay. In Guys and Dolls, Nathan Detroit would say, “that guy holds my marker.” It’s something you can’t back out of, on pain of getting your knees broken. The marker that Republicans have is that everyone who runs for office has to sign a pledge—it’s enforced by their own knee-breaker, Grover Norquist—that on pain of political death they’re not going to raise taxes.

My thesis is that a commitment that doesn’t waver adds value by the very fact of the commitment. The evidence is that even though the individual initiatives that make up the conservative project poll quite poorly, they’ve managed to succeed simply because everyone knows what the Republicans stand for. And the most profound exit poll finding in the last election had nothing to do with moral values, it was all the people who said that they disagreed with the Republicans on individual issues, but they voted for George W. Bush anyway because they knew what he stood for.


I think this is spot on. And it applies particularly to times in which we have the strange political freedom in which to operate without the responsibility of governance. We do not have to appease the pork barrel needs of legislators. We don't have to massage corporate donors. We can, instead, use the opportunity to advance ideas that have no particular hope of passage but that illustrate what we stand for.

And we don't have to do it merely by submitting ten point plans and stirring manifestos, although that's certainly legitimate. What we should do is promote big ideas and attach those ideas to the Democratic party across the spectrum of political activity.

Perlstein sugggests that every Democrat put on his or her website that they support "guaranteed health insurance for all Americans." Simple and sweet. Do we all agree that every American should have guaranteed health care? I think so. Should we say it out loud, so that the American people know that we support guaranteed health insurance for all Americans? Uh, yes.

I would also say that there are other ways to express our long term committments to more abstract ideals, like a right to privacy. When we question Judge Roberts we should make it clear what the stakes are in that battle. We shouldn't just talk about Roe, although that's important, we should put Roe in the context of all the other intrusions people will suffer both by the government and corporations if we don't acknowledge this as settled law and fundamental to our liberties. We are going to lose this nomination battle, but it is a good forum for staking out a long term position on privacy rights vis a vis everything from the Patriot Act to birth control. The libertarian strain that guys like Paul Hackett represents needs to be woven into our agenda for the long haul so that we can continue to fight for the freedom to be left alone by religious extremists and zealous police agencies alike.

I agree with Matt Yglesias that this is also a good opportunity for the Democrats to stand together and just say no. We don't have to trash the guy, if that's something that's unpalatable, but we certainly don't have to allow any free votes for a very right wing ideologue either. Unlike social security, we will not win the battle, but we stake out a position much more strongly if we hold together as a caucus instead of allowing free "gimmes" to Senators who want to appear above the fray. Nobody should be above the fray.

Tactics and strategies are, by necessity, subject to changing circumstances. Our goals and aspirations shouldn't be. Thinking big is what progressives do, and we pay a price for that at times when people adjust to progress. But we cannot survive if people don't know what we stand for. We need to take every opportunity to make that known and then stick to it even when it's impossible to achieve in the next election cycle or two.

The Democratic party apparatus for a variety of reasons have become risk averse. We in the grassroots have to help them see that this is not wise. It means that we are going to be perceived by some as intemperate and unpleasant at times. But that's ok. As Perlstein says:

We do have a timid bunch of folks in the Democratic Party, but that doesn’t mean all is lost. Timid and cautious people can often express their timidity and cautiousness by being swept up in a tide. We’ve got to provide the tide and let them surf it.




Update: Publius at legal Fiction makes a similar point about the "60's trauma" in this excellent post.


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Fighting Liberals

So it looks like Paul Hackett actually has a chance. I can't tell you how happily surprised I am. According to Swing State Project he's within five points in a district in which the Democrat hasn't achieved more than 30% in over twenty years. it's still a long shot, but this is a very good sign.

Hackett is, of course, a particularly attractive candidate being a good looking Iraq veteran family man and all. But the fact that he's making inroads in such a conservative district is pretty amazing in this era of GOP dominance in the red states. Let's hope it's a bellweather.

I cannot help but make note of the fact that the allegedly anti-military Move-on crowd have embraced Hackett so fervently. I would hope that this is noticed by the critics who say that there is an anti-patriotic strain in the grassroots. Clearly, we of the rank and file do not actually have a problem with the military --- we love this guy.

What this points up is the fact that the DLC badly misunderstands the reasons why the grassroots reject their leadership. It's only partially to do with policy and has almost nothing to do with ideology. It's about tactics and strategy. We see their split-the-difference "third way" approach -- particularly their rhetoric --- as a form of appeasement that may have made sense in a time of shared power but that is now self-defeating and dangerous.This is particularly so in light of the demonstrable ruthlessness of the opposition and their willingness to go far beyond any normal political limits.

