Saturday, July 01, 2006

Your July 4th Schedule

After the barbecue has cooled and the fireworks are over, think about settling in front of the TV with Turner Classic Movies. Starting at 8:00pm on July 4, you can see "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," "Yankee Doodle Dandy," "Sergeant York," and "Knute Rockne: All American" back, to back, to back, to back. I admit I've only seen the first two, but they're worth it.

And if you're in Manhattan, think about spending some time on the Godspeed.

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DeLay Gets Justice

Good catch by Ed Morrissey of an important ruling in the case against Tom DeLay. It looks like a central charge is falling apart. Looks like it just might have been a politically-motivated prosecution, after all.

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Dems Losing Prime House Opportunity

This is attracting relatively little attention, but it appears that Democrats are losing one of their prime takeover opportunities in the House. For years Democrats have target Rep. John Hostetler in Indiana, and this year they felt that would beat him hands down. But it appears that his Democratic opponent has a Willie Horton problem.

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Democratic Crybabies

I don't understand the charge - flung by the Democrats and echoed by their allies in the media - that Republicans are trying to use the Supreme Court's Hamdan decision as a 'political weapon.' The Republicans did not bring the case or seek the decision. Now that it has been rendered, they may seek to implement the legislative remedy suggested by the Court. If Democrats agree fully with Republicans, then there is no weapon; both sides are in agreement. If Democrats oppose and the public agrees with them, then are the Democrats brandishing a political weapon?

It seems that in order for Republicans NOT to be accused of using this as a weapon, they need to quietly read the Supreme Court decision and then not do anything about it. Or if they feel compelled to do something about it, they probably shouldn't discuss it, or they should do something unpopular. Or they should say that it really doesn't matter how you feel about the decision - that it doesn't make any difference in the War on Terror.

Is this how Democrats handle the minimum wage, or health care, or taxation?

No it's not. Because these policies are legitimate topics for public debate. When policymakers arrive at a crossroads - such as the one created by the Supreme Court here - they discuss and debate, stake out the opposing views, and take a vote. If the Democrats fear that their views are not in the majority, that's simply something that happens sometimes in politics. They can go along, or fight the good fight. But it's disingenuous to claim that the other side is playing politics.

The Democrats are just being crybabies, again.

Also check out the Blue Crab's take.

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Boehner Saved the Line-Item Veto

Kudos to the Majority Leader, as well as to rising star Paul Ryan and Chairman Jerry Lewis:


House Majority Leader John Boehner is credited with cooling off opposition by Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis sufficiently to save the administration-backed line-item veto in the House June 22.

Lewis had been giving a run-around to Republican Rep. Paul Ryan, sponsor of the bill providing presidential authority to veto parts of a spending bill (subject to approval by both houses of Congress). Boehner reminded Lewis that President Bush and the congressional Republican leadership supported the Ryan bill. Consequently, the majority leader urged the chairman not to mobilize the 36 Republican Appropriations Committee members against the line-item veto.

As a result, Lewis e-mailed his committee members that he would vote against Ryan's bill but was not calling on his fellow appropriators to follow him. That ended the danger that monolithic opposition by the Appropriations Committee would turn enough other Republicans to kill the measure. The bill passed, 247 to 172, with Republican appropriators supporting it, 27 to nine.

Read the full article for news about Frist's concerns that Republicans could lose the Senate majority (which to me is no better than a one-in-five chance), and for federally-funded prosciutto.

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Monkey Hookers

Oh those wacky economists!

It's not as bad as it sounds; simply a proof that monkeys are more like humans than we might want to admit.

The article is from a few weeks ago.

Hat Tip: Joanie.

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Harris Sunk

The folks over at Red State are pondering whether Senator Bill Nelson is weak enough that the GOP should start aggressively helping Katherine Harris' campaign. The answer is clearly 'no.' Look at the latest poll:

Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Katherine Harris?
Favorable 20%
Unfavorable 58%
Undecided 22%

Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Bill Nelson?
Favorable 48%
Unfavorable 14%
Undecided 38%

There's no way to spin that as a winnable race for Harris. Her negative rating is 44% higher than that of Nelson, and only 22% of Florida voters haven't made up their minds about her. Stick a fork in her - she's done. She's not even all that strong in the Republican primary, despite the fact that her opponents are relative unknows.

If Bill Nelson were weak enough, the only proper response would be to aggressively support one of Harris' obscure challengers in the primary. But Nelson is not that weak, and there are competitive Senate races in New Jersey, Minnesota, Maryland, Montana, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Missouri, and Washington. And even the races in Nebraska, West Virginia, and Arizona figure to be more competive than the Nelson race. This is almost the LAST place the GOP should make a serious effort.

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Friday, June 30, 2006

Lieberman/Lamont Dems Biggest Fall Headache

The Hartford Courant reports that the last thing that Senate Democrats want to talk about is the Connecticut Senate primary. As I've written before, it may wind up being the Democrats biggest headache this fall. If Lieberman runs as an Independent - whether because he withdraws from the Democratic primary as Dick Morris advises, or after losing the primary - his Senate colleagues will be forced to choose between him and Lamont. In such a circumstance, there is no good choice.

If they back Lieberman, they're telling primary voters and the Kos/Netroots donors that their views are irrelevant. See what that does for fundraising. And if they back Lamont, they alienate the likely winner - Lieberman - who would probably wind up being more comfortable with the Republicans as a result.

I suspect that most Senate Democrats are secretly praying (or doing whatever else Democrats do), that Lieberman wins and saves them from this dilemma. But if Lamont is the Democratic nominee, then I bet Lieberman finds that his Senate colleagues will voice support for the Democratic nominee and otherwise sit on the sidelines. After all, Harry Reid spoke at Kosapalooza, and Charlie Schumer has already quieted down about Lieberman, after being criticized by Jimmy Dean. The Senate leadership seems to have cast its lot with the Left. It's a looooong way down the road, but I'd be interested to see whether Lieberman organizes with Senate Democrats - as he now says he intends - after getting re-elected as an Indepedent. It would surprise me.

Lieberman will need to make a statement in July on whether he will stay in the Democratic primary, or run as an Independent.

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Superman: Screw You, Mr. President

(Updated and Bumped)

OK, what honest red-blooded American doesn't love Superman? Always the good guy, always fighting for what's right, perpetually dedicated to helping the little guy, more or less invulnerable, and with powers we'd all love to have - minus all the personal difficulties that plague Peter Parker and the guys from Marvel comics. I mean, you don't have to love him more than Batman, or Spider Man, or Wolverine, or whomever - but you gotta have some love for Superman, right?

Well, they're making it hard.

WWTDD (which stands for 'What Would Tyler Durden Do,' and is not a site I link often), reports that the screenwriters for the new Superman movie made a conscious decision to get rid of 'Truth, Justice, and the American Way,' because, well... apparently the US doesn't really stand firmly for good anymore:

Superman is not American anymore

Mike Dougherty and Dan Harris, the two credited screenwriters for 'Superman Returns' have changed Superman’s famous motto, "Truth, Justice and the American way", to "Truth Justice and ... all that stuff". Seriously. No, really.

Dan: "I don't think 'the American way' means what it meant in 1945." Mike: "He's not just for Metropolis and not just for America." Dan: "He's an alien, from Krypton; he has come to Earth to be kind of a savior for this world, not our country . . . And he has no papers." Mike: "What would happen with the immigration laws we have now?" Dan: "I'd like to see someone kick him out!"

Yes, yes, good for you two jackasses. Aren't you just so clever. I bet Stalin and Kim Jung-il couldn't be prouder.

(I would have written more about this but I'm just so angry right now, and when I tried it was just "dirty god damn hippies" and "god I hate Hollywood so much some days" for like 8 pages. Yes, "the American way" was fine in '45 when we were fire hosing little black kids trying to go to school and women couldn't vote, but not now that we're enforcing our hundred year old immigration laws. Yeah, that makes sense. You've clearly thought this out. Was it better then, is that what you're saying? So, for the record, you're for fire hosing blacks and against protecting the US. Okay, thanks Hollywood. I knew about the second one, but I just wanted to be clear.)

First they changed the blue of the Superman costume, then we found out that in this Superman, Lois is a single mom. Next we heard that maybe, just maybe, the Man of Steel is - you know - a man's man. And now we find out that he doesn't love America anymore?

This movie is being pitched as sort-of following on after Superman II, and rejecting Superman III and IV, because those were really dreadful. Have they forgotten the last line of Superman II, when Superman says "Good afternoon, Mr. President. Sorry I've been away so long. I won't let you down again." That didn't last long, did it?

The reviews of 'Superman Returns' seem great, so I imagine I'll see it as soon as the baby gives me a night off. But Dougherty and Harris better realize that if they tick me off anymore, I might just go see Nacho Libre.

Hat tip: the Galley Slaves.

