Tuesday, May 31, 2005

None Dare Call it Conservatism

Slate has posted a startling revelation from Fox News London bureau chief Scott Norvell:
Even we at Fox News manage to get some lefties on the air occasionally, and often let them finish their sentences before we club them to death and feed the scraps to Karl Rove and Bill O'Reilly.

Bolton for Dummies

Monday, May 30, 2005

"The last full measure of devotion"

The greatest oration in memory of those who died in service to our country is the Gettysburg Address. Here's the infamous Powerpoint version. And here is the text of the Bliss Version (with links to readings by Sam Waterston, Jeff Daniels and Johnny Cash):
Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war.
We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract.
The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.
It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

John McCain Again

Senator John McCain is in the center of another effort to broker a compromise on President Bush's nominations:
WASHINGTON, May 27 - One of John R. Bolton's leading Republican backers, Senator John McCain of Arizona, signaled his support on Friday for a compromise in which the White House might allow Senate leaders access to highly classified documents in return for a final vote early next month on Mr. Bolton's nomination as United Nations ambassador.
Senators calling on the administration to share the documents "have some substance to their argument," Mr. McCain said.
Current head counts indicate 53 votes for Bolton and 45 votes against.

Dig a Hole and Fill It Up Again

California has than 170,000 miles of public roads, according to CalTrans. One would think there would be plenty of potholes to fill in there somewhere. So where did the Governator go for a photo op of him filling a pothole?
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger traveled to a quiet San Jose neighborhood Thursday, and -- dogged by protesters -- filled a pothole dug by city crews just a few hours before, as part of an attempt to dramatize his efforts to increase money for transportation projects.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Hillary Haters to Jury: Thanks for Nothing

David F. Rosen, the fund raiser for Senator Clinton's 2000 campaign, was acquitted of making false filings to the FEC, disappointing the anti-Hillary crowd.

Jack Markell on Alan Greenspan

Delaware Treasurer Jack Markell reports on a session with his fellow state treasurers and Alan Greenspan earlier this week:
He [Greenspan] answered “I don’t think so” when asked whether our children and grandchildren will be able to afford to pay off the huge national debt they will be inheriting.
Repayment of interest on the national debt will be a major share of GDP for our children and grandchildren.

From Bizarre to Brazen

In Part 4 of our continuing series, In Need of Adult Supervison: Ohio Edition, at least $10 million of the $50 million the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation invested with rare coins dealer Thomas Noe is now missing. After being barred from his office for three days, state officials began a court-ordered review of Mr. Noe's inventory of rare coins and other collectibles:
Bureau fraud investigators began to view the rare coins inside Mr. Noe’s vault at about 11 a.m. yesterday, said Jeremy Jackson, the bureau’s press secretary.
At 1:30 p.m., Mr. Noe was required to provide a complete inventory list so the inspection and audit of the rare coins could start, according to the order signed by a Franklin County Common Pleas Court judge.
But Mr. Jackson said the audit never began because Mr. Noe’s attorney, Bill Wilkinson, contacted the state to say that $10 million to $12 million of assets are “unaccounted for.”
“Any review ceased and the appropriate authorities were called in,” Mr. Jackson said.
While the state's investment had not been audited since it's inception in 1988, prosecuters say it looks like more than sloppy bookkeeping:
Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien said yesterday that he has “reason to believe” Mr. Noe, a prominent Toledo-area Republican fund-raiser and rare-coin dealer, has misappropriated “more than $10 million” in state assets.
“I have reason to believe it is more than just missing assets or lost assets or otherwise,” said Mr. O’Brien, a Republican. “I have reason to believe there is actual misappropriation of state funds involved ... I’m talking about conversion for personal use.”
It is unclear whether Mr. Noe used some of the state’s money to make contributions to Republican candidates, including President Bush’s re-election campaign, Mr. O’Brien said.
The Bush-Cheney campaign lists Mr. Noe as a “Pioneer,” for raising from $100,000 to $250,000 for the President’s re-election campaign.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

To Be Continued...

So tonight's vote was not the final showdown on John Bolton. The cloture vote fell short. Debate on the nomination will continue. We will see if Bush continues to stonewall the U.S. Senate.
After the vote, Majority Leader Bill Frist pretended that this was a step back from the bipartisanship of the filibuster deal--a deal Frist hated by the way. He acted as though he hadn't heard Harry Reid and Joe Biden moments earlier offer kind words to Frist for his efforts to broker an understanding that would allow the U.S. Senate to know what Bolton evidently shared with his staff. And he acted as though he hadn't heard Biden say the Senate could vote immediately after reconvening if the administration would be more cooperative:
We're ready to vote the day we get back, the moment we get back..if the administration is more forthcoming in meeting us halfway.
There's more to come. In the meanwhile, for all things Bolton stay tuned to Steve Clemons at The Washington Note.

