Saturday, May 13, 2006

Premature on Rowback

OK, OK - perhaps I declared the rowback a little too soon. But we know it's coming, right? I mean - the signs are already there. The Democrats have a clear track record on this: they get apoplectic about some step the administration has taken to protect national security, they talk impeachment, then they realize that they're out of the mainstream, and they soon stop making a big deal about it. They enter the silent, brooding phase, where they seethe to each other about how things will be different when they're running things (God forbid!).

Anyway, I guess I was premature in declaring a rowback. Seems that the 'impeachthewarmongeringsmirkychimpmchalliburton' crowd is looking forward to some Senate testimony next week which'll blow the lid off the whole NSA thing! It means the death of the administration - you know, like Joe Wilson, Fahrenheit 9/11, the Butler report, war hero John Kerry, that NYT report on missing Iraqi weapons, and the leak on terrorist surveillance all did.

Oh, and speaking of warrantless wartime wiretapping, the testimony that's going to bring down the Bush administration this week is from the same fellow who leaked the existence of that program: Russell Tice.

This is the excerpt from National Journal (ie, according to the poster at the link above; I'm unable to access the original NJ piece):

A former intelligence officer for the National Security Agency said Thursday he plans to tell Senate staffers next week that unlawful activity occurred at the agency under the supervision of Gen. Michael Hayden beyond what has been publicly reported, while hinting that it might have involved the illegal use of space-based satellites and systems to spy on U.S. citizens. …

[Tice] said he plans to tell the committee staffers the NSA conducted illegal and unconstitutional surveillance of U.S. citizens while he was there with the knowledge of Hayden. … “I think the people I talk to next week are going to be shocked when I tell them what I have to tell them. It’s pretty hard to believe,” Tice said. “I hope that they’ll clean up the abuses and have some oversight into these programs, which doesn’t exist right now.” …

Tice said his information is different from the Terrorist Surveillance Program that Bush acknowledged in December and from news accounts this week that the NSA has been secretly collecting phone call records of millions of Americans. “It’s an angle that you haven’t heard about yet,” he said. … He would not discuss with a reporter the details of his allegations, saying doing so would compromise classified information and put him at risk of going to jail. He said he “will not confirm or deny” if his allegations involve the illegal use of space systems and satellites.

Can we get a betting pool going on when this shifts from 'scandal that will bring down the administration' to 'Karl Rove leak designed to get Democrats to overreach?'

But while I find it amusing that the Democrats pin their hopes on supposed scandals that never materialize, this is of course not funny. Does Tice not think he's done enough damage? Once again, I have to think about the outrage on the Left at the 'outing' of Valerie Plame, and the crocodile tears over such 'intelligence leaks,' while those same folks are delighted at every leak that they think favors them.

We ARE at war. Do they not see this? We have prevented successful attacks in the last few years, but the threat is obviously still out there. They can disagree with the tactics; they can hate the Commander in Chief. But they can't treat this as some sort of game. The fact that they seem to has got to scare you.

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Friday, May 12, 2006

Impeach the President? Who, Us?

I guess the Democrats have figured out that promising investigations and impeachement isn't the way to excite independent voters. This is a follow-up on her comment over the weekend that their commitment to investigations might just lead to impeachment:

Democrats Won't Try To Impeach President
By Charles Babington
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 12, 2006; A06

Seeking to choke off a Republican rallying cry, the House's top Democrat has told colleagues that the party will not seek to impeach President Bush even if it gains control of the House in November's elections, her office said last night.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) told her caucus members during their weekly closed meeting Wednesday "that impeachment is off the table; she is not interested in pursuing it," spokesman Brendan Daly said.

Some House Democrats, including ranking Judiciary Committee member John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, have called for impeachment hearings into allegations that Bush misled the nation about Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction and that he violated federal law by approving warrantless wiretaps on Americans. In an interview with The Washington Post last week, Pelosi said a Democratic-controlled House would launch investigations of the administration on energy policy and other matters. She said impeachment would not be a goal of the investigations, but she added: "You never know where it leads to."

...Daly said Pelosi never considered impeachment a priority. Republicans "are in such desperate shape," he said, "we don't want to give them anything to grab on to." He said Conyers agrees with Pelosi's thinking.

I love the last quote from spokesman Daly: we never considered this 'a priority.' What does that mean? It was just one of those things we hoped we got around to? "Gay marriage - check, broad-based tax increase - check, cut defense spending - check, nationalized health care - check. Well what do you know! We have time for impeachment after all!"

I suspect that the fever swamp will have a hard time accepting this. I think impeachment talk is likely to continue to surface.

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Alphonso Jackson Has to Go

Did you know who Alphonso Jackson is? Well, he's probably the soon-to-be-former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. I haven't written on this yet, and Captain Ed has it covered.

Apparently Jackson was at a Dallas small business forum on April 28, and he told a story indicating that he had refused to award a contract to a firm headed by someone who told him he disliked the President:

"He had made every effort to get a contract with HUD for 10 years," Jackson said of the prospective contractor. "He made a heck of a proposal and was on the (General Services Administration) list, so we selected him. He came to see me and thank me for selecting him. Then he said something ... he said, 'I have a problem with your president.'

"I said, 'What do you mean?' He said, 'I don't like President Bush.' I thought to myself, 'Brother, you have a disconnect -- the president is elected, I was selected. You wouldn't be getting the contract unless I was sitting here. If you have a problem with the president, don't tell the secretary.'

"He didn't get the contract," Jackson continued. "Why should I reward someone who doesn't like the president, so they can use funds to try to campaign against the president? Logic says they don't get the contract. That's the way I believe."

Jackson now disputes this, and says that he the anecdote he told was fictitious - or something. His press release is not very specific. Regardless, it doesn't ring true. Why tell such a story if it's not true. (Of course, it's stupider to tell it if it IS true, but that's beside the point).

Today at his press briefing, Tony Snow reportedly said that the President "stands behind Alphonso Jackson." Well, I hope it's only to close the door behind him. If Jackson did what he said he did (and I bet it won't be too long before we hear from the contractor), then he has to go. Even if not, the administration should send the message that it takes suggestions like this seriously. A public official may not bring partisan goals into his or her government capacity. The suggestion that he did ought to be enough to cost Jackson his job.

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Man Bites Dog

They say a story is only news if something unusual happens. Well, former DC Mayor Marion Barry is involved in a brush with the law - and he apparently did nothing wrong.

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Bush to Address the Nation on Immigration

According to the Fox and the AP. How is this going to fit into the plan to woo conservatives? Is he going to give the "I was wrong" speech? Remember I've argued it's not that easy.

I don't think we'll see a dramatic substantive change here. I think the President is likely to restate his suppport for an earned legalization of some type. But I agree that he is likely to amp up the volume on enforcement, as well - possibly to include a fence. My expectation though, is that he stresses the security threat at the southern border, and the fact that it is a vulnerability in the effort to fight terror. If he's smart, he'll also announce a focus on the northern border, both because this is a problem as well, and because that will make the approach more evenhanded.

Lastly, I bet that the 'hook' for the speech is that he will stress the importance of doing something this Summer - rather than wait for a new Congress.

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Likely Challengers to Harris Emerge

Update: Four Republicans besides Harris filed for the Senate race. Peter Monroe and William McBride are among them.

As discussed almost ad nauseam, today at noon is Florida's filing deadline. While Florida House Speaker Allan Bense took his name out of the discussion the other day, it's looking like some other longshot challenger to Harris is likely to file today.

According to the Herald Tribune, possible candidates include State Senator Dennis Ross, Orlando lawyer William McBride and Pinellas County developer Peter Monroe. Getting into the race is probably a no-lose proposition for each of these folks, inasmuch as there has to be a fair chance that Katherine Harris throws in the towel before the primary - either because of poor polling numbers, or because of the Mitchell Wade bribery scandal that continues to loom.

Curious that a possible Republican Senate candidate shares the same name as the Democrat that Jeb Bush defeated when he was re-elected in 2002. I wonder if that's likely to help in any general election?

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Anonymous Holdout Saved Moussaoui

The Washington Post reports this morning that the lone juror who voted against the death penalty for Zacarias Moussaoui refused during jury 'deliberations' to identify himself, or raise any objections or arguments against the death penalty. That juror effectively cheated the 9/11 victims of justice by refusing to discuss and debate with his fellow jurors the reason(s) for voting as he did.

One Juror Between Terrorist And Death
Moussaoui Foreman Recalls Frustration
By Timothy Dwyer
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 12, 2006; A01

Only one juror stood between the death penalty and Zacarias Moussaoui and that juror frustrated his colleagues because he never explained his vote, according to the foreman of the jury that sentenced the al-Qaeda operative to life in prison last week.