Update: She's a Wolverine fan, but otherwise ALa's post on this is on the mark. Also, the Hollywood Reporter is now on the story as well.

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Great News for GOP (If True)

Taegan Goddard's Political Wire reports on a new poll that shows a sudden and dramatic improvement in the all important 'right track/wrong track' question. This question is key because if voters think that at a basic level, things are off 'on the wrong track,' they tend to vote for change. If they're on the right track, they tend to vote to stay the course.

The release is here.

I would take this with a healthy grain of salt. The bipartisan poll analysis - apparently provided by Ed Reilly (D) and Ed Rollins (R) - specifically states that the improvement in right track/wrong track is due to a rallying of the conservative base. I'm not sure what might have occurred in the last month to cause it - conservatives lately have grumbled about immigration, but might have heard some things they like in the talk about the line-item veto. Is there something big I'm missing? Also, this is only one poll. While other polls have been improving in the past month, I wouldn't get excited until I see this result borne out.

Those caveats notwithstanding, the poll notes that people think things are going well in the local area, with improvement among Independents. These are both very positive signs for the GOP.

First off, a lot of poll-watchers have lately been saying that the President's numbers and the national mood seem to be 'stuck' for the long-term; that people had made up their minds about Bush and Iraq, and might have tuned out any new developments that could shake their views. If this is wrong - and the national 'angst' over Iraq and other issues is starting to lift - people seem to be optimistic.

And the improvement among Independents (a reduction in the Democratic advantage on the congressional ballot from 12 percentage points to just 4) is key because well, Independents tend to be the swing voters. If conservatives and liberal come out to vote in equal numbers, and Independents vote decisively for Democrats - as polls have seemed to show them doing - there will be a Democratic wave. If Republicans can fight to a tie among Independents, their majorities should survive.

While there's definitely a chance that Nancy Pelosi will be measuring the Speaker's office for curtains in December, there's been a lot of news lately to make Democrats worry that they're blowing their best shot in years at control in Congress.

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Mexico Votes Sunday

I expect this will be my last post on the Mexican Presidential election Sunday. By law, campaigning and polling has already stopped. The polls show it neck-and-neck, so I'll stick with my prediction that Felipe Calderon pulls it out over AMLO. This is for several reasons.

First, as I've noted before, Mexican voters are regarded as pretty conservative, and so they're probably unlikely to vote for 'change' again, after having voted for change in 2000.

Second, I think Michael Barone is probably right, that some Madrazo voters are likely to change to Calderon on the final weekend, out of concern that AMLO might win.

Third, there are late economic motivations to vote PAN. Specifically, Mexican voters are reading in the news that the peso is declining due to fears of an AMLO win, and also that the Mexican economy is finally growing steadily.

Spend some time at Ceci Connolly's blog at the Washington Post if you're interested, including this post about IFE's attempts to ensure the integrity of the vote.

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Bin Laden Hypocrisy

He Likes Zarqawi Better Dead than Alive

AP offers a solid piece on the latest audio tape (apparently) from Bin Laden, which hails Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as a 'lion,' and demands that the US return his body to his family for burial. AP writer Lee Keath notes:

• Zawahri’s criticism of Zarqawi while he was alive, for targeting Iraqi civilians and undercutting Al-Qaeda;

• Zawahri’s attempt to bum some money off of Zarqawi;

• Zawahri’s and Bin Laden’s posthumous effort to associate themselves with Zarqawi, who ‘stole the spotlight’ from them; and,

• The clear implication that Zarqawi was part of the Bin Laden AQ network, and not some lone rogue.

Refresh your memory about how frustrated Zawahri was with Zarqawi's counter-productive efforts here. It's also a useful reminder of the fact that AQ leadership wants Muslim civil war in Iraq, which they regard as 'the greatest battle of Islam in this era.' Check out what the Belmont Club had to say about the letter.

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Lott Planning Return to Leadership

Tim Chapman points to an article at the Hill, which reports that Trent Lott is aiming for a leadership comeback. If he makes it, he'd be almost halfway to Billy Martin status. Although in the photo that Tim provides, it looks like he's trying for the Papacy.

At times the Senate has seemed like the gang that couldn't shoot straight. Lott could help improve that. Or on the other hand, maybe he'd be more likely to pursue the same old 'business as usual' policy on spending and earmarks that made him so upset with fiscal conservatives.

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Hockey Comes to Yankee Stadium

This could be cool.

In November, 2003, the NHL played an outdoor game in Edmonton, that drew 57,000 fans. An outdoor game at Yankee Stadium would be a great show.

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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Byrd Looking Stronger than I've Predicted

Well, I've mentioned a few times that I think Bob Byrd will face a tough re-election race this year, particularly given the growing attention to Alan Mollohan and his problems with earmarks. West Virginia's State Journal throws cold water on my suggestions, with a poll showing Byrd leading Republican Raese 59%-30%.

There's no way I can spin that as a good result for Raese. I'm not brimming with optimism, but Raese does have a lot of money to spend. We'll watch to see if anything changes.

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Boehner Touts GOP Achievements

This is the text of the memo that Majority Leader Boehner has sent to House Republicans in advance of the July 4 recess:

GOP Promises Made, GOP Promises Kept

On March 16, House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) laid out House Republicans’ plans for an ambitious agenda aimed at bringing more prosperity and security to American families. In conjunction with Senate Republicans and President Bush, House Republicans have continued to fulfill those promises. Following is a list of GOP promises made, and GOP promises kept since the beginning of the second session of the 109th Congress.

Keeping Our Promise to Make America Prosperous

House Republicans have focused on bringing prosperity and security to American families and opening the door for even more Americans to take advantage of today’s new job opportunities and the ongoing Bush Economic Boom. While House Republicans act to spur economic growth, create more jobs, and build a better energy future, Capitol Hill Democrats continue to champion policies that would increase taxes, kill U.S. jobs, and endanger the very economic prosperity we’ve built. Following are some major House achievements thus far:

 Tax Increase Prevention & Reconciliation Act Conference Report (H.R. 4297)
 Permanent Estate Tax Relief Act (H.R. 5638)
 College Access & Opportunity Act (H.R. 609)
 Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act (H.R. 4761)
 American-Made Energy and Good Jobs Act (H.R. 5429)
 Refinery Permit Process Schedule Act (H.R. 5354)
 The H-Prize Act (H.R. 5143)
 Federal Energy Price Protection Act (H.R. 5253)
 Communications Opportunity, Promotion, and Enhancement Act (H.R. 5252)
 Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act (S. 193)

Keeping Our Promise to Strengthen National Security & Border Security

House Republicans have built a strong national security record by supporting our troops fighting the Global War on Terror and honoring our veterans. In addition, strengthening our borders (as called for in the Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act, passed by the House in December 2005) and making our ports safer are important steps in bolstering our national security. While House Republicans act, Capitol Hill Democrats’ years of negligence in addressing the real safety and security needs of our country provide a very clear choice for the American people on security issues. Following are some major House achievements thus far:

 Resolution to Prevail in the Global War on Terror & Achieve Victory in Iraq (H.Res. 612)
 USA PATRIOT Improvement & Reauthorization Act (H.R. 3199)
 Security and Accountability for Every (SAFE) Port Act (H.R. 4954)
 FY 2007 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act Conference Report (H.R. 4939)
 FY 2007 Intelligence Authorization Act (H.R. 5020)
 FY 2007 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 5122)
 FY 2007 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act (H.R. 5441)
 FY 2007 Department of Defense Appropriations Act (H.R. 5631)
 Coast Guard & Maritime Transportation Act Conference Report (H.R. 889)
 Iran Freedom Support Act (H.R. 282)
 Respect for America’s Fallen Heroes Act (H.R. 5037)
 Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act (H.R. 4843)
 Veterans’ Housing Opportunity and Benefits Improvement Act (S. 1235)
 Heroes Earned Retirement Opportunities Act (H.R. 1499)

Keeping Our Promise to Spend America’s Taxpayer Dollars Wisely

House Republicans have focused on ensuring that Congress spends America’s taxpayer dollars wisely, promoting fiscal responsibility, and restoring a sense of trust between the American people and their elected leaders. With strong economic growth that is creating thousands of new family-wage jobs, the choice for Americans is clear: move forward with a strong economy and exercise fiscal responsibility, or hand over control of spending to Capitol Hill Democrats who view the federal treasury as nothing more than a goldmine for new spending. Following are some major House achievements thus far:

 Rejected $45.2 billion in New Democrat Spending Requests in FY 2007 Appropriations Bills
 Terminated 95 programs for a Savings of Nearly $4 Billion
 Reduced Funding for Member Projects by $7.8 Billion
 FY 2007 Budget Resolution (H.Con.Res. 376)
 “Rainy Day” Fund for Natural Disasters (H.Con.Res. 376)
 Legislative Line Item Veto Act (H.R. 4890)
 Lobbying Accountability and Transparency Act (H.R. 4975)
 Grant Reform Bill (H.R. 5060)
 FY 2007 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act Conference Report (H.R. 4939)
 Annual Appropriations Bills – House has passed 10 of its 11 Appropriations Bills

