Friday, October 07, 2005

 

Miers Humor...

Bush aide: But, the president said, "This woman deserves to be on the bench."

Conservative: "How come no one told him when he was Texas Rangers owner that people who 'deserve to be on the bench' don't also get to be one of the starting nine.

Q. So, exactly how does being Texas Lottery Commissioner prepare you for a lifetime Supreme Court appointment?

A. No, no, you don't understand. It's the exact opposite: She has no qualifications -- but Bush picked her anyway. If that's not winning the lottery...

Readers are invited to contribute their own!!!

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Thursday, October 06, 2005

 

Losing Hearts & Miers: The Michael Brown Factor

The full impact of the political damage the Bush White House took with its inept initial response to Katrina is now starkly apparent. Since it has been the metaphor of the last month, let's continue it.

For President Bush,
the last levee has collapsed.

While conservatives had no problem in dismissing -- rightly -- the accusations from Jesse Jackson, the Congressional Black Caucus and others that the administration acted slowly because of racism, the existence of FEMA's Michael Brown made visible on the right something that previously only the left had raged about -- this administration's willingness to value political patronage as its highest qualification.

As The Washington Post says, "The main complaints cited at the Norquist and Weyrich sessions yesterday, according to several accounts, centered on Miers's lack of track record and the charge of cronyism."

Prior to the Katrina revelation that five of the top eight FEMA officials were political appointees with no experience in natural disaster control, the word "crony" and "cronyism" was most likely to pop up on a left-wing blog screaming about Halliburton contracts.

Yet, note the language from
Right Wing News, Michelle Malkin (to her credit, Malkin led the right-wing revolt against Michael Brown), Power Line, Professor Bainbridge and the superb Randy Barnett (who puts the issue into stunning historical perspective).

Could such arguments be made against Miers absent the Katrina/Brown fiasco?

Sure, but the language and anger would have been much more restrained. Indeed, the criticism may have focused more on the "diversity pick" angle.

Instead, as Katrina exposed th weakness of both the New Orleans levees and the Louisiana political system, the FEMA staffing exposed the cronyism problem in this administration. It is now so visible that conservatives can't ignore it.


And George W. Bush has a far more difficult hurricane to withstand -- gathering strength on his right flank.

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Bloomin' Idiocy

So how many different political errors can Mike Bloomberg continue to make from one poor decision?

I wrote, somewhat light-heartedly,
a couple weeks ago that Michael Bloomberg's unveiling of "African-Americans for Bloomberg" with several "ringers" -- supporters who didn't actually vote in New York City -- was a slight stumble in an otherwise flawless re-election campaign.

Well, I was partly right. I was off by two weeks -- though the issue was indeed racial politics.
Last Friday, the Bloomberg campaign decided to pull out of a weeks-in-the-planning mayoral debate at Harlem landmark, the Apollo Theatre (site of an Al Gore/Bill Bradley barnburner (well, sort of) in 2000). This constitutes a MAJOR stumble.

Given that a recent
Marist poll put Republican Bloomberg at 50 percent among blacks aginst Ferdinand ("Freddy") Ferrer, there was very little downside to Bloomberg attending the debate. Yes, he may not be seen as a "real" Republican in the eyes of many, but having that many blacks willing to pull the lever for a candidate with an "R" on the ballot would have been remarkable.

Now, declining the debate was not a great idea, but a case could have been made and he could have gotten out of it in a diplomatic manner.
Instead, Bloomberg & Co. have made things worse.

Let us count the ways:

1) Cancelling AND not giving Sharpton, Rep. Charlie Rangel (who represents Harlem) and Co. a heads-up... Is Bloomberg obligated to let Al Sharpton know what he's about to do to avoid racially-charged situations? Well, no. But why operate that way during your entire first term -- such as notifying Sharpton immediately after the most recent Howard Beach racial incident? He acted similarly in the accidental rooftop shooting of black youth in January, 2004.

2) Speculating at yesterday's press conference that supporter Rev. Floyd Flake's criticism Tuesday was a result of his not having received his"bullet points." Ah, treat the pastor of the city's largest black congregation like he's some campaign staff lackey who forgot to follow his stage directions. Good move!

3) At the same press conference, Sharpton jabs Sharpton on his legal residence, "Look, I can't even figure out where Rev. Sharpton votes." (The broader gossip is that Bloomberg's team was responsible for planting the stories questioning Sharpton's legal residence in Wednesday's papers in the first place).