The foreman, a Northern Virginia math teacher, said in an interview that the panel voted 11 to 1, 10 to 2 and 10 to 2 in favor of the death penalty on three terrorism charges for which Moussaoui was eligible for execution. A unanimous vote on any one of them would have resulted in a death sentence.

The foreman said deliberations reached a critical point on the third day, when the process nearly broke down. Frustrations built because of the repeated 11 to 1 votes on one charge without any dissenting arguments during discussions. All the ballots were anonymous, and the other jurors were relying on the discussions to identify the holdout.

"Wednesday [April 26] was a very intense day," she said. "But there was no yelling. It was as if a heavy cloud of doom had fallen over the deliberation room, and many of us realized that all our beliefs and our conclusions were being vetoed by one person. . . . We tried to discuss the pros and cons. But I would have to say that most of the arguments we heard around the deliberation table were" in favor of the death penalty.

The foreman, who said she voted for the death penalty because the government proved its case, was the second juror to be interviewed by The Washington Post since the trial ended last week. The first juror said he voted for life in prison because he thought that Moussaoui's role in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks was marginal. He said some other jurors shared his point of view, but he would not reveal the vote. Questioned again after the foreman's comments, the first juror said that he is "happy someone else came forward" and that the 12 jurors "differed in the way we interpreted the things we saw and heard." He declined to discuss the deliberations further.

The article paints a picture of a situation that must have been maddening for the other members of the jury. Ace mentions the movie "Twelve Angry Men." It's one I love, even though it's sometimes characterized as a 'liberal fantasy.' However, the juror who saved Moussaoui is essentially the opposite of the hero of Twelve Angry Men. Rather than have the courage of his convictions, and argue his point of view to his colleagues, this juror refused to say anything. And for what it's worth, his refusal to engage in argument was a disservice to Moussaoui as well - to the extent that that's possible. Knowing that the process was short-circuited gives us one more reason to hate him.

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Rove's Plot Leads to Fastest Rowback Ever?

There's been lots of great coverage on the blogs about the USA Today story on NSA spying. Check out Powerline or Michelle Malkin, among others, for a good analysis.

But this morning I see signs that the Democratic wave of outrage has crested, and they are headed for full rowback.

This morning I watched or listened to three different shows, where analysts ranging from extreme liberal to moderate conservative suggested that the timing of this leak is a Rove plot, designed to bait Democrats into arguing national security.

Rachel Maddow, an Air America host (whom I sometimes listen to so YOU don't have to!), said that she was stunned that the President responded so quickly to the USA Today story. The only way he could have gotten a statement out so quickly was if the WH was in on the leak! And why leak it now? Because the White House 'thinks' that national security is a winning issue for them. They 'think' that the public believes that Republicans are better than Democrats on national security. And they 'think' that if they get the American people to think seriously about the terrorist threat, they'll be more supportive of Republicans. You will be shocked to learn that she suggested that this was all thought up by Karl Rove, now that he is again focused on politics, instead of policy. She pointed out that once again, it allows Bush to talk about 9/11, and how the US has not suffered a successful terrorist attack since.

On another program, they noted that an overnight ABC/Washington Post poll shows that 63% of Americans support the program, and that by 51% support the way President Bush is protecting privacy. They suggested that more than 50 House Democrats were silly to call for an independent counsel to investigate. They said that the WH response was so quick, that it shows Tony Snow must be doing a great job, and that Snow might have been the sharp operator who said that the American people would support the program, and so the WH should defend it forcefully.

My hunch that we had entered rowback mode was confirmed when the official mouthpiece of the Democratic party aired a piece about how the NSA program is no big deal - quite trivial really - but probably was a waste of money. The segment featured an interview of author of "Chatter," who characterized this surveillance as being 'a mile wide and an inch deep,' because calls are not tapped. He said that this program is akin to the NSA looking at your monthly phone bill - who you called, and for how long. He said that analysis of millions of phone numbers led to thousands of tips, of which fewer than 10 ultimately generated phone taps.

When the host said that this sounds like a waste of money on a program that has low yield, he said that he had interviewed former NSA Director Admiral Bobby Ray Inman about the program, and that Inman pointed out that this is the nature of fighting terrorism. If you generate 100,000 tips, and catch 1 terrorist, then you may have a low yield, but it is a huge catch nonetheless.

I bet the Democrats soon realize that this is a losing issue for them, and stop talking about it.

And a minor point: if 66% of Americans say they don't mind the NSA collecting this data on them, themselves, and you still call it 'controversial,' what percentage do you have to reach before you call it 'widely-approved?'

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Thursday, May 11, 2006

And What Exactly Does the Early Bird Get?

I just received this. What would you do?

From: Bird Flu Summit
Sent: Thursday, May 11, 2006 12:59 PM
To: [deleted]
Subject: Early Bird Discount

Just a quick email to let you know, that the early registration discount for the 2nd Birdflu summit finishes on Monday 15th May 2006.

You may register in any of the following ways:

Call us at 202-[deleted] or call me at my direct line 202-[deleted]. Or download the PDF registration form

Best Regards,


The 2nd Birdflu summit is a 2-day event taking place in Washington, DC, 28-29 June 2006.
If you have any questions, or if you need a copy of the summit program before deciding to attend, Please do not hesitate to call any of us.

Kindest regards,

Bird Flu Team

Is it terrible editing, or a terrible sense of humor? If you think Bird Flu is all that AND a bag of chips, sign up here.

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Kennedy Eliminates Ethics as an Issue?

Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia is one of America's really bright political analysts. In his most recent online column at the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, he says that Patrick Kennedy's traffic accident has taken away ethics as an issue for Congressional Democrats:

The Culture of Corruption
It's bipartisan now
Larry J. Sabato
Director, U.Va. Center for Politics
May 10, 2006

Something significant happened on the political front last week. In the midst of Donald Rumsfeld's trial by fire from hecklers and Porter Goss's forced resignation as CIA director and George W. Bush's inexorable fall in the polls, it was easy to underestimate the importance of Congressman Patrick Kennedy's latest little scandal. After all, he is a Kennedy, and at some point in the future, Kennedy scandals will cease to be news since they are so common they will be dog-bites-man and not man-bites-dog.

Yet as Kennedy flew to the Mayo Clinic for yet more drug dependency treatment, he took Democrats' hopes of running against the Republican "culture of corruption" with him.

What's that you say? It's just one little episode that will quickly fade to the back pages? Quite the contrary. This congressman with the celebrity name grabbed everyone's attention, and he reminded the public in an unforgettable way that sleaze and corruption and special favors on Capitol Hill are very much bipartisan. That's what the American people believe anyway, and now they have had it confirmed in new headlines.

As 2006 opened, things looked bright for the Democrats on the corruption front. Congressman Tom DeLay was on trial in Texas, the Vice President's chief of staff Lewis Libby had resigned upon indictment in the CIA leak imbroglio, and lobbyist Jack Abramoff was spilling the rancid beans on a host of GOP luminaries from Ralph Reed and Conrad Burns to Bob Ney and John Doolittle. Republican indictments aplenty from the ranks of congressmen and congressional aides loomed, and Karl Rove was rumored to be on the verge of joining the list via the Libby/Valerie Plame case. Democrats were salivating, much as Republicans did in the late 1980s and early 1990s when Democratic corruption cases accumulated.

...The reason Kennedy matters so much is that his scrape fits the profile of memorable scandals that will stick in the collective public consciousness. First, there is a long pattern of activity by Patrick Kennedy and many other Kennedys that has left people with the clear impression that this family considers its members to be special, operating above the rules for the rest of us mortals. (How many people did you hear say, "Like father, like son", when they heard the news?) Second, every American could put himself or herself in Patrick Kennedy's position. What would the police have done if any of us not named Kennedy had side-swiped a police car, crashed into a barricade, and appeared to be intoxicated? Few police departments operate the kind of taxi service for possible DUI suspects that apparently exists for a select upper crust on Capitol Hill. Third, the American electorate has proved resistant to the Democratic theme of corruption all along because they have never bought the premise that one party is a convention of devils and the other a chorus of angels. Dozens of Democrats and Republicans in Congress have been involved in well-publicized scandals of all types over the last few decades. Fourth, one doesn't need to be a political aficionado to know immediately that Kennedy is a Democrat.

This last point is especially damning for Democrats. Whenever any Democratic candidate this year starts to paint a dark picture of GOP misdeeds, all a Republican candidate need do is to mention Patrick Kennedy. The news media will also have to balance its corruption stories on Republicans by featuring the roll call of Democratic miscreants, led by Kennedy. Four is not a negligible number. Inevitably, specific congressmen in both parties who are linked to corruption will be targeted for their alleged sins, and they may have to pay the ultimate electoral price for them. (Kennedy won't be one. His Rhode Island constituents predictably lined up, Oprah-like, to express their sympathy for the local star and latest "victim" of the "Kennedy curse.") In a few places, Democrats may still be able to make corruption a central concern. For instance, because of Governor Bob Taft's ethics troubles that have led to his deep and broad unpopularity, it's possible that Ohio will see a statewide electoral kickback to the Democrats. But as a cutting, salient, across-the-board issue, "the culture of corruption" may be moribund nationally for 2006.