Additional Legislative Successes in the House Thus Far

 527 Reform Act (H.R. 513)
 Forest Emergency Recovery and Research Act (H.R. 4200)
 Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act (S. 2803)
 Freedom to Display the American Flag Act (H.R. 42)
 Children’s Safety and Violent Crime Reduction Act (H.R. 4472)
 School Safety Acquiring Faculty Excellence Act (H.R. 4894)
 Office of National Drug Control Policy Reauthorization Act (H.R. 2829)
 Resolution Encouraging Seniors to Enroll in the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit (H.Res. 802)
 Senior Independence Act (H.R. 5293)
 Health Centers Renewal Act (H.R. 5573)
 Children’s Hospital GME Support Reauthorization Act (H.R. 5574)
 Truth in Caller ID Act (H.R. 5126)
 National Uniformity for Food Act (H.R. 4167)
 Emergency and Disaster Assistance Fraud Penalty Enhancement Act (H.R. 4356)
 Flood Insurance Reform and Modernization Act (H.R. 4973)

This is well and good, but Boehner knows that the GOP will be tested on what winds up signed into law by October. So far the list of big items is relatively short, but there is time, still.

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Waiting for Ney

Well, the left side of the blogosphere is thrilled with the news that Congressman Bob Ney has lost the three most senior staff in his Washington office, and that his District Director has been subpoenaed to testify in the Abramoff probe. In reality they shouldn't be so excited, because this probably means that Mr. Ney is getting ready to resign.

First Roll Call's take on it:

Three Top Ney Aides Departing; District Aide Subpoenaed
Thursday, June 29; 3:52 pm
By John Bresnahan,
Roll Call Staff

The top three aides for Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) are leaving, or already have left, the Ohio Republican’s office, the latest sign that Ney’s legal and ethical troubles stemming from the Jack Abramoff scandal are growing worse with each passing day.

Will Heaton, Ney’s chief of staff, and Brian Walsh, the communications director, are planning to leave Ney’s staff soon, according to sources close to the office. Walsh will accept a job as communications director for Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), while Heaton’s destination is unknown. Heaton recently was married and was unavailable for comment Thursday.

Chris Otillio, Ney’s legislative director, left the office last Friday, the sources said.

In addition, Matt Parker, district director in Ney’s office in St. Clairsville, Ohio, was subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury conducting the Abramoff probe. Additional subpoenas of Ney’s staffers are expected soon, said a source familiar with situation.

...Ney has denied any wrongdoing in his dealings with Abramoff, but the Ohio Republican was implicated in several recent plea agreements obtained by the Justice Department, including that of Neil Volz, his longtime chief of staff and close personal friend. Volz pleaded guilty on May 8 to conspiracy to commit fraud and violating the one-year ban on lobbying by former top Congressional aides. Volz already has testified for the government during the recent trial of former Bush administration aide David Safavian, who was convicted two weeks ago of making false statements and obstructing an investigation into his own relationship with Abramoff.

Ney also was implicated in Abramoff’s own plea agreement with Justice, as well as the plea agreements of Tony Rudy and Mike Scanlon, both former aides to ex-Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas)...

Just a reminder that under Ohio law, if Ney steps aside before August 19, there will be a primary to select a new Republican candidate, who will probably cruise to re-election. This is the last thing the Democrats want - to replace an incumbent who probably can't win with a newcomer who probably can't lose.

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Culture of Corruption: Chapter 739

The Boston Globe reports that a number of Congressmen and Senators accepted food and lodging at a luxurious Cape Cod resort for July 4th weekends - some for a number of years. The stay has been part of an annual seminar where industry representatives discuss legislative issues with members of Congress. The unusual thing in this case is that the obscure non-profit group which legally paid the cost shares staff, an office, phone, fax, and E-mail with a lobbying firm. And it would be illegal for the lobbying firm to pay for the travel:

A lobbyist link in congressmen's visits to Cape
By Michael M. Grynbaum, Globe Correspondent
June 28, 2006

WASHINGTON -- Four Massachusetts congressmen have attended luxurious Fourth of July weekends at Cape Cod's exclusive Wequassett Inn in Chatham with representatives of various interest groups, courtesy of a little-known nonprofit group started by a longtime lobbyist.

The lobbyist, Jeanne Campbell, received millions of dollars in contracts to lobby Congress through her Washington-based firm, Campbell-Crane. Her clients, including several Massachusetts agencies and companies, routinely attend the Fourth of July events.

The trips to the Wequassett Inn, where room rates range from $475 to $1,300 per night, are intended as seminars where industry representatives can discuss legislative issues with members of Congress. But government watchdog groups say they represent a common route around federal lobbying restrictions.

...Invest to Compete shares a southeastern Washington, D.C. townhouse and a fax number and an e-mail address with Campbell-Crane & Associates, a lobbying firm that did nearly $3 million in business representing Massachusetts state agencies, including the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, and the Holyoke Community College Foundation, before Congress over the past five years. Raytheon, the Waltham-based defense manufacturer, also has paid Campbell-Crane for lobbying Congress.

Campbell, one of the lobbying firm's partners, is a founder of Invest to Compete and receives payments from the group to organize the Wequassett getaways. Many of the businesses and agencies that have sent representatives to the July Fourth meetings are current or former clients of Campbell-Crane, according to individuals who were present.

...Under the House's ethics guidelines, registered lobbyists cannot pay for trips taken by members of Congress or their staff . By filing tax forms as a non profit trade association, Invest to Compete is legally separate from Campbell-Crane. Legislation currently pending in the House would also bar lobbyists from arranging or otherwise participating in congressional trips.

Watchdog groups say that lobbying firms have found a way around the current regulations by linking up with nonprofit groups to sponsor travel.

``While these trips don't violate congressional rules, it appears as though they could violate the intent," said Alex Knott, political editor at the Center for Public Integrity, which tracks lobbying activity. ``Right now, a lobbyist could organize the trip, go with the congressman, play a round of golf with them, and then come back to D.C., lobbying them the entire time, and as long as they didn't pay for this out of their own personal funds or their lobby firm's funds, it's not a violation of the rules."

...Nationally, 26 congressmen and senators or members of their staff accepted free travel from Invest to Compete between 2000 and the middle of 2005, for a total of 54 trips. Neal, who received $5,800 in travel costs during that period, ranks fourth on the list. Representative Philip English, Republican of Pennsylvania, and his staff lead the pack with nearly $11,000 in travel expenses during the period, according to the Center for Public Integrity.

This article does not say where Invest to Compete gets its money, but given the close relationship with Campbell-Crane, that has to be your first guess. In my experience, it's common for Members and staff to accept privately-funded seminars like this one, but I think that shell organizations - as 'Invest to Compete' seems to be - are rather rare. To me, this looks like an abuse of a system that is well-intentioned, and usually works better than this.

But again, just another example that Washington scandal knows no partisan distinction. In this case, almost all the Members who traveled with 'Invest to Compete' are Democrats.

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Immigration Challenge, McCain's Challenge

Roll Call (subscription required) covers the apparent progress toward an immigration compromise between the House and Senate. In writing yesterday about the difficulties in reaching a compromise, I failed to recognize the dilemma that this may pose for John McCain. First, Roll Call:

Hints of Progress on Immigration
June 29, 2006
By Ben Pershing and Erin P. Billings,
Roll Call Staff

As House GOP leaders spent Wednesday mulling the political implications of the previous day’s Utah primary results, Republicans in both the House and Senate said the two chambers appeared to be moving slightly closer toward the possibility of an immigration reform deal.

...The debate over the implications of the Utah race were only the backdrop to Wednesday’s immigration discussion, as Republicans from both chambers expressed some cautious optimism that their positions were converging.

A day after several key Senators hinted that a compromise on immigration reform could be within reach, a handful of leading conservative Senate Republicans offered an olive branch of their own, indicating that they also are willing to cede some ground to find a solution.

Led by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), a half-dozen Republicans who are taking a hard line of making border security the first priority in any bill said positions are softening in the Senate on the highly charged issue. They argued that as long as border security was at the center of legislation, they would be willing to look at a temporary guest-worker program and potentially other aspects of comprehensive reform to deal with the millions of undocumented immigrants in the country.

...When asked whether cooler heads are prevailing on the divisive issue, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), one of the lead negotiators in the immigration impasse, said: “I hope so. I’m not positive.”

But McCain did say that key players “are talking,” and he remains hopeful that a deal is reachable this year. He said he stands firm that any compromise be comprehensive and acknowledged that provisions outside of border security will take more time to implement. Those who insist on sealing the border entirely are asking for the impossible, he said.

