Friday, March 09, 2007

What We've Been Missing

The Shrill One:

For those of us living in the Garden State, the growing scandal over the firing of federal prosecutors immediately brought to mind the subpoenas that Chris Christie, the former Bush “Pioneer” who is now the U.S. attorney for New Jersey, issued two months before the 2006 election — and the way news of the subpoenas was quickly leaked to local news media.

The subpoenas were issued in connection with allegations of corruption on the part of Senator Bob Menendez, a Democrat who seemed to be facing a close race at the time. Those allegations appeared, on their face, to be convoluted and unconvincing, and Mr. Menendez claimed that both the investigation and the leaks were politically motivated.

Mr. Christie’s actions might have been all aboveboard. But given what we’ve learned about the pressure placed on federal prosecutors to pursue dubious investigations of Democrats, Mr. Menendez’s claims of persecution now seem quite plausible.

In fact, it’s becoming clear that the politicization of the Justice Department was a key component of the Bush administration’s attempt to create a permanent Republican lock on power. Bear in mind that if Mr. Menendez had lost, the G.O.P. would still control the Senate.

For now, the nation’s focus is on the eight federal prosecutors fired by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. In January, Mr. Gonzales told the Senate Judiciary Committee, under oath, that he “would never, ever make a change in a United States attorney for political reasons.” But it’s already clear that he did indeed dismiss all eight prosecutors for political reasons — some because they wouldn’t use their offices to provide electoral help to the G.O.P., and the others probably because they refused to soft-pedal investigations of corrupt Republicans.

In the last few days we’ve also learned that Republican members of Congress called prosecutors to pressure them on politically charged cases, even though doing so seems unethical and possibly illegal.

The bigger scandal, however, almost surely involves prosecutors still in office. The Gonzales Eight were fired because they wouldn’t go along with the Bush administration’s politicization of justice. But statistical evidence suggests that many other prosecutors decided to protect their jobs or further their careers by doing what the administration wanted them to do: harass Democrats while turning a blind eye to Republican malfeasance.

Donald Shields and John Cragan, two professors of communication, have compiled a database of investigations and/or indictments of candidates and elected officials by U.S. attorneys since the Bush administration came to power. Of the 375 cases they identified, 10 involved independents, 67 involved Republicans, and 298 involved Democrats. The main source of this partisan tilt was a huge disparity in investigations of local politicians, in which Democrats were seven times as likely as Republicans to face Justice Department scrutiny.

How can this have been happening without a national uproar? The authors explain: “We believe that this tremendous disparity is politically motivated and it occurs because the local (non-statewide and non-Congressional) investigations occur under the radar of a diligent national press. Each instance is treated by a local beat reporter as an isolated case that is only of local interest.”

And let’s not forget that Karl Rove’s candidates have a history of benefiting from conveniently timed federal investigations. Last year Molly Ivins reminded her readers of a curious pattern during Mr. Rove’s time in Texas: “In election years, there always seemed to be an F.B.I. investigation of some sitting Democrat either announced or leaked to the press. After the election was over, the allegations often vanished.”

Fortunately, Mr. Rove’s smear-and-fear tactics fell short last November. I say fortunately, because without Democrats in control of Congress, able to hold hearings and issue subpoenas, the prosecutor purge would probably have become yet another suppressed Bush-era scandal — a huge abuse of power that somehow never became front-page news.

Before the midterm election, I wrote that what the election was really about could be summed up in two words: subpoena power. Well, the Democrats now have that power, and the hearings on the prosecutor purge look like the shape of things to come.

In the months ahead, we’ll hear a lot about what’s really been going on these past six years. And I predict that we’ll learn about abuses of power that would have made Richard Nixon green with envy.

Of course, all of this investigatin' is terribly, hyperpartisan:

Meantime, the House, after a fast start rushing through noncontroversial items, has slowed to a crawl, filling time with investigations.

So, Wiseman David Broder says "investigations" are about "filling time". In other words, investigations are very UnSerious.


What USAgate tells us? Without congressional oversight, bad acts never see the light of day.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Making Lemonade out of Lemons

George Will has a new op-ed out today, basically offering an apologia for the relatively non-conservative front-runners for the presidential nomination of the nation's more conservative party.

Most of the column is what you might expect: go easy on Rudy, McCain and Romney because Reagan wasn't a conservative purist while governor of Caleefornya in the '60's; all that really matters for conservatives is the court system, which Rudy, the liberal former mayor of New York City pledges to bolster with "strict constructivists"; Although wishy washy on tax cuts in the past, the new McCain is now committed to making Bush's estate tax and other tax cuts permanent and besides, his conservative scorecard is pretty good; and blah, blah, blah.

But Will's apologia for Romney is the most striking in its blatant disinterest in political principle:

Romney, however, is criticized by many conservatives for what they consider multiple conversions of convenience -- on abortion, stem cell research, gay rights, gun control. But if Romney is now locked into positions that these conservatives like, why do they care so much about whether political calculation or moral epiphany moved him there?

Yes, indeed. Although my head's still spinning from the endless right-wing spin about the need for and essentiality of "character" in our presidents during the Clinton '90's, and from the endless right-wing spin about Kerry flip-flopping not even three short years ago in the most recent presidential election cycle, Will now says that whether Romney's conservative conversion is "political calculation" or "moral epiphany" should not bother conservative primary voters, and presumably, neither should it trouble general election voters later on.

OK. Whatever.