Sabato also says that that's about the only piece of good news for the GOP:

Luckily for the Democrats, just about everything else in this election year is still going their way. The Iraq War is not just divisive, but with each passing month more Americans are saying we shouldn't have gone in, and need to get out. We have either a very determined or an exceptionally stubborn President--depending on your party ID--and so far he's shown no inclination to start substantial troop withdrawals. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has become the new Robert S. McNamara of Vietnam infamy, a permanent lightning rod for criticism whose persona suggests an administration with a Pollyanna-ish view of the war and a determination to see light at the end of a tunnel that most Americans fear is shrouded in permanent darkness.

Then there are the skyrocketing, and probably enduringly higher, gasoline prices. This one factor appears to have convinced Americans, incorrectly, that the current very strong economy is teetering on the edge of another Great Depression. The continuing inability of government and private entities to regenerate the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina is a running sore that generates unending and maddening horror stories.

Sabato concludes by saying that there's almost no way the Democrats can fail to gain seats in the House and Senate (and gain governorships, as well), but that whether or not they make big gains will depend on what Republicans do.

Read the whole piece.

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Bob Ney 'What If:' In Which I Insult Ohio

Yesterday I wondered what happens under Ohio law if a Congressman like Bob Ney quits his re-election run after the primary. Well, today we have a partial answer. Roll Call (subscription required) reports that if Bob Ney were to withdraw from his re-election race by August 19, there would be a new Republican primary to replace him. It's unclear what will happen if he were to quit the race after that date:

Confusion if Ney Gets off Ballot
May 11, 2006
By Lauren W. Whittington,
Roll Call Staff

Embattled Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) is vowing he will not be indicted in connection with the Jack Abramoff influence peddling scandal — and that he will be a candidate for re-election in November.

But if he were to remove his name from the ballot this summer, it could force a special election to fill the vacancy.

Because the Ohio primaries already have taken place, state law requires another primary be called to select a new nominee if a ballot vacancy arises more than 80 days before the November election.

If Ney were to step off the ballot after Aug. 19, which is 80 days out from the Nov. 7 election, there is some discrepancy as to what would take place.

According to a spokesman for the Ohio secretary of state’s office, it would be up to local GOP leaders to fill the vacancy.

“Inside 80 days, I believe the Republican chairmen from the counties that make up the district would get together and choose a replacement,” the spokesman said.

But some Republican lawyers who have looked at the state election code say they believe it would be impossible for Ney to get off the ballot at any point inside the 80-day window.

...A special primary in the expansive 18th district would likely be a wide-open race, although there are a handful of early favorites.

Chief among them are state Sen. Joy Padgett (R) and state Sen. Jay Hottinger (R).

Padgett is fresh off campaigning as Attorney General Jim Petro’s (R) gubernatorial running mate. Petro was defeated in last week’s GOP primary.

Hottinger is a veteran politician who serves as Assistant Majority Whip in the state Senate but is term-limited and cannot run again in 2006.

Democrats nominated Dover Law Director Zack Space last week...

Ney's district occupies the open space between Columbus and Canton, and it stretches south toward the Ohio river. If I remember the area from my drive back from Columbus that time, there's nothing there.

Actually, it appears that the Almanac of American Politics largely agrees with me:

The hills of eastern Ohio are one of those obscure parts of America, seen by most Americans, if they are at all, from speeding cars on the Interstates or U.S. highways on their way to some place else. They were settled early on in our history, in the 1790s, mostly by Virginians (there was no West Virginia until 1863), and for the most part sparsely: this was hard land to clear and hard land to farm, better suited for dairy cattle than the plains that lay beyond. In some places near the Ohio River there was industrial development early on. The local clay was used to make pottery, the coal that lies near the surface was dug up, a green vitriol works was built, and a nail factory went into operation, all before 1814, and in time the area became dotted with small factory towns. Farther south there was little industrial development and the landscape has a timeless feel today. This is a part of America little affected by the flow of immigrants from Europe in 1880-1924, southern blacks in 1940-65 or Latino and Asian immigrants since 1970. The most distinctive people here are the Amish, driving their horses and buggies over covered bridges in Holmes, Tuscarawas and Wayne Counties, the largest concentration of Amish in the world.

The 18th Congressional District covers much of this hill country, from Holmes and Tuscarawas Counties in the north to Ross and Jackson Counties in the south. It includes such cities as New Rumley, the birthplace of General George Custer; Zanesville, the birthplace of writer Zane Grey and architect Cass Gilbert and home of a famous Y-shaped bridge; and Chillicothe, the first capital of Ohio, on the Scioto River, beneath Mount Logan, which is stamped on the Great Seal of the state of Ohio. Politically, much of this area was ancestrally Democratic, but in the last two decades it has become more Republican. George W. Bush won 55% of the vote here in 2000.

Well, I know some people from Ohio visit this site. Feel free to defend your territory in the comments section.

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Say it Ain't So, Joe - er, Walker, I Mean, Chuck!

With all the talk of earmark reform, it seems that even Walker, Texas Ranger, needs your taxpayer dollars (subscription required):

Heyee-Yah! It’s the day every celebrity lives for: meeting that biggest fan ever. Karate Champ Chuck Norris of “Walker, Texas Ranger” fame met his on Capitol Hill on Wednesday while lobbying Texas lawmakers to support his KICKSTART program for at-risk kids.

No, his biggest fan isn’t Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), though she facilitated the meeting. Norris’ biggest fan ever is Jimmy, everybody’s favorite Senate elevator operator.

Hutchison remembered that Jimmy told her a few years ago that he loved Norris, one of Hutchison’s constituents. At that time, she got Jimmy an autographed photo of the actor. Knowing that Norris would be visiting her on Wednesday, the Senator had her staff arrange for Jimmy to come to her office to meet his hero.

They had pictures taken together, and Norris even pulled an action figure card out of his pocket and signed it for Jimmy, who has Down syndrome, to keep.

Hutchison, it should be added, is a big fan of Norris, too. In 1997, she did a cameo appearance on “Walker, Texas Ranger.” In that episode, she warned that Congress would pull funding for a fictional boot camp program for young offenders if any inmates escaped.

In real life Wednesday, a mellower Hutchison told Walker — er, Norris — that she would ask for $250,000 to $500,000 in the Labor-HHS appropriations bill for his Texas-based KICKSTART program.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Gang of 14 Chickening Out?

The Hill reports on the meeting of the 'Gang of 14' to discuss the nominations of Terrence Boyle and Brett Kavanaugh. Reading tea leaves, it looks good for Kavanaugh and bad for Boyle:

Gang balks on Judge Boyle
By Jonathan Allen

The outlook for Judge Terrence Boyle, nominated to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, became cloudier yesterday as Democrats reiterated opposition to him and some Republican members of the influential Gang of 14 declined to offer support.

Asked whether President Bush should withdraw Boyle’s nomination, Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) said: “That’s for the president to decide. In the meantime, we’ll make our own decisions about what should happen.”

Democratic members of the Gang of 14, a bipartisan group of centrist senators who have served as gatekeepers on judicial nominees for the past year, plan to send a letter today to Republican and Democratic leaders asking that Boyle have a second committee hearing before his nomination is brought to the floor.

The Gang met yesterday afternoon in the offices of Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) to discuss several judicial nominations, including Brett Kavanaugh’s to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals and Boyle’s. Several members of the Gang of 14 said they would reserve judgment on Kavanaugh until after a Judiciary Committee vote on him today, but none suggested that the nomination rises to the level of “extraordinary circumstances” that they have identified as the bar for sustaining a filibuster against judicial nominations.

“There’s nothing extraordinary about him” other than his qualifications, said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a member of both the Gang of 14 and the Judiciary Committee.

...Kavanaugh navigated his way through a rare second Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday and is expected to win a panel vote today that would clear his nomination for floor consideration.

But Democrats appear to be more focused on a possible confirmation fight over Boyle, who was nominated to the 4th Circuit. That is the same court from which Judge J. Michael Luttig announced his resignation yesterday to take a job with Boeing.

In their arguments against Boyle, Democrats cite the number of times his decisions have been overturned by higher courts.

Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) yesterday morning renewed his call to forestall a Boyle confirmation vote.

“I hope Republicans of goodwill rise up and say, ‘Enough is enough,’” Reid said. “I hope we don’t have to vote on Boyle.”

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), another member of the Gang of 14, answered with a laugh when asked whether she would like to see Boyle get a vote. Graham indicated that he would prefer to deal with one nominee at a time.