So much for the nearly four years of a symbiotic relationship Bloomberg had with Sharpton. Worse, how wonderful to give the gasping-for-breath Ferrer campaign a lifeline when they needed it most.

Bloomberg has enough money so he can buy so much ads that he will be able to ride out this flap. But any plan he might have had to get record numbers of black voters for a Republican mayoral candidate has officially gone out the window.

As a black supporter of Bloomberg's said, "If the mayoral swing vote were Italians and a debate was scheduled for Bay Ridge (Brooklyn), a cancellation would look like a slap to the whole community. Same thing here. The black vote was up for grabs in this election. This is an unnecessary self-inflicted political mistake."


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Broadcasters, Out. Facilitators, In

What will be the new news media model? Here's a sneak peak into the future.

Money passage:
Richard Sambrook, director of the BBC World Service and Global News Division, told a conference the broadcaster's prominent use of video and other material contributed by ordinary citizens signaled that the BBC was evolving from being a broadcaster to a facilitator of news.

"We don't own the news any more," Sambrook said. "This is a fundamental realignment of the relationship between large media companies and the public."

Consider this another data point to suggest that the New York Times is going in exactly the wrong, opposite, direction. If Big Media organizations don't even own the news anymore, how can one of them presume to own opinion?

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Wednesday, October 05, 2005

 

Welcome Back, Puckheads!

The National Hockey League returns after a one-year "vacation." Your year-long one-stop ("one-shot"?) shopping for all-things rink-related can be found right here.

Eric, your long national nightmare is over! Have a great season!!

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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

 

A DC GOPer's Thoughts On Miers

The following is from a Republican friend in Washington (NOT my regular kibitzer ERA). It reflects, I believe, the views that some mainstream supporters of the president have when it comes to the nomination of Harriet Miers. It has only been edited slightly for clarity.


[A]fter letting the Harriet Miers news digest for the day and while rocking my toddler to sleep, I suddenly had an epiphany of what troubles me about this nomination.

The problem is that no one really knows what her epiphany was and what it was that drew her to the Republican Party and to Conservative principles. Every one of us who is active in the party knows exactly when it was that we identified ourselves as Republicans and we also know numerous other times through our development when these beliefs were solidified and challenged.

For many of us who came of age during the Reagan years, I think it is very proper of us to look at Ms. Miers and wonder what it is that causes her to define herself and align herself with the Republican Party.

Additionally, there are many out there who were long time Democrats, the so-called Reagan Democrats that still voted for some Democrats, but for whom Reagan was the shifting point in their political views. It is not apparent from what has been written so far that Ms. Miers was even a Reagan Democrat, for she backed Al Gore and supported the DNC as late as 1988. In 1988, she was forty-three years old. Few people at that age shift their political view points. Parties may move towards people in their forties and fifties [causing a Zell Miller or Ralph Hall to feel that the 'party was leaving them'], but they rarely move to a party [even Hall stayed a Dem until the 2002 redistricting forced him to switch]. If she was a Conservative Democrat, please tell us why she donated to the DNC and to Al Gore and effectively turned her back on the Reagan Revolution. Did she support the Reagan Revolution? Was she drawn to Goldwater in the 1960’s and 70’s when she obviously was in the prime of her intellectual development? If not Goldwater and Reagan, who were her early political intellectual influences?

I fear that Ms. Miers, while a skilled lawyer, lacks a sense of the greater purpose and of the principles that motivate many of us to forgo more lucrative opportunities to advance the cause of the party and of our ideas. It would appear that Ms. Miers has been driven through life by a desire to succeed in the legal profession and to break through barriers that needed to be broken, but at what point were her goals and objectives anything but the advancement of her own career? Were the donations to Democrats a play of political expediency designed to advance personal or rofessional goals?

Additionally, at what point did her career or a case take on a larger purpose? And more importantly, can she see the larger purpose and the big picture that every decision that she will face on the Court will be part of?

So kind of like that scene at the end of the movie Working Girl when Philip Bosco’s character Oren Trask asks Sigourney Weaver’s character Katherine Parker, what was the inspiration for her idea of merging Trask Enterprises with Metro Media, and all she can answer is “Jack help me out…” I want to ask and hope that someone asks Ms. Miers what her epiphany was and why it is she considers herself a Republican or a Conservative.

I hope that we get a better answer than “help me out…”
UPDATE: Another DC Republican weighs in forcefully: "I am stunned by 'A DC GOPer's Thoughts On Miers!!!!!!!!!'

