Tuesday, October 25
Al Franken's Rerun Rove and Libby Execution Remark Draws Laughter From Lauer
Geoffrey Dicken's Blog, October 25, 2005
On Today, at 8:52am Al Franken was on to promote his new book The Truth and repeated his twisted joke about Rove and Libby needing execution. Franken's "joke," drew laughter from Matt Lauer and the rest of the Today show studio. The following is just a portion of this morning's interview:
Matt Lauer: "All right, Karl Rove and Scooter Libby what’s their future? What’s your prediction in terms of indictments? Yes or no?"
Franken: "Oh they, they’ll be indicted. I, I am absolutely sure and this is about, of course, the war in Iraq really. It’s about the justification for the war and smearing Joe Wilson by outing his wife who’s a CIA agent. George H.W. Bush, the President’s father, said, as, when he was head of the CIA, that outing a CIA agent is treason. I, I agree. So I think that Rove and Libby will be executed." Video available: Real or Windows Media Player
Lauer laughing along with others in the studio: "That aside. Given the fact it has a lot to do with the mood in this country and the, and the thought process in this country prior to the war in Iraq how much do you think the average American cares about this story right now? We had James Carville on this morning, said about a two on a scale of 1 to 10. Laura Ingraham said minus one. What do you think?"
Franken: "I think Laura Ingraham is an idiot."
Lauer chuckling: "Well you don’t have a lot of nice things about a lot of conservatives."
Franken: "Well no but minus, I mean people, I think..."
Lauer: "But how much do you think people care about it?"
Franken: "I think people care, I think people care that people close to the President and the Vice President are, are outing CIA agents and lying and lying before, I think this is, and, and when they get indicted and when people start looking at this it’s gonna be very, very big."
Earlier in the interview Franken drew laughs from in studio when he called the President "incompetent." Taking it from the top of the interview here is the conversation:
Bushies feeling the boss' wrath
THOMAS M. DeFRANK, New York Daily News, October 24th, 2005
WASHINGTON - Facing the darkest days of his presidency, President Bush is frustrated, sometimes angry and even bitter, his associates say.
With a seemingly uncontrollable insurgency in Iraq, the White House is bracing for the political fallout from a grim milestone that could come any day: the combat death of the 2,000th American G.I.
Last week alone, 23 military personnel were killed in Iraq, and five were wounded yesterday in a relentless series of attacks across the country.
This week could also bring a special prosecutor's decision that could shake the foundations of the Bush government.
The President's top political guru, Karl Rove, and Vice President Cheney's right-hand man, Lewis (Scooter) Libby, are at the center of a two-year criminal probe into the leak of a CIA agent's identity. Many Bush staffers believe indictments are likely.
"He's like the lion in winter," observed a political friend of Bush. "He's frustrated. He remains quite confident in the decisions he has made. But this is a guy who wanted to do big things in a second term. Given his nature, there's no way he'd be happy about the way things have gone."
Bush usually reserves his celebrated temper for senior aides because he knows they can take it. Lately, however, some junior staffers have also faced the boss' wrath.
"This is not some manager at McDonald's chewing out the help," said a source with close ties to the White House when told about these outbursts. "This is the President of the United States, and it's not a pleasant sight."
The specter of losing Rove, his only truly irreplaceable assistant, lies at the heart of Bush's distress. But a string of political reversals, including growing opposition to the Iraq war, Hurricane Katrina's aftermath and Harriet Miers' bungled Supreme Court nomination, have also exacted a personal toll.
Presidential advisers and friends say Bush is a mass of contradictions: cheerful and serene, peevish and melancholy, occasionally lapsing into what he once derided as the "blame game." They describe him as beset but unbowed, convinced that history will vindicate the major decisions of his presidency even if they damage him and his party in the 2006 and 2008 elections.
At the same time, these sources say Bush, who has a long history of keeping staffers in their place, has lashed out at aides as his political woes have mounted.
"The President is just unhappy in general and casting blame all about," said one Bush insider. "Andy [Card, the chief of staff] gets his share. Karl gets his share. Even Cheney gets his share. And the press gets a big share."