The article reports that the Senate is likely to return to judicial nominations once debate on immigration reform is concluded. That could be more than 2 weeks away, but also could come sooner.

Are the Republicans in the Gang going to agree to confirm Kavanaugh now, and then oppose Boyle later? That might hold attraction to some of them. For example, it would help Lincoln Chafee to avoid upsetting conservatives before his primary. If the Democrats in the Gang join in support of Kavanaugh, Chafee could do so as well without looking 'too conservative.' If he later joins Democrats in opposition to Boyle, he could wait to announce such a decision until after his primary. Perhaps this would be part of another deal for the Gang, in which they allow through 3 or 4 'controversial' nominees, while blocking Boyle.

This result would be unacceptable, but I fear that since making a deal 'worked' for the Gang once - earning them the thanks of liberal newsmen everywhere - they might well be inclined to do it again. Among other things, it would let them kick the can a little further down the road.

At the same time, such an outcome would hold real problems for at least 2 Republicans. It would make Frist look neutered once again, which will be a blow to any future Presidential campaign. And John McCain won't want to be perceived as once again frustrating the will of the Senate Majority to confirm conservative jurists. Both these Senators should really want an outcome where both Kavanaugh and Boyle are approved - whether with Democratic votes against a filibuster, or through the 'nuclear option.' Perhaps this is Senator McCain's golden opportunity to show his leadership skills. He ought to rally the 7 Republicans in the Gang of 14 to support Boyle and Kavanaugh.

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Stunner! Bense Won't Run for Senate!

Wow! The other shoe doesn't drop!

Does this mean that Goss is running?

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Why Immigration Isn't That Easy

Today I'm playing Devil's Advocate.

There is obviously a lot of frustration and anger, among conservatives over the President's actions on immigration. I'm not going to tell you I approve of the course pursued by the White House, but there is at least one thing to consider in all this: Mexico's Presidential election. It matters a great deal to the US.

On July 2, Mexican voters will choose a new President to succeed Vicente Fox. The three candidates are Felipe Calderon, the nominee of Fox's National Action Party (PAN), Andres Manual Lopez Obrador (or 'AMLO'), the candidate of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), and Roberto Madrazo of the long-dominant Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI - one of my favorite among many silly Mexican phrases).

While it had long been thought that the election would come down to AMLO vs. Madrazo, Calderon has been rising in the polls, and now appears to have a narrow lead. Jorge Castaneda, a bright former Mexican Foreign Minister, offered a good op-ed in yesterday's LA Times, talking about why Calderon could win, and why we should care.

To the extent that it's possible to make a prediction as to which candidate would be best for US interests, it seems that the US should be rooting for Calderon. The PAN is Mexico's most conservative and pro-US party, and actually favors market solutions to economic problems. And as frustrating as it has been (particularly for conservatives) to deal with Vicente Fox, AMLO could be far worse.

As Mayor of Mexico City, AMLO was a liberal with a practical side. He clearly pursued a socialist agenda, but knew that at the end of the day, pure leftism would ruin the city. Castaneda says that as a Presidential candidate however, AMLO has been unable to separate himself from the communist and socialists who created the PRD, and who are still its prime movers. The Economist does a good job on this as well; we really don't know what AMLO would do as President. He could be another Vicente Fox, or more in the style of the old-line PRI Presidents, or another Hugo Chavez. Dick Morris clearly believes that AMLO would be a Chavez ally, and notes that AMLO's Presidential campaign appears to be receiving funds from Chavez.

Why is the White House so soft on Mexican immigration? Many analysts have cited the importance to Fox and the PAN of getting the US to agree to 'comprehensive immigration reform' (ie, an amnesty). Here are a few examples. The amnesty is critical to Fox and the PAN because remittances sent from Mexican immigrants in the US to their families in Mexico represent a huge chunk of Mexico's economy. Remittances have long been the second-largest 'sector' of Mexico's economy, but they have now reportedly surpassed oil earnings, to become the largest single part of the Mexican economy.

To the extent that AMLO really acts as a Chavez ally, it would be a disaster to American interests - not least because Mexico and Chavez's Venezuela together provide about 25% of the oil that the US imports annually. And if illegal immigration into the US has continued unabated in recent years - when Mexico has actually seen some economic growth - imagine what it will be like if the Mexican economy collapses under a leftist regime.

Want a concrete example of why a known quantity like Calderon would be better than AMLO, who might not be bad at all? Well, the US NEEDS Mexico to fix its nationalized energy sector. Right now Pemex - Mexico's state-run oil company - is in a state of collapse. This is not often recognized. It needs an infusion of funds, and private investment is the best and most likely source. Regrettably, that's not allowed under the Mexican constitution. AMLO and Madrazo are firmly committed to maintaining the status quo, and only the PAN has shown a willingness to support a constitutional amendment for private investment. If Pemex continues to decline, the US will have to turn to other sources to replace that petroleum. Also, a Pemex collapse would be a huge drag on the Mexican economy. What would the ramifications be for the US?

I am all for immigration enforcement, but I do not believe it is as easy and straightfoward as others have suggested.

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National Journal: Conditions Right for Bense

National Journal (subscription required) reports this morning that while Allan Bense declined last year to declare for Bill Nelson's Senate seat, the challenges that stopped him then have all been addressed:

In Florida, It's Almost High Noon For Senate Race Decision

Al Cardenas, a top Washington lobbyist and former Florida GOP chairman, said Tuesday that Republicans have removed the major political obstacles standing in the way of Florida state House Speaker Allan Bense entering the GOP Senate primary against Rep. Katherine Harris.

"It's a gut check for him," Cardenas said in an interview. "That's the last box to check."

...Cardenas said the conditions for a Bense Senate candidacy were not right last year when he turned down party efforts to recruit him into the race against Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

At that time, Cardenas said Bense was worried a Senate campaign would interfere with his legislative work, Harris appeared to be a credible challenger to Nelson, and state party leaders were not publicly prepared to endorse Bense.

"Her campaign is just not going to do well. There are a lot of reasons for her not to lead the ticket this year," Cardenas said of Harris. "Now most prominent Republicans that are urging him to run are now doing so publicly."

Harris has been dogged in recent weeks by reports of her ties to former defense contractor Mitchell Wade, who pleaded guilty to charges of bribing former Rep. Randy (Duke) Cunningham, R-Calif.

Even before those revelations, GOP strategists have feared that Harris would polarize Florida voters, who remember Harris' contentious role in the 2000 presidential race. Her campaign in recent months has also suffered from a steady loss of key campaign staff and consultants.

Republican Gov. Jeb Bush said Monday he doubts Harris can defeat Nelson in the general election, and has publicly urged Bense to consider the race. Cardenas said "all the political questions have been answered," and said Bense's decision on the race now rests largely on personal considerations.

...If he runs, Bense faces the prospect of a tough primary campaign against Harris, who filed her campaign paperwork Monday and has vowed to remain in the race.

Cardenas said a spirited primary would be good for Bense if he is nominated, because it would boost his name recognition statewide. While he is well known in the state's civic and political community, Cardenas said Bense is not widely known by the public.

He added that Bense would "absolutely" have access to the millions of dollars needed to wage a primary and general election campaign.

He noted Harris' decision to spend $10 million of personal wealth in her campaign triggers the "millionaires' amendment," possibly allowing Bense to accept up to $12,600 from an individual donor. By Mark Wegner

If you don't want to wait for Bense to get in, and want to challenge Ben Nelson yourself, the form is here. Filing deadline is noon on Friday.

Don't wait until the last minute though; I bet Bense will have gotten into the race by then.

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Will Bob Ney Step Aside?

Roll Call (subscription required) reports this morning that Representative Bob Ney will address the House Republican conference, to express his commitment to his re-election fight:

Ney Takes Case to Conference
May 10, 2006
By Ben Pershing,
Roll Call Staff

House GOP leaders remained largely noncommittal Tuesday about the political future of embattled Rep. Bob Ney (R), even as some Republicans privately believe that if the Ohioan is indicted he should be encouraged to drop out of his re-election race.
Ney hopes to make his case to his colleagues at this morning’s Republican Conference meeting, two days after his former chief of staff, Neil Volz, became the fourth person to plead guilty in a wide-ranging corruption case featuring allegations that Ney took trips and gifts in exchange for official acts.

Ney has strongly disputed those charges and wants to remind his fellow lawmakers that he is ready to fight.

“He is hoping to speak to the whole Conference [Wednesday] and make clear that if he believed for one second that there was any truth to these allegations, he wouldn’t be standing before them and he wouldn’t put his family through this,” a source close to Ney said Tuesday. “He recognizes the questions that are out there among his colleagues and he welcomes the opportunity to have them hear from him directly.”

The article notes that no one in the House Republican leadership has spoken to Ney about stepping aside, but that there will be signifcant pressure if he is indicted.

Several leadership sources said that no one in the leadership has approached Ney yet, although they are paying close attention to the situation.