Harriet Miers isn't a 'Reagan Democrat.' Shocking!!!!!!! And have you heard -- there's gambling going on over at Rick's Place.


How could Miers be a surprise to any Republican in this town???? Any Republican who thinks GWB would have appointed a Reaganite, whether Democrat or Republican, has been smoking crack for the last 5 years. Talk about denial!!!!! WHO AROUND GWB IS A REAGANITE!!!!!!?????? WHO?????? Cheney? No. Rumsfeld? No. (Unless you count his meetings with Saddam Hussein in the 80's.) Andy Card? No. Rove? No. His father, GHWB???? (No comment) Colin Powell? Gone.

I ask you? IT'S THE F@#$'IN FORD ADMINISTRATION!!!!!!!! (Hell, I thought the Energy Secretary was going to whip out a W.I.N. button yesterday) Miers is a "GWB-ite." Democrat vs. Republican have NOTHING to do with it. She believe in GWB and has been loyal to GWB. That's the only requirement needed. I believe the questions your source raise are valid since Miers has no judicial background. Her "political philosophy" should be open to questioning since she clearly has no "judicial philosophy." I'm sure Reaganites like Senator Brownback will grill Miers during her confirmation.

But, you need to sit your friend down and break the news to them . .. .GWB is NOT the heir to Ronald Reagan . . . he is the heir to Gerald Ford...and they'd better get over it because we have another three years of this Administration."


Cocktail parties in GOP land should be fun over the next few years!!! (Oh, he's not alone in being reminded of the W.I.N. buttons. Check out the Professor.)

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The True Miller's Tale?

Now that Judith Miller has been sprung – and reportedly about to cash in big time for her difficult time in jail, let’s revisit those “Two Tense Weeks in July.” When I posted this extended timeline a few weeks ago, it produced some perplexity. So, open up the timeline in another window and compare and contrast as we take another trip down memory lane in July, 2003.

Well, the reports on what Miller has told Patrick Fitzgerald helps fill in some more of the dots of this interesting intergovernmental/international/judicial flap. The Washington Post
says:

Libby had a second conversation with Miller on July 12 or July 13, the source said, in which he said he had learned that Wilson's wife had a role in sending him on the trip and that she worked for the CIA. Libby never knew Plame's name or that she was a covert operative, the source said.

This is interesting, because if we go back to our timeline tracking the furious developments that were going on in both the U.S. and the U.K., we note that July 12, 2003, was the one of the two days not really accounted for in previous news stories. In between the first and second times Miller and Libby spoke, the following things occurred:

Which makes The Post’s conclusion somewhat odd. In the original story posted on the Web, Friday, September 30, the paper's final paragraph reads:

“Miller's role had been one of the great mysteries in the leak probe. It is unclear why she emerged as a central figure in the probe despite not writing a story about the case.”

In the full story in Saturday's paper, that passage is no longer there. Instead, there is the less speculative: "Miller never wrote an article on the matter."

Yet, even editing out the earlier passage, the question hangs in the air: Why was Miller behind bars for three months concerning sources to a story which that she never wrote about?

The answer is obvious: Judith Miller emerged as a central figure because she MADE herself a central figure and, arguably, BECAUSE she didn't "writ[e] a story about the case." This is the Judith Miller who, four days later, wrote words of encouragement to British scientist David Kelly: “David, I heard from another member of your fan club that things went well for you today. Hope it's true, J.”

These don't seem like the words of a disinterested journalist. These are the words of someone who has some sort of interest in how a witness performs in a parliamentary hearing.

How is it that – two years later and after Judith Miller has spent 90 days in jail for refusing to cooperate with a criminal investigation – not one media organization has deemed it important to wonder: Who is the other “member of [Kelly’s] fan club”? Is it Scooter Libby? Is it John Bolton (who visited Miller in jail and we know was questioned by the State Department Inspector General the same day Kelly’s body was found)? Is it someone else? If it is indeed an American, exactly what is that person's interest in a British Parliamentary inquiry?

Judith Miller is the missing link between two different investigations. She’s not a mere reporter. How do we know? Because, she has “reported” none of this.

Despite these multiple conversations with Libby, Miller never wrote about Joseph Wilson.

Despite the fact that she revealed the content of her e-mail to her Times editors – and one of her colleagues wrote about her receiving the “dark actors” e-mail – she never was inclined to pursue what drove a major source of hers to suicide.