The vice president remains Bush's most trusted political confidant. Even so, the Daily News has learned Bush has told associates Cheney was overly involved in intelligence issues in the runup to the Iraq war that have been seized on by Bush critics.
Bush is so dismayed that "the only person escaping blame is the President himself," said a sympathetic official, who delicately termed such self-exoneration "illogical."
A second senior Bush loyalist disagreed, saying Bush knows "some of these things are self-inflicted," like the Miers nomination, where Bush jettisoned contrary advice from his advisers and appointed his longtime personal lawyer.
"He must know that the way he did that, relying on his own judgment and instinct, was not good," another key adviser said.
Despite the turmoil, Bush is determined to soldier on, already preparing for two major overseas trips in November and helping shape next year's legislative agenda.
"I've got a job to do," he told reporters last week. "The American people expect me to do my job, and I'm going to."
Tuesday, October 18
Karl Rove's Consigliere
By Michael Isikoff, Newsweek, Oct. 24, 2005 issue
When the president's political guru landed in hot water, he turned to a flamboyant Democrat for help. Will that work?
When Karl Rove emerged after four grueling hours before a federal grand jury in Washington last Friday, his lawyer Robert Luskin made one more attempt to figure out just where his client stood. He approached special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald outside the hearing room and asked if Rove's fortunes had changed in the two-year-old inquiry of who leaked the name of CIA agent Valerie Plame.
But Fitzgerald, ever tight-lipped, wasn't giving anything up. He curtly told the lawyer that "no decisions" had been made, Luskin says.
That left Luskin, the brainy battle-tested Washington litigator hired to represent the most powerful of the president's men, in a bind. All over Washington, impatient reporters were waiting to be fed. So Luskin—whose shaved head, gold earring and Ducati Monster motorcycle make him something of an odd duck among Washington's A-list attorneys—did what any savvy trial lawyer would do: he tried to spin Fitzgerald's nonanswer to Rove's advantage. In a carefully worded statement, Luskin said, "The special prosecutor has not advised Mr. Rove that he is a target of the investigation." The part he glided over: Fitzgerald hadn't ruled out indicting Rove, either.
It was Rove's fourth appearance before the grand jury, and will almost certainly be his last. The investigation expires at the end of the month, and Fitzgerald is widely expected to announce his decisions in the next two weeks.
Republicans fear that Fitzgerald may end up charging a number of senior White House aides, possibly including Rove and Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis (Scooter) Libby, with disclosing classified information or making false statements. (Rove and Libby deny any wrongdoing.)
On its Web site on Saturday, The New York Times published a long-awaited story detailing Libby's murky relationship with Judith Miller, the Times reporter who at first refused to disclose her secret source in the case, but named Libby after serving 85 days in jail for contempt of court.
It was the latest twist in a story that has had more than its share of odd turns. At times, Luskin himself has seemed to add to the confusion. In July, Luskin flatly stated that Rove had not been the secret source who talked to Time magazine's Matthew Cooper. Soon after, NEWSWEEK revealed an internal Time e-mail showing that Rove was indeed Cooper's source. Luskin's response: that there was "absolutely no inconsistency" with Rove's testimony.
It's Bush-Cheney, Not Rove-Libby
By Frank Rich, The New York Times, 16 October 2005
There hasn't been anything like it since Martha Stewart fended off questions about her stock-trading scandal by manically chopping cabbage on "The Early Show" on CBS. Last week the setting was "Today" on NBC, where the image of President Bush manically hammering nails at a Habitat for Humanity construction site on the Gulf Coast was juggled with the sight of him trying to duck Matt Lauer's questions about Karl Rove.
As with Ms. Stewart, Mr. Bush's paroxysm of panic was must-see TV. "The president was a blur of blinks, taps, jiggles, pivots and shifts," Dana Milbank wrote in The Washington Post. Asked repeatedly about Mr. Rove's serial appearances before a Washington grand jury, the jittery Mr. Bush, for once bereft of a script, improvised a passable impersonation of Norman Bates being quizzed by the detective in "Psycho." Like Norman and Ms. Stewart, he stonewalled.