“This is really up to [Boehner],” said a senior Republican aide. “He’s a member of the Ohio delegation, and it would be on him to go to Ney if anyone does.”

The aide expected that Hastert and Boehner would “hold some discussions” regarding Ney, possibly as early as Tuesday, although it was unclear if and when any member of the GOP hierarchy will raise this issue directly with Ney.

That hesitation could disappear quickly if Ney was indicted and his campaign appeared to be unwinnable.

“If the Democrats are going to use the indictment against him, and his polling numbers plummet, and we’re in danger of losing the seat, then he should absolutely step down for the good of the party,” said a Republican leadership aide, who cautioned that the situation would have to deteriorate significantly before that would occur.

No word on the process in Ohio for designating a candidate in a circumstance like this, or who would step in. However, Ney's district is strongly Republican, so it's likely that any replacement candidate would have an excellent chance.

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USA Today Notes Democrats' Ethics Problems

Well, they could also have mentioned Reid, Schumer, and McDermott, but getting the MSM to even notice Democratic shortcomings is a major step forward.

Worth taking away is the poll result. 76 percent of Americans say the parties are equally corrupt; but by 41-29 percent they give Democrats the edge in tackling corruption in Washington. I doubt that reflects much more than an understanding that Republicans control the Congress. Nevertheless, it's a legitimate handicap for GOP candidates this fall.

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On Iran: More Carrot, Less Stick

The Washington Post is reporting that our European allies are taking a step back from the United Nations Security Council in order to craft a package of incentives meant to encourage Iran to cease enrichment. As the WP reports:

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy told French reporters Monday night that it would offer an "ambitious package" of incentives, which would expand commercial ties to Iran, ensure Iran's energy needs were met and preserve Iran's right to develop nuclear energy. In exchange, Iran would be required to provide verifiable assurances that its energy program is not a cover for building atomic bombs.
I'm unimpressed by any incentive plan that includes an attempt to address "energy needs" and recognizes a "right to develop nuclear energy." Even if this defuses the short-term crisis, it seems guaranteed to make sure that Iran in 2010 will look a lot like North Korea in 2002: the owner of a nuclear capability that may or may not be weaponized. On one hand, it will be too much of a risk to confront them. On the other, there will be just enough doubt about their nuclear capabilities to keep international reaction from gathering against them.

The critical difference is that Iran's oil will make it impossible for the United States, and any other countries so inclined, to diplomatically isolate Iran the way it has North Korea.

Predictably this latest development seems to be the result of Russian and Chinese intransigence, at least according to the Washington Post.

The initiative announced Tuesday -- and the fact that it was backed by the United States -- reflected the Bush administration's inability to persuade Security Council members Russia and China to back a United Nations resolution that takes a tougher line with Iran, including an implicit threat of sanctions.

This seems a pretty good time to point out that the World Russian Forum 2006 is going to be held 16-18 May in Washington, DC. I haven't found much of a web presence for the Forum but the Russia House has posted their agenda and listed speakers. Events will be held at the Hart Senate Office Building on 16 May and the Capitol Building on 17 May. Ambassador Ushakov is slated to give the opening remarks and Representative Weldon (R-PA) is the keynote speaker. Now might not be a bad time to show up and point out how badly Russia is failing to meet the Forum's goal of moving Towards Economic, Political and Military Alliance.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Step Into the Echo Chamber...

And Pull the Door Closed Behind You

Russ Feingold spoke at the National Press Club today, and the lead headline is that he called for Democrats to have the guts to oppose President Bush. This is AMAZING! Democrats do nothing BUT oppose the President - regardless of what he does or says - and the amen corner on the Left is upset because they're too conciliatory!

Is it the way they stand with Bush on Iraq? Or their support for NSA wiretaps? Or the complimentary tone on Katrina response? Perhaps they've been too helpful on Social Security private accounts? Or broad-based tax reform? Was it "No Child Left Behind?" Or comprehensive immigration reform? Wait - I know what it is! Bush must have come out in favor of his own impeachment, right? Democratic leaders are in trouble for standing with him on that, I imagine.

Well, better still is the confirmation that BDS is running rampant in the fever swamp, as activists (in comments at the bottom of the Feingold article), seem to AGREE with Feingold! And they're angry because Feingold has attracted too many Johnny-come-latelies; folks who come around to his way of thinking only after it has become obvious.

Dare we dream that Russ Feingold is the nominee of the Democratic party in 2008? I mean, in my dream world they nominate Jerry Springer, but I'll take Feingold!

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Bonds Isn't the Worst

As Barry Bonds prepares to tie and surpass Babe Ruth on the all-time homerun list, ESPN offers this useful reminder that cheating used to be a much bigger part of the game than it is today. Particularly interesting is the account of how the Red Sox apparently threw a World Series game in 1912:

But for sheer gall it's hard to top the Red Sox's cheeky performance in the 1912 World Series. Up three games to two against the New York Giants of manager John "Mugsy" McGraw and ace Christy Mathewson, the Red Sox were heavily favored to clinch the Series with their ace -- "Smokey" Joe Wood, of the gaudy 34-5 record that season -- taking the slab.

Anyone who bet on the Giants that day -- and many members of the Red Sox probably did -- made a killing. Smoky Joe threw fewer than a dozen pitches in the first inning and was strafed for six runs. As Boston Globe baseball seer T.H. Murnane observed at the time, Wood wasn't smoking; he was lobbing. No stranger to an arranged game, McGraw bellowed at his charges to swing at Wood's first offering. With no outs and runners at first and second, Wood curiously chose to pitch out of a full windup rather than the stretch, permitting the Giants to pull off an easy double steal.

Boston's defense -- led by Tris Speaker, the best center fielder of his (or perhaps any) era -- made several suspicious gaffes in the first two innings. A pickoff attempt at second somehow managed to elude Heinie Wagner at short, Steve Yerkes at second, and Speaker sauntering in from center. Right fielder Harry Hooper had to retrieve the ball as the Giants sashayed around the bases.

Read the story for the account of how Speaker and Ty Cobb blackmailed commissioner Landis into reinstating them, after they had been suspended for gambling.

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The Gift that Keeps Giving

Democrats Still Talking Impeachment

Roll Call (subscription required) reports that Nancy Pelosi may not be excited to talk about impeaching President Bush, but she does plan on elevating impeachment crusader John Conyers to a position of power if Democrats retake the House:

Carefully, Pelosi Backs Conyers Gavel
May 9, 2006
By Steve Kornacki,
Roll Call Staff

On a weekend in which House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) publicly detailed her party’s legislative agenda items if they assume control of the House next January, the top House Democrat used a rare Sunday morning television appearance to pointedly suggest that Rep. John Conyers (Mich.) — the would-be chairman of the Judiciary Committee — would not make the call on whether impeachment proceedings against President Bush are launched by a new Democratic majority.
“That is not where the decision will be made,” Pelosi told NBC’s Tim Russert on “Meet the Press.”

And yet, the Democrats’ reliance on the seniority system puts Conyers, a 21-term Detroit lawmaker who months ago introduced legislation to empanel a committee to determine whether grounds exist to impeach Bush, squarely in line to chair the Judiciary Committee under a Democratic majority. And with that gavel, he would have the authority to convene impeachment hearings — with or without the consent of Pelosi, or anyone else.

…On Monday Pelosi’s press secretary, Jennifer Crider, insisted that a Chairman Conyers “couldn’t take [impeachment] in any direction without the agreement of the Leader and the Democratic Caucus.”

“When you are elected as a chairman, you are elected as a representative of the Democratic Caucus,” Crider stated.

Conyers would likely find it a lonely road if he decided to pursue impeachment without the blessing of Pelosi and the Caucus. For one thing, his fellow Democrats could undermine and marginalize any investigation by publicly disavowing it. And Republicans on the Judiciary Committee could gum up an inquiry by introducing any number of motions designed to impede the process — motions that would pass unless Conyers managed to corral all of his fellow committee Democrats to stand with him.

Still, through his defiant antagonism of the Bush administration, the 76-year-old Conyers has found himself a sizable national cheering squad of progressive activists, many of whom regard the impeachment of Bush as a political litmus test.

Just hours after Pelosi’s Sunday NBC appearance, Conyers himself took to the blogosphere, posting an essay on the progressive Web site, forcefully renewing his pledge to “push for oversight of this Administration” as Judiciary chairman. His treatise was greeted with a flood of effusive praise from readers of the site.

…For his part, Conyers said that the Democratic leaders “cooperate and work together.”

“The idea of me going forward with [impeachment] when there wasn’t support from the leadership — that would be a pretty rare circumstance,” the Congressman said.

Still, he said his call for a select committee to investigate Bush for impeachable offenses makes “perfectly good sense, in the tradition of Sam Ervin,” the late North Carolina Democratic Senator who played a key role in the Watergate investigation.

