Saturday, July 23, 2005
John Bolton, R.I.P.
Whether he should be or not is no longer the question. Whether the "temperament" charges against him were fair or if he was just a victim of Chris Dodd's pro-Cuba fetish doesn't matter.
It is now politically impossible. On Friday, individual clouds that had been drifting around for months -- in some cases, years -- finally merged into a media perfect storm. It is now raging. Whether he knows it or not, Bolton has been thrown overboard as far more significant players start working overtime before the ship of state begins taking on water.
Bolton arch-nemesis Steve Clemons called it at the beginning of the month: The announced retirement of Sandra Day O'Connor effectively killed Bolton's chances -- at least at a Senate confirmation. I thought that, still -- even despite Democrats holding firm in refusing to allow cloture on the nomination (even post "Gang of 14" filibuster deal), the White House was still pushing the pick -- and seemed to be moving toward the recess appointment contingency.
But then consider what has become known -- and what new questions have arisen -- in the last 48 hours: Richard Keil of Bloomberg News reports that special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald maybe looking at testimony of Karl Rove and Scooter Libby that could be in conflict with testimony given by various journalists.
That suddenly brings into sharp focus the possibility that Rove and Libby may be facing serious legal trouble. On top of that, the Times story Friday discusses the State Department memo that clearly identified Valerie Plame (Wilson) as being undercover with the CIA -- and whether former press secretary Ari Fleischer had access to it.
Then, as Josh Marshall points out, as part of her confirmation hearings for a State Department public relations position, Karen Hughes was, by law, obligated to answer a questionnaire, that among other things, asked whether there were any legal proceedings to which she might be a be part of: She admitted that she had testified before Fitzgerald's grand jury. Marshall points out, Bolton answered "no" on the questionnaire -- though, it turns out he also testified before the grand jury on the contents of the Plame memo.
If Bolton intentionally misled the Senate in his questionnaire, he's toast. End of story. But, that's relevant to the big picture.
The key is revealed in Clemons' latest post: He asserts that Bolton was a major source for NYT's Judith Miller, currently incarcerated for refusing to surrender a source's name to the Fitzgerald grand jury. Now, one has to toss in a couple of caveats here: Steve, of course, has to depend on an anonymous source that somehow "knows" that Bolton was an anonymous source for many of Miller's stories.
Still, bringing it all together: DC now has two major players potentially facing legal peril, a reporter in jail -- and the most contentious confirmation process ever for a nominee to the United Nations. But the link of Bolton to Miller -- and thus to the Plame-Rove story -- is what can turn a confusing, "silly summer season" story into Washington nuclear pyrotechnics.
The other new wild card? SCOTUS nominee John Roberts.
His existence makes it impossible for the White House to recess appoint Bolton: If that were to occur, with speculation of Bolton possibly deceiving the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on top of the fact that he might be the source that Miller is protecting, Democrats would go ballistic. Even Democrats supporting Roberts might be inclined to filibuster the nomination in protest.
There's no way the administration would let that occur. Many like Bolton and feel that he is important -- but not so important that they would let an appointment that could only last until January 2007 endanger a lifetime appointee to the Supreme Court and while mustering all other necessary resources on a legal-political fight involving the president and vice president's closest aides. Too much to handle all at once.
Say good night, John.
UPDATE (7/25/05, 4:30 p.m.): Welcome to Buzzflash, Washington Note and other possible readers on the center-left part of the spectrum! Yeah, I never thought I would say that!) Feel free to look around. Sorry, if you are unduly terrified by some of my views (like the fact that I am a Yankee fan and prefer DC to Marvel)-- even if you happen to like this one!
UPDATE (7/25/05, 6:00 p.m.): Just to be very clear -- given how conspiracy theories run around the Internet. Any thoughts I have on the Bolton nomination are completely and totally my own. When I wrote the post, I wasn't even aware of Joe Biden's favorable comments on my one-time boss, Newt Gingrich, as potential UN ambassador. I certainly did not speak to Newt ahead of time and certainly have no insight on what his views are on Biden's suggestion. Besides, I may be completely and totally wrong on administration support for Bolton.
Sorry About That, Old Chap
Friday, July 22, 2005
The Bob-Roberts Problem?
Only a portion of the material is available for complete public viewing. The memos Gerstein focuses on -- battles between the Reagan administration and Congress with how far civil rights laws and education federal funding should be linked -- are pretty mild and shouldn't cause Roberts much trouble.
Here, however is a bold prediction. These two passages -- individually and together -- will become central to the coming Roberts confirmation debate:
"Senate Democrats have said they will ask for full access to the records, but an archivist said the nonpublic files will be released only upon the request of the Bush administration."
If the administration holds back from releasing the full records, expect Democrats to adopt the "Bolton strategy" -- arguing that the administration is covering up material essential to assessing Roberts' thought process on critical policy issues. That approach has been ultimately successful in preventing Bolton from getting an up or down vote (i.e. not enough of the Democratic half of the "Gang of 14" have been willing to invoke cloture on the Bolton U.N. ambassador nomination). So far, the "gang" has said there is little in Roberts' background to create the "extraordinary circumstance" that would cause the Democrat members to endorse a filibuster. If the administration declines to release the full Roberts archive, could that sway them?