...None of the Senate GOP conservatives specifically wanted to lay out how far he would go to reach middle ground, but each said he was at least receptive to looking at broader, comprehensive reform if there was agreement about tightening the borders.

The conservatives have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with a majority of House Republicans who want an enforcement-heavy immigration plan, fearing more moderate proposals equate to “amnesty” for illegal immigrants.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) acknowledged that lawmakers remain “a long ways away from having any final agreement,” but that all sides now appear to be willing to give in a little.

...The enforcement-first GOP Senators said once borders are secure, a series of other comprehensive reform provisions could kick in. Part of that, in their view, includes defining legal status and requiring immigrants to learn English and U.S. history.

Word of the potential for compromise coming from the Senate slowly was reaching House Republicans.

“It’s been interesting to note in the last several days the movement among Senators,” Boehner said.

Boehner would not address several different questions about whether he would support the idea of securing the border first, then creating some sort of “trigger” mechanism for a guest-worker program to be initiated.

But Boehner did not dismiss the idea the way he has brushed aside many elements of the Senate bill, and Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) suggested he would be willing to look at further steps once the border is secured.

So we can see a framework developing here: John McCain and the Senate conservatives are both talking about border enforcement plus some elements of a comprehensive approach (ie, a worker program). John Boehner and Speaker Hastert are unwilling to rule that out. So the ball is about to be in the court of House conservatives - does this approach work for them?

But as I noted yesterday, the House GOP has hitched its wagon to border enforcement first and foremost. Is their base willing to accept a deal that makes a worker program likely, even if expected improvements in stopping illegal immigration fail to materialize? That seems to be what McCain wants. And doesn't it seem that the conservative Senators, Speaker Hastert, and Majority Leader Boehner are willing to accept that?

House conservatives haven't really spoken out, and I bet they're trying to figure what will fly with their base. Is there a way to split this baby? Can a trigger be crafted that conservatives feel guarantees enforcement before a worker program, but that John McCain believes doesn't unnecessarily hold a worker program hostage to unreasonable criteria for enforcement?

And if the House conservatives stand firm and reject a 'soft trigger,' what will John McCain do? I mean, he wants the Republican nomination in 2008, right? If he stands against House conservatives on a final immigration deal, that's another blow to his hopes, isn't it? And on the other hand, if he and the House conservatives are in agreement on the trigger and the overall immigration compromise, doesn't that take away a lot of the sting of him starting this whole circus by standing with Ted Kennedy?

What will the House conservatives accept? And what's John McCain going to do?

Welcome readers of KausFiles, and thanks Mickey for the traffic. If you're interested in immigration, I've written about it quite a bit. Check out my educated guess at the type of immigration compromise that might soon be floated for debate or, just look around the site.

Sabato: Macrowave or Microwave?

This is a very interesting piece by UVA political scientist and analyst Larry Sabato (whom you should go see speak if you ever have a chance - he's very entertaining).

He says that Democrats are having a hard time putting together a 'big wave' to take out the Republican majority for a variety of reasons, but notably because the issues of Iraq, ethics, and immigration are important in places that they can't influence, and because they've been unable to craft a 'national narrative' on these issues:

The Crystal Ball has observed something remarkable taking shape: a unique split decision. Democrats have succeeded in placing national issues of great consequence front and center in individual races for the House, but they have thus far failed to establish a truly national narrative to frame the battles in each of their targeted districts within a single, compelling context. Iraq has dominated neck-and-neck horse races in districts such as Connecticut's 4th and Pennsylvania's 7th, but ethics has (rightfully) trumped other contests in districts that have grown to know congressional scandal all too well, such as California's 50th and Ohio's 18th. Immigration has dominated still more campaigns, especially where districts are in close proximity to borders (again, CA-50, among others).

This variegation of the 2006 issue landscape complicates Democratic efforts a great deal. But there is little the party out of power can do in this respect--the diversity of competitive districts and candidates greatly reduces the party's ability to craft anything close to a simple, powerful banner under which all of its candidates could run. Yes, generic congressional ballot tests indicate startling weakness for the GOP, but Republicans can take heart in the difficulty of their opponents' challenge. For all of the GOP's very serious woes, the Democratic search for a national message and an electoral wave seems unlikely to produce anything quite as potent as the "Contract with America" and the tsunami of twelve years ago.

This seems to be an argument against a Democratic version of the 'Contract With America.' It would rely on individual candidates to frame their races better - something that Francine Busby could not do, but other Democrats might be better at. It also leaves the Democrats with a national 'meta-message' more like 'haven't you had enough?'

Read the whole thing. It's interesting, and not really all that encouraging for the GOP.

Update: Welcome KausFiles readers... I think. Let me know in the comments section whether Mickey's right and I'm wrong. And while you're here, feel free to look around - or see why on immigration, the House GOP and John McCain have decisions to make.

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Economy Overheating!

Well, if you read the mainstream media, it's either overheating or in recession. Since growth was 5.6 percent in the first quarter, I guess it must be overheating. Next on tap: renewed fears of inflation.

The article also notes that growth is thought to have slowed to between 2.5 and 3 percent in the current quarter, so prepare for stories about fears of a new recession, on the heels of the inflation stories.

I estimate that the Bush administration needs economic growth of 3.672459127% in a quarter to get favorable press about sustainable, non-inflationary economic growth.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

House Resolution Re: SWIFT Leaks

The House Rules Committee has posted the text of HRes 895. The resolution 'supports intelligence and law enforcement programs to track terrorists and terrorist finances conducted consistent with Federal law and with appropriate Congressional consultation' and 'specifically condemns the disclosure and publication of classified information that impairs the international fight against terrorism and needlessly exposes Americans to the threat of further terror attacks by revealing a crucial method by which terrorists are traced through their finances. '

It should be passed by the House tonight.

A resolution is an insufficient reponse to leaks as serious as what we've just seen, but hopefully law enforcement will prosecute those who've broken the law.

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Novak: Murtha May Testify on Haditha

And his anti-war activism earn him an unwelcome association: Daschle-itis.

Novak notes that Murtha's district voted 51% for Kerry in 2004; Charlie Cook rates it 'Democrat +5.' That is, the average Democrat will beat the average Republican by 5 percent. So it is hardly a Democratic stronghold.

Ever since his glancing association with Abscam many years ago, Murtha has been the model of a noncontroversial, reasonable Democrat who is responsive to his constituents. This year that seems to have changed. People in good old Johnstown, PA have got to be wondering whether he's gone Hollywood on them:

Murtha's Anti-War Role Could Imperil Him at Home
by Robert Novak
Posted Jun 28, 2006

Rep. John Murtha (D.-Pa.) appears to be suffering "Daschle-itis," a figurative disease which makes entrenched incumbents become national celebrities and, in the process, risk alienating the voters that put them in office.

Since seizing his party's anti-war mantle, Murtha has become a great draw for Democratic fundraisers, helping his party boost its prospects for a congressional takeover. Naturally, this helps his party-leadership bid as well.

But at the same time, his outspokenness made him a huge target for the Internet right. His district went for John Kerry with only 51% in 2004. What originally seemed like a long-shot bid by Diana Irey (R.) to unseat Murtha has taken on new credibility as she raises money from the Internet and as Murtha makes more and more outrageous statements.

Murtha's opposition to the war has never been the real issue. His assertion that the U.S. is the greatest danger to world peace is only the most recent and perhaps most striking example of his potentially dangerous venture into the great left. Even more offensive were his statements condemning Marines who allegedly participated in a massacre in Iraq, which gave no regard to the presumption of innocence or the existence of evidence (the Marines involved maintain their innocence).

In fact, by stating that he had high-level confirmation that a massacre occurred, Murtha may have set a trap for himself. As the court martial begins, he is likely to be subpoenaed in the pre-trial hearings to testify to allegations of inappropriate command influence on the trial. He risks having his high-level sources of information exposed, or exposed as flimsy -- or even non-existent.

This is getting interesting...

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Immigration Trigger Gaining Support

Well, the 'conventional wisdom' that immigration legislation was dead for the year sure crubmled fast! If you've looked elsewhere in the conservative blogosphere, you've seen signs of a coming compromise on immigration. Mickey Kaus has covered it, as have The Corner, Captain's Quarters, and others.