That stonewall may start to crumble in a Washington courtroom this week or next. In a sense it already has. Now, as always, what matters most in this case is not whether Mr. Rove and Lewis Libby engaged in a petty conspiracy to seek revenge on a whistle-blower, Joseph Wilson, by unmasking his wife, Valerie, a covert C.I.A. officer. What makes Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation compelling, whatever its outcome, is its illumination of a conspiracy that was not at all petty: the one that took us on false premises into a reckless and wasteful war in Iraq. That conspiracy was instigated by Mr. Rove's boss, George W. Bush, and Mr. Libby's boss, Dick Cheney.
Mr. Wilson and his wife were trashed to protect that larger plot. Because the personnel in both stories overlap, the bits and pieces we've learned about the leak inquiry over the past two years have gradually helped fill in the über-narrative about the war. Last week was no exception. Deep in a Wall Street Journal account of Judy Miller's grand jury appearance was this crucial sentence: "Lawyers familiar with the investigation believe that at least part of the outcome likely hangs on the inner workings of what has been dubbed the White House Iraq Group."
Very little has been written about the White House Iraq Group, or WHIG. Its inception in August 2002, seven months before the invasion of Iraq, was never announced. Only much later would a newspaper article or two mention it in passing, reporting that it had been set up by Andrew Card, the White House chief of staff. Its eight members included Mr. Rove, Mr. Libby, Condoleezza Rice and the spinmeisters Karen Hughes and Mary Matalin. Its mission: to market a war in Iraq.
It was not until the war was supposedly over - with "Mission Accomplished," in May 2003 - that Mr. Wilson started to add his voice to those who were disputing the administration's uranium hype. Members of WHIG had a compelling motive to shut him down. In contrast to other skeptics, like Mohamed ElBaradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency (this year's Nobel Peace Prize winner), Mr. Wilson was an American diplomat; he had reported his findings in Niger to our own government. He was a dagger aimed at the heart of WHIG and its disinformation campaign. Exactly who tried to silence him and how is what Mr. Fitzgerald presumably will tell us.
It's long been my hunch that the WHIG-ites were at their most brazen (and, in legal terms, reckless) during the many months that preceded the appointment of Mr. Fitzgerald as special counsel.
When Mr. Rove was asked on camera by ABC News in September 2003 if he had any knowledge of the Valerie Wilson leak and said no, it was only hours before the Justice Department would open its first leak investigation.
When Scott McClellan later declared that he had been personally assured by Mr. Rove and Mr. Libby that they were "not involved" with the leak, the case was still in the safe hands of the attorney general then, John Ashcroft, himself a three-time Rove client in past political campaigns.
Though Mr. Rove may be known as "Bush's brain," he wasn't smart enough to anticipate that Justice Department career employees would eventually pressure Mr. Ashcroft to recuse himself because of this conflict of interest, clearing the way for an outside prosecutor as independent as Mr. Fitzgerald.
"Bush's Brain" is the title of James Moore and Wayne Slater's definitive account of Mr. Rove's political career. But Mr. Rove is less his boss's brain than another alliterative organ (or organs), that which provides testosterone.
As we learn in "Bush's Brain," bad things (usually character assassination) often happen to Bush foes, whether Ann Richards or John McCain. On such occasions, Mr. Bush stays compassionately above the fray while the ruthless Mr. Rove operates below the radar, always separated by "a layer of operatives" from any ill behavior that might implicate him. "There is no crime, just a victim," Mr. Moore and Mr. Slater write of this repeated pattern.
THIS modus operandi was foolproof, shielding the president as well as Mr. Rove from culpability, as long as it was about winning an election.
The attack on Mr. Wilson, by contrast, has left them and the Cheney-Libby tag team vulnerable because it's about something far bigger: protecting the lies that took the country into what the Reagan administration National Security Agency director, Lt. Gen. William Odom, recently called "the greatest strategic disaster in United States history."