Despite the fact that both Wilson and Kelly were critical actors in twin transatlantic challenges to the integrity of government assertions in the run-up to the Iraq War, Miller never offered even an analysis of what was occurring – even though it is clear that she was in close contact with individuals close to both controversies.

Despite the fact, that the challenges were about validity of intelligence related to weapons of mass destruction – journalistic turf that she had made her own in The New York Times.

And Miller wrote nothing about this in the days following either the Wilson op-ed (published in her own newspaper) or the suicide of an individual with whom her e-mail indicates she shares a familial intimacy that goes beyond the usual reporter-source relationship (“Hope it’s true, J.”)

Isn’t this peculiar?

And, again: WHO is the “member of [David Kelly’s] fan club” in a position to tell Judy Miller that “things went well for” him in his testimony on July 16th?

Upon which side of the Atlantic was that person?

The question is, will the true story ever come out?

If what Miller says is true in terms of the concession that Patrick Fitzgerald made to get Miller’s testimony, the answer may be – probably not.

According to the transcript of her press conference after being released, Miller states:

Once I got a personal voluntary waiver [from my source], my lawyer...approached the special counsel to see if my grand jury testimony could be limited to the communications with the source from whom I had received that personal and voluntary waiver. The special counsel agreed to this, and that was very important to me...

...I know what my conscience would allow. And I was -- I stood fast to that.

Well isn't that interesting? Given that we know that her source (Lewis Libby) had essentially given her a full waiver a year before, the only thing that was different was that Fitzgerald finally allowed Miller to dictate the scope of the investigation! Wow!

A Washington observer with a keen sense of history told me, "That's like when Woodward and Bernstein expected Hugh Sloan, Treasurer for CREEP and former Halderman aide, to name names to the initial Watergate grand jury but he didn't. "Woodstein" were stunned and pissed off at Sloan until they learned the initial prosecutor never dreamed to inquire about anything beyond the the seven burglars."

If Fitzgerald made this major concession to Miller, he may have made it impossible to get a clear picture as to the full motives of the White House with respect to Joseph Wilson.

If that interest extended across the Atlantic into the BBC/Blair contretemps (and given Miller's role in both of them, that is not too wide a leap), Miller may have succeeded in shutting down that particular avenue.

NEXT: A deeper reading of the parallel challenges to the transatlantic "official stories."

UPDATE: Welcome Hullaboo readers! Feel free to be alternately intrigued and appalled by the various stuff you might encounter in these parts.


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Monday, October 03, 2005

 

Another "Neigh" Vote For Miers?

Sorry, couldn't resist.

(Yes, this reflects my un-stable personality. Stop it!)

Last month, the left side of the blog was spreading the
Bush-is-Nero meme. Now, a respected conservative is making Caligula references.

Not good.

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DeLay vs. Clinton: Two Ironies

Number One: Tom DeLay, who was the member of the House Republican leadership most forcefully pushing the impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton back in '98, is now resorting to a phrase popularized by Clinton to describe the motives of his enemies. From Fox News Sunday:

"The way you counter this politics of personal destruction is you go and you're aggressive and you move fast and do something..."

"The only way they think they can get us is to burn down that house with an ethical cloud over it, and so their only agenda is this kind of politics of personal destruction." (Emphasis added in both.)


Ahem. We have met the enemy and he is us?

Number Two: DeLay has now been indicted on charges of
money-laundering and conspiracy to commit money-laundering. The irony here, of course, is a bit more sublime: If Monica had actually taken the time to do some, uh, laundering of her own, history might have been very different.

Oh well, with any luck, the entire DeLay story will all come out in the wash.

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The Washington BlogPost?

Is that the new de facto name for the Beltway Paper of Record? For that matter, is its friendliness to the new medium making it the de facto paper of record? The Washington Post's latest entry is The Fix.

Add that to
Joel Achenbach, Jefferson Morley (originally a weekly column, now daily), Howard Kurtz (a blog-ish version of his weekly/bi-weekly media column), Dan Froomkin, and specialized blogs on the Supreme Court, national security, computer security, Russian travel, and more and more.

As
Andrew Sullivan has noted, The Washington Post has decided to fully embrace the flexibility that blogging represents and adapt it to their Old World model. In addition to streaming Andrew's Daily Dish, they have also worked out a deal with Technorati which will enable Posties to see how much their stories are being linked around the 'Net -- while also increasing the number of eyes that will go to whatever blog happens to link to the Post.

It has the possibility of creating an interesting symbiotic relationship.