Asked if he would heed any pressure from party leaders to hold back from impeachment even if he felt it were warranted, Conyers replied: “How would I know? There’s no way I can tell you what I’m going to do if something happens.”

…There may be another wrinkle to the question of how secure Conyers’ hold on the prospective chairmanship could be.

The Detroit Free Press reported in 2003 claims by several ex-staff members that Conyers forced them to perform campaign work on government time, babysit his children and shuttle them to and from school, and to tutor his wife for law school. One ex-aide even contended that Conyers commanded her to move into his Michigan home and serve as a live-in nanny for six weeks. The controversy resurfaced several months ago when some of the staffers publicly released letters they had sent to the House ethics committee.

Asked whether Pelosi’s professed support for Conyers means the Minority Leader is satisfied that the charges leveled against Conyers are groundless and that he is fit to chair the Judiciary Committee, Crider responded, “Every Member has to follow the rules and obey the laws,” reiterating Pelosi’s repeated public statements about Democratic Members accused of improprieties. “If they don’t, they will be held accountable.”

Other well-placed Democratic aides, however, say it’s unlikely that Conyers, the second-most senior Democratic House Member, will be bumped from his perch — unless the ethics questions surrounding him metastasize and threaten the political prospects of all Democrats.

In addition, Conyers enjoys strong support from the Congressional Black Caucus, which would make dislodging him a potentially treacherous maneuver for the Democratic leadership.

I talked about the politics of impeachment talk here. Suffice it to say that the Republican National Committee will pay for the time, if Nancy Pelosi will just get on television and talk about impeachment.

And on the subject of John Conyers and ethics, the response of Ms. Pelosi’s spokeswoman is wonderful. Not ‘Ms. Pelosi is confident that Mr. Conyers has done nothing wrong,’ and not ‘Ms. Pelosi is very concerned about Washington’s culture of corruption, and she supports a full inquiry.’ No - improprieties are treated differently, depending on whether you’re Democrat or Republican. So if you want to change the culture in DC, supporting Democratic candidates won’t make anything better. And they’re trying to sell the Democrats as the party of reform?


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Alan Mollohan, 24/7

It seems only yesterday that there was a story in Roll Call, putting pressure on Alan Mollohan relating to his ongoing FBI investigation. Oh wait, it was only yesterday!

Today Roll Call (subscription required) reports that two Republican Members of Congress are going to press Nancy Pelosi to remove Mollohan from his seat on the House Appropriations Committee:

GOPers Seek Mollohan’s Exit From Approps Perch
May 9, 2006
By Jennifer Yachnin,
Roll Call Staff

Two Republican House Members will call on Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.) to forfeit his seat on the Appropriations Committee as early as today, citing an ongoing FBI investigation into the lawmaker’s financial dealings.

According a draft of a letter obtained by Roll Call on Monday, GOP Reps. John Carter (Texas) and Louie Gohmert (Texas) will call on Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to urge Mollohan to step down from the influential panel, where he serves as ranking member of the subcommittee on science, State, Justice and Commerce, and related agencies.

…“The allegations against Congressman Mollohan are directly related to his conduct on the Committee,” the draft letter states. “Not only is his continued position on that Committee in conflict with the allegations made against him, it also places him in the untenable position of exercising jurisdiction and influence over the Justice Department, the very entity that is currently investigating him. For the good of our ethics process, and for the good of this institution, please ask Mr. Mollohan to further step aside from his current Appropriations position until such time as the allegations against him are fully addressed.”

Of course, Nancy Pelosi is quick to point out that everybody does it:

In response to the draft letter, Pelosi spokeswoman Jennifer Crider cited similar investigations involving Republican lawmakers.

“I look forward to reading their letter to Speaker [Dennis] Hastert (R-Ill.) on Congressman [Tom] DeLay (Texas), Congressman [Bob] Ney (Ohio), Congressman John Doolittle (Calif.) and Congressman [Richard] Pombo (Calif.),” Crider said. “I must have missed their letter on former Congressman Cunningham.”

Wasn’t it just a little while ago that Ms. Pelosi was saying that Republicans and Democrats are different? That Bill Jefferson (D-LA) ‘is his own behavior,’ but that the GOP has a culture of corruption?

Well, I guess she has a point. The Republicans have DeLay, Ney, Doolittle, Pombo, and Cunningham. On the Democratic side, you only have Kennedy, Conyers, McKinney, Schumer, Jefferson, Mollohan, McDermott, Reid, and a few others. See the difference?

Today Alan Mollohan will be re-nominated to West Virginia’s 1st Congressional District. I don’t really know the district politics well enough to guess at his re-election chances; there are Members of Congress who have worn indictments like a badge of honor, and cruised. They include people like Joe McDade and Jim Traficant. Maybe Mollohan’s district will send him back to Washington resoundingly. On the Republican side, it looks like Bob Ney will try something similar.

Because of gerrymandering, every year is a good year for incumbents in the House of Representatives. But Ney and Mollohan will really put that to the test.

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The Circular Firing Squad

Or is it a suicide squad? Either way, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen perceives that the Democratic Left has gone loopy, and the likely victims are centrist Democratic officials. Read up on it at Captain's Quarters or Ankle Biting Pundits.

Stories like this make me more confident about the efficacy of Republican congressional candidates challenging their opponents on things like impeachment. Hopefully, national Democrat leaders will continue to talk about it - raising the profile of this 'issue.' And stories like this from Richard Cohen make clear that there can be no good answer.

The Democrats face a serious problem with their venomous base. If not de-fanged, it will hamper their national efforts for years to come. The circular firing squad tolerates no disagreement - even from the man who revived Al Gore's presidential campaign when it looked dead in the water.

2006 is the best opportunity the Democrats have had in years to make big gains at the national level, and there are already clear signs that they will underperform.

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USS New York

I'd heard mention of this ship before but for the first time I came across a picture of the new USS New York. Built with 24 tons of scrap steel from Ground Zero, the USS New York will be a San Antonio class landing-platform dock. It's sexier than it sounds. The ship is built to carry out what is an increasingly important mission for the Navy, getting Marines and Special Operations Forces where they need to go and onto the beach. She'll carry a 360-man crew and be capable of carrying up to 700 combat-equipped Marines, helicopters, and support craft. The New York should see service in 2008 and will be the fifth of twelve ships in the class. She will be joined later by the USS Arlington and the USS Somerset. 1010 WINS has the story on how the USS New York already rode out Katrina.

Welcome Ace of Spades readers, and thanks, Ace for the traffic! As long as you're here, look around - or see why Bush may not be as bad on immigration as you thought.

The Lost City

As South America seems to be intent on rekindling its love affair with leftist economic illiteracy and populist dictatorships, now seems to be a good time to get out and see The Lost City, Andy Garcia's depiction of the events surrounding Castro's rise to power. I have yet to see the movie but I've heard that it's unpopular with members of the cult of Che. That alone makes it a must -see. It's in theaters now.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Here Come the Judges!

Yesterday the New York Times reportes that Karl Rove was tasked with firing up the conservative base. Today The Hill reports that Karl Rove is pushing the Hill for action on 20 judicial nominations. These nominations come at a time when conservative activists are fed up with the slow pace on judges; hopefully this is a sign that the White House is serious:

Rove prepares 20 judges
By Alexander Bolton

Presidential adviser Karl Rove and White House counsel Harriet Miers yesterday told conservative activists and Senate staff that the administration would soon send the names of more than 20 judicial nominees to Capitol Hill for confirmation.

The undertaking to move ahead came at a 2:30 meeting at the White House that was boycotted by leading conservatives upset at the slow pace of nominations, according to people who attended the meeting.

Conservatives are upset by the Senate’s slow pace on judges since the confirmation of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court in February. They are frustrated that the White House has sent few nominees with strong conservative records.

Conservatives are also angry that Senate Republicans agreed to hold a second Judiciary Committee hearing on D.C. Circuit Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh today.

Prominent conservatives who have played instrumental roles in the battle over the federal judiciary but skipped the meeting included Leonard Leo, executive vice president of the Federalist Society; former Attorney General Edwin Meese, chairman for the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies; and Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice. A representative for the Committee for Justice didn’t attend either.

In recent weeks Majority Leader Frist has shown a convert's commitment to spending restraint and strict-constructionist judges. I guess he wants to make sure that as he exits the Majority Leader seat, the memories that Presidential primary votes have of him are fond ones. I'm predicting he takes judges very seriously in the weeks ahead.

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Al Qaeda in Iraq Needs Help

Read all about it here, before the MSM digests it for you. Or ignores it - as the case may be.

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Jeb: Katherine Harris Can't Win

Looks like a not-so-gentle way to ask her to step aside.