Whether or not Mr. Fitzgerald uncovers an indictable crime, there is once again a victim, but that victim is not Mr. or Mrs. Wilson; it's the nation. It is surely a joke of history that even as the White House sells this weekend's constitutional referendum as yet another "victory" for democracy in Iraq, we still don't know the whole story of how our own democracy was hijacked on the way to war.
Thursday, October 13
John Edwards Hits the Street
Emily Thornton, Business Week, October 13, 2005
The 2004 Democratic candidate for Vice-President joins Fortress Investment Group, where he will serve as a part-time global dealmaker
Wall Street has long provided a soft landing for out-of-work pols. But increasingly, the revolving door leads to private investment firms. The Street's latest recruit: John Edwards, the ex-North Carolina senator and Vice-Presidential standard bearer for the Democratic Party in the 2004 elections.
BusinessWeek has learned that Edwards has signed up to work for the New York-based private investment concern Fortress Investment Group as a part-time senior advisor. As such, he will be 'providing support in developing investment opportunities worldwide and strategic advice on global economic issues,' says Edwards spokesperson Kim Rubey. Fortress declined to comment about hiring Edwards, who teamed up with Massachusetts Senator John Kerry in a losing bid against President George Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney last year.
USEFUL EXPERIENCE. Edwards joins a growing line of policymakers turned dealmakers. Former Veep Dan Quayle has been sealing deals around the world for hedge fund group Cerberus Capital Management ever since he dropped out of the 2000 Presidential race.
Ex-New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani has set up his own investment banking advisory firm -- Giuliani Capital Advisors. He also chairs the board of advisors to Leeds Weld & Co., where former Massachusetts Governor William Weld was a principal until recently. Weld has reduced his role to a senior advisor while considering a run for New York governor.
Edwards was a highly successful trial lawyer in the Tarheel State before going into politics. But his experience in Washington should serve him well as a global financial adviser. He was on the Senate Intelligence Committee in Congress and boned up on global economics during the 2004 Presidential campaign for several nationally televised debates with Cheney. Edwards now serves as a co-chair of a Council on Foreign Relations task force on U.S.-Russia relations.
WAL-MART SEX OIL SALES SKYROCKET
Drudge Report, Thu Oct 13 2005
K-Y Product Lines Heat Up in Middle America
That sex sells comes as no surprise. That it's now selling quite nicely at Wal-Mart Stores -- the naughty-magazine-yanking retail nanny -- may come as a shock, AD AGE reports.
Suddenly at the forefront of taking sex aids mainstream, conservative marketer Johnson & Johnson almost overnight has doubled sales of its once-sleepy K-Y brand for the second time in four years thanks to the blockbuster summer rollout of a new line of massage oils. And nowhere has that success been greater than at Wal-Mart, where K-Y Touch Massage oils have hit the list of top 10 new health and beauty products of 2005, according to J&J VP-Personal Care Marketing Jim Peterson.
J&J has found warming lubricants sell well not only for Valentine's Day but also around Memorial Day and Fourth of July. 'We dubbed these sex holidays,' Mr. Peterson said. 'And we try to line up all our promotional efforts around them.' [...more]
Friday, October 7
Nuclear inspectors win peace prize
James Sturcke and agencies, Guardian,October 7, 2005
The International Atomic Energy Agency and its chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, have won the 2005 Nobel peace prize, it was announced today.
The prize was awarded 'for their efforts to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes and to ensure that nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is used in the safest possible way', officials said.
Dr ElBaradei, an Egyptian lawyer, has headed the UN nuclear agency as it grappled with the crises in Iraq and North Korea and now Iran. "
Wednesday, October 5
TVE's Earth Report: Gross National Happiness
Before 1960, the Himalayan mountain Kingdom of Bhutan had no contact with the world. Isolationism was a policy of choice.
However, squeezed between two regional superpowers, China and India, it was vulnerable to a takeover; so in 1971 the kingdom joined the UN. That didn?t mean that Bhutan's enlightened Eton-educated king was about to see his country embrace the 20th century pattern of development that puts material wealth before all.