Robert Rubin Rallies Democratic Reps

The Hill reports that former Secretary Robert Rubin met with the House Democratic Caucus and gave them some sound advice:
In a sweeping review of the fiscal health of the country, the strength of the dollar and international trade, Rubin said that Social Security ranks third behind deficit reduction and Medicare reform as the most important economic policy issue facing the country.
“Here’s a guy who was in a position of authority when we experienced this incredible amount of economic growth,” said Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.). “It’s important that we hear from them from time to time. His whole take was no more deficit spending and no to the president’s Social Security plan.”
Criticizing Bush’s plan for Social Security reform, Rubin said, “I haven’t ever heard a bond marketer talk about savings 50 years out,” according to a Democratic leadership aide.
A central principle of Rubin's successful economic strategy was to signal the bond market that federal debt would decline, which in fact it did. Bush claims that his Social Security plan, which would require hundreds of billions in new federal borrowing, would somehow reduce the deficit 50 years out.

Today's Senate Showdown

Newsweek has a good summary of the ongoing controversy on Bolton's request for 10 NSA intercepts involving Americans. Because the Bush administration is holding back on allowing Senate leaders to view the same sensitive documents, Bolton's critics plan to hold a cloture vote to extend debate on his nomination, not to filibuster but to pressure the adminstration to be more forthcoming.
The only Senators who have been briefed on the intercepts are Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts and Ranking Member Jay Rockefeller, who are constrained in what they can share with their colleagues. Even so, they were not allowed to see the names of the 19 Americans whose conversations were captured in the intercepts. Senator Rockefeller disclosed possible evidence that Bolton mishandled this sensitive material. Newseek reports that Senator Roberts sees the matter differently:
Roberts blamed the State Department’s alleged procedural failings on Carl Ford, a former head of State Department intelligence. (Coincidentally or not, Ford was the only witness to give scathingly critical testimony against Bolton at his public confirmation hearing.)
This story is not about Democratic opposition, but about Republican discontent with Bolton. A point that was consistently made by Senators Biden and Voinovich is that most of the criticism and damaging revelations about Bolton have come from Republican appointees.
TWN has posted Joe Biden's prepared remarks from yesterday.
The record presented by the Foreign Relations Committee is clear:
§ the documents we have uncovered;
§ the interviews with those who had to pick up the pieces in INR, in CIA, in the office of the Secretary of State, and in South Korea;
§ the testimony of former Assistant Secretary Carl Ford, a conservative Republican if ever there was one.
All of this record has given us clear warning that Mr. Bolton is the wrong man for the job.
Mr. Bolton’s appointment is not in the national interest.
Not included in Biden's prepared remarks was his comment that if the Senate held a secret ballot, Bolton wouldn't get more that 40 votes. Voinovich echoed hiis assessment, saying that Bolton wouldn't be confirmed in a secret ballot.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The Day Ahead

The next, and perhaps not the last, showdown on Bolton some tomorrow at 6:00, when a cloture vote is expected. The intent is not to filibuster Bolton but to delay a vote and demand that the executive branch give the legislative branch the same intelligence that Bolton himself may have misused. Steve Clemons of the The Washington Note has the run-down from one of his typically excellent sources.

Senator Voinovich Dissents, Part 3

As George Voinovich concluded his impassioned remarks on the Bolton nomination, he repeated, "The emperor has no clothes. The emperor has no clothes." Then his voice broke and he seemed on the verge of tears as he urged his colleagues who intend to support President on Bolton to instead think of the good of the nation.

The Senate, the Constitution and John Bolton

John Warner and Joe Biden just concluded an impromtu colloquium on the meaning of "advice and consent" on the floor of the Senate, going back and forth citing the Federalist Papers and the deliberations of the 1787 Constitutional Convention. Senator Warner, one of the leaders of the 14 who crafted the filibuster deal, argued that the President is entitled to have his nominee confirmed. Senator Biden summed up his arguments to vote no on Bolton by saying that his confirmation would not be in the national interest.
Members of the Senate rarely take the time to listen to each other's remarks. It's a rare sight to see Senators having a serious back-and-forth discussion on the meaning of our Constitution.
George Voinovich just read his letter to his colleagues urging them to vote against Bolton's nomination.

Senator Voinovich Dissents, Part 2

Senator George Voinovich (R-Ohio) has put his objections to the Bolton nomination in a letter to his colleagues published by Steve Clemons at The Washington Note:
Throughout my time in the Senate, I have been hesitant to push my views on my colleagues. However, I feel compelled to share my deep concerns with the nomination of John Bolton to be Ambassador to the United Nations. I strongly feel that the importance of this nomination to our foreign policy requires us to set aside our partisan agenda and let our consciences and our shared commitment to our nation's best interests guide us.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

"We are very tickled by the vote."