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Please Ignore Gas Prices

There's been a ton of attention to gasoline prices the last few weeks, and the effects that the price at the pump may have on the elections. Time Magazine for example, offers this least-common-denominator, conventional wisdom, platitude-spouting piece of fluff. The question it asks is provocative: Who Wins and Loses When Gas Prices Skyrocket? But since it's Time Magazine, the answer has to be obvious - and it's contained right in the subhead:

Who Wins and Loses When Gas Prices Skyrocket?
The G.O.P. faces voter wrath, consumers suffer, and Big Oil hits a gusher. A guide to the pain and gain
May 8, 2006

It's not every day that Karl Rove gets a lesson in politics. But the President's ace strategist was brought up sharply at a recent White House meeting with a group of Republican congressional-staff chiefs when he suggested that the best approach to soaring gasoline prices was this: wait. There's no immediate fix available, so let the market work its magic, Rove said. The stratospheric pricing will reduce demand soon enough, and $3-per-gal. gas will be a memory by summer. It's basic economics.

And, if you're a Republican politician facing a re-election challenge in November, it's basic insanity. Rove should be the last person in America to have to be told that textbook economics isn't taking the campaign trip this summer with political reality. Not in a country where the right to drive 70 m.p.h. in a 55-m.p.h. zone while getting 15 m.p.g. is part of the national vehicular patrimony. The voters are getting incensed every time they drop $75 to fill their SUVs and pickups while oil companies tote up record earnings. "What upsets me more than anything is the Democrats and Republicans keep pointing fingers," says insurance salesman Bob Morris, 59, of Palestine, Texas, whose weekly gas bill for his Camry has risen to $75. "Now I'm at the point, whoever's in office, I'm ready to vote 'em out."

That's what horrifies the staff chiefs. Until now, Republicans consoled themselves in this worsening political environment with the belief that congressional elections are local popularity contests. Now that the monthly price of driving to work rivals the mortgage payment, gasoline, more than any other issue, could turn this election into a national referendum. With the G.O.P.'s popularity gauge already down a couple of quarts, Rove was told that if the White House didn't do something, anything, about energy costs, Congress could put the President in the position of using his first veto to kill a windfall-profits tax on oil-company earnings. Says a G.O.P. strategist: "People just want the oil companies whacked."

...Handed the issue that could win back the House, congressional Democrats steered en masse to service stations, like NASCAR drivers pitting for gas. Following a carefully strategized plan of photo ops organized by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, they staged press conferences in filling stations around the U.S. to denounce the Republicans and promote their equally ineffectual solutions. Said John Cranley, who posed near a price sign at a service station in Cincinnati, Ohio: "These gas prices represent the failure of my opponent, Steve Chabot, and George Bush to fight for the middle class. The Republicans and Steve Chabot are giving [Big Oil] $14 billion in your money." The Democratic handout proposal was even more generous. The Dems want to rescind the gasoline tax for a while--which would stimulate demand.

Now I am not sure where to find an authoritative gas price tracker over time. However, I'll use this chart, which Glenn pointed to a little while back. It doesn't give a clear indication of what gas prices have done from May to October in even-numbered years -- ie, in the last 6 months before each Congressional election. If someone has that data, please feel free to link it.

In any case, the chart clearly shows that there are peaks and valleys in gas prices at the pump - both in real terms and in nominal dollars. We know that prices tend to rise in the summer, with the increased demand of summer driving season. Since elections occur in November, that means that there are frequently sharp increases in gas prices in the months before elections.

Now, since Time (and many others) say that the price increases will have a significant impact on the elections this year, let's see what role they've played in the recent past. I've looked at all the elections since 1980 where there was a significant change in the composition of Congress or, (in 1998) where there was little change, depsite expectations that there should have been:

Republicans ride Reagan's coattails to a gain of 35 House and 12 Senate seats. Causes: Carter, hostage crisis, stagflation, energy (including gas lines).

Republicans lose 27 House seats.
Cause: 1981 recession, weak GOP incumbents who rode Reagan's coattails.

Republicans gain 16 House seats, and lose 2 Senate seats.
Cause: Reagan's coattails (House).

Democrats gain 5 House seats and 8 Senate seats.
Cause: "6-year itch."

Republicans gain 54 House seats and 8 Senate seats.
Cause: health care, gun control, gays in the military, Congressional 'arrogance.'

Democrats gain 5 House seats; Senate unchanged.
Cause: "6 year itch" fails to materialize, as voters sour on impeachment.

Republicans gain 8 House seats and 2 Senate seats.
Cause: voters support Bush in the war on terror.

Apart from 1980, I cannot find a recent election where gas/energy prices have contributed significantly to the outcome on election day. Is this year a repeat of 1980 - and is George W. actually Jimmy Carter? Intelligent people have suggested that he is. Or is the price increase this year unlike any since 1980? It may be. But unless one or both of these is true, it's not likely that we'll spend much time on gas prices when we dissect the results of the 2006 elections.

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Separated at Birth?

General Michael Hayden, nominated this AM to head the CIA, and Red Forman, jerk father from "That 70s Show."

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But Don't They All do It?

To whatever extent there is a 'culture of corruption' in Washington, it involves individuals of both parties. Neither party is corrupt, and neither is without its criminals.

A, ex-staffer for Congressman Bob Ney (R-OH) is expected to plead guilty today to conspiring to commit fraud.

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Thank You, Philadelphia

Sports fans often talk about how Philly fans are the worst in the nation. They're renowned for booing Santa Claus, among other things. However, they get a big 'thank you' for what they did at the Phillies-Giants game yesterday.

The banner that Bonds is looking at says "Ruth Did it on Hot Dogs and Beer."

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NYTimes: Rove Working to Fire Up Conservatives

Read it here. Too bad the blogoshphere is bereft of ideas on how Republicans in Washington can improve their standing with conservatives.

Is Pelosi part of the Rove team now, too?

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More Trouble for Alan Mollohan

Update: The Mollohan news just keeps coming.

New Porkbuster slogan at the end of the post!

Roll Call (subscription required) reports this morning that Alan Mollohan broke House rules in soliciting people to bankroll a trip to Spain for him, his wife, and staff. They also report on earmarks and contributions that look pretty bad. I would highlight the relationships between donations and earmarks, but the entire article would be in italics.

W.Va. Firms Footed Mollohan Trip
May 8, 2006
By John Bresnahan,
Roll Call Staff

Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.), his wife and two top aides took a five-day trip to Spain in June 2004 that was paid for by a group of government contractors for whom Mollohan steered tens of millions of dollars in earmarked funds, according to travel records and other documents.

The trip sponsor listed on travel disclosure forms is the “West Virginia (WV)-01 Trade Delegation,” which Mollohan’s office described as an “ad hoc group” of 19 government contractors and West Virginia-based nonprofits that came together to pay for the trip. The total cost of the trip for Mollohan, his wife and aides was $7,874.

Mollohan’s trip to Spain was arranged by the West Virginia High Technology Consortium Foundation, a nonprofit organization Mollohan created back in 1990. Mollohan has helped steer more than $30 million in federal funds to the foundation as part of his overall effort to revitalize West Virginia’s economy.

In a statement, Mollohan said his trip to Spain was proper and in accordance with House ethics regulations.

“In June 2004, I led a delegation of West Virginia high-tech companies to Bilbao, Spain to pursue collaborative opportunities with the high-tech businesses and associations in that region,” Mollohan said in the statement. “The trade mission was fully disclosed in complete compliance with all House rules and guidelines...”

But the details of the Bilbao trip fully illustrate the political and potential legal challenges Mollohan now faces.

West Virginia companies and organizations that rely on Mollohan and his seat on the powerful Appropriations Committee paid for the trip and sent representatives along to accompany him. Those organizations, through their employees, then donated more than $160,000 to his re-election campaign or political action committee during the 2003-04 election cycle.

One of those companies, a West Virginia high-tech firm called TMC Technologies, issued a July 28, 2004, press release stating that it “was invited by Congressman Alan B. Mollohan to participate in a trade mission to the Biscay region of Spain,” which includes Bilbao.

Under House regulations for privately funded travel, Members are specifically prohibited from soliciting sponsored trips.

Just a month before the trip, TMC Technologies announced that it had received a $5 million contract from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration thanks to a Mollohan earmark. In 2003, TMC Technologies received a $2 million NOAA contact, also via a Mollohan earmark.

TMC, which had a $50,000 contract in 2003 with a nonprofit run by one of Mollohan’s former aides and current business partners, has contributed heavily to his political committees. TMC officials and its employees donated more than $39,000 to Mollohan’s re-election campaign and leadership PAC during the 2003-04 election cycle.

Like TMC, many of the companies that paid for the Spain trip are also sponsors of the Robert T. Mollohan Family Charitable Foundation, named after the Congressman’s late father.