In the succeeding decades, Bhutan has certainly opened up. But in this edition of Earth Report, we find that it has done so largely on its own terms.
In Bhutan four out of five people still live in villages. To maintain their vitality and culture, the national policy discourages urban migration. Rather than being guided by the GNP - or Gross National Product - as a measurement of progress, the government is developing indicators based on 'Gross National Happiness'.
Tuesday, October 4
Skimpy Underwear, Ample Commentary At Tysons Corner
Shoppers Appalled, Transfixed By Racy Store Display at Mall
By Timothy Dwyer, Washington Post, October 5, 2005
Tongues were wagging. E-mails were flying around PTA message groups and church listservs. People who heard about it came by to take a look for themselves. The issue was tiny underwear -- women's fine lingerie, to be exact-- and how it should be displayed on lifelike mannequins in the newest wing of one of America's biggest malls.
'Little Shop of Whores,' huffed one woman standing outside the new Victoria's Secret in Tysons Corner Center. 'Slut wear,' declared the father of a teenage girl, looking at a feathery-thong-clad mannequin bent over as if she were adjusting her spike heels.
The display at the Victoria's Secret store, which just opened in the expanded wing of Tysons Corner Center, draws lots of attention from passersby.
'I love it,' said another woman with a bag of fresh purchases.
The store was doing a brisk business yesterday as shoppers walked by, some nearly snapping their necks as they caught a glimpse of what the mannequins were wearing and their suggestive poses.
'Well,' said Steina Rubin of Bethesda, 'I find it just totally disgusting.' And, no, she would not be shopping there. 'I'm not entering a whorehouse,' she said. 'I come to the mall with my daughter. It's disgusting. And I'm from Europe !"
Last week, a 362,000-square-foot expansion opened at Tysons Corner with 24 stores, five restaurants and a 16-screen movie theater. The new wing is jammed with stores targeted at teenage customers, and among them, between Free People and Guess jeans, is the new Victoria's Secret. Yesterday, it was parents of teenagers who were flocking to the mall.
"I'm anxious to see for myself what the buzz is all about," John Zolldan wrote in an e-mail to the mall management, "and if it is really true that Victoria no longer has any secrets . . . maybe your intent is to provide consumers in Northern Virginia with our first erotic boutique."
Monday, October 3
Australians Win Nobel in Medicine
Two Scientists Discovered Bacterial Cause of Peptic Ulcers in 1982
By Rob Stein, Washington Post, October 4,
Two Australian scientists won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine yesterday for discovering that a common bacterium -- not stress -- causes most ulcers.
The "remarkable and unexpected" 1982 discovery by J. Robin Warren and Barry J. Marshall, who infected himself to prove their theory, overthrew existing the scientific dogma and opened up a new area of research into whether infectious microbes cause a host of diseases, the Nobel Prize committee said.
"The discovery that one of the most common diseases of mankind, peptic ulcer disease, has a microbial cause has stimulated the search for microbes as possible cause of other chronic inflammatory conditions," wrote the committee, which cited the pair's "tenacity" in the face of deep skepticism.
Warren, 68, and Marshall, 54, learned of their honor while having a drink together in a pub in Perth as part of a tradition they started years ago to make light of whether they would ever win the prize.
"Robin and I often have a beer down by the riverside this time of year," said Marshall, now of the University of Western Australia in Nedlands. "But it's more of a joke. . . . We would always dream about winning the Nobel but never really thought [we would]."
"It's only just starting to sink in," added Warren, now retired, who will share the $1.3 million prize.
Warren was the catalyst for the pair's work. In 1979, while a pathologist at the Royal Perth Hospital in western Australia, he noticed small, curved bacteria in biopsies of the lower part of the stomachs of about half of the patients he examined.