So said Representative Mike Castle of Delaware, a leading Republican moderate, on the passage of HR 810, The Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act, which would loosen restrictions on federally funded stem cell research. Mr. Castle is a lead sponsor of the bill.
Fifty Republicans voted for the bill despite opposition from Majority Leader Tom DeLay and a veto promise from President Bush.

Theocons Hate the Filibuster Deal

The theocons, who hoped to eliminate the filibuster so they could push through judges more to their liking, are not happy with yesterday's deal from the group of 14. But Bill Frist certainly covered his base, at least in the eyes of James Dobson:
We are grateful to Majority Leader Frist for courageously fighting to defend the vital principle of basic fairness. That principle has now gone down to defeat. We share the disappointment, outrage and sense of abandonment felt by millions of conservative Americans who helped put Republicans in power last November. I am certain that these voters will remember both Democrats and Republicans who betrayed their trust.
Gary Bauer is similarly unhappy with the deal:
The Republicans who lent their names to this travesty have undercut their President as well as millions of their most loyal voters. Shame on them all.
Here's a PDF of the deal via Senator Byrd.

Monday, May 23, 2005

"The Nuclear Option is Off the Table"

Thus said Minority Leader Harry Reid a few moments ago.
Fourteen senators announced an aggreement to avoid the use of the nuclear option to shut down filibusters of judicial nominees. The fourteen agreed to vote for cloture on a filibuster of three nominees (Priscilla Owen, William Pryor & Janice Rogers Brown), and to not support cloture on filibusters of two other nominees. Further, they agreed to not filibuster future judicial nominees except in "extraordinary circumstances."
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), one of the fourteen, predicted:
The White House is going to get more involved and listen to us more.
Similarly, Senator Reid voiced his hope that President Bush will consult Senate leaders on both sides before sending up a Supreme Court nomination.
The group of fourteen are:
Republicans: Chaffee, Collins, DeWine, Graham, McCain, Snowe, Warner
Democrats: Byrd, Inouye, Pryor, Landrieu, Lieberman, Nelson, Salazar

In Need of Adult Supervision: National Edition

What have the Republicans in Washington been up to since last November?
They have sought to partially privatize Social Security in the face of growing public opposition. They passed legislation to intervene in the Terri Schiavo case. They have nominated an ill-tempered ideologue to represent the U.S. in the United Nations. They have introduced any number of bills to limit the independence of the federal courts. They have promised to sweep away 200 years of Senate tradition to ensure that even the most ideologue nominees are confirmed as judges.
In each of these instances, it has been the most conservative factions that are driving the agenda--to the discomfort of their more moderate members. In none of these instance have they made the case that these issues belong at the top of the national agenda.
The system of checks and balances is our national version of adult supervision in the sense that no political group, even if it controls the White House and Congress, gets its way on everything it wants.
The Republican ideologues are acting like sore winners, unhappy that they can't get their way on every issue. When in our history has any political party gotten it's way on everything? Our system of checks and balances have preserved constitutional government by preventing any party from veering too far from the mainstream--which is just what the GOP has been doing since November.

Senate Showdown: This Time We Mean It

The prospect of Bill Frist launching the nuclear option has been looming for so long that it began to feel that doomsday would never come. But tomorrow, Senator Frist is planning to have the Senate vote on chaging the rules to end filibusters for judicial nominations.
Even though Minority Leader Harry Reid has been talking with Frist every day, other senators are in the forefront of efforts to find a compromise:
Every morning last week, Reid stopped by Frist's office or at least called the GOP leader, just to check in. Aides say the Nevada Democrat deals regularly with two other Republicans: Whip Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the chief Republican negotiator in the compromise talks.
Reid also has named key Democrats as emissaries to the three Republicans that both sides consider the swing voters. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, is working on Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), chairman of the panel and a co-sponsor with Leahy of a complicated asbestos bill working its way through the Senate. Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) is assigned to Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) has been teamed with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). Warner chairs the Armed Services Committee, and Collins chairs the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee; Levin and Lieberman are the ranking Democrats on those panels.

Friday, May 20, 2005

In Need of Adult Supervision, Part 3

Remember the scandal involving the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation investing in a rare coin fund set up by a politically connected coin dealer? Now five members fo the Ohio Supreme Court have recused themselves from hearing the lawsuit against coin dealer Thomas Noe:
Mr. Noe and his wife, Bernadette, have contributed more than $23,000 to the campaigns of the recused justices, Thomas J. Moyer, Evelyn Stratton, Maureen O’Connor, Terrence O’Donnell, and Judith Ann Lanzinger.
Mr. Noe,
a prominent Republican, was campaign chair for Ms. Lanzinger's last campaign for a seat on the state Supreme Court.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Showdown in the Senate