Today National Journal's Congress Daily (subscription required) notes that the idea of a trigger is potentially the key to a compromise:

Idea Of 'Trigger' Gives Life To Dormant Immigration Talks

Conservative Senate Republicans said today support is building for a compromise on immigration legislation whereby border-security provisions would go into effect first and could eventually "trigger" broader immigration changes -- something that House Speaker Hastert indicated would be considered. The trigger idea has been held out as a potential bridge between the House and Senate immigration bills. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., who sponsored an amendment to the Senate bill that would have made any immigration changes contingent on assurances that the borders are secure, said the trigger could help conferees working on a compromise. "Once they accept that we'll secure the borders first, I think there are a lot of things [in the Senate bill] that can be agreed to," he said. The House bill focuses solely on shoring up the border while the Senate measure includes a guestworker program and a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

Isakson's amendment was defeated during floor debate, but he and other senators said they thought the Senate would approve the measure if it was brought to the floor again, particularly if it helps create middle ground between the two bills. "Both those sides have softened and signaled they'll talk about the other side's priorities," Isakson said. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., noted Tuesday that a guestworker program or other legalization would take time to set up. Meanwhile, Hastert suggested that House Republicans would consider the idea, saying the "first step" must be beefing up border security. "If we do that and secure our borders, we're willing to look at other perspectives," he said. "I think there probably has to be some metric there, so probably what Sen. McCain is talking about has some substance." He added, "Some of our own members are floating ideas similar to that." House Majority Leader Boehner, though, ducked questions about whether House Republicans could accept such an arrangement, saying that he did not want to "negotiate in the press" or tie House conferees' hands...

This is no surprise. I've been saying for a while that the Senate would eventually agree to something similar to what the House has passed.

But while the Isakson trigger is attractive in concept, it will be tricky to put to paper. Conservatives will be very leery of any proposal that does not include hard, measurable criteria for reductions in illegal immigration. The White House and others will push for a mechanism that allows an immigrant worker program, as long as there's progress toward reducing illegal immigration - but which avoids hard numerical targets. One thing is for sure: there'll be no 'path to citizenship.'

Another thing which is almost certain is that there will be a clean up-or-down vote.

Congressional GOP leaders may ultimately have the option to include their immigration compromise in a larger package - such as an appropriations bill - thus allowing Members to say 'well, I wasn't voting on immigration alone - but on a much larger bill.' They will reject this option in favor of one that forces Democrats to choose between border enforcement and immigrant advocacy. This will be a clear signal that the Congressional GOP believes this is an issue that unites Republicans and divides Democrats - in sharp contrast with what most observers were saying just weeks ago.

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Freedom Tower

The final design of Freedom Tower was released today, and the most notable tweak to previous versions is the use of glass prisms rather than metal panels to minimize the fortress-like feel of the 187-foot-high blast resistant base.

To give you a really good idea of how it will look, the Times helpfully includes lots of stuff like 'tapered and chamfered corners,' plenums, spandrels, and 'interlocking isosceles triangles.'

The New York Times provides a slideshow prepared by the architects here. You can also get more photos from the website of architects Skidmore, Owings and Merrill here (enter the site, then click on 'Freedom Tower' at top left).

I think the tower looks fine, but then again I would have been very happy if we had simply rebuilt the Twin Towers in place, as they were.

But what do I know.

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Murtha: I was Misquoted! and Not...

Well, it seems I owe John Murtha an apology. It seems he did not behave like Howard Beale at a recent Florida appearance. Murtha has told the Uniontown Herald Standard - which I infer must be a paper in his district - that he did not say that the United States was the top threat to world peace, as the Florida Sun Sentinel reported. Further, another reporter at the event corroborates his account:

Murtha said, "I was recently misquoted following a speech I gave at a Veterans forum at the Florida International University Biscayne Campus on June 24, 2006. During the speech, I made a point that our international credibility was suffering, particularly due to our continued military presence in Iraq and that we were perceived as an occupying force. For illustrative purposes, I provided the example of a recent Pew Poll which indicates a greater percentage of people in 10 of 14 foreign countries consider the U.S. in Iraq a danger to world peace than consider Iran or North Korea a danger to world peace.

...In response to the misquotes, the Web site e-mailed a Miami Herald reporter who also covered the event. The following is excerpted from a story posted on the Web site:

"The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported Murtha as saying, 'American presence in Iraq is more dangerous to world peace than nuclear threats from North Korea or Iran' to a crowd of more than 200 in North Miami Saturday afternoon.

"In the article, reporter Elizabeth Baier quoted several other of Congressman John Murtha's statements in her article, as well as a quote from others at the event, but did not quote the comments alleged to have been said by Murtha in the first paragraph of her article. Melissa Sanchez of the Miami Herald, replying to an e-mail, says that while Murtha made the comment, 'That was in reference to international polls. It was not so much his own conjecture, but a conclusion drawn from polls in various countries.'

Murtha also seems to say that he was misquoted on Meet the Press, when he suggested redeploying US troops from Iraq to Okinawa. It must be subtle though, because I miss the distinction:

In a recent appearance on "Meet the Press," host Tim Russert asked Murtha to explain where our troops could be stationed if they redeployed from Iraq.

Murtha replied: "Kuwait's one that will take us. Qatar, we already have bases in Qatar. (Also in) Bahrain. All those countries are willing to take the United States... We don't have to be right there. We can go to Okinawa. We can redeploy there almost instantly."

Murtha has repeatedly explained that his plan calls for the redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq at the earliest practicable date and a quick reaction U.S. force and over-the-horizon presence of U.S. Marines to be deployed to the region if needed.

He further explained, "I have said several times that we could deploy a quick reactionary force from Kuwait, Bahrain or Qatar or could deploy a larger contingency of Marines from Okinawa or the United States, if needed.

"We currently have a Marine division headquartered in Okinawa, thus logistics and existing facilities are already in place. Additionally, during the course of this war, Marines at the battalion level or lower have already been deployed from Okinawa to Iraq," Murtha said.

"But let me be clear, these forces should only be deployed to Iraq if our own national security is at risk or if the security of our allies in the region is threatened. These forces should NOT be used to intervene in the case of growing sectarian violence in Iraq. The Iraqis must settle their own civil war," said Murtha.

Is Murtha reasserting that Okinawa is a good staging area for deployment of troops into Iraq?

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Harry Reid has Half a Good Idea

Harry Reid has promised to hold up a Congressional pay raise until the Republican majority passes a minimum wage increase. My question is, why tie it to the minimum wage increase? Why not just block it? Because it has nothing to do with the minimum wage.

As I've noted before, Senate Democrats have been blocking a minimum wage increase for a while - just as Republicans have. Each side wants their minimum wage increase, and refuses to give ground to the other. The question is whether the Democrats will cave and allow a smaller increase with small business tax reductions, or whether Republicans will cave and pass a larger, stand-alone bill.

Since at least March, 2005, Republicans have been offering to pass a minimum wage increase of $1.10 per hour, along with 'modest tax breaks for small businesses and opportunities for workers to opt for more flexible schedules.' That is still the issue today. If Harry Reid and Ted Kennedy signal a willingness to compromise, there will be a minimum wage increase enacted in a few weeks.

What Harry Reid is insisting on is his minimum wage increase.

But why stop there? Do you think if he holds up a pay increase, he can also get his judicial appointments, tax increases, Iraq troop reductions, native american policies, and any other unrelated issue close to his heart?

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Mexico's Missing Prosperity

Robert Samuelson offers an interesting - if frustrating and depressing - read. He summarizes the problems of slow-growth Mexico, and gives some depressing stats. But he opines that the problems causing Mexico's slow growth are unlikely to change anytime soon.

This is sad but true. And Mexicans are likely to continue to press to emigrate to the US.

Elsewhere in the Post, you'll find interesting articles on the last few days of Mexico's Presidential campaign: the role of Hugo Chavez in the race, and the last-minute campaign frenetics.

My bet is that the Calderon and the PAN will win, given how close the election appears. Mexican voters are basically conservative; it took 70 years to try a party other than the PRI and having elected the PAN once, they are unlikely to want to switch again so quickly. Plus, (as Michael Barone points out) it's likely that some of Madrazo's support will switch to Calderon over the weekend, as they face the specter of an AMLO win.

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Lieberman and Chafee: Are Their Fates Tied?

OK, well that's just a silly headline - not really any substance to it. But they are interesting parallells, aren't they? Each disliked by his party's base, each facing a primary from a 'true-believer,' and each considering a bid as an Independent to save him from losing a primary.

Well, the Chafee 'shoe' has dropped - he's filed for re-election as a Republican:

PAC calls for Laffey withdrawal; Sen. Chafee files as Republican
By Aaron Blake

The Republican Main Street Partnership PAC called yesterday for Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee’s primary challenger to drop out of the Rhode Island Senate race to help keep a Republican majority in the Senate. The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) and Chafee’s campaign echoed the call.

The centrist Republican PAC’s call for Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey to withdraw came the same day as a new Brown University poll reasserted that the more-conservative Laffey would face a much harder race than Chafee in defeating the Democratic candidate, Sheldon Whitehouse.

Chafee’s campaign manager, Ian Lang, also ended speculation about his boss’s status by revealing that the campaign had filed papers for Chafee to run as a Republican. There had been talk that Laffey’s run might push Chafee into an independent candidacy.