The scientific establishment dismissed Warren's findings, but Marshall, a gastroenterologist, was intrigued. They joined forces three years later and began trying to grow and identify the organism. After many frustrating attempts, Marshall succeeded only when he inadvertently left slides unattended over the Easter holiday in 1982 and returned to find thriving colonies of the microbe, enabling him to identify it as a previously unknown spiral-shaped bacteria, subsequently dubbed Helicobacter pylori . [...more]
The discovery spurred interest in whether other microbes cause diseases that are due to chronic inflammation, such as Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease.
"Even though no definite answers are at hand, recent data clearly suggest that a dysfunction in the recognition of microbial products by the human immune system can result in disease development," the committee wrote. "The discovery of Helicobacter pylori has led to an increased understanding of the connection between chronic infection, inflammation and cancer."
Elias A. Zerhouni, director of the National Institutes of Health, said: "I think this is a perfect example of how excellent science triumphed over conventional dogma. The prize affirms that we must keep true to our scientific principles of exploration, and continually question our assumptions."
Silent on Putin's Slide
Bush Ignores Russia's Fading Freedom
By Fred Hiatt, Washington Post, October 3, 2005
On Sept. 23, a week after President Bush had been "pleased to welcome my friend Vladimir Putin back to the White House," Putin took another step toward choking off political freedom in Russia.
He had already sent a message to business executives not to challenge him, by indicting oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and destroying his company with tax bills, forced sell-offs and other tactics of selective justice. Now, hours after Khodorkovsky's appeal had been denied in a comically brief process, and an eight-year jail term affirmed, Putin went after the lawyers.
A Canadian lawyer working on the case, Robert Amsterdam, was rousted from his hotel room at 1 a.m. by agents of what used to be called the KGB and was given 24 hours to leave the country. More seriously, prosecutors said they would seek to disbar Russian lawyers who had defended Khodorkovsky -- and in Putin's Russia, prosecutors get what they seek.
It's tempting to call these tactics Stalinist, but Putin is both less bloody and in some ways more clever than Stalin. He doesn't have a lot of people killed. But he understands that he doesn't have to. He can reimpose authoritarian rule without a gulag, simply by spreading fear through example.
He can fire one editor for putting a negative story on the front page and other editors get the message. He can have one or two judges dismissed without pension and other judges toe the line. Threaten a few human rights organizations, allow the murders of a few journalists to go unsolved, open a criminal investigation of the one politician who mentions challenging you in the next election, throw a few businessmen into tuberculosis-infested prison cells -- and word gets around.
Amsterdam, who has worked in many countries euphemistically known as "emerging markets," told me after leaving Russia that he has never worked in a country where the fear was so palpable, and the political space so constricted, as in Putin's domain.
The Bush administration, after some zigs and zags on Russia, seems to have developed a fairly coherent strategy regarding Russia's slide from democracy: Ignore it.
The National Security Council apparatus in the White House believes that what happens inside Russia is irrelevant to the United States; that the United States can't do much to influence domestic events in any case; and that dwelling on Putin's authoritarianism would compromise other U.S. interests in bilateral relations.
Then Bush made clear that he doesn't really care whether Putin implements these reforms, which Putin has not, in fact, talked about: "And every time I visit and talk with President Putin, I -- our relationship becomes stronger, and I want to thank you for that."
You could argue that what the United States gets from that relationship is worth abandoning Russians who still dream of freedom: cooperation in securing nuclear materials, Moscow making less trouble than it might for the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan. And, as Bush noted, "they've got products that we want, like energy."
In fact, though, Bush doesn't seem to be getting all that much out of the relationship, and the closing of political space in Russia does affect U.S. interests, particularly as Russia's foreign policy becomes more nationalistic and belligerent toward its neighbors.
DeLay's Influence Transcends His Title
By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum and Jim VandeHei, Washington Post, October 3, 2005
For the indefinite future, Washington will remain Tom DeLay's capital. Dislodged by a criminal indictment last week from his post as House majority leader, DeLay in his decade of steering the Republican caucus dramatically -- and in many cases inalterably -- changed how power is amassed and used on Capitol Hill and well beyond.