Debate has begun on the nomination of Priscilla Owen to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Senate Democrats plan to filibuster the nomination. Republicans do not have the votes to pass a cloture motion to end debate. The next step would be the nuclear option: a motion that would require only 51 votes to change the rules for ending debate. The Washington Post sums up the parliamentary sticking point the Republicans face:
To get there, Republicans will have to evade a requirement that they have a two-thirds vote -- 67 of 100 senators -- to change the chamber's rules.
Neither side has a firm count on how that vote would go:
Three Republicans have stated that they will oppose the change: Sens. John McCain (Ariz.), Lincoln D. Chafee (R.I.) and Olympia J. Snowe (Maine). Democrats, led by Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.), have expressed confidence this week that they will be able to attract three other GOP senators, with most of the focus on Sens. John W. Warner (Va.), Susan Collins (Maine) and Arlen Specter (Pa.).
The Republicans plan one cloture vote, with the ostensible purpose of trying to shut off debate but the real intention of demonstrating that the nominee has majority support. Sometime after that, Frist is expected to seek a point of order designed to call the debate to a halt, with the presiding officer, probably Cheney, ruling in Frist's favor. Democrats would then appeal the ruling, and Republicans would counter with a motion to table the appeal. Whoever has a majority will prevail.
Senators on both sides of the aisle are seeking a deal to prevent use of the nuclear option according to the NYT:
Aside from Mr. McCain, the Republicans seeking a deal include Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, Olympia J. Snowe of Maine, John W. Warner of Virginia and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Among the Democrats, aside from Mr. Lieberman, are Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Mark Pryor of Arkansas.
Broadly speaking, the talks revolve around a potential deal in which a handful of Democrats would agree not to cooperate with their party's filibusters of some of the nominees, and a handful of Republicans would agree to vote against the rules change, at least for now.
All of this could take a week or more, which is why the White House wants the Senate to confirm John Bolton before the showdown on judicial nominations according to The Hill:
A split has opened between the White House and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) over the timing of the “nuclear option.”
The Bush administration would prefer the Senate to deal with the nomination of John Bolton to be U.N. ambassador before it gets down to the issue of filibustered judicial nominations.

Monday, May 16, 2005

55 - 16 = 39

Let's do the math. If 16 GOP senators are at least considering defying Bush/Cheney/Frist on judicial filibusters and/or Bolton, that leaves 39 senators as the unwavering base of support for the most right-wing nominees sent to the Senate.
This put the concept of "majority rule" in a different light. A majority that faces no significant opposition on anything can effectively put a minority -- for instance 39 senators -- in power.
Under our Constitution, winners of elections still hold limited power. Those who win and yet complain when they can't get their way on every issue fail to fully appreciate how our system of limited government works.
Not accepting the limits to their power, the Republicans in Washington are overreaching:
  • by intervening in one family's difficult decisions on life and death;
  • by conflating challenges to Tom DeLay's ethics as attacks on the conservative movement;
  • by threatening to haul federal judges in for hearings on court decisions.
  • by introducing bills to curtail the independence of our federal courts;
  • by proposing to partially privatize Social Security in the face of growing public opposition;
  • by nominating an ill-tempered ideologue to represent the U.S. before the United Nations;
  • and by threatening to eliminate the filibuster for judicial nominees.
The filibuster for judicial nominees is an example of how checks and balances keep our government from lurching too far in one direction or another.
Consider what George Bush could do if he knows that he needs only 51 senators to confirm a nominee. He could send up a more radical nominee, knowing that he has a solid base of 39 senators, and pressure another 12 into voting to confirm. But as long as the filibuster stays in place, the President knows he has to appeal to a somewhat larger set of senators and is likely to send up a more moderate nominee.

Twelve Senators

FillibusterFrist.com has a list of twelve Republican senators (and phone numbers) who are considered possible no votes on the nuclear option:
  • Susan Collins (ME) - (202) 224-2523
  • Mike DeWine (OH) - (202) 224-2315
  • Judd Gregg (NH) - (202) 224-3324
  • Chuck Hagel (NE) - (202) 224-4224
  • Dick Lugar (IN) - (202) 224-4814
  • Lisa Murkowski (AK) - (202) 224-6665
  • Pat Roberts (KS) - (202) 224-4774
  • Gordon Smith (OR) - (202) 224-3753
  • Olympia Snowe (ME) - (202) 224-5344 Converted!
  • Arlen Specter (PA) - (202) 224-4254
  • John Sununu (NH) - (202) 224-2841
  • John Warner (VA) - (202) 224-2023
Six of the twelve are needed to keep the Republicans from tearing down the checks and balances that have been honored as part of two centuries of Senate tradition. One can only imagine the pressure being brought to bear on these twelve, half of whom represent red states.
Notably the list of possible dissenters does not include three GOP members of the Foreign Relations Committee (Lincoln Chafee, George Voinovich and Lamar Alexander), who are less than enthusiastic about the Bolton nomination
and John McCain, who is hoping to negotiate to prevent the nuclear option. Taken together we have 16 of 55 Republican senators who are at least considering dissenting from the party line on two high profile votes this week.