The polls show Republicans have reason to be concerned about a Laffey nomination. In the Brown poll, Whitehouse leads Chafee 38-37, which is within the margin of error, but leads Laffey much more convincingly, 55-25. The poll results are similar to the findings of a mid-June Rasmussen poll, which had Chafee ahead of Whitehouse 44-42 and Laffey trailing the Democrat 60-25.

Chafee faces an uphill battle - in both the primary and the general election. While his family name and legacy is a big help in Rhode Island, any poll which shows an incumbent drawing just 37 percent support should be a real worry. Chafee may gambling that a win over Laffey would be a big shot of momentum - perhaps true - that would give him the boost he needs to get past Whitehouse, as well.

In other New England incumbent-threatened-in-primary-considering-Independent-bid news, Dick Morris elaborates on why Lieberman needs to do what Chafee wouldn't:

...As my populist and liberal friend Bill Curry discovered when he defeated the Democratic Party establishment’s candidate for governor, Rep. John Larson, in the primary of 1994, primaries in Connecticut are notoriously polarized. The right dominates the GOP nominating process just as surely as the left controls that of the Democrats. This is no place for a centrist to thrive.

If Lieberman simply skips the primary and runs as an independent, forcing a three-way race, he will win overwhelmingly. The larger Connecticut electorate adores him and will happily desert either party to vote for his reelection.

...Lieberman’s supporters argue that if he loses the primary he can always then run as an independent. Technically that is not true. He would have to file his nominating petitions as an independent before the primary.

But politically it is a failed choice as well. If Lieberman loses the primary, the defeat will empower Lamont and make him a viable candidate in November. Like a parasite, he will thrive on the nutrients in the senator’s blood and use them to animate his candidacy. But if Lieberman withdraws from the primary (even if his name has to remain on the ballot), he denies Lamont that victory. Without it, the insurgent can never amass the resources and credibility he would need to run and win in November.

Lieberman speaks of his loyalty to the Democratic Party. Obviously, if he wins as an independent, he will continue to vote with his party in the Senate and will continue to call himself a Democrat. But this misguided party loyalty may help to elect Republican candidate Alan Schlesinger. If Lieberman is so weakened by a primary defeat that he fades as a front-runner in the general election, we will see a three-way race that anyone can win.

Morris makes a good case on a couple of points. But I'm skeptical that Lieberman can return to DC as a Democrat if he wins as an Independent. Democratic Senators are already choosing sides between him and Lamont, and some (like Russ Feingold) won't welcome Lieberman back to the caucus with open arms. Plus, those dejected Lamont supporters in Connecticut - the core of the Democratic party - will hate Lieberman forever if the Morris scenario plays out. Can Lieberman ever really go back to them?

If Lieberman is unable to think about caucusing with Republicans, I wonder if he won't foreclose that as a possibility by staying in the Democratic primary and abiding by the results.

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More Signing Statement Nonsense

The New York Times today reports on the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday on presidential signing statments. As I noted yesterday, this is all completely silly:

June 28, 2006
Bush's Use of Authority Riles Senator

WASHINGTON, June 27 — Senators on the Judiciary Committee accused President Bush of an "unprecedented" and "astonishing" power grab on Tuesday for making use of a device that gave him the authority to revise or ignore more than 750 laws enacted since he became president.

By using what are known as signing statements, memorandums issued with legislation as he signs it, the president has reserved the right to not enforce any laws he thinks violate the Constitution or national security, or that impair foreign relations.

A lawyer for the White House said that Mr. Bush was only doing his duty to uphold the Constitution. But Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania and chairman of the Judiciary Committee, characterized the president's actions as a declaration that he "will do as he pleases," without regard to the laws passed by Congress.

"There's a real issue here as to whether the president may, in effect, cherry-pick the provisions he likes and exclude the ones he doesn't like," Mr. Specter said at a hearing.

"Wouldn't it be better, as a matter of comity," he said, "for the president to have come to the Congress and said, 'I'd like to have this in the bill; I'd like to have these exceptions in the bill,' so that we could have considered that?"

Mr. Specter and others are particularly upset that Mr. Bush reserved the right to interpret the torture ban passed overwhelmingly by Congress, as well as Congressional oversight powers in the renewal of the Patriot Act.

Michelle Boardman, a deputy assistant attorney general, said the statements were "not an abuse of power."

Rather, Ms. Boardman said, the president has the responsibility to make sure the Constitution is upheld. He uses signing statements, she argued, to "save" statutes from being found unconstitutional. And he reserves the right, she said, only to raise questions about a law "that could in some unknown future application" be declared unconstitutional.

I do not have access to the hearing transcript yet, so I'm not sure in what context Senator Specter asked for the President to offer his opinion on legislation during the legislative process, rather than to issue signing statements. But the President and the White House DO this. He often issues 'Statements of Administration Policy' during consideration of a bill, that detail provisions particularly supported or opposed, or detail a veto threat. (Here's a sample.) Is Senator Specter promising to take these more seriously?

In a broader sense however, Congress is trying to deny the Executive a power that it would never consider denying itself: the power to interpret a statute and provide views on how to implement it. This is something that Congress does with every bill it passes - primarily through a committee report, but also through directions and opinions offered during floor debate.

Go to Thomas, and look up any piece of legislation that has been approved by a Committee in the House or the Senate. That legislation will be accompanied by a Committee report, telling the President how Congress intends the legislation to be implemented. The report does not have the force of law, and the President must adhere to the statute - but this is an area where Congress tells the President how the law should be read and executed.

Well, why does Congress get to do that and not the President? A signing statement is nothing more than the President saying 'this is how I read this statute, this is why I think it comports (or conflicts) with other laws and the Constitution, and this is how I intend to implement it.' There's no substantive difference between that and the Congress providing a report that does the same thing - except that the President has the last word, since it is the Executive Branch that implements the laws. And if the implementation of the law is in conflict with other law or the Constitution, then the Executive Branch will be directed by a court to revise that implementation.

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House Criticizes Times; MSM Ignores the Question

Roll Call (subscription required) reports that the House will today consider a resolution criticizing the NYTimes. I'll be curious to see the Democratic response. My bet is that the dyed-in-the-wool liberals stay true to form, while many in the rank and file criticize the Times, but say that a resolution such as this one will 'have a chilling effect on the freedom of the press:'

GOP Measure Slams NYT for Bank Story
June 28, 2006
By Ben Pershing,
Roll Call Staff

The House will vote today on a hastily written resolution that is expected to criticize The New York Times for its recent disclosure of the government’s secret use of information from a massive international finance network to fight terrorism.

At press time Tuesday, the resolution was still being drafted by a handful of different committees under the direction of Majority Leader John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) office. Republican sources said they expected the finished product would condemn both the leaking of the law enforcement program and its publication by the Times and a handful of other newspapers.

A House vote would mark only the latest Republican offensive against last week’s story, which detailed the Treasury Department’s use of information from the Brussels-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication.

The White House lobbied the Times and other newspapers not to publish their stories, and the administration has been vocal in its criticism since they appeared in print.

President Bush himself said Monday that the disclosure “makes it harder to win this war on terror,” and Vice President Cheney also joined the chorus of complaints.

House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.) has called for an “investigation and prosecution” of the Times, and other Republicans have used similarly harsh language, making it likely that the vast majority of Republicans will vote for today’s resolution.

What is less clear is how House Democrats will react. Both Democratic leaders and rank-and-file lawmakers have complained in the past about the administration’s conduct of the war on terrorism, particularly after The New York Times disclosed last year that the National Security Agency was listening to some domestic phone calls without a warrant.

But in the case of the SWIFT story, most Democratic leaders have been noticeably silent. The administration even enlisted some Democrats, reportedly including Rep. John Murtha (Pa.) and ex-Rep. Lee Hamilton (Ind.), to try to lobby the Times not to publish its piece.

The Hill covers this as well:

GOP bill targets NY Times
By Patrick O’Connor and Jonathan Allen

House Republican leaders are expected to introduce a resolution today condemning The New York Times for publishing a story last week that exposed government monitoring of banking records.

The resolution is expected to condemn the leak and publication of classified documents, said one Republican aide with knowledge of the impending legislation.

The resolution comes as Republicans from the president on down condemn media organizations for reporting on the secret government program that tracked financial records overseas through the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT), an international banking cooperative.

Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.), working independently from his leadership, began circulating a letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) during a late series of votes yesterday asking his leaders to revoke the Times’s congressional press credentials.

The Standing Committee decides which organizations and reporters can be accredited, according to the rules of both the House and Senate press galleries. Members of that committee are elected by accredited members of those galleries.

“Under no circumstances would we revoke anyone’s credentials simply because a government official is unhappy with what that correspondent’s newspaper has written,” said Susan Milligan, a reporter for the Boston Globe, which is owned by the Times, who also serves the standing chairwoman of the Standing Committee of Correspondents. “The rules say nothing about the stories a newspaper chooses to pursue, or the reaction those stories provoke. The Times clearly meets our standards for credentials.”