We like Hackett because he's a strong, tough talking Democrat who takes it to the Republicans. I would imagine that there are plenty of gun control advocates among the urban netroots who nonetheless have given money to his campaign. And I know for a fact that there are quite a few like me who did not support the Iraq war, who nonetheless are proud of brave men like Hackett who subscribe to the military ethos of service to country. We certainly don't hold the insane decisions of ivory tower neocons against him --- we know the difference between those who make the policies and those who carry them out -- it's spelled out in our constitution.

The grassroots are not united in pacifism or any other particular ideology. The grassroots are united in our belief that the Republicans are dangerous radicals who are driving this country off of a cliff. And we've concluded that accomodationist rhetoric at a time of total GOP political dominance is suicidal, particularly when the Republicans are losing the support of the American people on virtually every issue. We think that it's time for a confrontational strategy that shines a light on the Republicans' radicalism. We believe that the country is yearning for some authentic straight talk about real issues and real problems and real solutions --- including national security --- instead of half baked esoteric reworkings of Republican talking points disguised as Democratic moderation.

We believe that you can't be perceived as strong unless you are willing to fight the political fight head on. It's that simple. It's about speaking truth to power. We don't hate the military and we aren't afraid to protect the country. In fact, our entire ethos is just the opposite. The legendary "fighting liberal" image that the hawks evoke with such nostalgia --- is us.

Paul Hackett is one of us.


It's getting down to the wire. If anyone is in the vicinity and can volunteer over the next few days until the election --- or if you have another couple of bucks to send his way --- here's the info:

Paul Hackett For Congress

Act Blue Contribution Page

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

 
Sailed Through

There had been some talk that the Democrats had a secret plan for Karen Hughes when every one of them failed to show up for the hearings on Friday and that they would unveil it on Tuesday when the hearings reconvened. Well...

Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved the nomination of Karen Hughes, a former political adviser to President Bush, as the State Department's top public relations official.


The Senate is expected to complete the confirmation process this week before leaving for its August recess.

Hughes' main assignment as Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs is to reverse anti-American sentiment around the world.


I'm sure there would have been no political value in getting Hughes on camera admitting that she'd been called before the grand jury. Not would it have been valuable to have on-camera reporters on the cable and evening news explaining to their viewers that Patrick Fitzgerald's probe evidently reached up to all of president's Bush's closest advisors, even Hughes.

It's a good thing we don't waste our time with such crass political tactics. Besides, Republicans might might say we are mean and nobody votes for mean. Well, unless it's being mean to a Democrat in which case people seem to positively love it.



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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

 
Debt Nanny

Can someone tell me why the government, under the "we trust you with your own money" Bush administration no less, is pressuring the credit card companies to double their minimum payments from 2% to 4% (with interest) for the stated purpose that people need to be forced to pay off their credit cards sooner?

Where does the government sponsored MNBA tough-love end? The bankruptcy bill wasn't enough, apparently. They now want to drive people who are struggling in a weak labor market into bankruptcy by abruptly doubling their monthly credit card bills. I guess there's no use wasting time in getting people into their properly indentured forever status.

Seriously, I can understand why the credit card companies want to do this now that they are protected from people having their debts discharged when they suddenly can't make their monthly payments. But on what basis does a Republican government excuse its meddling into the private financial affairs of American citizens?

This sounds like a good campaign issue to me. It hits home --- it's like Gray Davis doubling the car tax in California; it's an increase everybody notices. If the Bush administration is actually pushing it, the Democrats ought to staple this little GOP corporate collusion right on the foreheads of Republicans everywhere in the '06 election.



Update: Apparently a lot of progressives think that this is a good idea. The government should be in the business of forcing people to save more money, lower their credit card debt faster and behave more responsibly.

Unfortunately, the problem is that a large number of people who are paying only their minimums right now are people who just can't afford to pay any more. And while it's always nice to assume that people who get themselves into debt are all bums who aren't smart enough or don't care enough to manage their money properly, we actually have no idea why individuals have such high debt --- but the statistics show that good many of them are people who suffered a protracted job loss, a health crisis or a divorce. Some of them are juggling high debt because they are changing careers, they started a business or they took some other entrepreneurial chance. The large numbers of good people in a temporary jam are, sadly, going to get lumped in with all the people we feel need to be taught a lesson.

This piss poor labor economy has been propped up by easy credit for a long time by people who wanted to keep the party going. Individuals who have not been getting raises or who can't change jobs because of employer based health care have had to manage inflation and necessary big ticket items with credit at ever higher interest rates. They've met their obligations, but apparently that's not good enough. Now, the government needs to raise the national savings rate because the government itself is spending like drunken sailors so they are going to put the onus on people who are living under the high stress of a stagnant job market and high debt to do it. Somehow that just doesn't seem right to me.