Liberal Editors Cheer Environmental Extremist

The News Journal editorial board has taken notice of GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt's speech on reducing carbon emmissions:
It's a cosmic shift when the chief executive of General Electric asks for a government energy policy that includes carbon emissions controls.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

The Nuclear Option: Duck and Cover

With the showdown on judicial nominations looming this week, Senators continue to look for a way to avert the Republican nuclear option of changing the rule on filibusters with 50 votes plus Dick Cheney.
The Hill reports that Majority Leader Bill Frist has invited Minority Leader Harry Reid and several other senators for dinner later today. Pete Domenici (R-NM) is cooking duck for the occassion.
Republican senators who are said to have voiced reservations on the proposed rule change include Susan Collins (Maine), Chuck Hagel (Nebraska), John Warner (Virginia), Mike DeWine (Ohiio), Arlen Specter (Penn.), Lisa Murkowski, (Alaska), John Sununu, (New Hampshire) and now Pat Roberts, according to the Kansas City Star:
With a showdown over judicial nominees looming, Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas could be one of several pivotal Republicans to oppose stripping the Senate of its traditional power to filibuster.
Roberts expressed doubt about the “nuclear option,” which would end a long-running Democratic threat — to filibuster seven of President Bush's nominees for the federal bench — by changing long-standing Senate rules.
“What goes around comes around,” Roberts said in an interview last week, worried that the rule change could someday come back to haunt his party.
Republican senators who vote against the rule changes would be left feeling politically exposed. A compromise would have to provide political cover for senators on both sides.
John McCain (R-AZ) is reported to be holding discussions with Democrat Ben Nelson on a possible compromise that would avert a showdown.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Environmental Extremists: They're Everywhere

According to the NYT, the radicals who disagree with President Bush on the Kyoto Protocol include 132 mayors:
The mayors, from cities as liberal as Los Angeles and as conservative as Hurst, Tex., represent nearly 29 million citizens in 35 states, according to Mayor Nickels's office. They are pledging to have their cities meet what would have been a binding requirement for the nation had the Bush administration not rejected the Kyoto Protocol: a reduction in heat-trapping gas emissions to levels 7 percent below those of 1990, by 2012.
Meanwhile, The Economist (subscription needed) reports that U.S. CEOs -- including energy executives -- are taking environmental issues seriously. Why would Jim Rogers, CEO of Cinergy (which is being acquired by Duke Energy), attend an environmental conference that featured Al Gore as keynote speaker?
Mr. Rogers adds a key motivation: both he and Paul Anderson, Duke's boss, believe that government policies “will inevitably lead to a carbon-constrained world.” Cinergy has many old and dirty coal plants, which emit vast amounts of carbon. The deal will help him retire many of them sooner, in favour of Duke's clean natural-gas plants.
Mr. Rogers was not the only unlikely corporate figure to tackle carbon this week: so did Jeff Immelt, boss of GE. In a speech in Washington, D.C., on May 9th, he committed GE to a set of green goals going far beyond any current government regulations. He vowed that by 2012 GE would boost its energy efficiency by 30%, and cut its greenhouse-gas emissions from over 40% above today's level if nothing is done, to 1% below. By 2010, he said, GE would double its annual investment in clean technology to $1.5 billion.
Mr. Immelt denounced America's “do-nothing” policy on climate change: “We are living in a carbon-constrained world where the amount of CO2 must be reduced.” The Bush administration has challenged whether CO2 can even be regulated as a pollutant, and opposes mandatory carbon caps. Bemoaning the resulting uncertainty for investors, Mr Immelt concluded: “America is the leading consumer of energy. However, we are not the technical leader. Europe today is the major force for environmental innovation.”

How Bad is Bad?

Not only is John Bolton a bully, a kiss up, kick down kind of guy, contemptous of the chain of command, arrogant, badly in need of adult supervision and "the poster child of what someone in the diplomatic corps should not be," but according to Newsweek he doesn't even bother to do his job.
“John was absent without leave” when it came to implementing the agenda that the president laid out in his February 2004 speech, a former senior Bush official declares flatly. Another former government official with experience in nonproliferation agrees. “Everyone knew the conference was coming and that it would be contentious. But Bolton stopped all diplomacy on this six months ago,” this official said. “The White House and the National Security Council started worrying, wondering what was going on. So a few months ago the NSC had to step in and get things going themselves.”
Senator Voinovich had it right when he said, "John Bolton would have been fired if he worked for a major corporation." Instead, he's given a promotion.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Meanwhile, Back at the Deficit

In a NYT Op Ed titled, "Attention: Deficit Disorder," former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin describes with his customary clarity the dangers the Bush deficits hold for our economy:
Virtually all mainstream economists agree that, over time, sustained deficits crowd out private investment, increase interest rates, and reduce productivity and economic growth. But, far more dangerously, if markets here and abroad begin to fear long-term fiscal disarray and our related trade imbalances, those markets could then demand sharply higher interest rates for providing long-term debt capital and could put abrupt and sharp downward pressure on the dollar.
Of course, reducing budget deficits is boring grownup stuff compared to shifting the government as drastically to the right as possible. Which is perhaps why Dick Cheney said, "Deficits don't matter."