Proteges of the wounded Texan still hold virtually every position of influence in the House, including the office of speaker. DeLay's former staff members are securely in the lobbying offices for many of the largest corporations and business advocacy groups.
But even more than people, DeLay's lasting influence is an ethos.
He stood for a view of Washington as a battlefield on which two sides struggle relentlessly, moderates and voices of compromise are pushed to the margins, and the winners presume they have earned the right to punish dissenters and reward their own side with financial and policy favors. [...more]
Texas prosecutor Ronnie Earle won a grand jury indictment of DeLay on a charge of conspiring to illegally evade fundraising restrictions. DeLay, still in Congress, has vowed to return to his leadership post after clearing his name at trial -- though his future is shadowed by a tall stack of other legal and political problems.
But scholars say his methods are imprinted on Washington like a tattoo. "Even if Boss DeLay leaves, his legacy stays," said James A. Thurber, director of congressional studies at American University.
Part of the reason for this is that DeLay's temporary replacement, Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), is a DeLay protege whose rapid rise was spawned by the Texas Republican. So were the careers of almost everyone else in the House Republican leadership, including Rep. Eric I. Cantor of Virginia and Thomas M. Reynolds of New York. They are all social conservatives who support such pro-business policies as deregulation and tax cuts.
The DeLay network is just as formidable in downtown Washington.
Former DeLay aides Buckham, Tony Rudy and Karl Gallant form the core of one of Washington's largest and fastest-growing lobbying firms, Alexander Strategy Group. Susan Hirschmann, a former DeLay chief of staff, is a senior member of Williams & Jensen, another major lobbying firm. Congressional aides said that these and other DeLay alumni are part of their "team" and will be welcome in their offices no matter what happens to their old boss.
Speaking of Hirschmann, Mike Stokke, deputy chief of staff to House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), said, "Having DeLay in her background is a strength; having worked for Tom brings credibility."
There has been no sign that DeLay personally has been active in the K Street Project since he was admonished by the House ethics committee for pressuring the Electronics Industries Alliance to hire a Republican as its president seven years ago.
Nonetheless, the project is still going strong; other lawmakers and lobbyists have taken up the cause. Job listings on K Street are still distributed in regularly scheduled meetings held by other GOP lawmakers, including Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.). Lobbying executives report that former Republican aides and lawmakers have telephoned them to suggest that their top openings should be filled with loyalists.
The K Street Project Web site is run by well-connected conservative Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform. [...more]
In the House, DeLay enhanced the leadership's role by ending the practice of automatically promoting the most senior lawmakers to committee chairmanships and, instead, choosing loyalists to fill the powerful slots.
Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.) was booted from the chairmanship of the Veterans Affairs Committee at the beginning of the current Congress because he repeatedly bucked DeLay and other GOP leaders on key votes. DeLay also arranged to have the chairmen elected by the committees themselves, whose members he also selected and was thus better able to control. [...more]
DeLay established as common practice the requirement that House GOP incumbents with safe seats collect at least some money for the party as a whole. Chairmen of committees were particularly on the line to raise large sums, Republican aides said. Unless they paid up, their chairmanships were in danger.
In late June, Pelosi adopted a similar tack. She sent a letter warning that Democratic lawmakers who did not raise money for the House campaign committee would be deprived of everything from financial resources to telephone access. "If you are on the team, you have to" pay up, a House Democratic aide said.
Meanwhile, anyone looking for signs of the ongoing influence of DeLay Inc. will find another one today. It's the starting date for Time Warner Inc.'s new vice president for global public policy. The new executive is Tim Berry, former chief of staff to Tom DeLay.
Whose Fault Is Pork?
Editorial, Washington Post, October 2, 2005
THE HUGE EXPANSION of government overseen by the supposed party of small government has provoked a conservative backlash.
The Heritage Foundation, which is usually respectful of Republican Party officeholders, recently noted that the party's ascendancy has coincided with an extraordinarily expensive Medicare prescription drug bill, the most costly farm bill in modern history, a 51 percent increase in spending on veterans and an increase in the annual number of pork projects from 6,000 in 2001 to 14,000 this year.