The credit card companies get "hurt" by a slight dip in their usurious profits and the individual working stiff gets to learn a lesson in not eating.

This is a suckers issue for Democrats. Telling working people that we think the government should encourage their credit card companies to raise their payments because they need to learn how to manage their money is something even I find offensive --- and I'm a liberal Democrat. Let the credit card companies eat it for a while by telling them to tighten their new credit requirements --- don't just suddenly lower the boom on people. Make all new debt subject to the higher minimums. But if people are carrying a heavy load like 300 dollars a months in minimums which they can just manage --- doubling it to 600(+ interest) one month is enough to put them on the spiral of late payments, 30% interest and financial doom. Real live people are going to be hurt quite badly if this happens.

I hate MBNA as much as any person but "sticking it to 'em" by pressuring them to abruptly raise the payments of their customers isn't really a winning way to deal with this, in my book.


Here is another article that explains what's happening in greater detail.

And another.

And another.



In every single article it discusses the long term good of people paying down their debt faster. And they also discuss the singular hell that people are going to be facing when this abruptly happens to them and they don't have the ability to come up with the cash.

I'm sure there are a lot of people whohave just been too dumb to realize that they should pay more than the minimums each month in order to keep up with the compounding interest on their debt. This may help them. But it's also quite obvious that alot of people are going to be thrown to the wolves on this:

Of course, if your finances are already squeezed to the breaking point, the rate hike is a bitter pill to swallow -- good for you in the long run, but hard to take right now.

"If you're living paycheck to paycheck and your minimum payment goes from $200 to $275, spread over five cards, that's an extra $375 a month," says Brauer. "A lot of families can't come up with that." The banks already know that and are planning for it. Bank of America, one of the first to raise minimum payment requirements, worked an extra $130 million into its 2005 budget to cover projected losses from defaulting cardholders.


The same defaulting cardholders who are now going to have to pay much higher fees to go bankrupt and who, if they make above the median in their state, will no longer be allowed to file chapter 7. Quite the double whammy.



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Rumble

I have been skeptical that Patrick Fitzgerald would broaden the scope of his investigation to include anything beyond the narrow question of who leaked Valerie Plame's name to Robert Novak and other reporters. I thought it was possible that if he uncovered perjury or obstruction in the course of that investigation he might run with it. But, this WaPo article indicates that he might have gone beyond that narrow question:

The special prosecutor in the CIA leak probe has interviewed a wider range of administration officials than was previously known, part of an effort to determine whether anyone broke laws during a White House effort two years ago to discredit allegations that President Bush used faulty intelligence to justify the Iraq war, according to several officials familiar with the case.

Prosecutors have questioned former CIA director George J. Tenet and deputy director John E. McLaughlin, former CIA spokesman Bill Harlow, State Department officials, and even a stranger who approached columnist Robert D. Novak on the street. In doing so, special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has asked not only about how CIA operative Valerie Plame's name was leaked but also how the administration went about shifting responsibility from the White House to the CIA for having included 16 words in the 2003 State of the Union address about Iraqi efforts to acquire uranium from Africa.

Most of the questioning of CIA and State Department officials took place in 2004, the sources said.

It remains unclear whether Fitzgerald uncovered any wrongdoing in this or any other portion of his nearly 18-month investigation. All that is known at this point are the names of some people he has interviewed, what questions he has asked and whom he has focused on.


This is interesting, but I have to say that I'm not getting my hopes up. Unless he's got a high level witness who's spilling his guts, I have my doubts that this will blow the lid off of the Iraq lies. His investigation, after all, is said to have been pretty much wrapped up in 2004. How thoroughly could he have investigated this in that time? On the other hand it's very intriguing that he looked into it at all and it's at least possible that he could have exposed the white house effort to shift the blame for the yellowcake mess.

One thing is clear. The turf war between the White House and the CIA is now open warfare:

Harlow, the former CIA spokesman, said in an interview yesterday that he testified last year before a grand jury about conversations he had with Novak at least three days before the column was published. He said he warned Novak, in the strongest terms he was permitted to use without revealing classified information, that Wilson's wife had not authorized the mission and that if he did write about it, her name should not be revealed.

Harlow said that after Novak's call, he checked Plame's status and confirmed that she was an undercover operative. He said he called Novak back to repeat that the story Novak had related to him was wrong and that Plame's name should not be used. But he did not tell Novak directly that she was undercover because that was classified information.

