Saturday, April 08, 2006

Where's Pelosi?

With regard to the ethics questions now surrounding Representative Alan Mollohan (D-WV), what has Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) had to say in the past about ethics generally?

Well, according to the Associated Press, she told Speaker Hastert in January that "Democrat or Republican, anyone who doesn't follow the rules or the law has to be held accountable."

Well, let's see when she asks for the same accountability for Mollohan.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Democrats in Glass Houses

The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that Rep. Alan Mollohan's (D-WV) household assets grew from some $565,000 in the year 2000, to in excess of $6.3 million by 2004. This is probably owed to ... oh, I don't know - kids finishing college and really good money management, right?

You might think so, but the Journal suggests another reason: "Mollohan and his wife had more than $2,000,000 in real estate investments with a former staffer, Laura Kuhns, and her husband... Interestingly, Kuhns heads the non-profit Vandalia Heritage Foundation, which has received $28 million in federal earmarks from the Congressional Appropriations Committees since 2000. She was also on the board of other nonprofit groups which had received over $100 million in earmarks of federal funds during the same period with Mollohan’s help."

How did Mollohan help? Oh - did I forget to mention he's the 6th ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee? Interestingly, his West Virginia colleague Robert Byrd (insert your own joke here) is the Senior Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee. Starting to sound like Congressional Democrats ought to be careful when they accuse Republicans of abusing the public trust?

Mollohan's response is here:

"The Wall Street Journal today published an article which details some of the funding that I have secured for the 1st Congressional District through my position on the House Appropriations Committee.

"The article also reports on a complaint that has been filed against me by what the newspaper describes as a 'conservative' and 'self-styled' ethics-in-government' group.

"First, regarding my work on the House Appropriations Committee: since taking office in January 1983, my top priority has been to help my congressional district in every way possible. That remains my top priority to this day.

"I am proud of the nonprofit groups that have been established to address needs which exist in northern West Virginia, focusing on economic and community development. I have worked aggressively to secure funds to enable these groups to carry out their worthy missions. And by every measure I know, they have been highly effective in achieving the purposes for which they were created.

"These groups were not created to benefit me in any way, and they never have.

"Second, regarding the complaint the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) asserts that it has prepared and forwarded to the U.S. attorney's office: I welcome any legitimate review of the financial disclosure statements that I have filed.

"My family has long invested in real estate and, like many Americans, the value of our real estate holdings has increased significantly in recent years. This is especially true of property owned in the Washington, D.C., area, which has experienced an unprecedented real estate boom.

"As with any complaint, it is important to consider the source. The NLPC has in the past targeted Democrats with charges that later proved to be without merit. NLPC has even attacked unions and the AARP for standing up for the interests of their members. I am sure that my position as top-ranking Democrat on the House Ethics Committee makes me a tempting target for such an ultra-conservative, politically motivated group.

"In fact, it is extremely telling that by its own admission, the NLPC initiated its review of my records in May 2005. That happens to be days after I successfully stood up to the House Republican leadership over their attempts to weaken the House ethics rules.

"Obviously, I am in the crosshairs of the National Republican Party and like-minded entities, such as the NLPC. They are angry at me and I fully expect that from now until November, they will continue to make baseless charges against me, my record and my family.

"While no one looks forward to such a thing, I will vigorously defend my service and not be intimidated by their heavy-handed tactics."

That doesn't do much to address a pretty serious accusation. I'll be interested to see how long it takes Mollohan - the Senior Democrat on the House Ethics Committee, by the way - to come up with something better.

Whither Amnesty?

Opponents of the Senate immigration deal shouldn't lose sight of the fact that this is far from becoming law. While it may pass the Senate (although today's vote calls that into question), and it has the support of the President, House passage is a huge question mark.

House Republicans have become extremely concerned about motivating their base for this November's mid-term elections. That base will clearly not be motivated by a bill they perceive as an amnesty. In fact, they are much more likely to be motivated by a fight against such a bill.

And what was the response from House Republican leaders to news of the Senate deal? Silence.

The media has hit House Republicans for running roughshod over the Democratic Minority, and there's truth to that. The management style has been not to pass bills that significantly divide House Republicans - or to put it another way, not to consider bills that need significant Democratic support to pass. And how many House Republicans support an amnesty? Go to the Congressional information website Thomas, and look up H.R. 884. This is the most significant 'amnesty' bill introduced in the House this Congress. I count about a dozen Republicans cosponsors.

Certainly given the relatively small margin of control in the House, and the strong opposition of a majority of House Republicans, there is no way to pass this bill without many Democratic votes. And for what it's worth, there are about 200 House Democrats who reflexively vote against any bill brought to the floor by House leadership. I have to agree with Tom Tancredo: there is no way to pass anything like the Senate bill.