Rank-and-file Republican House members are fed up with this unconservative record; on Wednesday they rebelled against Majority Leader Tom DeLay's scheme to have a big-spending ally keep his throne warm while he fights a criminal indictment.
But the conservative revolt should logically be taken a step further. It should target President Bush. [...more]
Who should be held responsible for runaway government spending?
Mr. DeLay is certainly a good place to start. His governing principle was not to stand on principle but rather to rain taxpayers' money on every lobby that could return the favor with campaign contributions. But the biggest responsibility lies not with any member of the legislature but with Mr. Bush.
Unlike senators and House members, the president represents the whole nation; he is supposed to defend the general interest against particularist claims. Moreover, he has the power to do so. If Congress serves up wasteful bills, the president can veto them.
Mr. Bush has been too cowardly to do that. He is the first president since John Quincy Adams to have served a full term without once exercising his veto, and his second term has so far been no different. [...more]
Doesn't his administration pride itself on defending the power and prerogatives of the presidency? Mr. Bush's father had the courage to veto 44 bills in four years, and President Ronald Reagan once vetoed a transportation bill because it contained about 150 pork projects. But the bill that Mr. Bush just signed contained at least 6,000 pork projects.
Sunday, October 2
Something Stinks in America
by Will Hutton, The Observer, October 2, 2005
The most important political event last week for Britain did not take place at the Labour party conference in Brighton, but in Travis County, Texas. District Attorney Ronnie Earle charged the second most powerful man in the United States, Tom DeLay, with criminal conspiracy. DeLay resigned as the majority leader of the Republicans in the House of Representatives while he fights the case, a stunning political setback.
American conservatism that has shaped American and British politics for 20 years has been holed below the waterline. It will take a lot more to sink it, but DeLay's indictment is symptomatic of a conservative over-reach and endemic corruption that will trigger, at the very least, a retreat and maybe even more. One-Nation Tories and honest-to-God Labour politicians can take some succor; the right-wing wind that has blown across the Atlantic for nearly a generation is about to ease. Hypocrisies have been exposed. The discourse in British politics is set to change.
The story begins in the murky world of campaign finance and the gray area of quasi-corruption, kickbacks and personal favors that now define the American political system. American politicians need ever more cash to fight their political campaigns and gerrymander their constituencies, so creating the political truth that incumbents rarely lose. US corporations are the consistent suppliers of the necessary dollars and Republican politicians increasingly are the principal beneficiaries. Complicated rules exist to try to ensure the relationship between companies and politicians is as much at arm's length as possible; the charge against DeLay is that he drove a coach and horses through the rules.
If DeLay were another Republican politician or even a typical majority leader of the House, the political world could shrug its shoulders. Somebody got caught, but little will change. But DeLay is very different. He is the Republican paymaster, one of the authors of the K Street Project and the driving force behind a vicious, organized demonization and attempted marginalization of Democrats that for sheer, unabashed political animus is unlike anything else witnessed in an advanced democracy. Politicians fight their political foes by fair means or foul, but trying to exterminate them is new territory.
The K Street Project is little known outside the Washington beltway and its effectiveness as a political stratagem is only possible because of the unique importance of campaign finance to American politics. DeLay, together with Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and some conservative activists, notably the ubiquitous Grover Norquist who runs the anti-state, anti-tax lobby group 'Americans for Tax Reform', conceived the notion 10 years ago that they should use the Republican majority in the House as a lever to ensure that the lobbyists, law firms and trade associations that inhabit Washington's K Street, heart of the industry, should only employ Republicans or sympathizers. To be a Democrat was to bear the mark of Cain; K Street was to be a Democrat-free zone.
This, if it could be pulled off, would have multiple pay-backs. Special-interest groups and companies have always greased the palms of American law-makers and because of lack of party discipline, they have had to grease Democrat and Republican palms alike to get the legislation they wanted. DeLay's ambition was to construct such a disciplined Republican party that lobbyists would not need Democrats, and so create an inside track in which the only greased palms from legislators to lobbyists would be Republican.