In a column published Oct. 1, 2003, Novak wrote that the CIA official he spoke to "asked me not to use her name, saying she probably never again will be given a foreign assignment but that exposure of her name might cause 'difficulties' if she travels abroad. He never suggested to me that Wilson's wife or anybody else would be endangered. If he had, I would not have used her name."

Harlow was also involved in the larger internal administration battle over who would be held responsible for Bush using the disputed charge about the Iraq-Niger connection as part of the war argument. Based on the questions they have been asked, people involved in the case believe that Fitzgerald looked into this bureaucratic fight because the effort to discredit Wilson was part of the larger campaign to distance Bush from the Niger controversy.

Wilson unleashed a multimedia attack on Bush's claim on July 6, 2003, appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press," in an interview in The Post and writing his own op-ed article in the New York Times, in which he accused the president of "twisting" intelligence.

Behind the scenes, the White House responded with twin attacks: one on Wilson and the other on the CIA, which it wanted to take the blame for allowing the 16 words to have remained in Bush's speech. As part of this effort, then-national security adviser Stephen J. Hadley spoke with Tenet during the week about clearing up CIA responsibility for the 16 words, even though both knew the agency did not believe Iraq was seeking uranium from Niger, according to a person familiar with the conversation. Tenet was interviewed by prosecutors in the leak case, but it is not clear whether he appeared before the grand jury, a former CIA official said.

[...]

A former senior CIA official said yesterday that Tenet's statement was drafted within the agency and was shown only to Hadley on July 10 to get White House input. Only a few minor changes were accepted before it was released on July 11, this former official said. He took issue with a New York Times report last week that said Rove and Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, had a role in Tenet's statement.


Fitzgerald has run a very tight investigation for it not to have come out before now that he interviewed the head of the CIA and his top deputy. (And it certainly makes it important to know if John Bolton was one of those who was interviewed and if he lied about it to the Senate...)

If he's on to something really serious, perhaps even reaching the president, it may very well explain why Pat Roberts has been hinting around about investigating Fitzgerald and talking openly about holding hearings into whether the CIA is handling its covert agents properly. They are firing shots across the bow now --- at both Fitzgerald and the Agency.


*By the way, the mysterious stranger mentioned in the article is covered in depth in Wilson's book --- and Wilson evidently went to great lengths to document the meeting at the time it happened.

**And you have to love the fact that it now looks very much like Robert Novak knew that Plame was covert and published her identity anyway. He really is a Prime DFL.


UPDATE: This is truly scary, but I think Susie may be on to something. The hearings may just be an efficent way to grant immunity to the perpetrators. There would be nothing Fitzgerald or anyone else could do about it. Wow.

And as we speak, the Democrats are all clamoring for hearings. Is it possible they didn't anticipate this possibility?

At a news conference on Capitol Hill, Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., unveiled an Internet "Accountability Clock" to highlight the lack of congressional hearings in the 742 days since Plame's identity was disclosed after her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, attacked some of the administration's pre-war claims about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Lautenberg noted that he had served in the Senate under four presidents, but that "for the first time ... I'm watching the United States shirk its duty to check the powers of the White House."

The Republican majorities in the House and Senate are giving the president "a free pass" on the CIA leak controversy, he charged.

Spokesman for Frist and Hastert did not respond immediately to requests for comment Monday.

But within hours of the release of Kerry's letter, Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, announced his panel would hold hearings on toughening legislation barring unauthorized disclosure of classified information.

Similarly, Hoekstra's counterpart in the Senate, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., disclosed he will preside over hearings on how the intelligence community determines which officers need their identities protected and are covered by the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act.


It would be Frist-worthy if the Democrats actually helped enable the GOP to derail Fitzgerald's investigation.

On the other hand, they've given no indication that they are willing to get into this case in public, which they would have to do if they give Rove and Libby immunity and call them before the panel. But you never know. If the shit is really hitting the fan they may just be willing to take some lumps, call them as witnesses and "explain" under immunity how it really wasn't a bad thing to expose Plame because she wasn't really covert. In which case, Fitzgerald's case is over.

I can see them doing this and I can see them getting away with it too. It's just confusing enough and clever enough to baffle the press corpse and leave the Democrats gasping impotently on the sidelines.


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Failing Up

Following up my post below on Bremer's baby, I see that TBOGG caught the fact that the number two guy in the CPA boondoggle is being rewarded with an ambassadorship to Israel. Watch your wallets, Israelies. Neocons are coming to help you.