On the other hand, as has been recounted ad nauseum, the Gray Lady has chosen the Times Select route. Rather than expanding their columnist/opinion/analysis options to increase the number of eyes coming to the Times, they are effectively closing eyes. From a short-term business standpoint, this might work. In the long term, I have my doubts.

Why? Well, here's an example: I had some free time this (Monday) morning before heading into work (I had to do a brief TV spot on the Bill Bennett controversy). I had a breakfast sandwich and decided to flip through the papers at a more leisurely pace than usual. I read the New York Times' letters page and there were all these comments on an op-ed that Nora Ephron had written last week. It was, as I gathered from the letters, about how she had "fallen out of love" with Bill Clinton. On reflection, she decided that Clinton's behavior with Monica -- and the impeachment drama it produced -- essentially created the condition for George W. Bush to become president and, thus, the current troubles (in Ephron and the readers' minds) the country is now forced to endure.

The point is -- not only had I not read Ephron's piece, I hadn't even heard of it, or seen it referred to anywhere. Now, I don't read only conservative media or blogs. I read those on the left (a couple are even on my blogroll). And, yes, I wasn't paying as much attention to the blogworld this weekend as I might otherwise have, but I don't think this is just me.

I think the Times Select has caused the blogosphere as a whole to shrug its collective shoulders and not pay attention to what is over at the Times site -- including the free commentary stuff (which, as I understand how TS works, Ephron's piece would have fallen under -- for completion's sake, here are the
letters on Ephron's piece). It just no longer comes on the blogging radar screen.

On the other hand, The Washington Post is adding new stuff on a regular basis, thus forcing (if I can use that word) readers to stick around on the site for longer periods of time. Not surprisingly, that means having to deal with more ads, but that seems like a fair trade off. It will obviously take some time to assess who has the better business model, but right now TWP seems to "fit" better in the current world of media than the NYT does.

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Loyal To A (De)Fault

A number of voices on the right are pronouncing their disappointment? -- surprise? -- indignation? -- outrage? at George W. Bush's nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. I will allow others to debate forcefully the wisdom of a Miers pick from both a political and a legal standpoint.

I will just say that -- as many conservatives decry the cronyism aspect of the nomination (see
here and here) -- why would they/we be surprised? Miers reflects the default Bush position: To the extent that he values one principle above all, it is loyalty. That was seen in his selection of Dick Cheney as vice president, Condoleezza Rice as national security adviser (and subsequently, secretary of state). Obviously, bows must be made in certain cases to political reality (Colin Powell); but loyalty is the default. And Miers fits that. Ideally, Bush would probably have liked to have gone with the equally loyal diversity pick, Alberto Gonzales. But there were too many red flags in that direction (conservatives didn't trust him and Arlen Specter had already said that he would be a problematic choice).

So, Miers was -- to Bush -- the ideal option.

It's interesting that John Hawkins over at Right Wing News entitles his post,
"Disaster, Thy Name is Harriet Miers."

One would think that after the Katrina/FEMA/Michael Brown fiasco, that the White House might have been more sensitive to the appearance of cronyism. After Brown resigned, he was quickly replaced with
R. David Paulison, a lifelong firefighter.

But, the FEMA example is hardly the first time that the Bush team responded to disaster by replacing a clearly political appointee with someone who actually has a body of knowledge and experience befitting the agency in which he is working.

Similarly, Michael Griffin, the new head of NASA, has been involved in the
space program for decades. In one of his first major pronouncements last week, he said that both the shuttle and the space station were "mistakes." Many people had thought this for years, but it seems that it took someone of Griffin's clear qualifications and experience to begin laying the groundwork for the eventual phaseout of this expensive, three-decade-long boondoggles.

Griffin replaced Sean O'Keefe, whose previous job in the Office of Management and Budget made him a curious selection for the nation's space program. The shuttle Columbia disaster occurred, with seven astronauts on board, on O'Keefe's watch. O'Keefe's tenure at NASA soon became
fodder for a Government Accounatabilty Office probe into wasteful use of airplane travel. On the face of it, O'Keefe wasn't nearly as unqualified for NASA as Brown was for FEMA. But, ironically -- in terms of "disaster" -- O'Keefe left to become chancellor of Louisiana State University.

A question that could be asked: Does it take a disaster for Bush to "get it" when it comes to inappropriate picks to sensitive positions? And if Hawkins is right that Miers qualifies as a "disaster," will Bush have the opportunity to "get it" right next time -- if there is a next time?

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