This article again demonstrates the cluelesness of the MSM. Susan Milligan says 'Under no circumstances would we revoke anyone’s credentials simply because a government official is unhappy with what that correspondent’s newspaper has written.'

As someone pointed out the other day, Milligan is either stupid, or thinks you are. The question is not whether a governmnet official is 'happy' with a story or not - government officials are unhappy with newspaper stories 26 hours our of every day, 420 days per year. The question is whether credentials will be revoked for recklessly revealing the classified details of national security programs that are legal and effective - as the Times itself reported that the program in question is.

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Cannon Beats Jacob in Utah

The margin is surprisingly wide 56%-44%. Chris Cannon has has the dubious honor of facing a primary challenger several times in recent years, and this margin is pretty close to what it was last time, as well. It probably demonstrates two things:

- Constituents are generally happy with Cannon
- Immigration is not a 'silver bullet' this year

Check out CQPolitics as well, for more insight into the race.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Signing Statement Nonsense

The Senate Judiciary Committee, the Associated Press, and our friends on the Left have worked themselves into a tizzy over the use of Presidential signing statements to indicate how the Bush administration intends to implement new laws:

Bush ignores laws he inks, vexing Congress
By LAURIE KELLMAN, Associated Press Writer
50 minutes ago

The White House on Tuesday defended President Bush's prolific use of bill signing statements, saying they help him uphold the Constitution and defend the nation's security.

"There's this notion that the president is committing acts of civil disobedience, and he's not," said Bush's press secretary Tony Snow, speaking at the White House. "It's important for the president at least to express reservations about the constitutionality of certain provisions."

Snow spoke as Senate Judiciary Committe Chairman Arlen Specter opened hearings on Bush's use of bill signing statements saying he reserves the right to revise, interpret or disregard a measure on national security and consitutional grounds. Such statements have accompanied some 750 statutes passsed by Congress — including a ban on the torture of detainees and the renewal of the Patriot Act.

"There is a sense that the president has taken signing statements far beyond the customary purview," Specter, R-Pa., said.

"It's a challenge to the plain language of the Constitution," he added. "I'm interested to hear from the administration just what research they've done to lead them to the conclusion that they can cherry-pick."

A Justice Department lawyer defended Bush's statements.

"Even if there is modest increase, let me just suggest that it be viewed in light of current events and Congress' response to those events," said Justice Department lawyer Michelle Boardman. "The significance of legislation affecting national security has increased markedly since Sept. 11."

"Congress has been more active, the president has been more active," she added. "The separation of powers is working when we have this kind of dispute."

Specter's hearing is about more than the statements. He's been compiling a list of White House practices he bluntly says could amount to abuse of executive power — from warrantless domestic wiretapping program to sending officials to hearings who refuse to answer lawmakers' questions.

But the session also concerns countering any influence Bush's signing statements may have on court decisions regarding the new laws. Courts can be expected to look to the legislature for intent, not the executive, said Sen. John Cornyn (news, bio, voting record), R-Texas., a former state judge.

...Specter isn't sure how much Congress can do to check the practice. "We may figure out a way to tie it to the confirmation process or budgetary matters," he said.

This is silly on many grounds and it exposes an area where Congress is trying to tell the President not to do what it does every time it passes a bill!

Go to Thomas, and look up any piece of legislation that has been approved by a Committee in the House or the Senate. That legislation will be accompanied by a Committee report, telling the President how Congress intends the legislation to be implemented. The report does not have the force of law, and the President must adhere to the statute - but this is an area where Congress tells the President how the law should be read and executed.

Well, why does Congress get to do that and not the President? A signing statement is nothing more than the President saying 'this is how I read this statute, this is why I think it comports (or conflicts with) other laws and the Constitution, and this is how I intend to implement it.' There's no substantive difference between that and the Congress providing a report that does the same thing - except that the President has the last word, since it is the Executive Branch that implements the laws. And if the implementation of the law is in conflict with other law or the Constitution, then the Executive Branch will be directed by a court to revise that implementation.

Take a look at the committee report for HR 3997 - the Financial Data Protection Act - and you'll find stuff like this:

`(3) CONTENT OF CONSUMER NOTICE- Any notice required to be provided by a consumer reporter to a consumer under subsection (f)(1), and any notice required in accordance with subsection (e)(2)(A), shall be provided in a standardized transmission or exclusively colored envelope, and shall include the following in a clear and conspicuous manner:

`(A) An appropriate heading or notice title.

`(B) A description of the nature and types of information and accounts as appropriate that were, or are reasonably believed to have been, subject to the breach of data security.

`(C) A statement identifying the party responsible, if known, that suffered the breach, including an explanation of the relationship of such party to the consumer.

`(D) If known, the date, or the best reasonable approximation of the period of time, on or within which sensitive financial personal information related to the consumer was, or is reasonably believed to have been, subject to a breach.

`(E) A general description of the actions taken by the consumer reporter to restore the security and confidentiality of the breached information.

`(F) A telephone number by which a consumer to whom the breached information relates may call free of charge to obtain additional information about how to respond to the breach.

`(G) With respect to notices involving sensitive financial identity information, a copy of the summary of rights of consumer victims of fraud or identity theft prepared by the Commission under section 609(d), as well as any additional appropriate information on how the consumer may--

`(i) obtain a copy of a consumer report free of charge in accordance with section 612;

`(ii) place a fraud alert in any file relating to the consumer at a consumer reporting agency under section 605A to discourage unauthorized use; and

`(iii) contact the Commission for more detailed information.

`(H) With respect to notices involving sensitive financial identity information, a prominent statement in accordance with subsection (h) that file monitoring will be made available to the consumer free of charge for a period of not less than six months, together with a telephone number for requesting such services, and may also include such additional contact information as a mailing address, e-mail, or Internet website address.

`(I) The approximate date the notice is being issued.

Not all of that material is in the statute - and the statute is what is binding. Does Congress have the exclusive right to tell the President what every provision of every statute means? Should the President veto bills on the grounds that he doesn't intend to enforce them in full compliance with everything mentioned by Congress in the committee reports (House, Senate, and conference committee), and in the House and Senate floor debates (where Members also try to impose instructions for implementation)? Why should the President be denied the power to provide his interpretation of the statute as well as Congress?

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Hayworth: Revoke NY Times Press Credentials

I've learned that Congressman JD Hayworth is preparing to send (or has sent) the following letter to Speaker Hastert, requesting that he rescind the Congressional press credentials of the New York Times, in response to the Times' revelation of classified details about US surveillance programs:

The Honorable J. Dennis Hastert
Speaker of the House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Mr. Speaker:

We are writing to ask you to use your authority to rescind the congressional press credentials of the New York Times. This request does not come lightly, but in response to the Times’ decision to repeatedly publish information detrimental to our national security.

Most recently the Times revealed the existence of the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program ["Bank Data Is Sifted by U.S. in Secret to Block Terror." 06.23.06], an aggressive and classified effort to track terrorist networks through the use of international financial records. The Times published critical information regarding this program, instituted following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, despite numerous requests from the Bush Administration and Members of Congress not to go forward.

Each of us swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, which includes the power of a free press. We also believe that this power comes with great responsibility, especially in wartime when the lives of millions of Americans are at stake. We believe that this power was abused by the New York Times for the most cynical of reasons: to end American involvement in Iraq no matter the long term cost in lives and national security.

Times Editor Bill Keller called the decision to reveal the existence of the terrorist tracking program a “hard call,” but went ahead and made it anyway. We disagree. It was not a “hard call” – it was the wrong call and the Times should be penalized for it.


The Honorable JD Hayworth

JDHayworth is not one to stick his finger into the air to see which way the wind blows before taking an action like this one. But at the same time, you have to figure that given the fact that he faces a serious Democratic challenge this fall, he's joined others in the determination that the GOP is on the 'right' side of this issue, politically.

Update: The House on Wednesday will consider a resolution criticizing the New York Times.

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Waters: Victory for 'Out of Iraq' Caucus

Maxine Waters is proud that the Bush administration is considering reducing US troop levels in Iraq. She says that this is a victory for the 'Out of Iraq' caucus, which has been advocating total withdrawal.

This seems like a good time to announce victory for my "June 27 Campaign." For nearly a year I have been campaigning for June 27 to come. The fact that it is here represents a personal victory for me, and those visionaries who aligned with me in the campaign to bring June 27 to the world. Some might say, 'we all knew that June 27 would come someday,' but that would be like saying we all knew that US troop levels in Iraq would be reduced someday, (particularly as things in Iraq got better).

I will also note a strong kinship with Ms. Waters, because while her caucus' ACTUAL goal of withdrawal from Iraq has not arrived - she's moving the goalposts - my goal of having 2007 follow 2006 has not arrived either. But just as I feel that someday US troops will be out of Iraq, I also feel that someday the year 2007 will arrive.