The Robert T. Mollohan Family Charitable Foundation sponsors an annual charity golf tournament; this year’s event is scheduled for Sept. 5 at the Pete Dye Golf Club in Bridgeport, W.Va. Mollohan has declined to reveal how much each company donated to the foundation, but the amount raised by the organization totaled $1.35 million during a three-year period, according to the foundation’s tax records.

Wade Linger, TMC’s president, said the company’s press release regarding the Bilbao trip was in error, although he and another TMC employee did take part in the excursion.

“If TMC issued a press release stating it was invited by Congressman Mollohan to participate in the the Spain mission, then that would have been an overstatement,” Linger said in a statement. “But the invitation did not actually come from Congressman Mollohan.”

Linger added: “The relationship between TMC officials and Mr. Mollohan is that TMC officials are constituents who live and work in Mr. Mollohan’s Congressional district.”

TMC ended up contributing $2,500 to the West Virginia High Technology Consortium Foundation to help pay the costs of Mollohan’s junket, according to Linger. As a nonprofit group, the foundation is allowed to pay for Congressional travel...

Another company that had a representative on the trip was FMW Composite Systems. A recent Wall Street Journal article highlighted the relationship between Mollohan and the CEO of FMW, Dale McBride, whom Mollohan has described as a life-long friend.

Mollohan and McBride purchased a 300-acre farm together in West Virginia in May 2005. In December 2005, FMW won a $2.1 million NASA contract from a program funded through a Mollohan earmark.

Other companies or organizations that helped underwrite the trip to Spain have benefited from Mollohan’s assistance as well.

ManTech International Corp., a Fairfax, Va., defense contractor, shared in an $8.2 million contract that Mollohan secured.

The National Technology Transfer Center, officially known as the Robert C. Byrd National Technology Transfer Center after the state’s senior Senator, founded what it calls the Alan B. Mollohan Business Accelerator Program in 2003. From 2001 to 2004, Mollohan helped steer more than $2 million in federal grants and contracts to the center from the Justice Department, NASA and the Environmental Protection Agency.

ProLogic, Inc., of Fairmont, W.Va., a software company, got $670,000 from NASA in 2004, thanks to Mollohan.

Morgantown-based Azimuth Inc. won a $20 million contract from the Department of Homeland Security this year. Azimuth provides electronics and software engineering support services. Azimuth’s “mentor” firm, Electronic Warfare Associates, is a large defense contractor.

D.N. American, an information technology services company in Fairmont, W.Va., received funding out of a $3 million earmark by Mollohan for recycling programs via the Energy Department. The funding was announced in January 2004.

Other organizations represented on the 2004 trip include: Braun Technology; DSD Laboratories Inc., now known as Backbone Security; Galaxy Global Corp.; Information Research Corp.; Lockheed Martin; SAIC; Touchstone Research Laboratory Ltd.; Vandalia Heritage Foundation; and the Vandalia Redevelopment Corp.

Wow. Alan Mollohan had better have a great relationship with his constituents, because this doesn't look good. He really needs to come clean very soon. It will hurt that this information hits the papers a few weeks after the initial report from the Wall Street Journal. The "Robert T. Mollohan Family Charitable Foundation" is likely to have to open its records eventually; it's sure to be another blow at Mollohan when that happens. Mollohan's political career is now in jeopardy. If I were he, I would make sure that everything which will eventually come out, comes out now. That'll give him more time to rebuild ties with his constituents - to the extent that's possible.

This all suggests a new slogan for Porkbusters: "Earmarks: Look What They're Doing for Alan Mollohan!" The Appropriators could wind up the biggest backers of reform!

Mollohan's primary is tomorrow, May 9. He is unchallenged.

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Sunday, May 07, 2006

The Murder of Atwar Bahjat

John at Powerline has it right: the enemy is evil. The details of what they did to a brave Iraqi journalist are too gruesome to talk about - even if we have seen its like from them before. Mudville Gazette carries the details. It's an important reminder of who we're fighting.

Go read it when you feel you have the stomach for it.

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GOP's Best Friend: Democratic Leaders

There has been a debate in Democratic circles whether Congressional Democrats maximize their November prospects by saying little about their policy ideas - thereby giving Republicans nothing to shoot at, or whether they need to offer an alternative to Republican governance. They have chosen to do the latter.

Confident Democrats Lay Out Agenda
Party Plans Probes Of Administration If It Wins the House
By Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 7, 2006; A01

Democratic leaders, increasingly confident they will seize control of the House in November, are laying plans for a legislative blitz during their first week in power that would raise the minimum wage, roll back parts of the Republican prescription drug law, implement homeland security measures and reinstate lapsed budget deficit controls.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) said in an interview last week that a Democratic House would launch a series of investigations of the Bush administration, beginning with the White House's first-term energy task force and probably including the use of intelligence in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. Pelosi denied Republican allegations that a Democratic House would move quickly to impeach President Bush. But, she said of the planned investigations, "You never know where it leads to..."

Despite waves of redistricting that have solidified the positions of incumbents from both parties, Pelosi said 50 Republican seats are in play, while fewer than 10 Democratic seats face strong challenges. That figure of GOP seats is disputed by independent analysts, but even the most cautious estimates put more than 15 Republican seats in jeopardy.

Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report, said his most expansive estimate classifies 52 seats as "unsafe," 40 of them Republican, 12 of them Democratic. But, he said, only a tidal wave would dislodge the incumbent party from many of those seats, and more realistically, 30 Republican seats and five Democratic districts are vulnerable.

To counter that perception, House Democrats have formulated a plan of action for their first week in control. Their leaders said a Democratic House would quickly vote to raise the minimum wage for the first time since 1997. It would roll back a provision in the Republicans' Medicare prescription drug benefit that prohibits the Department of Health and Human Services from negotiating prices for drugs offered under the program.

It would vote to fully implement the recommendations of the bipartisan panel convened to shore up homeland security after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Democratic leaders said.

And it would reinstate lapsed rules that say any tax cuts or spending increases have to be offset by spending cuts or tax increases to prevent the federal deficit from growing.

Pelosi also vowed "to use the power to investigate" the administration on multiple fronts, starting with the task force convened in secret by Vice President Cheney to devise the administration's energy policy. The administration has successfully fought lawsuits since 2001 that sought to reveal the names of energy company executives tapped to advise the task force.

"Certainly the conduct of the war" in Iraq would be the subject of hearings, if not a full-fledged House investigation, Pelosi said. Another subject for investigation could be the use of intelligence on Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons of mass destruction to make the case for the 2003 invasion.

Hoyer added that he would like to see investigations into the extent of domestic wiretapping by the National Security Agency, and the billions of dollars wasted by contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Campaign chiefs for Republican Senate and House candidates have already begun using the threat of such investigations to raise money and rile core Republican voters. A recent mailing by Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.), chairwoman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, warned that Democrats "will call for endless congressional investigations and possibly call for the impeachment of President Bush!"

I'm not sure this is a wise strategy for Dems. Stu Rothenberg has argued before that the midterms have already been nationalized - based on views of the President, the Iraq War, etc. There is some concern on the Democratic side that their base is not fully energized, and while this leftist litany may advance that goal, it probably helps Republicans more, comparatively. Liddy Dole has taken some criticism for the NRSC's recruiting, but Nancy Pelosi just handed her a lot of ammo for the fall campaign.

Plus, the Pelosi agenda obviously includes a fatal flaw - the investigations. Undecided voters are sick and tired of the partisanship of Washington, and the inability of Republicans and Democrats to work together. When the Republican Congress impeached President Clinton in 1998, it soured enough middle-of-the-road voters that they handed the GOP an almost unprecendented loss of House seats in the 6th year of a Presidency. To promise to unleash a raft of investigations, possibly leading to impeachment, may excite the base, but it is anathema to the undecideds. This will get huge play, and expect Democratic candidates to get lots and lots of questions about whether they agree with Pelosi that impeachment of the President may be warranted. For Democrats running in swing seats - trying to mollify the base while winning moderate votes - there is no good answer to this question. This is a very, very foolish move.

Further, the Democratic agenda gives the GOP opportune policy targets as well: the so-called 'pay-go' law, which prevents policy changes that increase the deficit, forces either spending cuts or tax increases. Which do you think the Democratic leadership of the House is more likely to favor?

And the move to set a national Democratic agenda will make it easier for Republicans to focus attention on the people who will ascend to positions of power in a Democratic Congress. I know moderate Democrats who are frightened at the prospect of seeing Nancy Pelosi, Henry Waxman, Charlie Rangel, and John Conyers setting the agenda for the House of Representatives. Expect more attention to be focused on the agendas that these Representatives would take up.

Hugh Hewitt says that the GOP has already turned the corner, and is headed for a strong November. I'm not sure of that, but the GOP has just got a big boost in its effort to maintain House control.

Update: Captain Ed's take on this is worth reading. He does a good job of looking at the policy side as well, which I didn't touch upon.

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