Senator Voinovich on John Bolton

Here are some of the highlights of Senator George Voinovich's eloquent comments on John Bolton:
When discussing all these concerns with Secretary Rice, John Bolton's propensity to get off message, his lack of interpersonal skills, his tendency to abuse others who disagree with him, I was informed by the secretary of state that she understood all these things and in spite of them still feels that John Bolton is the best choice and that she would be in frequent communication with him and he would be closely supervised. My private thought at the time, and I should have expressed it to her, is: Why in the world would you want to send somebody up to the U.N. that has to be supervised?
I believe that John Bolton would have been fired if he'd worked for a major corporation. This is not the behavior of a true leader who upholds the kind of democracy that President Bush is seeking to promote globally. This is not the behavior that should be endorsed as the face of the United States to the world community and the United Nations. Rather, Mr. Chairman, it is my opinion that John Bolton is the poster child of what someone in the diplomatic corps should not be.
The world needs an American ambassador to the U.N. who will show that the United States has respect for other countries and intermediary organizations, that we are team players and consensus builders and promoters of symbiotic relationships. And moving forward with the international community, we should remember the words of the great Scot poet who said, "Oh, that some great power would give me the wisdom to see myself as other people see me."

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Hillary Haters Hardly Happy

The trial of former campaign staffer David Rosen will not be about Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, according to the prosecutor:
The federal prosecutor in the trial of Hillary Clinton's campaign finance director took pains yesterday to exonerate the New York senator.
Finance chief David Rosen kept from the feds the true cost of his over-the-top spending on a lavish Hollywood fund-raiser in August 2000 because he didn't want Clinton to find out about it, the prosecutor said.
"There's no evidence that Hillary Clinton was involved in this in any way, shape or form," U.S. Attorney Peter Zeidenberg told the 12-member Los Angeles jury in his opening statement."
In fact, it was just the opposite."

Senator Voinovich Dissents

Senator George Voinovich just announced that he will not vote to confirm John Bolton's nomination, though he would support sending the nomination to the Senate floor. Joe Biden responded, "So much for partisanship."
It looks like Mr. Voinovich did his homework. The NYT published a telling comment from the Ohio senator:
Mr. Voinovich, who had indicated concerns about Mr. Bolton in a hearing last month, did so today. "I like Mr. Bolton," the senator said. "I think he's a decent man."
But the senator said Mr. Bolton had "serious deficiencies" that would make him the wrong man for the United Nations post, and that his difficult personality would have got him "fired - fired - if he worked for a major corporation."
This is far from over, but Steve Clemons of The Washington Note deserves a medal for his outstanding work on Bolton.

A Nasty Guy, But He's Our Nasty Guy

John Bolton, in response to a question from John Kerry, asserted his right to freelance, saying, "A policy official may state his own reading of the intelligence (assuming the information is cleared for release as a policy matter) as long as he does not purport to speak for the intelligence community."
The problem--apart from Bolton modifying State Department policy to excuse his behavior--is that Bolton has pushed his own views without having them cleared, sought to punish those who disagree, and has not provided a disclaimer when the intelligence does not support his assertions.
Condi Rice, who voiced her support for Bolton, either doesn't expect to get, or doesn't care if she does get, the same insubordinate treatment Colin Powell got:
Mr. Bolton's supporters, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, have defended his conduct as appropriate, saying he was right to ask tough questions.
The Secretary has it backwards: The point is not that Bolton "asks tough questions," but that he doesn't allow others the same privilege and cannot tolerate anyone disagreeing with him.
Senator Voinovich is offering excuses for why he held up the vote three weeks ago:
Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio), who three weeks ago forced a delay in a vote because he had concerns about Bolton's "interpersonal skills," noted that he slowed the approval of Richard C. Holbrooke, President Bill Clinton's nominee for the same post, because he heard Holbrooke was a "kind of nasty guy, arrogant and so forth."
The party line seems to be he's a nasty guy, but he's our nasty guy.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Homework Assignment

For those who would like a direct look at the record, Steve Clemons has obtained a pile of transcripts on the Bolton nomination and posted them here. Senator Voinovich is reading this stuff in advance of tomorrow's Foreign Relations Committee meeting.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Pete du Pont and the Dark Side

