Sunday, November 27, 2005
Clean Up The Mess
I've always thought that in order to really put a monkeywrench into the modern GOP's political machine it was important to take out prime movers Rove, Delay, Reed and Norquist. The CIA leak scandal has wounded (perhaps mortally) Karl Rove. Ronnie Earle has weakened Delay in preparation for the coup de grace Abramoff scandal that may just take down him, Reed, Norquist and a bunch of others in short shrift.
It doesn't mean that the machine will be irreparably broken, but it won't work as smoothly as it did with the original parts. Those men have unique gifts that they honed over a long period of time to create a very efficient political mechanism. It may not be that any one of them going down would make the difference, but all of them going down at virtually the same time certainly does.
They do not look good. Here's the latest on Grover:
The knives are falling all around him, but Grover Norquist -- antitax crusader, Republican lobbyist, and Weston native -- insists they won't fall on him.
A Norquist friend and former colleague, Jack Abramoff, is under criminal investigation for his lobbying activities, some of which involved the same Native American tribe on Norquist's client roster. The noose on Abramoff appeared to have tightened Monday when his former business partner, Michael Scanlon, agreed to cooperate with prosecutors after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to bribe public officials and to defraud Indian tribes.
At a breakfast meeting with reporters the next morning, Norquist behaved as if this was all nuisance background noise, as he mostly held forth on the state of the ongoing war between the political left and right.
Finally, when pressed on the investigations, he was curt and unapologetic. ''We worked with the Choctaw Indians. We did a book, and I was hoping to do more outreach with Native Americans," said Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform. ''Jack, I'm sure he advised the Choctaws. But the Choctaws worked with ATR and they're happy with ATR."
Last year, a Senate committee investigating allegations that Abramoff defrauded Indian tribes obtained e-mail traffic from ATR, but Norquist says he had not been contacted by government prosecutors in the Abramoff case. Now the conservative activist is on the warpath against Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, who is leading the Senate investigation.
After ATR turned over its e-mails, Norquist charged, McCain tried to ''steal our donor list."
''He subpoenaed our donor records and we said no," Norquist said. ''He took a shot at me and it didn't work and it embarrassed him."
Norquist then accused McCain and Senator Byron L. Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat, of discrimination by targeting lobbyists who worked for Native American tribes. Abramoff and his partners collected $82 million in fees from Indian tribes and their casinos over four years.
''The implication is that it's money laundering to raise money from Native Americans, and spend it," Norquist said.
. . . And senator's camp fires back
An early favorite in the 2008 presidential race, McCain is in a delicate position with political conservatives, who have held a grudge against him since he ran in 2000 against George W. Bush.
While McCain has been trying to smooth ruffled feathers on the right, his investigation into the Abramoff scandal, which he has called ''a complex and tangled web . . . a story alarming in its depth and breadth of potential wrongdoing," reinforces the bad blood with Norquist and his political allies. Apparently, McCain could not care less.
When we asked the senator's staff for a comment on Norquist's fusillade against McCain, his chief of staff, Mark Salter, had a lot to say. ''In Norquist's world, the truth is for suckers. And it's as pointless to respond to him as it would be to respond to some street-corner schizophrenic," Salter responded.
''There is nothing remotely accurate about his recollection of the committee's dealings with him," he added. ''Nor, obviously, is his charge of discrimination credible, considering that it is made against someone who has a long and well-known record of respect for the tribes by someone who excuses ripping them off."
Grover's natural instinct is to viciously counter-attack. It's what he does. McCain is having none of it and with a weakened political machine, McCain has much less to fear by ignoring them.
I do not want John McCain to be the next president. But I think that he might be if he keeps this up. His greatest appeal to crossover Dems and independents is that he isn't afraid of these assholes like Grover Norquist and Tom DeLay. When you hear George Will sniffing about the "criminalization of politics" over bribery scandals and leaking of classified information, when you see a guy like John Warner embarrasingly attempt to dance on the head of a pin as he did this morning on Press The Meat, defending the indefensible, McCain looks damned good. Even to regular Democrats whose fondest wish is to see these arrogant scumbags have to eat their words.
These scandals are dealing a major blow to the corrupt GOP political machine, which is an unalloyed good thing. But it would be a shame if John McCain were the one who benefitted from it. He's long cast himself as a crusading reformer and the time is ripe for one of those. The Dems ought not let themselves be left in the lurch on that message. Instead of the smarmy "together, we can do better," we ought to be shouting "once again, the Democratic party is called on to do the patriotic thing and clean up the mess the corrupt Republican party has made with its free lunch policies and taxpayer rip-offs."
If we don't say it, McCain will win on personality alone.
Update: I do agree that McCain will have a hard time getting past the Christian Right in the primaries, but I fear that a whole lot of independents (and some Democrats) will make up for it. If the machine is weakened, it will be more difficult for it to shut him down in states with open primaries and even those that aren't. I personally know Democrats who will register as Republicans to vote for him in the primary. Hardcore Dems like me will never vote for such a conservative politician, but to many people in this country, he is a very attractive candidate. I think he is, by far, our biggest political threat.
Update II: Laura Rozen discusses this NY Times article taking the temperature of the country on the Bush administration (decidely cold, frigid even) and the malaise among her Republican relatives. So far they can't think of a single soul to vote for, McCain being seen a disloyal to the party.
My relatives, on the other hand, are warming to the flyboy. It's a military thing. He served. He understands. He will beat the terrorists. Suddenly, Junior and Unka Dick's lack of military service is meaningful.
Oh, and John Kerry is still a lying, lily livered coward, just like all the Democrats who want to offer therapy to the French terrorists.
digby 11/27/2005 10:35:00 AM