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My New Buddy

I have left it to others to do the heavy lifting on Paul Hackett's netroots campaign and I have regrets because I really would like to see him win after reading this endorsement from the conservative Cincinnati Post:

Schmidt served as a township trustee for 10 years before winning election in 2000 to the Ohio House of Representatives. There she served for four years before giving up the seat to run for the Ohio Senate - a race she lost, in a recount, by just 22 votes.

Schmidt has also held a variety of civic and political posts, and serves on the governing boards of such entities as the Clermont County Library, Clermont Mercy Hospital Foundation, the Live Oaks/Great Oaks Business Industry Partnership Council and Greater Cincinnati Right to Life.

Hackett's public service revolves around the Marine Corps. In 1982 he enlisted in a reserve officers program while he was a student at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. He completed law school at Cleveland State before starting full-time active duty in 1989. He continued in the active reserves after returning in 1992 to Cincinnati, where he practiced law in a small firm before launching a solo practice in 1994. Hackett served on Milford City Council from 1995-98; he stepped down after purchasing what he describes as the oldest house in Indian Hill - a recently-renovated, 200-year-old stone structure on the banks of the Little Miami River.

Last year Hackett re-enlisted in the Marine active reserves; he went in with the rank of major and served in Iraq with a governance support team, where part of his job involved organizing convoys to bring money and supplies from Baghdad to Iraqis serving in the regional government.

In terms of their ideology and their approach to issues, Schmidt and Hackett present sharp differences.

Schmidt, from what we can discern, would likely be a dependable vote for the Bush administration, particularly its foreign policy and Iraq. In this campaign she has allied herself with the president, as she did earlier to Ohio Gov. Bob Taft and before that to former House Speaker Larry Householder. Her approach to policy issues is incremental, except perhaps concerning taxes. She seems generally to favor supply side economics, and wants to make President Bush's personal income taxes permanent and get rid of the estate, capital gains and alternative minimum taxes entirely. She supports incentives to encourage small businesses to offer health insurance, greater reliance on ethanol as a fuel source and a prohibition against Congress' use of Social Security funds for general government operations.

Hackett, in our view, is a gust of fresh air. If we had to put a label on him, it would be Libertarian Democrat. He says what he thinks and doesn't seem to have much use for the orthodoxy, or the partisanship, of either party. He doesn't want the government telling him what kinds of guns he can own, nor does he want it interfering in family or medical decisions or taking away civil liberties in the name of fighting terror. He regards Social Security more as an insurance program than a retirement savings plan, but wants to put it on a sound footing and would raise the earnings ceiling if necessary to do so.

If elected, he notes, he would be the only member of Congress with direct military experience in Iraq - which, he says, is a fight we should end as soon as possible. He wants to finish the job and get out, and he wants the United States to stop holding hands with Pakistan and to get serious about tracking down those responsible for the 9-11 attacks.

We like Hackett's candor. We're impressed with the freshness of his ideas. We believe his experience shows him to be someone who is action-oriented.

We endorse Hackett for the 2nd District seat.


It just doesn't get any better than that for a Democrat in a Republican district. I don't know if he'll win -- special elections are tough --- but he certainly seems like the kind of candidate that we should be trying to field in these conservative districts if we want to ever take back the congress.

And, by the way, I think he's even patriotic enough for the DLC, don't you? Of course, he doesn't endorse free trade and he doesn't seem inclined to jettison all of our civil liberties one at a time in order to appease religious zealots and panicked neocons, so I'm not sure he's quite malleable enough.

I understand the Republicans have found his achilles heel though, as they always do. Seems he is a bit of an effeminate pansy. As a US Marine he was only involved in transporting goods and cash through a war zone instead of furiously pounding out the words "Smoke 'Em Out!" on his little keyboard while whistling the Colonel Bogie March as true patriots do. Well, nobody's perfect. Perhaps the voters will overlook his cowardice.

Here's the page to donate if you're of a mind. Even if you don't, read about this guy and see if you can live with this mix of issues. I'm inclined to think that with a fat dose of fiery economic populism, this could really work for us on a larger scale. The fact that the Cincinnati Post sees this guy's views a "fresh" should give us pause. We desperately need some fresh.

My readers know that I'm a big civil libertarian so I'm attracted to candidates who emphasize those issues. But I think I'm a little bit anomalous among the leftie netroots crowd on that and I'm thrilled to see that we are backing this guy so fervently. It makes me think that we will be able to transcend some of our differences when the time comes and coalesce around candidates who advance our agenda but who might have a mix of priorities that don't fit perfectly with our own.

Just one last note: Hackett apparently got off the plane from Iraq and was so disgusted by the Terri Schiavo circus that he decided to run for congress. You've just gotta love a Democrat like that.


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