Yesterday, former governor Pete du Pont unveiled a (well-manicured) grassroots organization, "Delaware Lawyers for Judicial Fairness" to pressure Senators Biden and Carper to give in to the threat of the nuclear option and pass even the most radical nominees to the federal bench.
Last night on the political perspectives segment of the Channel 12 news, John Taylor, editorial page editor of the News Journal offered this startling comment on du Pont:
Pete went over to the dark side long ago.
Did he mean that Pete now strolls around in black armor sounding like James Earl Jones through a bad phone connection?
What he meant was that Pete du Pont, who governed in Delaware's centrist tradition, veered sharply to the right when he ran for president in 1988. For instance, Pete referred to Social Security as "Socialism's Last Redoubt" in his monthly WSJ online column. In 2000 he published a column "Gore Carries the Porn Belt" in which he correlates Democratic votes with the viewing of porn videos.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Excitable Boy, They All Said

For those who may think that John Bolton's issues are merely those of temperament, here's another example of how, behind that gruff facade, Bolton was actively undermining policies he didn't agree with:
As it turned out, administration policy that Bolton was articulating, reluctantly as he did not support it, is that the administration was communicating to Europe that while it suspected and predicted that the negotiation process between the EU and Iran would fail, the U.S. would not object to what was underway.
The wording of the once-read statement of policy by Bolton was carefully crafted so as to give the Europeans license, from the American point of view, to proceed with Iran -- without formally attaching a positive expectation from the U.S. about the process.
Bolton didn't like the policy, so he wouldn't hand out copies of it. And he would only read the statement once. . .fast.
This is behavior one might expect inside the Soviet Politburo rather than the U.S. State Department. Accountability is essential to our system of government; those who serve need to be trusted to carry out the policies adopted by the executive authorities who run the government and the legislative authorities who oversee the executive.
Now that accountability is being undermined on behalf of Bolton by an administration that thinks the U.S. Senate is not entitled to review materials that may document further examples of Bolton's contempt for established authority.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Senator Hagel Dissents

Senator Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) offered some words of encouragement to those who hope that good sense and respect for our heritage of checks and balances might win out in the Senate:
"The United States Senate is a minority rights institution unique in the world," Hagel said. "And I don't think either side wants to give that up. Now, the other part of this, which I also believe strongly, is that presidents deserve votes on their nominees."
Yet he noted that Republicans prevented votes on many of President Clinton's choices for the federal bench.
"The Republicans' hands aren't clean on this either. What we did with Bill Clinton's nominees -- about 62 of them -- we just didn't give them votes in committee or we didn't bring them up," Hagel said.
He made similar comments in an appearance in New Hampshire last Monday that was just aired on C-SPAN.

Without Restraint, Part 2

The attempt to push the John Bolton nomination through the Senate is not the only example of how the Bushies seem to think they shouldn't be subject to any checks and balances in getting their way.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is inching closer to pushing the button on the nuclear option to end the use of filibusters to block judicial nominations. There is no sign that anyone is backing away from hauling federal judges before a House committee or from proposing legislation to limit the independence of the federal courts.
As for the Bolton nomination, the Bushies are now holding back documents from the Senate that Bolton himself felt entitled to.
What we see is a majority party acting like sore winners and complaining about the modest restraints on their power provided by our system of checks and balances. What's more, it's the most extreme factions of the Republican Party that are pushing for John Bolton (whose supporters call the State Department "enemy territory"), pushing to limit judicial independence and itching to push the button on the nuclear option.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Without Restraint

Steve Clemons sums up the meaning of the stonewalling on the request for relevant documents by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will not get the much-wanted National Security Agency intercepts in which John Bolton expressed so much interest during his tenure as Under Secretary of State for International Security and Arms Control. Under Secretaries with questionable intentions can get the transcripts -- but Senators with Constitutional oversight responsibilities seemingly cannot.
In short, John Bolton was able to access this highly sensitive material for who knows what purpose--undermining the Secretary of State or spying on colleagues. But United States Senators cannot view the same material for the purpose of performing their oversight duties.
Just as John Bolton sought to act in defiance of the legitimate restraints of State Department protocol or even actual fact, the Bush administration is now seeking to act unilaterally without regard for the legitimate restraint of congressional oversight.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Another Showdown Looming on Bolton

Six days before the scheduled committee meeting, delays in producing requested documents could scuttle the agreement to vote on the nomination of John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations on May 12. The Financial Times is following the story:
As under-secretary of state for arms control, Mr Bolton made 10 requests to the NSA to obtain the names of US officials blanked out in intelligence reports.
John Negroponte, director of national intelligence, is currently deciding whether to release the information.
“The office of the DNI is in discussions with the chairman of the intelligence committee to determine the best way to meet the committee's needs,” said a government official, who declined to say whether the intelligence committee would allow the foreign relations committee access.
Earlier this week Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Richard Lugar wrote a letter to Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice that omits several items that Democrats consider important to the investigation. (The Washington Note has more on this.) Yesterday, ranking member Joe Biden wrote Rice a letter that spells out the importance of all of the requested documents:
The Chairman and I disagree about the extent, but not the fact, of their relevance. If more time is needed to produce these documents, please let me know.
I also wanted to make sure that you know the basis upon which I committed to move forward with a Committee meeting and vote on this nomination on May 12. As I wrote to the Chairman April 22, that commitment "is predicated on my expectation, as I stated on Tuesday [April 19, at the first Committee business meeting on the nomination] that the Executive Branch will cooperate in providing access to witnesses and documents.
Assuming such cooperation, I will not seek to delay consideration of the nomination in the Committee beyond May 12, and I will urge my colleagues strongly to do the same."
My Democratic colleagues and I would consider the failure to produce the requested documents in a timely manner a lack of cooperation.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Thermodynamics Under Fire

It's not just evolution that has religious reactionaries up in arms, according to this apparently bogus photo of people protesting the Second Law of Thermodynamics:


Not knowing the provenance of the photo, all I can say is that I found it on the Internet.