My prediction: the House will not consider a bill that includes anything close to the current Senate compromise - at least not before the November elections.

Taking Care of all my Postal Needs

Was at the Post Office yesterday and noticed an ad for this upcoming series of stamps.

They commemorate the great DC superheroes... and some lesser lights. If I buy a few thousand sets of these stamps, does anyone want the Plastic Man, Aquaman, Hawkman and Green Arrows?

Kerry Still Doesn't Get it

I made the mistake of listening to John Kerry talk to Imus this morning. (I know, I know - I won't make that mistake again).

Kerry was defending his plan to set a deadline for Iraq to form a government, and for US troops to withdraw. I'll leave aside the silliness of telling the Iraqis that we would withdraw our troops if they did not form a government by May 15, but that if they do form a government we will withdraw anyway. The part that amused me this morning was Kerry's criticism of the administration for not taking sectarian violence seriously. In doing so, he said that the insurgency was not a real threat, and that a few hundred or thousand foreign fighters would never be a threat to take over the country. He said that the Iraqis were able to prevent that from happening.

I was surprised that he had had such foresight, and I went looking at some of his past speeches to see when he had warned against overestimating the insurgent threat. The closest I came - and admittedly, it's not all that close - is this - from a speech at Georgetown University in October, 2005:

To those who suggest we should withdraw all troops immediately – I say No. A precipitous withdrawal would invite civil and regional chaos and endanger our own security. But to those who rely on the overly simplistic phrase “we will stay as long as it takes,” who pretend this is primarily a war against Al Qaeda, and who offer halting, sporadic, diplomatic engagement, I also say – No, that will only lead us into a quagmire.

The way forward in Iraq is not to pull out precipitously or merely promise to stay “as long as it takes.” To undermine the insurgency, we must instead simultaneously pursue both a political settlement and the withdrawal of American combat forces linked to specific, responsible benchmarks. At the first benchmark, the completion of the December elections, we can start the process of reducing our forces by withdrawing 20,000 troops over the course of the holidays...

And our generals understand this. General George Casey, our top military commander in Iraq, recently told Congress that our large military presence “feeds the notion of occupation” and “extends the amount of time that it will take for Iraqi security forces to become self-reliant.” And Richard Nixon’s Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird, breaking a thirty year silence, writes, ''Our presence is what feeds the insurgency, and our gradual withdrawal would feed the confidence and the ability of average Iraqis to stand up to the insurgency." No wonder the Sovereignty Committee of the Iraqi Parliament is already asking for a timetable for withdrawal of our troops; without this, Iraqis believe Iraq will never be its own country.

We must move aggressively to reduce popular support for the insurgency fed by the perception of American occupation. An open-ended declaration to stay ‘as long as it takes’ lets Iraqi factions maneuver for their own political advantage by making us stay as long as they want, and it becomes an excuse for billions of American tax dollars to be sent to Iraq and siphoned off into the coffers of cronyism and corruption.

It will be hard for this Administration, but it is essential to acknowledge that the insurgency will not be defeated unless our troop levels are drawn down, starting immediately after successful elections in December. The draw down of troops should be tied not to an arbitrary timetable, but to a specific timetable for transfer of political and security responsibility to Iraqis and realignment of our troop deployment. That timetable must be real and strict. The goal should be to withdraw the bulk of American combat forces by the end of next year. If the Administration does its work correctly, that is achievable.

I think it's neat that Kerry can forget so quickly what he said just a few months ago. It must be difficult to constantly move the ball, if you try to stay consistent.

Kerry warned that unless we drew troops down immediately and on a timetable, we could not defeat the insurgency - because our presence fueled it. Now, he has realized that it was not a serious threat - but that the sectarian violence is - and requires a drawdown on a timetable. That 'drawdown with a timetable' sure seems to be the solution to every problem.

Too bad this guy wasn't elected President, huh?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Immigration Politics

The conservative blogospheric reaction to the just-announced immigration deal is clearly negative. The Republican Senators most closely associated with the deal - McCain, Martinez, and Frist - will see their standing take a hit among Republican primary voters. This will probably not have much effect on John McCain's 2008 performance - he has not been popular with the Republican base for some time, for a variety of reasons. Mel Martinez isn't running for President in 2008, so he has little reason to care.

The surprise to me is Senator Frist, whose 2008 campaign continues to take on water. Already damaged by the perception that he's squandered his leadership position and failed to advance a conservative agenda, he's now allied himself with Ted Kennedy in an immigrant amnesty that the base hates. Does the Leader not realize who votes in Republican Presidential primaries?

Happy Birthday Joe!

Hope it's a great one!