Citing military plans, Rep. Maxine Waters declares a victory for Out of Iraq Caucus
By Josephine Hearn

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) declared a victory for the 72-member Out of Iraq Caucus yesterday, calling recent reports of military plans to reduce troops in Iraq evidence that the administration had heeded her group’s calls to withdraw U.S. forces.

The all-Democratic, anti-war caucus has been pushing the administration to adopt a plan by Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) to redeploy troops out of the country “at the earliest practicable date.” Waters argued that a military plan prepared by Gen. George Casey, the top military commander in Iraq, is “virtually identical” to Murtha’s proposal.

Casey’s plan would reduce the number of combat brigades in Iraq from 14 to five or six by December 2007.

Although administration officials have not described the proposals as similar and have indicated that Casey’s proposal was one among many being discussed, Waters, chairwoman of the Out of Iraq Caucus, was eager to liken the two.

“For more than a year, the Out of Iraq Caucus has been actively pushing for the Bush administration to figure out an end game, get the job done and bring the troops home,” Waters said. “Now, that the White House has embraced the Murtha resolution, which was the proposal pushed by our caucus, the primary focus must remain on making sure our troops have everything they need to complete their mission and to bring them home safely.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also commented on the Casey plan, which was reported Sunday by The New York Times, charging that Republicans had used spurious arguments in the past to dismiss Democrats’ calls for a change of course in Iraq.

Although Pelosi herself has endorsed the Murtha plan, the full House Democratic caucus is divided on how to proceed. For now, House Democrats have pushed for “2006 to be a year of significant transition.”

“Republicans have repeatedly and loudly rejected these [Democratic] ideas, using military, diplomatic and national-security arguments that have now been exposed as false. Republicans are determined to reject any Democratic ideas, simply because they come from Democrats, and yet the Bush administration is proceeding with planning reductions in our military presence in Iraq immediately before the midterm elections,” Pelosi said in a statement. “When it comes to Iraq, the only schedule that matters to Republicans is the U.S. election schedule.”

A Republican leadership aide disputed that characterization.

“Democrats look at a calendar to make their decisions. Republicans look to the generals on the ground. This is one of a few options General Casey presented, not the only option,” the aide said.

News of the Casey plan came just days after the Senate finished debating the future of U.S. involvement in Iraq and two weeks after the House took up an Iraq-related resolution.

That Republican-sponsored resolution, which declared that “the United States will prevail in the global war on terror, the struggle to protect freedom from the terrorist adversary,” passed 256-153, with 42 Democrats in favor of it.

Waters brought up the debate over that resolution to blast House Republicans.

“House Republicans are in a difficult position. Two weeks ago they brought a phony debate to the floor and accused Democrats of wanting to ‘cut and run,’” she said. “Now, they find out that President Bush is prepared to adopt the Murtha plan. It looks like the president pulled a cut-and-run on congressional Republicans.”

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Steele's Racism Noticed at Last

The Washington Post reports that Republican Maryland Senate candidate Michael Steele has accepted campaign assistance from the man who produced the Willie Horton ad. In producing the ad, Floyd Brown revealed himself to be a disciple of Al Gore, who had attacked Mike Dukakis for paroling Horton. Because they stooped to these low levels, Al Gore and Floyd Brown will probably be forever linked - and remembered first and foremost as dirty, racist campaigners.

I had not wanted to attract attention by being the first to point out Steele's obvious racism (which has eluded public scrutiny only because he's black). But no one yet has pointed out that Steele is desperately seeking membership in a nearly all-white institution (with one token African-American), which has historically denied membership to women and minorities, and whose most senior member is a former Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan who still uses racial epithets! Let Steele deny it if he wants, but the stench is pretty thick from here! I am greatly surprised that none of the nation's civil rights leaders has pointed this out yet.

This all brings to mind that Dave Chappelle skit where he plays a blind Ku Klux Klan leader who doesn't know that he's black - except that that was silly, while this...

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Monday, June 26, 2006

Limbaugh a Victim of Selective Enforcement?

You have got to be kidding me. Police detained Rush Limbaugh at the airport because they found a bottle labeled 'viagra' without his name on it? Are you telling me that anyone else would be treated the same way? I bet if an ordinary person did the same thing, he would be allowed to pass 9 times out of 10:

Limbaugh detained at Palm Beach airport
10 minutes ago

Rush Limbaugh was detained for more than three hours Monday at Palm Beach International Airport after authorities said they found a bottle of Viagra in his possession without a prescription.

Customs officials found a prescription bottle labeled as Viagra in his luggage that didn't have Limbaugh's name on it, but that of two doctors, said Paul Miller, spokesman for the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office.

A doctor had prescribed the drug, but it was "labeled as being issued to the physician rather than Mr. Limbaugh for privacy purposes," Roy Black, Limbaugh's attorney, said in a statement.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection examined the 55-year-old radio commentator's luggage after his private plane landed at the airport from the Dominican Republic, said Miller.

The matter was referred to the sheriff's office, whose investigators interviewed Limbaugh. According to Miller, Limbaugh said that the Viagra was for his use, and that he obtained it from his doctors.

Investigators confiscated the drugs, which treats erectile dysfunction, and Limbaugh was released without being charged.

The sheriff's office plans to file a report with the state attorney's office. Miller said it could be a second-degree misdemeanor violation.

Limbaugh reached a deal last month with prosecutors who had accused the conservative talk-show host of illegally deceiving multiple doctors to receive overlapping painkiller prescriptions. Under the deal, the charge, commonly referred to as "doctor shopping," would be dismissed after 18 months if he continues to submit to random drug tests and treatment for his acknowledged addiction to painkillers.

Have the police got nothing better to do?

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Democratic Unity Report

I've noted in the past the growing problem of division between the hard Democratic Left - usually the Netroots - and the institutional Washington Democrats. Each day brings more indications of trouble in paradise.

Today there's criticism of Lieberman's attacks on Lamont in Connecticut, unhappiness with Dick Durbin's commitment to back Lieberman if he seeks re-election, and praise for Russ Feingold's commitment to support the Democratic nominee in Connecticut - whether it's Lamont or Lieberman. Dick Morris predicts that Lieberman will lose the primary, and so should announce a run as an Independent before the primary. Also, Ned Lamont has debuted a new ad featuring Joe Lieberman's voice matched to George Bush's face.

In one development that has not been reported much, Joe Lieberman has figured out that while Lamont is using his record against him, he can use it to his benefit as well. To that end, he's running an ad about his work to save the Groton submarine base. This is a good move; he can't be more 'cut-and-run' on Iraq than Lamont, so he's trying to change the topic, and remind voters that the election is about more than just Iraq.

And of course, that's just Connecticut. If you go to the West Coast, there's increasing concern that Maria Cantwell will have a hard time winning re-election, and some on the Left are talking about backing a Green Party candidate (vulgarity warning on that link):

You Weren’t Elected For Your Bipartisan Preening
Published by jedmunds June 24th, 2006 in Election, Democrats Sure Are Useless

There are one and a half Democrats I really wouldn’t mind seeing lose their Senate races this November. Bob Casey Jr is the half-Democrat who I wish could figure out a way to lose yet still beat Santorum. The other one is Maria Cantwell in Washington. And I’m pleased to say, her numbers are looking positively Liebermanesque.

Dwindling voter support for U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell’s re-election bid has put her in a statistical toss-up with her Republican opponent, according to a new poll announced Wednesday.

Rasmussen Reports, an independent national polling firm, said a survey of 500 likely Washington voters June 13 showed the Democratic incumbent leading challenger Mike McGavick 44 percent to 40 percent. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.5 percentage points. […]

Hovering 6 percentage points below 50 percent in a head-to-head matchup is a big danger sign for an incumbent. In a news release, Rasmussen attributed Cantwell’s eroding support largely to her past backing of the Iraq war and her vote against an attempt to block the nomination of Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Both positions have angered voters on Cantwell’s left. She now has two anti-war opponents in the Democratic primary as well as an anti-war Green Party opponent. The Rasmussen announcement didn’t say whether the unaccounted-for 12 percent of those polled were undecided voters, backers of Cantwell’s non-Republican opponents or a combination of the two.

I’m really ******* curious what the **** she was thinking when she voted for cloture on Alito, coming from the state that she does, in an election year. Arrogance? Delusions of statesmenship? Stupidity? Probably all three. But for me, here’s hoping she joins the dustbin of former statesmen who forgot Tip O’Neill’s old maxim: “All Politics is Local.” That all goes for Lieberman too.

But anything I can do to help her Green Party competition, Aaron Dixon, I’ll gladly do. And you should too. Unlike the angry centrists you’ll read about on other blogs, Dixon is a real progressive. And for a progressive state like Washington, Maria Cantwell has proven to be unacceptable.

File this under 'news that gives Republicans cheer.'

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