Return of the Long Bond

The Treasury Department plans to bring back the 30-year bond to help finance the growing budget deficit.
When the 30-year bond was abandoned on Oct. 31, 2001, the country had a budget surplus, although it was shrinking, and both slower economic growth and the cost of the fight against terrorism indicated to many that deficits would return very soon. At the time, the Bush administration argued that the 30-year bond raised the cost of borrowing too much to be cost-effective.
Now, managing the borrowing for the budget deficits in the years ahead, the demand for more longer-term securities from pension funds and other buyers and calls from Wall Street have overridden concerns about the possible additional cost.
Treasury officials said yesterday that the decision had nothing to do with the budget deficits.
Speaking on background as senior Treasury officials, they said a new 30-year bond would give them more flexibility in their borrowing strategies in a way that would make the government's debt sales more cost-effective.
In 2001, selling 30-year bonds was not "cost-effective," but in 2005, selling them is "more cost-effective." (No wonder the Treasury officials spoke on background.) What changed? The federal government needs to borrow more money, even though it costs more to issue 30-year bonds.
By the way, it's hard to use the "9/11 changed everything" argument when the original decision was made after the attacks.

Mark Twain, Oliver Wendell Holmes & George Will

George Will writes about religion in American life:
The state of America's political discourse is such that the president has felt it necessary to declare that unbelievers can be good Americans. In last week's prime-time news conference, he said: "If you choose not to worship, you're equally as patriotic as somebody who does worship."
So Mark Twain, Oliver Wendell Holmes and a long, luminous list of other skeptics can be spared the posthumous ignominy of being stricken from the rolls of exemplary Americans.
So even George Bush (or perhaps it's Karl Rove) recognizes that they need to occassionally tone down the Republican drumbeat on behalf of the religious right.
George Will correctly identifies the Christian complaints of victimization as particularly distateful:
Some Christians should practice the magnanimity of the strong rather than cultivate the grievances of the weak. But many Christians are joining today's scramble for the status of victims. There is much lamentation about various "assaults" on "people of faith." . . . But their persecution complex is unbecoming because it is unrealistic.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Among Those Who Disagree with Rev. Robertson

Ask a WWII veteran whether federal judges pose a greater threat to our way of life than did Germany or Japan. My father, who served on a minesweeper in the Pacific, thinks Robertson is nuts.
The point is not that Pat Robertson has a skewed perspective on American history, but that he is speaking in support of the priorities of the Republican leadership in Washington.
It's easy to scoff at Pat Robertson, but it's the Republicans in congress who have put this radical agenda front and center by passing legislation to intervene in the Terri Schiavo case, by introducing bills to make it easier to remove federal judges and by threatening to eliminate the fillibuster which has protected minority interests for two centuries.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Do You Agree?

Pat Robertson gave us his assessment of the threats facing our country on television yesterday, as reported by the N.Y. Daily News:
"Over 100 years, I think the gradual erosion of the consensus that's held our country together is probably more serious than a few bearded terrorists who fly into buildings," Robertson said on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos."
"I think we have controlled Al Qaeda," the 700 Club host said, but warned of "erosion at home" and said judges were creating a "tyranny of oligarchy."
Confronted by Stephanopoulos on his claims that an out-of-control liberal judiciary is the worst threat America has faced in 400 years - worse than Nazi Germany, Japan and the Civil War - Robertson didn't back down.
"Yes, I really believe that," he said. "I think they are destroying the fabric that holds our nation together."

Sunday, May 01, 2005

"Seemingly untroubled by self doubt"

So says Scott Shane in his profile of John Bolton in the NYT:
Seemingly untroubled by self doubt, Mr. Bolton, whom former Senator Jesse Helms once called "the kind of man with whom I would want to stand at Armageddon," has never shied from a dispute nor hesitated to shatter a consensus. In his office he displays a grenade designating him as "Truest Reaganaut," a telling gift from former colleagues at the United States Agency for International Development.
Here's a telling quote reported by Sonni Efron in the LA Times:
"For a conservative, the State Department is enemy territory," said Danielle Pletka, vice president of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, the conservative think tank that is Bolton's alma mater.
Keep in mind that these are testimonials from Bolton's friends.