So, will the administration give a full release on the records? Good question. Either way, it could become significant because if they do, then, this passage may -- I repeat may, since I have no idea what's there -- hold the seeds of a major controversy:
Judge Roberts also kept a file on at least one other contentious civil rights issue, the conflict over the government's right to strip the tax exemption of Bob Jones University because of its ban on interracial dating. That file is not among those presently available for review, according to the library's listing.I have no idea what Roberts' role was in the Bob Jones issue. However, it has always been the gift that keeps on giving for Democrats going after Republicans. It was one of the few major political stumbles of the early Reagan administration. Even Clarence Thomas, then head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recognized that it was a "mistake" for the administration to argue that a private school with a history of racial discrimination -- and continued to ban interracial dating -- should be permitted to keep its tax exempt status.
Bob Jones University came back into the news five years ago when George W. Bush and other GOP presidential candidates -- including Alan Keyes -- spoke there on the campaign trail. The school continued to ban interracial dating and its founder was blatantly anti-Catholic.
More than one conservative criticized Bush for going there and not even tacitly criticizing its policies. Indeed one asked why Bush didn't use the visit as an opportunity for a "Sister Souljah" moment, speaking to part of his base while admonishing it at the same time:
Bush could have done it all: He could have critiqued Bob Jones' policy. He could have professed his faith. He could have spoken from the heart about the special place his brother and sister-in-law occupy in the family, noting also that they are Catholic. He could have distanced his party from the shadow of bigotry that haunts it. And he could have had his own proud Sister Souljah moment.After speaking at Bob Jones, Bush publically released a letter to an ailing New York John Cardinal O'Connor "apologizing" for the Bob Jones visit -- a move that had even some of his supporters rolling their eyes at the blatant having-your-cake-and-eating-it-too strategy: Speak at a place with a history of anti-Catholicism and then apologize to one of the more visible Catholic leaders in the country to stem any possible anger from possible Papist supporters.
So now we learn that then-Reagan counsel John Roberts had a file on Bob Jones. Where did he fall in the Reagan administration debate? Thomas, a black Reaganite -- now on the court -- criticized his colleagues at their time on their position. What was the Catholic Roberts' view?
It may turn out that there is little in the files to asses the issue. Either way though, those files could bring up awkward moments that many Republicans would rather forget -- and linking Reagan and Bush in a way that is not as flattering as the latter would like. Worse, their existence (especially if the administration tries to block their release) could give Democrats the ability to wield their other favorite anti-Republican political weapon (next to anti-choice/abortion): "racial insensitivity."
Don't underestimate the potential impact of Gerstein's story as the Roberts nomination process continues.
UPDATE (Sunday, 7/24/05, 11:00 A.M): Well, let the games begin! WH unlikely to hand over all Reagan-era Roberts documents, citing "attorney-client privelege."
Thursday, July 21, 2005
UK -- Two Weeks Later...
Three explosions on trains and one on a bus, in a "serious incident," with few injured it seems.
UPDATE: My very smart UK journalist friend sends a very sobering e-mail: "You have probably seen the four botched attacks in London. There are early indications of unexploded bombs, all co-ordinated for 12.50pm. Either the detonation failed, or they were badly-assembled bathtub bombs. No dead, one [injury]: there is, thank God, no body count this time.
"It looks unlikely to have been a bunch of copycat amateurs. It looks more like a way of saying 'even at maximum security, we can come hit you again. There are plenty bombs and suicidal manics where this came from.'
" If so, London could be facing a Jerusalem scenario: where attempted suicide attacks becomes a regular event. But unlike the Palestinians, al-Qaeda has no demands other than the restoration of the Caliphate. So all the conditions are in place for a sustained bombing campaign. 'Is that all you've got?' we asked a fortnight ago: we'd braced ourselves for expecting a 9/11. The scum gave their answer today: no, they have plenty more.
"NOTES....1) It seems the 7/7 explosions were from everyday acetone peroxide: it was hard, but not impossible, to put together such a bomb. Anyone with a bathtub and a deathwish could have planned those attacks. It can be repeated.
"2) Of Britain's 59m people, we have 1.6m Muslims who - thanks to our ill-advised multicultualist policy - been allowed to live in self-segregation. We have not integrated them: and now find we have no way of reaching them.
"3) Of these 1.6m Muslims, 720,000 are of Pakistani extraction. And Pakistan is emerging as the new Afghanistan: a hotbed of jihadism. Our young Muslims are being radicalised over there: the stronger the links with Islamabad, the greater the risk.
"4) Sir John Stevens, former head of London police, estimates that 3,000 'British-born or British-based' Muslims have been through al-Qaeda training camps. So yes, there are plenty more where that came from.
London -- the new central front in the war on terror? Be very afraid.
Crack of Dawn!...Uh, New Day Dawning...Uh...
Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Beam Him Up
The Pick That Dare Not Speak Its Name...