Fortunately, for the first in many years, Democrats have two very good candidates in the race, and several other just "good" ones, from which to choose. Who will receive the much-coveted Senator Jay Billington Bulworth endorsement? You'll have to stay tuned. But for now, rest assured the choice will be an audacious one.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Focus on your own family

Harold Meyerson:

Yet the very conservatives who marvel at the efficiency of our new, more mobile economy and extol the "flexibility" of our workforce decry the flexibility of the personal lives of American workers. The right-wing ideologues who have championed outsourcing, offshoring and union-busting, who have celebrated the same changes that have condemned American workers to lives of financial instability, piously lament the decline of family stability that has followed these economic changes as the night the day.

American conservatism is a house divided against itself. It applauds the radicalism of the economic changes of the past four decades -- the dismantling, say, of the American steel industry (and the job and income security that it once provided) in the cause of greater efficiency. It decries the decline of social and familial stability over that time -- the traditional, married working-class families, say, that once filled all those churches in the hills and hollows in what is now the smaller, post-working-class Pittsburgh.

Problem is, disperse a vibrant working-class community in America and you disperse the vibrant working-class family.

Which is how American conservatism became the primary author of the very social disorder that it routinely rails against, and that Republicans have the gall to run against.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

You ought to be happy, you liberal SOBs, that I am only a talk-show host. You ought to thank God that I have no avariciousness in my soul. You ought to thank God that I'm not power mad like you liberals, because if I ever ran for office, I can guarantee you, you wouldn't be in business too long. I can guarantee you you'd be arrested for sedition within six months of my taking power. I'd have you people licking lead paint, what you did to this country.

Conservative Talk Show Host, Michael Savage

He may be a bit, um, unhinged, but if you'll pony up two million more signatures, he'll run for president. (h/t Atrios)

Did You Get That Memo?

Talking Points Memo has been covering the "fired prosecutors" hearing on Capitol Hill.

An enterprising commenter notes that one of the fired prosecutors apparently failed to put cover letters on his TPS reports.

Should've known. That'll get ya every time.

"Where are these other guys?"

The jurors who convicted I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby believed Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff was set up as a fall guy, a juror said Tuesday, but they had no alternative to finding him guilty in the leak of the identity of a classified CIA operative.

“I will say there was a tremendous amount of sympathy for Mr. Libby on the jury,” said the juror, Dennis Collins, a former newspaper reporter.

“It was said a number of times: ‘What are we doing with this guy here? Where’s Rove? Where are these other guys?’ ” Collins said, referring to Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove, who was identified during the investigation as one of the senior officials who revealed the identity of the operative, Valerie Plame, to journalists.


Where are these other guys? In the White House I think.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Lame Duck

Although Ann Coulter was warmly received, there apparently wasn't much mention of the CiC at this weekend's Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) festivities.

From the Sydney Morning Herald (h/p TPM);

There was a lot of fervour and a lot of talk of recapturing the spirit of Ronald Reagan, by consensus the greatest of US presidents. Young men and women who would have been babies during the Reagan presidency talked in small groups about America becoming great again if only conservatives would go back to basics, back to Reagan's emphasis on American strength and American greatness.

But what was most striking about this conservative jamboree was that President George Bush was hardly mentioned. The Vice-President, Dick Cheney, gave the speech at the official dinner on Friday night and, at the conference at least, Cheney remains a hero.

Not so, it seems, the President. Not only was there hardly any mention of his name, but there were no photographs of Bush on display - and everyone from Cheney to the disgraced former House majority leader Tom Delay received their photographic due.

As for the Iraq war, it was virtually ignored. Giuliani and Romney both half-heartedly said they supported the Bush troop increase and then they both quickly went on to say mistakes had been made in Iraq. That was more or less it.

Conservatives know who the villains are - Clinton and Obama and Gore and the House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi - but who their heroes are is far from clear. Except that George Bush is no longer one of them.

And Tom Schaller:

I attended CPAC today to hear two of the "big three" Republican contenders (Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney) and one of the second-tier candidates who hopes to break through (Sam Brownback). I'll say more about them, especially Giuliani, later. But some quick observations about CPAC that simply need to be noted.

First, you almost never George W. Bush's name. Not among attendees, not in the speeches by candidates or others. It's as if there is no Republican president in the White House about three miles from the hotel where the conservatives who elected him are meeting. Fascinating, and revealing.

Second, it's also as if there's no war in Iraq. By my unofficial count, Giuliani mentioned Iraq just once by name -- and that in an offhand reference to a criticism of Democrats' non-binding resolutions. (A fair enough criticism, at that.) Brownback? Two references. Romney mentioned Iraq the most, taking it head-on by advocating for Bush's escalation plan. At CPAC, such Bush-and-Iraq double-mentions are as common as safeties in football.)

It's painfully obvious that conservatives are in near-total denial. There is a Republican president, and he is -- as everyone from The New Republic's Peter Beinart a few weeks ago to then-Washington Monthly's Josh Green a few years ago -- more, not less, conservative than Ronald Reagan. And there is an Iraq war going on, which has killed 4,000 Americans (counting contractors) already and will almost assuredly have a total, long-term price tag of at least $1 trillion.

Pretending these are not realities doesn't make them go away. But, boy, are the conservatives doing their level best to avoid the two big elephants in the room.

Who'd a thunk it? W and Operation Iraqi Freedom were once endless sources of pride for the conservative faithful. I wonder why that's changed. At least they still have Ann Coulter.