Now that Bush has emerged with a mildly surprising choice of John G. Roberts -- not a woman, not minority -- but a rather affable, good-looking white guy in his 50s.
Now, ironically, it's Democrats who likely fear that "Roberts is Bush II-speak for Souter." By this, they mean exactly the opposite of what conservatives thought about Gonzales. Liberals fear that Roberts has the non-record of Souter (therefore nigh-impossible to attack), but will end up voting almost exactly like Scalia and Thomas.
Given the laudatory statements coming from the denizens of Red State --here ("Conservatives love Bush tonight. Make no mistake about it. Certain conservative leaders, if they were not men, would be offering to bear further children for GWB tonight. They love Roberts."), here (that Roberts' wife is a former VP of Feminists For Life is a fact I did not know) and here the liberals fear may be well-placed.
Finally, considering Joe Lieberman's relatively neutral comments on Roberts before the choice was announced, it is hard to see any member of the "Gang of 14" (who crafted the deal to ward off the "nuclear option") thinking Roberts meets the "extraordinary circumstance" criteria that would permit a Democratic filibuster.
New York Sen. Chuck Schumer may not find as many allies as he anticipates in his demand that "the burden is on the nominee" to prove that he is "worthy" of confirmation. Barring any unforeseen information coming out, Roberts looks to be a pick that unites the right and divides the left. That has all the makings of a confirmation approaching 70 votes.
And so, from an unprecedented prime-time announcement, to choosing a credentialed, connected legal superstar, Bush proved Tuesday night that one should never underestimate the power of a White House to completely reshape the national conversation in an instant.
"I've Already Said Too Much"
Matt Cooper says in Time magazine:
Hmm...Cooper already admitted to channelling the movie Animal House with the e-mail reference, "double super secret background."
Although it's not reflected in my notes or subsequent e-mails, I have a distinct memory of Rove ending the call by saying, "I've already said too much." This could have meant he was worried about being indiscreet, or it could have meant he was late for a meeting or something else. I don't know, but that sign-off has been in my memory for two years.
Is it possible the seemingly un-hip Karl Rove could have been unconsciously channeling Michael Stipe and REM? Consider "Losing My Religion":
Of every waking hour I'm
Choosing my confessions
Trying to keep an eye on you
Like a hurt lost and blinded fool
Oh no I've said too much
I set it up
The hint of the century
The slip that brought me
To my knees failed
What if all these fantasies
Come flailing around
Now I've said too much
I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try
But that was just a dream
That was just a dream
Santorum And Santorum's Critics -- A Perfect "Union"?
Meanwhile, across the Left side of the blogosphere (like here and here and here), various Santorum critics demonstrate they essentially agree with him by publically outing his communications director, Robert Traynham -- who admits that he was "out" to his boss anyway.
He apparently told Santorum three years ago -- when the outing on the left started up. Now, Santorum didn't tell Traynham to hit the road -- so, is that supposed to make him some sort of hypocrite? And would the left critics be much happier if Traynham had been fired (as opposed to apparently having been promoted a couple of times since he outed himself)?
The outers had a political point to be made. Just what it is, we can only imagine.
Tuesday, July 19, 2005
"I work with boobs every day"
Natural Order Restored!
Oh, yeah, and sorry about Sunday, Derek. Heh, heh.
Meanwhile, look who's a half-game out in the NL East. Can you say 14th straight division title?
Monday, July 18, 2005
Happy Birthday (Belated)!!
But, anyway, he's smart with great insights on politics, history, sports and comics -- in short, many of the same topics that inspire this little space on the Internet (His peculiar fascination with Pittsburgh sports teams remains a mystery, though). So many conversations -- face-to-face, on the phone, online -- we've had over nearly twenty years have stayed with me in one form or another and managed to worm their way into the blog.
I imagine many others will in the future. (Heck, the e-mails exchanged between the two of us and another pal could very well have been the prototype of many of the group blogs running around the 'Net.)
Anyway, Happy Birthday, ERA! Couldn't have done this without ya!
Two Steps Forward...
Excellent one-two punch on advancing race relations from the GOP perspective last week:
1) George W. Bush speaks at the Indiana Black Expo:
2) RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman speaking at the NAACP Convention in Milwaukee, repudiates the 1960s "Southern Strategy."
(Dissenting voices -- hush, Rush! -- aside. And is the name "Jesse" just an invitation to automatically be stupid over anything having to do with race? ) Yes, Julian Bond is a radical NAACP Chairman. But Mehlman looks much taller going into the lion's den, despite Bond's obnoxious comments to open the conference.)
...One Step Back: I cringed hearing Mehlman say this on CNN Sunday: "The NAACP unfortunately in the 2000 campaign likened the president to James Byrd, who was a racist killer in east Texas, who the president brought to justice."
I know Ken just misspoke here, but this is a rather embarrassing flub. James Byrd was the black guy dragged to his death in Texas. He wasn't a "racist killer." And, yes, the NAACP was totally out of line in 2000 suggesting Bush tolerated the murder (even though the guys convicted were sentenced to death).
Oh well. Moving on. Moving on.